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The affair is over… do you have to confess?

If you cheated on your spouse or your partner and you’re trying to figure out whether you should tell them what happened or not, I have good news and bad news:

You don’t HAVE to do anything. You get to CHOOSE whether or not you tell them you cheated.

I know there are plenty of relationship experts out there who will tell you that you SHOULD tell your partner you cheated, or that you HAVE to tell them — and why you’re a terrible person if you don’t, or why your relationship will be doomed to fail if you don’t confess.


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Cheaters get a pretty bad rap.

Infidelity isn’t something most people have much empathy for — unless you’re the one who was cheated on. Most of the advice out there on the subject of dealing with an affair tells you how to prevent an affair before you have one, or how to repair a relationship after the affair is over and done with.

But what if you’re currently having an affair, and have no idea what to do about it?

You have rights too, even if other people see what you’re doing as categorically Bad — or maybe even see you as being fundamentally Bad. …


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You’re engaged to be married. And you’re starting to realize you have very mixed feelings about this state of affairs.

You thought you wanted to get married. You thought you wanted to spend the rest of your life with the person who is soon to become your legally wedded spouse — if you, um, go through with the wedding, that is. You thought that having a wedding would be great.

But then, somewhere along the line, you started to feel slightly nauseous every time somebody congratulated you on your engagement. At some point, you noticed yourself twitching a little bit every time someone asked you how the wedding planning was coming along. …


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They say marriage is all about finding that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.

There are two dominant narratives about romantic relationships in our culture. Either they’re REALLY good and if so, that’s great — or they’re BAD, and if they are, that’s a PROBLEM.

We have an extensive shared vocabulary for talking about all of the wonderful aspects of relationships. We celebrate the joy of connection and intimacy. We love the idea of there being a “soul mate” or “true love” out there for everyone. We recognize the beauty and value of the support and stability a long-term relationship can provide — as long as the relationship is continuously “happy,” or “fulfilling,” anyway.

And, on the other hand, we have lots to say about relationships that aren’t good. We speak of “toxic” relationships, and how bad they are. …


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Sometimes, when we think we did something wrong in the past — or think we failed to do something that we should have done — we beat ourselves up for our past (in)actions because we think we have to “hold ourselves accountable” in order to make up for whatever we think we did wrong.

But so often, “holding ourselves accountable” translates into mercilessly blaming and shaming ourselves, over and over, long after our supposed misdeeds or failings took place.

Sometimes we do this because we think we’re deserving of blame. Sometimes we do this because we think we’ll repeat our past (in)actions if we stop thinking about them and about how bad we are for having done whatever we did. Sometimes we keep on beating ourselves up because we’ve been in the habit of doing it for so long, we scarcely recognize it when it’s happening. …


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Your significant other, with whom you are in a very committed, very monogamous relationship — or thought you were, anyway — just told you they are having an affair.

Or maybe they didn’t exactly tell you. Maybe you’d suspected that something was going on for a while, then you finally discovered irrefutable evidence, so you confronted them, and they reluctantly admitted you were right.

And… your world has effectively been turned upside down. You thought everything was fine. You were happy and content and excited about your relationship and your life. You had no idea that anything was wrong.

Their betrayal wasn’t just painful, it was an existential shock. Your whole life, and your sense of who you are was built around your relationship. You didn’t think anything like this was ever going to happen to you. And you’ve been overwhelmed with a grand assortment of intensely uncomfortable feelings. Horror. Anger. Deep, crushing sadness. Fear. Anxiety. …


There are so many messages out there in our culture about how romantic relationships are supposed to be a continuous source of joy and happiness and delight and all sorts of other wonderful things.

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So when this doesn’t happen — when our relationships don’t seem 100% amazing, 100% of the time — we tend to think that something is wrong. Maybe we think our relationship isn’t good enough. Maybe we think someone else would be better for us. Maybe we slide into a pattern of discontent, or maybe we start actively entertaining break-up scenarios. Maybe we start blaming our partner for lots of things, and thinking thoughts like, “If only they were more like ____, I’d be so much happier.” …


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About a year shy of our fortieth birthdays, my freshman year college roommate stopped responding to my text messages and phone calls. In the twenty-plus years we’d known each other, there had been a few stretches of disconnection in our friendship, but it had seemed to me like the older we got, the more we appreciated each other and the consistency and longevity of our connection. In the year before the silence began, I had flown out to visit her twice.

During the early phase of her non-responsiveness, I figured she was just too busy to talk. She had recently moved across the country and had two small children on hands. Her life had also become complicated in additional ways I only partially understood, but based on numerous past experiences, I figured I was pretty high on her list of people she could talk to when the going got tough, so I felt confident I’d hear from her soon enough. We had been discussing the possibility of my spouse and me becoming the guardians of her children should something happen to her and her husband, and I couldn’t imagine she would go incommunicado with this important matter unresolved. But as the months went by, I grew concerned. Eventually I logged into Facebook and found she was still very much alive, and communicative in that mode. …


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Or anything else you’re kinda scared to talk to them about.

Talking to your partner about your sex life — or, perhaps, the lack thereof — can be difficult for so many reasons. Especially if you want to talk to them about something that you’re unhappy about, or dissatisfied with… or if you want to talk to them about something you think might make them uncomfortable.

There are so many reasons why it can be difficult to talk about sex with your partner — whether you’ve known them for a few weeks or a few decades — and these reasons are very worthy of exploration. But for the purposes of preparing for a conversation about sex that’s going to happen in the near future, it’s more practical to simply appreciate the fact that for a lot of people, talking about sex isn’t easy. It can provoke a lot of discomfort and vulnerability… and this can be true even if you and your partner know each other well, and are generally pretty comfortable with each other. …


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You’re Officially Having an Affair

All of a sudden, you’re That Person.

You’re not exactly sure how things got so carried away, but you know for sure that you can no longer write the situation off as a one-time drunken fling, or something that happened a couple of times, but will never happen again.

In fact, you are completely besotted with your new paramour. Obsessed, even.

And you have no idea what to do about it.

Because, well, let’s call it like it is: you are cheating on your spouse. You are most definitely not in an open marriage. Your honey pie waiting for you at home would be crushed if they found out what you were up to. …

About

Marie Murphy, Ph.D.

Relationship coach, specializing in helping people who are having affairs decide what they want to do. No judgements. www.mariemurphyphd.com

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