Q. Should I tell my wife about my attraction to another woman? Should an affair be disclosed? Recently my wife has questioned my time away from home. How much should I tell her? I don’t want to hurt my wife nor do I want a divorce.
A. An attraction or an affair is best revealed. This will be painful for both of you but confessing this secret is essential for a viable marriage. Secrets form a wall between people. Disclosing secrets lowers the wall. Marriage requires openness. Disclosure is necessary in order for your marriage to grow.
Confession is essential but you don’t have to do it alone. A Christian counselor or pastor can guide both of you through this. It's not necessary to divulge every aspect of an affair. In fact it's best to only give minimal information. If you reveal too many details your partner will have a hard time shaking the mental pictures these leave in her mind.
The injured partner has a right to know who the affair was with, what happened (in general), how long it has gone on, whether it has ended and who else knows. Also, the partner has a right to know if there is a pregnancy or a sexually transmitted disease.
Disclosing an affair in the counselor's office adds protection against further damage to the marriage. The counselor will assist you in disclosing the affair by controlling your partner's initial responses and insisting that he or she hear you out.
Although you will be held responsible for the affair you will not be put down or judged by the counselor. Your spouse may respond to your disclosure with extreme anger and hurt. An affair is a betrayal of your marriage vows; a betrayal of your spouse’s trust. The one betrayed will need to express hurt and angry feelings in order to eventually be able to forgive.
Disclose your affair to only a few people. When extended family members get involved sides are drawn and the problems are multiplied. Although parents and siblings are well meaning they cannot be objective. Advice to "leave the bum" or to "make him pay" only confuses the couple. Family members may also hold the affair against the "in-law" for years after the couple have resolved the issue.
Stay together during the crisis phase. You must focus on the immediate survival of the marriage. When a partner moves out this provides more opportunity for continuing to see the third party. This may lead to an intensification of the affair rather than aiding the marriage.
End your relationship with the other person if you have not already done so. Do this "cold turkey." Continuing to see this person will only prolong things. All parties will experience a period of turmoil and grieving. The person ending the affair may "relapse" and contact the third party again. Disengaging from this "romantic" attachment is painful and difficult – but essential.
Make a determined effort together to change your relationship—to make it work. This will involve spending time talking though the various issues that have been troublesome over the years or that come up in counseling. It will also involve finding new ways to add fun and romance to your relationship.
Counseling about an affair will take time and effort. Don’t give up. Stay in counseling for a year or longer to be certain forgiveness is completed and trust restored. The Third Option group for couples can also very helpful.
See a Christian counselor with experience in marriage counseling. A counselor who is not a Christian may have a very different view marriage.
“What God has joined together, let man not separate.” Matthew 19:6 NIV