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Should I Tell Him That My Husband Had An Affair With His Wife?

Here are the reasons why you should. And the reasons why you shouldn't.

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Christine Rösch
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I have a purely hypothetical problem. Let’s say I found out my spouse had an affair. To complicate things, the person they cheated with is married, too. Not only am I dealt a devastating betrayal, especially since I was friends with the other couple, but I am also faced with a moral dilemma: Do I, hypothetically, of course, tell the other spouse they were cheated on? Probably because she’s a good therapist, mine won’t simply tell me what to do, so I asked professional relationship experts and people with personal experience.

No, don’t tell them

Some people adamantly believe it’s not your place to insert yourself into someone else’s relationship, even if your spouse inserted themselves, sometimes quite literally, into theirs.

Andrea Hipps, a certified divorce coach and author, says that her answer “is an unequivocal ‘No.’ ” One argument from experts for staying out of it is if children are involved. Parents in conflict can have a negative effect on a child, no matter the age.

Sometimes it’s best to let sleeping (around) dogs lie for the sake of the children. Many experts warn that, if you are concerned that a jilted spouse will retaliate violently or abusively in any way, do not disclose an affair. Do seek resources to help all affected parties, and consider your moves carefully. If you decide not to spill the secret, the conversation ends here. However, if you change your mind, the door will always be open and the question may nag you, leading you to reconsider. Or, as Hipps says, “your focus during this time needs to be on yourself.” You may be able to make your peace and move on for the sake of your own mental health.  

Yes, tell them

In my research, it’s often the people who have been personally involved with infidelity who believe it is your moral obligation to disclose an affair to the other party. Alicia G (last name withheld) found out the hard way what can happen when an affair remains a secret too long. She believes in honesty when it comes to disclosure because “hiding the truth... is another way to protect the one cheating. It doesn’t spare the feelings of the one being cheated on and compounds the trauma and distrust they will feel when they find out.” 

The professionals sometimes agree. Sharon Gilchrest O’Neill, marriage and family psychotherapist and author, says: “No matter what the specifics might be, my answer is an emphatic ‘Yes’ ” because “if there are more lies and people are kept in the dark, the ultimate repercussions will be devastating.”

Some repercussions include sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy as a result of this coupling. If you do have these concerns, speak with your health care provider or seek out other resources. Kathy Meyer Larson, a mom of three from North Carolina, was not cheated on, but she “saw a friend’s husband at a restaurant with another woman once and really debated saying anything to her. I finally did and it was really hard, but I’m really glad I did.”

The verdict

I’m still not totally sure what the right choice is for me, hypothetically. Melissa Brand, a licensed psychologist in private practice in Philadelphia, says someone in this situation needs “to examine their intention behind informing, the potential impact of informing, and if they decide to share, how to do so.”

She says, in addition to assuring safety and examining the repercussions of your decision, “ask oneself when deciding whether to share... ‘Would I be sharing this information from a place of hurt and anger over my own betrayal, or care and concern for the other person involved?’ ”

There are many points in both the pro and con columns. No matter what, though, I wish you the support of friends, family and a terribly ethical therapist should you find yourself in this unfortunate quandary.