4 Things to Consider Before You Confess to Cheating

woman is hiding secret of affair

You cheated. You feel like s**t. (Or maybe not. We're not here to judge.) The question is -- and it's a doozy -- what do you do now?

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The traditional line is to come clean and get it off your chest. But, well, having an affair -- and dealing with the aftermath -- isn't that simple.

"Some couples are able to survive this betrayal, and others are not," admits Paul Hokemeyer, JD, PhD, a licensed marriage and family therapist who works out of New York City, Los Angeles, and Telluride, Colorado.

The best case scenario: Your confession will relieve your anxiety and guilt and make your partner feel closer to you.

"But these benefits are far from guaranteed and absolute," Hokemeyer cautions. "Confessions made at the wrong time, to a person not equipped to handle the truth, or made with selfish, narcissistic, and passive-aggressive motives can set the relationship back to a place where return becomes impossible."

As a marriage therapist who works with couples around issues of infidelity, Hokemeyer says, "I never assume an absolute stance."

More from The Stir: 11 Men Confess What Drove Them to Cheat on Their Spouses

Here's what to ask yourself when you're trying to decide whether to speak up or forever hold your peace:

  1. How's your relationship holding up? No, seriously. Cheating aside, it's time to take a long, hard, and possibly uncomfortable look at your partnership, says Hokemeyer. "Do you truly love one another or are you facing an inevitable breakup?"
  2. Does manipulation play a part in your partnership? If you or your SO have a need to control each other, where would this confession play into things? For instance, are you hoping it will spur on a declaration or love? Or help you "prove a point"?
  3. How's your mental and physical health? Yep, it matters. "Can your partner handle the truth?" Hokemeyer asks. "Does he or she need to handle the truth?"
  4. Where do your children factor in? Don't forget, your kids are part of your family dynamic. What you say to your partner -- or don't -- will absolutely affect them.

So by now you've noticed: There are no right or wrong answers to these questions.

"The overriding objective of this analysis is to maximize the emotional and physical well-being of each partner, the relationship, and the children," Hokemeyer says. "Just like no two couples are identical, there is no one absolute response for dealing with these issues."

No matter how much better it might make you feel to confess, you don't want doing so to bring on additional pain and keep you trapped in hostility and anger that serves no useful purpose, says Hokemeyer.

So consider the questions above again -- go ahead, take your time. And then ask yourself again and truthfully: Will this confession move us forward?

Only you know the answer.

 

Image via iStock.com/fabianaponzi

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