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I Cheated. What Should I Do?

Coming clean is the best thing you can do.

So you’ve cheated and now you’re feeling a mixture of guilt and elation. Elation that it was so fun (and easy). And guilt because you have a spouse who trusts you implicitly.

And so you struggle. You wrestle with whether or not you should tell them because you know if you do, there will be repercussions. You could even lose her/him if you tell them the truth.

So you begin rationalizing … Biologically we’re all wired to cheat and there’s no beating my DNA. Right? It was only one time. They’ll never find out.

But that’s all just game playing. Your struggles with whether or not to tell them mean that you know you should, but that you’re scared.

You’re afraid of letting him/her know you’re not as good a person as they think you are (or maybe even as you thought you were). You’re frightened about their reaction when you do tell. And you’re worried because you could lose your marriage.

Despite your fears, coming clean with your spouse is the best thing for both of you.

Still not sure you want to tell? Then, here are the 3 most important reasons you should:

  1. You had sex without a condom and they deserve to know their health has been compromised.< It doesn’t matter whether you see a future for your marriage or not, you have to tell as soon as possible.

    STDs are a real threat and, according to the CDC, can be passed through having unprotected sex (vaginal, anal or oral). Yup, even if you’ve 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 of you need to be tested.

  2. You promised 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. You know that marriages can only work when both spouses are respectfully honest with each other. You will continue to live with the nagging guilt of your actions until you come clean.

  3. You owe it to yourself. You made a mistake and the best thing you can do is admit it and learn from it.

    We all make mistakes. But, as cliché as it may sound, unless you learn from your mistake, you’ll continue to make the same one until you’ve learned the lesson you need to learn. And once you’re learned the lesson, you’ll grow and not need to make the same mistake again.

Look, just because I believe that honesty is the best policy when it comes to cheating, doesn’t mean you have to (unless you’ve had unprotected sex). You’re the only one who has to struggle with the emotional toll of betraying your spouse.

But, you can free yourself from the trap by having a real and respectful conversation with your partner.

If you continue avoiding the truth and facts, you’ll continue feeling guilt and 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 strayed.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are wondering if staying married is the right answer for them. 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.

Looking for more tips on how to deal with marriage difficulties? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Surviving Infidelity


The piece originally appeared on Get A Wingman.

Dr. Karen Finn

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