Even if you're scared, coming clean with your spouse is the best thing for both of you if you want to save your marriage.
Not everyone who has an affair set out with the intention to cheat. Most affairs just sort of happen. That's probably how you wound up in this situation - by accident.
Part of you thinks it was a very happy accident because you've not felt this alive in years. Then there's the other part - the part that's guilt-ridden about betraying the trust of your spouse.
It's the guilty part that's got you wondering if you should come clean with your spouse and admit your infidelity. But it's also got you fearful of the additional guilt you'd feel if you saw (and had to deal with) your mate's reaction.
Most people in your shoes feel trapped and that just sucks.
My guess is that if your spouse made you feel as good as you do with this other person you never would have cheated in the first place. Heck, I'll even bet that your spouse used to make you feel this good, but somehow life got in the way and your relationship changed. And this just adds to the misery you're feeling.
There is a way out of the trap you've caught yourself in. You MUST tell your spouse you cheated.
It won't be easy. I know it's probably one of the most horrible things you can think of doing right now and, frankly, you're terrified of the repercussions...of what they'll think of you and how they'll react.
But here are the 4 most important reasons why you MUST tell:
- You had sex without a condom and your spouse has a right to know their health has been compromised. It doesn't matter whether you see a future for your marriage or not, this is one time where you have to tell your spouse as soon as possible.
STDs are a real threat and, according to the CDC (http://www.cdc.gov/std/life-stages-populations/stdfact-teens.htm), can be passed through having unprotected sex (vaginal, anal or oral). Yup, if you've even only had oral sex without a condom, you've put yourself and your spouse at risk.
Many STDs don't cause any symptoms that you would notice, so you can only know whether or not you have one by being tested. Both you and your spouse need to be tested.
- Your spouse already "knows". One of the amazing things about being married is that you can read each other. Most spouses can tell when there's something up with their mate before anything is said. They can just feel it.
Your spouse probably already knows there's something going on. They might have even asked you about it. (And you've probably denied it at least once.)
Their "knowing" isn't going to go away whether or not you tell them. Telling them will allow you to take their worry away, begin alleviating some of your guilt, and allow the two of you to start the process of figuring out what's next. It's the kindest thing you can do for both of you.
- You promised your spouse you'd be honest. You cheated! That's about as dishonest as you can get in an intimate relationship.
Your guilt stems from your dishonesty with your husband or wife. You know that relationships can only work when both partners are respectfully honest with each other. You will continue to live with the nagging guilt of your actions until you come clean with your spouse.
- You can't rebuild your marriage on a lie. If you want to recreate your marriage into what it can be and frankly must become for it to be worth saving, you both need to get real about what is and isn't working.
There must be some pretty significant stuff that isn't working for you to find yourself in this situation. Talking about the fact that you cheated and what the affair gave to you that's missing from your marriage in a way that your spouse can hear will go a long way toward allowing you both to know if things can be better and how to make them that way.
But it's no guarantee that you will be able to save your marriage. Telling them about your mistake is just the starting point.
Just because I believe that honesty is the best policy when it comes to cheating, no one can tell you exactly what the best course of action is for you (unless you've had unprotected sex). No one else has to live with the emotional toll of betraying your mate. That's your burden.
But, you can free yourself from the trap by having a real and respectful conversation with your spouse.
If you continue to avoid the facts, you'll continue to feel the guilt and the regret for the rest of your life. Yes, you'll get used to the misery over time, but it will still be there sucking away at your soul even if you choose to end your marriage until you can be honest about your behavior and admit that you've made a mistake - even if it was by accident.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.
This article originally appeared on YourTango.