I cheated on my girlfriend a few months ago. I slept with another woman three times and then ended things because I realized that I was truly in love with my girlfriend and want to be with only her. Now I’m wondering if I should come clean and tell my girlfriend what happened. I’ve confided in a couple of trusted friends; one says yes, because we should have no secrets, but the other says no, that I’m being selfish and only want to assuage my guilt and that the information will only hurt her. I’ve never cheated on anyone before and honestly know in my heart that I will never cheat again. What do you guys think? Keep it to myself or let my girlfriend know?—DH, Chicago, Illinois
The Straight Woman’s Perspective: Rebecca Brown
Let’s see … you could: 1. Not tell her and wallow in your inner shame, guilt, and self-disgust for the rest of your relationship (and possibly the rest of your life) or 2. Tell her and face the heinous wrath of a woman scorned, but also potentially get the chance to move your relationship forward in ways you may never have envisioned by being honest about problems you were having. Inner turmoil and shame versus temporary (or potentially permanent) wrath and positive growth. It’s your call, but I always lean toward the options with the most positive potential outcomes, so I think telling her is the right thing to do on many fronts.
Will she be mad? You bet your ass she will be—and she has every right to her anger. Will she dump you? She might and she might not. Either way, you have to be ready to talk to her candidly about the issues that pushed you so far away from her that you’d sleep with another woman. “I wasn’t happy” is too vague; she’ll want concrete reasons. Be equally prepared to tell her how you conveniently had the epiphany that you love her only after seeing another woman naked. I always think it’s a little fishy that people have their epiphanies after they’ve done something bad—like the people in prison who find Baby Jesus after ax-murdering entire families. And yes, I just compared cheating to being an ax murderer—welcome to the irrational mind of a woman who’s been cheated on. Get used to it; you can expect plenty of similarly deranged analogies when you tell her, but you’ll have to be patient, keep communication open, and hope she forgives you.
By the way, how do you know you’ll never cheat again? What makes you so certain? I’m not saying once a cheater, always a cheater, but I do wonder what you propose doing in the future to fix your relationship problems—and you better be ready to tell that to your girlfriend, too. Good luck. By the way, I advise having this discussion in an area free of sharp-edged objects or heavy items that could cause cranial damage if thrown.
The Gay Man’s Perspective: Darren Maddox
How long had you been dating your girlfriend at the time this affair took place? And yes, it was an affair, not a simple one-night stand in the heat of the moment. Had you been together for a while? Or was your relationship relatively new, prompting the fling so you could make sure you were headed down the right path with the right person? If you’re getting to know someone on a deeper level before choosing to be with someone completely, I believe it’s a normal reaction to give into temptations until you figure out how to classify your feelings and declare that one person the one person you choose to be with. However, if you’d been together for a while and you chose to cheat on her—not once but three times—I believe she has the right to know. She also deserves to know why. It will either break your relationship or make it stronger.
While I see the points of both your friends, you’re walking a fine line either way. If you tell her, there’s the likelihood that she’ll leave you, or she may stay with you and always doubt your faithfulness. If you don’t tell her, you may get away with it this time, but have a load of guilt that you carry around with you. You—not your friends—have to choose which one you can deal with.
The Straight Man’s Perspective: Chris Kennedy
Why did you cheat? Were there problems in your relationship or was this other woman so fantastic that you had to go behind your girlfriend’s back three times to get it out of your system?
Are you really now convinced you only want to be with your girlfriend? Are you intimating that your straying has shown you the light that your girlfriend is the one? Or are you just feeling guilty and realizing that the “answers” to your relationship questions are not in this other woman? Either way, you’ve realized that cheating wasn’t what you want to be doing. That’s good. The other thing you don’t want to do is lie to your girlfriend in addition to the cheating. And lying is what you’re doing by not saying anything and letting your girlfriend believe—incorrectly—that she’s in a monogamous relationship.
You need to tell your girlfriend that you cheated, that you regret it, and that you are truly in love with her. Try to explain why you did it, whether it was boredom, curiosity, or feeling smothered. Ask for her forgiveness. By acknowledging and trying to figure out the reason(s) you cheated, you’ll have a shot at fixing the relationship and a chance to have a faithful relationship with this woman you “truly love.”
Remember, DH: you can’t have a clean slate by hiding a dirty little secret.
The Gay Woman’s Perspective: Jody Fischer
If the tables were turned and she slept with someone else three times and then realized that you were the one she truly wanted, what would you want her to do?
I also think that there’s some grey area between the idea of having no secrets and hiding the big stuff. Listing all the wild nights on the town you had before you met her seems like an absurd thing to do, but omitting that you cheated seems equally absurd. I’d hate for her to find out from someone else down the line. And we all know from recent tabloid headlines that you never know when your past may come back to bite you in the butt.
You need to tell her. And you need to know that it may cost you the relationship—but it may bring you even closer. Like it or not, this is a storm that many couples have to weather. I’d rather you see it through now then when you’re twenty years into your marriage. How you both work through this will be a good indicator of how you can withstand a crisis.
I know it’s scary, but you have to own it and share it with her. It’s the right thing to do, DH.