Infidelity. This is not the most romantic post for Valentine’s Day, but I find myself thinking about it (thanks to Oprah) and I decided to query the innernets as a hole for the answer to a question I have long pondered.
Let’s say that one spouse has cheated on another. It could be either gender, but just for ease of discussion, let’s say it is a heterosexual marriage, and it is the male who had an affair. This cheating male comes to couples counseling with his wife, who knows that there are problems, but does not know that her husband has been unfaithful. The husband asks to speak to the counselor alone, during which time he reveals that he has had a sexual relationship outside the marriage. He says (very sincerely and convincingly) that it is 100% over and will never happen again, and that he does not want his wife to know about it, because knowing can only hurt her and can’t possibly help the marriage. He wants to look toward the future, not the past. As the counselor (or even as a friend or family member), do you honor his request not to reveal the infidelity to his wife? (Incidentally, confidentiality is not an issue; both clients have been informed that “the marriage” is the client and that the two partners do not have confidentiality from one another in this setting, the way they would if either of them were coming alone for individual counseling.)
A. You keep his secret. He makes a valid point — while telling all might relieve his guilt, it would only hurt his wife and the marriage. If he really means that it is over, is truly sorry and is determined that it will never happen again, then no good can come of requiring him to tell his wife. Let his mistake be left in the past while they go forward to improve their marriage.
B. She has to know. They can’t really move forward if there are lies in the past. Besides, if she knew the truth, she might not want to be with him anymore. And she has a right to base her current and future decisions on reality, however hurtful, and not on lies and illusion.
C. Some other answer.
What do you think, oh, wise and powerful innernets?