You cheated on your girlfriend and now you’re feeling guilty about it. Should you confess?
The short answer: Yes. The long answer: “Because you are not the only person in a relationship, and everyone has the right to such information in order to make their own individual decisions about where to direct their lives,” explains Dr. Tyler Ong, PsyD, MS, a Cebu-based clinical psychologist, and family and marriage therapist.
In simple words, if you were the one who was cheated on, and if it was kept from you, how would you feel upon finding out? This secret, in one way or another, will reveal itself over time.
“Secrets almost always end up destroying the relationship. The longer a secret is kept, it ferments, and that secret can singlehandedly terminate the relationship without further complicating stressors,” warns Dr. Ong.
Admitting one's fault might open up the possibility of the relationship ending, but it wipes the slate clean and allows the other person to reflect.
Break the news as soon as possible, face-to-face. But before making the revelation, consider the “value of honesty and revelation with the value of safety and potential harm.” Several modern couple’s therapy theories and research found that it is not so easy to just blurt out such a secret because in many occasions the offender’s life may be placed in danger; at other times, the victim attempts suicide.
“If there is a threat to life (either suicidal or homicidal in nature), the issue of priority shifts to preservation of life as opposed to necessary revelation of the cheating episode,” says Dr. Ong. “Depending on the dynamics of the relationship, current stressors, and the character of the victimized partner, there might be a need to seek help in structuring the conversation as these dialogues tend to get really ugly very quickly.”
Find the perfect time to confess. You can’t avoid hurting your partner's feelings, but using the “I message,” which means that you start the conversations by saying, “I think that...” or “I feel that...” or “I hope that...” could lessen the pain. As a normal reaction to the situation, expect a disappointed and furious partner.
“Victimized partners react in a variety of ways. The most common scenario is anger directed at the offending partner, and the consequent urge for vengeance. However, all reactions stem from pain: the victimized partner is hurt very deeply to the point that these may manifest physically and behaviorally (e.g., affecting sleep, focus at work, migraines, lowered immune response). Trust, once broken, creates a shockwave that affects the worldview of the victimized person, akin to experiencing a traumatic event,” he notes.
If she decides to dump you, be man enough to own your mistake and move on. If she gives you a second chance, work on rebuilding her trust. Trust is just as important as love. Without it, everything else could fail in the relationship.
Now if you don’t want to undergo this stressful event, the obvious choice is to stay loyal to your partner. If you find the relationship is somehow weakening (multiple and more frequent fights, coldness toward each other, no more communication despite being physically together, lowered sex drive), talk it over honestly with your partner instead of letting your eyes wander.
“Once you get into an affair, you create a problem by choice, and it will be a very sticky mess to get out of. Do not create the problem in the first place.”
Dr. Tyler Ong, PsyD, MS is a clinical psychologist, and family and marriage therapist. For consultation, you can visit his clinic at 317 Medalle Bldg. Fuente Osmeña, Cebu City.