Guilty, and no longer enthusiastic

Dear Debbie,

I have been married for over 30 years and until recently been faithful to the only woman I had ever been with. That changed on a recent business trip. An opportunity arose with a business associate, and I , have to admit, enthusiastically  took advantage.  It was exciting at the time, but now the guilt is setting in.

Do I tell my wife whom I love and don’t want to hurt?


Guilty and No Longer Enthusiastic


Dear Guilty and No Longer Enthusiastic,

You specifically asked if you need to tell your wife. Additionally you said that you do not want to hurt her.  Let me state from the immediate onset that if you love your wife, do not want to hurt her and want to continue your marriage, you do not necessarily need to tell her.

Having said that, this is not a license for you to go and do this again. My recommendation is based on the sense from your letter that you are sincerely contrite. That you succumbed once in over thirty years, and will not falter again.

This is not to say that I condone lying or hiding things in a relationship, I do not.

Long marriages naturally go through ups and downs.  This is obviously one of those downturns. I personally believe that you will inflict hurt and irreparable damage to your relationship with your wife should you decide to tell her. While I considered the answer to your question, I reasoned that should you choose to tell your wife you will have to go through the steps of telling her EVERYTHING, answering any and ALL questions and having an endless reservoir of patience for all discussions pertaining to that one night, whenever they arise. In addition, you and your wife will have to go through a period of healing. It is an unknown how you two will emerge from all this. On the other hand, should you choose not to tell your wife you carry the deep secret and the burden to repair the damage.

After some research I have discovered that many spouses or partners do not confess, and the relationships do survive.  It is possible that yours too can bounce back.  Do not lose hope. You, as others have before you, can still save this situation.

You must realize that this experience with the other woman has changed you, impacted your wife and your marriage, but with work and resolution it can turn out well. However, you cannot possibly emerge from this experience unscathed.

These are steps I think you must consciously undertake to recover:

1. You must accept that you are fully at fault and responsible for your actions.  I encourage you to consciously address yourself, silently if that works for you, and give this time to sink in and percolate. Discuss with your inner self how many people you have hurt, the repercussions and the remorse you feel.

2.  Understand that there are circumstances in a long marriage that create feelings that may be beyond your power to control.  There are longings that you and your wife have experienced that you did not address. We don’t always have control over our feelings.

3. Be prepared to communicate more specifically about issues you avoided like if you have become complacent with each other, bored or angry about the turn of events in your lives.

4. You must give more and love more, even when you don’t feel up to it.  You have to go out of your way, with romantic dinners, thoughtful gifts, deep conversation, more physical intimacy and more intense time together. You will have to work doubly hard, invest threefold and this will, hopefully, positively impact you and your wife and give both of you more gratification in the marriage.

5. Couples counseling is always a good option to consider to help you communicate your innermost feelings and accomplish all the above.

6. Finally and formally, forgive yourself and move on. BUT, don’t do it again!

Good Luck!

  • cjclevername
    Reply September 6, 2016 at 8:17 am

    I agree with Debbie’s advice. If you tell her you ease your guilt at her expense. Whether the relationship survives or not is questionable. But if you have no intention of ever doing this again you should keep it to your self. You might feel guilty forever, but is it worth hurting your life-long partner just to try to feel a little better?

  • dddeeefffggg
    Reply September 6, 2016 at 9:50 am

    If you didn’t want to hurt her, you wouldn’t have cheated. If you care about her at all, you would tell her so that she can make a decision on how she wants to move forward knowing the truth. It’s not the easiest option, but it’s the right option. At some point you need to stop making selfish decisions and do what is right.

  • betamaleorderbride
    Reply September 6, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    She deserves to know that the husband she thought was faithful cheated on her.

  • harka22
    Reply September 6, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    You’ve been together 30 years and you think being unfaithful for a few hours is a huge deal? Don’t tell her. And since this bothers you so much, don’t do it again

  • Anonymous
    Reply September 6, 2016 at 3:30 pm

    “This is not to say that I condone lying or hiding things in a relationship, I do not.”

    Except that’s EXACTLY what you’ve just done in your response.

