Should you tell others about your spouse's affair? This is a personal decision, and there is certainly no one size fits all answer. As with all issues pertaining to affairs, I recommend that you get as much perspective as possible, and then decide for yourself. In the final end, the only one who will live with the outcome of decisions you make from this point forward is you, not your friends and family who can be so quick to offer their advice, not even me or your counselor. So the most important thing is that you get perspective, consider your options carefully, and then make your own decision as to what’s right for you.
Here are a few points to consider regarding whether or not you should tell others about your spouse's affair:
DON’T SUFFER ALONE
It’s important to tell someone, because you should not bear this pain in isolation. It’s wise to tell a few people, who can support you during this difficult time, and listen to you, without judgment, without telling you what to do, and without offering you unsolicited and/or uneducated advice. When I was suffering through my own affair crisis, I was counseled not to tell anyone of the affair. In the event that I decided to reconcile my marriage, I was told, it might be too embarrassing for my husband. Embarrassing for my husband! God forbid he should have any painful consequences resulting from his actions. Why should it become the injured spouse’s responsibility to protect the offending partner from any pain or consequences for their actions? Sharing with a handful of supportive and sensible people can provide both you and your spouse with essential support to navigate the crisis and heal.
CONSIDER YOUR MOTIVES FOR SHARING
As you navigate the aftermath of an affair, be careful and take the time you need to make wise decisions about what’s right for you. It’s best not to make rash decisions in the heat of the moment, which you may end up regretting later, when your intense emotions subside.
It’s tempting to slander your spouse’s name around the community as a form of punishment, so they have to suffer for what they’ve done, but afterwards, you’ll still be left with your pain. Getting revenge in this way won’t take your pain away. And in the event that healing your marriage is a possibility for you, slandering your spouse may make it more difficult.
Positive motives for sharing would include getting support for yourself and creating accountability for your unfaithful spouse. In some cases sharing with others, caused a positive form of shame and embarrassment on the offending spouse. Positive in the fact that facing their peers caused them to see more clearly how their actions were wrong, and not reflective of the the legacy they desire to leave behind. The fact that others knew of their affair has caused some unfaithful spouses to come home and restore their marriages and their relationships with their children, where they otherwise may not have made this choice.
Many times sharing can bring friends and family closer together. Affairs can be a hidden generational pattern within a family. The secrecy keeps the pattern going, and nothing is ever dealt with. Confronting truth head on has the potential for breaking those patterns. When you and your spouse deal with this situation properly, you increase the chances that your children can avoid these painful patterns in their futures.
Should you tell others about your spouse's affair? If you can’t think of a positive outcome that will result from your telling certain people, you probably shouldn’t be telling them. Unless sharing is going to benefit you or someone else, you shouldn’t tell.
YOU MIGHT FORGIVE YOUR SPOUSE, BUT OTHERS MIGHT NOT
Sometimes it’s easier to forgive an offense against ourselves, than it is an offense against someone you love. “Hurting me is one thing, but don’t you dare hurt my kid!” If you decide to heal your relationship, will the person you’re sharing with also be able to forgive your spouse?
YOUR MARRIAGE NEEDS PROTECTION WHILE IT HEALS
Let’s say your spouse broke your arm. Would it be adequate for them to say “I’m sorry, I broke your arm, I’ll never do it again.” No, for heaven sakes, you need to get to a hospital immediately to see a doctor so your injury can heal properly. The first thing the doctor will do is to push the bone back in place. In the same way your marriage has been severely broken, and you need the help of a specialist to set things back in place.
After that the doctor will put a cast on the arm. Why? To protect it from further damage while it’s still weak in the broken place. In the same way your marriage needs to have a cast on. It needs to be protected from further damage while you heal.
Sometimes when other people know about the affair, they cause further injury through their hurtful gossip, and/or harmful and uninformed advice. If you have people in your circle of influence who know of the affair and are causing damage there’s nothing wrong with minimizing your contact with them until your marriage can be healed.
It’s encouraging to know that when a bone is broken and heals properly, the place where it heals is actually stronger than before the injury. In the same way your marriage when healed properly can be stronger than before, but left unattended would be like a person with a broken arm who never gets it set back in place. The untreated arm could never be used as it was intended again, and would remain a painful source of regret and irritation.
©Copyright 2005 Anne and Brian Bercht. All rights reserved.
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