Ask Pastor Roger Barrier - Church Leadership

Should You Tell Your Spouse You Cheated?

Should You Tell Your Spouse You Cheated?

Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at

Dear Roger,

I got emotionally involved with a man at work. One thing led to another and before I knew it, our relationship became physical. It didn’t last very long. After several months of guilt and misery, I extricated myself from the relationship.

I love my husband and as a Christian, I want to make it right. I feel so guilty and ashamed. My conscience is killing me. I’d like to confess to my husband and get it off my chest; but, unfortunately, I’m afraid that if I tell him our marriage would be decimated and our children devastated. Is it best to keep it secret or confess and hope for the best?

Sincerely, Susan

Dear Susan,

Let’s begin with the obvious. Don’t have an affair in the first place. I know that sounds trite; however, if you’ll saturate your mind with three chapters in the book of Proverbs your chances of falling into an affair are greatly diminished.

Proverbs chapters 5-7 clearly illustrate the stupidity and the consequences of committing adultery. Constantly saturate your mind with these chapters and having an affair will scare the living daylights out of you.

Let me illustrate with a passages:

Stay away from your neighbor’s wife, from the smooth talk of a wayward woman. Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes. For a prostitute can be had for a loaf of bread, but another man’s wife preys on your very life.

There are numerous reasons why I’ve never been even close to having an affair, not the least of which was saturating my mind with Proverbs 5-7 on a regular basis.

Well, should you tell my spouse or not? In my experience, the people that I’ve counseled or queried split about 50/50 on the issue.

Reasons to Tell Your Spouse That You Had an Affair 

1. Pray and ask God for guidance before doing anything.

2. Consider seeking the advice of a trusted friend or trusted spiritual leader to gain insight as to how to best proceed.

3. Hiding your adultery may scorch my soul and sear my conscience.

David wrote Psalm 32 after Nathan confronted him with his unconfessed sin of adultery with Bathsheba:

“When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.”

Despite popular belief, people who’ve had an affair are not more likely to have another. With all the pain, shame and devastation involved, most are loath to put their hands in the fire again.

4. Confessed sin allows me to restore my relationships with God and with my spouse.

 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

“Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16).

5. Bringing things out into the open allows me to mitigate the possibility that my spouse will find out anyway with a more devastating result than if I had told my spouse in the first place.

6. If I tell my spouse what I’ve done, I can minimize the damage and hopefully we can proceed with healing our marriage as soon as possible.

My Thoughts about How to Heal the Marriage

Apologize to the level of the hurt. A simple “Will you forgive me?” is woefully inadequate. You’ve dumped on your spouse 10 gallons worth of pain. Asking for a pints worth of forgiveness is ludicrous. You must allow him to tell you all the ways that you hurt him. When you get a sense for how much pain you have caused, only then can you ask for forgiveness and really mean it to the level at which your spouse can really forgive you.

Get help. Restoring a marriage is not for the faint of heart. Your marriage is crumbling. Get to a counselor ASAP. Hopefully, you have some wise and trusted friends who can give you much needed support.

Go to church. A lot.

Don’t tell the children. They don’t need to see mom and dad fighting—too much resulting insecurity. 

Reasons Not to Tell Your Spouse That You Had an Affair 

Frankly, as far as I can tell, there are no specific Bible verses that gives us permission to withhold from our spouse our sin of adultery.

Nevertheless, from an overarching perspective, telling your spouse that you’ve had an affair is risky, but several things are worth considering.

 1. I believe that it’s fair to say that the Bible places emphasis upon not hurting people. If I don’t tell, I may save my spouse, children and extended family untold heart ache (as long as they never find out). 

2. We are to confess our sins to God and to one another; but the Bible does not say that one of these “anothers” must be our spouse.

“Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16).

3. If I do confess my sin, I may feel better; however, my spouse and family certainly will not.

4. Not telling my spouse is incredibly risky. The success of choosing to remain silent hinges on the hope that my spouse and family never find out. If they do find out, the devastation will be worse than if I’d told my spouse in the first place. 

By the way, it’s my experience, and the experience of our church counselors, that most men keep the affair secret. A significant portion of women eventually tell someone who then can’t keep the secret.

Susan, I hope that I’ve clarified some of the issues for you. You have a choice to make and risks are associated with either choice.

But that’s the point. Having to make this choice is one of the consequences of having an affair. 

Sincerely, Roger

Ask RogerDr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.

Publication date: December 8, 2016