You didn\’t mean for it to happen. It started so innocently, with just a flirty conversation. Then it escalated to an emotional attachment. He so gets you, and you talk into the wee hours, if only clandestinely on your cell. And you feel so wonderful you don\’t want it to end.

But the fact is, if you are cheating on your spouse, the situation is unsustainable. You have to tell lies to your spouse and you hate that you do it. He might not catch on for awhile, but eventually he will notice that your time is not allocated the way it used to be. And your lover will know about your spouse, but want more time from you anyway. And you will be caught in a tug of war.

Finally, whether you mean to do it consciously or not, you will be caught. There will be some detail your spouse cannot ignore. An item of clothing left behind. An incriminating e-mail stumbled upon. Something. Because you can\’t keep this three-ring circus going forever.

So take a deep breath. You must do the really difficult thing. You must stop the affair before it reaches the breaking point. You must at least put the affair on hold while you examine just why you\’re doing this to yourself and your spouse. You would never do this if you weren\’t unhappy in your primary relationship. So it\’s time to address the issue. Maybe, working together and perhaps with a therapist, you can mend the problems. Maybe you can\’t. But you will at least have tried, openly and honestly.

If your relationship survives, should you confess?

You must stop and think very carefully about telling your secret. Honesty is a good thing, except, perhaps, when you reveal your affair only to relieve your guilt. Before you do that, think about this first: will your guilt be relieved? If you inflict pain upon your spouse by telling the awful truth, will you feel better? You will not have that pent-up feeling of holding a secret, but maybe you should have to suffer with that feeling. And let your spouse remain blissfully unhurt. That is, if you have successfully ended the affair already.

The truth about your affair may do your spouse no good and possibly some harm, so in that case, you may want to keep it to yourself. Unless—and this is a huge caveat—you have had unsafe sex, thereby putting your spouse at risk for a sexually transmitted disease. In that case you must tell the truth, the whole truth, and tell it immediately. Also, if your affair is likely to be outed in some way, then you have the obligation to confess so your spouse hears it from you first.

If you believe honesty is the best policy regardless, even if you didn\’t have unsafe sex and no one will find out about your affair, then think carefully about how you will tell your spouse. Go through the conversation in your head and imagine how your spouse will respond, and how you will behave. You will be in for a difficult period in which you must listen, be always understanding, and absorb your spouse\’s anger. It is entirely possible to have a future with your spouse that\’s even better than before, but it usually requires some counseling and a lot of time and patience.

Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional.  If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch.  You can reach her here: