We’ve all been told that lying is bad. It’s one of those golden rules your parents would reinforce when you were growing up. Lying is hurtful and holds horrible repercussions that follow if you do. However, if we have lied to or cheated on a partner, is honesty always really the best policy to absolve our wrongdoings?
When Carrie from the TV show Sex and the City had a brief affair with her ex and decided to tell her boyfriend the truth, it didn’t do her any good since the result was heartbreak and his confession that he wished she never told him. So what’s the reward to telling the truth? I once knew someone who slept with her best friend’s boyfriend on several occasions. Both kept it a secret and his girlfriend was none the wiser. She even ended up being one of the bridesmaids at their eventual wedding.
It may seem like I’m making a case for lying, which I’m not, but rather attempting to illustrate why not disclosing a betrayal can be tempting while confessing can often mean having something taken away from you. There are some serious questions that you should ask yourself before making a decision on whether you should come clean if you have cheated on your partner.
First, is it going to create an ongoing effect on your relationship? Clients have asked me if they should come clean about affairs that ended years ago. I usually advise them to hold back on disclosing the information because the affair is not ongoing or continuing to affect their relationship. Second, what is your goal in telling the person? You may have to come to terms with the fact that your motivation might partly be to make yourself feel better through hurting someone who does not deserve to be hurt. Be prepared that people often find it hard to maintain a relationship with someone who has betrayed them. Finally, is there anyone else that may be affected by the disclosure? If there is a possibility that leaking the information may harm the other party involved, it’s a good idea to give them some warning. They might not share your desire to admit to the affair, and your decision could have serious consequences for them. Approach carefully if there are children involved.
People often ask me if cheaters can reform their ways. My belief is yes. However, it depends on the individual and what he/she took out of the experience. If there was a lack of remorse and little consequences for the infidelity, it heightens the chances of them doing it again. Cheaters have to be able to appreciate the impact that infidelity can have on a relationship, but one occurrence is not enough to identify a pattern.
Think before you act and be prepared for the impact of your actions. It can be easy to be caught up in the moment and the exciting aspect of having an affair. However, relationships that grow out of infidelity are often short-lived because seeing your new love interest’s ability to lie to someone else will lay a seed of doubt that he or she could do it to you. Trust is difficult to regain once it’s been lost and it takes both parties truly believing in each other for it to be successful. Remember that you don’t have to lie, cheat or steal to get to the top; you simply need to be tactful with the cards you have been dealt with.
Amy Yew is a researcher and therapist. Tell us what you think and submit any questions you have to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also tweet your thoughts on Twitter @AmyYew.