I’m ashamed to say that I’ve been having an affair for about eight months. It has become clear over the last few weeks that I need it to end. I’ve done a lot of soul searching and realized that this affair was a little bit of a mid-life crisis moment—the guy is younger and makes me feel like I’m young, too. I met him on the heels of my 45th birthday and was feeling especially forlorn about my wilder younger days. I’ve had a great eight years with my husband and have realized just how good I have it with him. I know he would be crushed to discover that I’ve been straying and feel I’ve done a good job of hiding it. I know my lover will be angry that I’m calling it quits, but know this is the right thing to do (though I’ll miss the hot sex badly). I feel horribly guilty about the affair. How do I really move on and do I tell my partner even if it will hurt him terribly?
There are such differing views on the “to tell or not to tell” dilemma—some might argue that sharing the truth of your affair would be a selfish act meant to relieve you of your own guilt while breaking your man’s heart. Others might suggest that honesty is the only moral option or is necessary to support the relationship’s ability to thrive long-term. You probably would love for me to tell you which way to go—but you’re not in luck. I will, though, ask you to consider the reasons for the affair and the likelihood that you will stray from the relationship again. Did the affair reveal something about your level of satisfaction in the relationship? Or were you simply having an existential meltdown and looking to turn the clock backwards for a brief moment?
Choosing to come out about the affair (hooray… another coming out!), opens the door for some important conversations with your partner that could help the relationship feel that much closer. The reality is that your partner could be so devastated that he’ll push you and the whole relationship away.
On the other hand, if you don’t let your hubby know the truth but suffer from nagging guilt, the shame could pull you away from him just as much as the affair did.
Too often, perfectly good and satisfying relationships end because of an affair. It may sound idealistic, but relationships can sometimes deepen in intimacy and connection after an episode of infidelity. Should the affair get revealed, you will both need to be emotional soldiers if there’s a shot at saving the marriage. He’ll have to risk trusting you again and you will need to be patient and committed in helping him find his way back to you.
A lot of people who end affairs don’t foresee this one very particular challenge: you will be grieving the loss of the affair (essentially a sort of break-up) within in the context of your marriage. Because your partner won’t and shouldn’t be your comrade through this, you will need to make sure you have some support from a therapist or trusted friend who can offer you the space to grieve without judgement.
Fully moving through the loss of your age-challenged side piece (and your related aging woes) will ensure that you can fully recommit to your husband and really put this behind you.