    Reply September 6, 2016 at 6:34 pm

    If you didn’t want to hurt her, you wouldn’t have done this. You took what you wanted without any regards to the human capital. She will likely be destroyed that since she was your only, she is no longer – not to mention the deceit, lies, sneaking around, etc. She deserves to know bc you don’t get to make a decision about your wife’s life without consulting her. You have done that and now you need to let her know so that she is free to make decisions for the rest of her life based on truth. She also needs to know she may have been exposed to STDs so that she can protect her health and go get checked. You claim you love her – this is not what love looks like.

    Also, you aren’t even considering telling her for the above reasons I listed – you’re telling her for yourself – to ease your guilt. One last final selfish gesture. Not a surprise from someone lacking the moral compass that would’ve stopped him from doing this in the first place.

  • openup91011
    Reply September 6, 2016 at 6:40 pm

    He should absolutely tell her. Why should he get to decide what she does and doesn’t know about her own relationship and life? It’s her decision to stay with him after this – taking that choice away from her is messed up.

  • tootall9
    Reply September 6, 2016 at 6:44 pm

    No, no you really really should not tell her!! You did a terrible thing, don’t make breaking her heart and literally making the rest of her life a misery because you feel guilty?! Deal with it! My wife cheated on me 2 years ago, we’re still together, and good actually – but I am not over it, I don’t think I will ever be fully over it.

  • tootall9
    Reply September 8, 2016 at 11:38 am

    I think the ultimate thing is not to cheat. Then you need to decide what you want, marriage to continue, marriage to end. Then, decide what you need to do to …… Every case is so different, it’s hard to say what’s for the best, not just morally, but best. I had to do a lot of acting to get my marriage back on line, when actually what I wanted to do was scream at her to show how much pain she caused! That’s not the same thing, I know, but just as an example. If my wife decided she screwed up and wanted to put everything into our marriage, would I have preferred not to know?? Well, I would be in a better place now and so, probably would our marriage be. I’m not sure, I see both sides to coin. Different things effects different people in different ways.

  • DW
    Reply September 11, 2016 at 6:01 am

    This is not even about cheating it is about honesty. Sex is the least of the issue. A relationship whether 6 months old or 30 years old needs to be based on trust which seems to be missing here. Lying only compounds this mistrust and it is a “slippery slope”. If you lie about one thing and feel you got away with it who knows what you have lied about or will lie about in the future. If you want to remain in this relationship be up front and honest. Otherwise you are just fooling yourself and your partner.

  • chasingthrowaway
    Reply September 20, 2016 at 4:04 pm

    I’m going to go against the grain here and say that, in view of the fact that you’re in a long-term marriage and have never before been unfaithful, if you’re sure it won’t happen again, it was truly a one-time thing, and you’re committed to making the relationship work, I wouldn’t mention it to your wife. I don’t see what that accomplishes beside burdening her with your guilt.

  • MonteLukast
    Reply October 14, 2016 at 9:56 am

    Oh man. I think you should keep this one to yourself if you can keep the guilt from eating you alive. A one-time impulsive act doesn’t have to be the end of your 30-year marriage. Are you going to see this business associate again? Are you going to take trips with her again? You have to nip this in the bud immediately and keep it professional between the two of you. And hope that she never lets it slip. Be the kind of husband who would never do this kind of thing and treat your wife accordingly.

  • The-Ham-Bummer
    Reply October 15, 2016 at 12:11 pm

    The guilt is your punishment, telling her to relieve your own feelings is not a cure for you and a hit for her, so, why should you? EDIT: and get tested, maybe you have some appendage of punishment.

  • Hoosierdaddy64
    Reply October 15, 2016 at 12:15 pm

    Take it to your grave.

  • MezaTellie
    Reply October 15, 2016 at 12:18 pm

    Honestly I can’t believe anyone would really give the advice that you shouldn’t tell her. Do you not feel like she deserves to know? Would YOU not like to know if you were in her situation?

    You made a conscious mistake and did something you know that you shouldn’t do, it’s time to own up to it. Is there any benefit for you to tell her? Probably not, but do you respect her enough (well maybe not as much as you should since you did it anyway, but my point still stands) to let her know that you made a mistake? Honestly I wouldn’t be able to look my life partner in the eyes after something like that.

    I really think you should tell her the truth and just cut ties with the business associate and keep it professional. Don’t pretend to be the great faithful husband that you are not, she deserves the truth.

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