Being cheated on is a painful experience that often feels devastating. What’s worse is figuring out how to move forward after the emotional/sexual affair with your partner. While you are reeling with the revelation that your partner has been unfaithful and deciding whether or not this relationship can be saved, a common and difficult conundrum is whether to tell others about how your partner had an affair. With such a sensitive issue as infidelity, how do you figure out the pros and cons about disclosing to friends and family your pain, anger, and betrayal surrounding your partner’s affair? Let’s take a look.
A person can feel a whirlwind of emotions once they learn that they’ve been cheated on. Anger, betrayal, hurt, sorrow, confusion, shame, jealousy, embarrassment and several other uncomfortable emotions easily pop up into our minds. Before trying to figure out whether to disclose the affair to friends and family, it might be useful to first figure how you feel about the ordeal. Take some time to journal your feelings, read some books and articles to see how others have coped with such miserable experiences, practice self-care by doing things that you find healing, or talk with a therapist. Before committing to any one course of action, give yourself some time to reflect. After you feel grounded, move on to the next activity.
Writing Down the Pros and Cons
Now that you’ve had some time to ground yourself, give yourself a moment to consider the harder questions, like, what would it be like to hold this secret for my partner? Does holding the secret make me complicit in his or her awful behavior? How could it hurt me if I told other people about the affair? How could it hurt me to keep this secret? What would the impact be on telling Jane, Bob or Tanisha?
What make these questions difficult are the inherent pros and cons. Telling others that you were cheated on can lead to support and understanding from your loved ones. At the same time, there can be associated pain when retelling the affair. Also, there’s the risk of negative judgement that others might make about you and your relationship. Unfortunately, some people do judge our actions. All of this can be complex, so let’s try to make this simple. To figure out how you feel, grab a pen and paper and write down the pros and cons about disclosing the affair. Here are some questions to get you started.
- How will people treat me?
- Will my expectations of how people treat me change after they learn the truth?
- Am I prepared if people do treat me differently?
- Who will be there to support me?
- What does support look like?
- Am I ready to talk about this with others?
- Do I want feedback from friends and family?
- What kind of social support do I wish for myself?
- Whom can I trust about this?
- What would it be like to tell our mutual friends?
- Do I care if people treat my partner differently?
- Is telling helping you hold your partner accountable?
- Are you telling because you need the support?
- Are you telling out of spite?
Overall, there are several good reasons to tell your friends and family about your partner’s affair. For instance, talking to others can help put together the puzzle of the infidelity. They can give you information from their unique perspectives that you simply weren’t able to see (e.g., “She sometimes flirted with others when you weren’t around.”). Simply put, figuring out the truth regarding the affair can be invaluable. Another benefit of telling your friends and family about the affair is the amount of support you can receive. People can only help you best once they know what the problem is. Being aware of the affair allows your friends and family to provide the care that’s uniquely necessary for infidelity. Finally, telling other about the affair can simply relieve the burden of keeping it all to you. At the same time, it’s important to mention that there are valid reasons for choosing not to disclose.
Though some are lucky to have friends and family that are supportive, others aren’t so fortunate. Telling your loved ones that you were cheated on can be met with indifference, invalidation, or even ridicule. A friend of family member could even blame you for your partner’s cheating. Needless to say, you probably wouldn’t want to tell others if they were like that. Even if you do have supportive friends and family, however, you may not be ready to disclose the affair. Revisiting the infidelity can be painful, especially if you haven’t had time to process all of it. Just as how there are reasons to disclose, there are legitimate reasons not to.
After going through these thought provoking questions, it’s possible that you’re still feeling unsure on whether to disclose about the affair. It’s important to know that this is completely fair and normal. After all, infidelity is a confusing, messy subject. So, in order to make matters more clear, try doing this activity.
Speak In Front of a Mirror
Disclosing the affair to others can be complicated for a whole host of reasons. Therefore, before trying to tell other about the infidelity, it might be easier to practice telling yourself. This will also help you to see if you are prepared to tell others about the affair. Once you’re ready, pick a time where no one else is around: a time where you feel confident with your privacy. Next, stand in front of a mirror and practice disclosing to yourself about the affair. Remember, no one is judging you, and no one knows about the affair but you. Use this time to construct the perfect way in which you would want to deliver the information. Simply spend 10 minutes on this, or until you feel satisfied with how you disclose. Afterwards, take some time to reflect on the process.
- What emotions did I feel during the disclosure?
- What did I feel before, and what did I feel after?
- Would I feel comfortable sharing what I said to myself to others?
- Was the practice disclosure too vulnerable for me?
- Can I imagine disclosing this to someone else?
- What would I add or change when disclosing to someone else?
- How would I feel if I were speaking to someone, and not a mirror?
- Are your feelings matching your stated purpose of sharing such private information?
There are also some ways in which to modify the activity. For instance, you can practice disclosing the affair in the mirror to different people, and imagining their most positive and negative response. You can also practice in front of the mirror telling each person in your life that they don’t have the right to know about this issue, and imagining the positives and negative impact holding the secret might have for you and your desired outcome.
By disclosing the affair to yourself, not only does it give you insight on how prepared you are to share the infidelity with others, but it also gives you strength. By saying the affair aloud, it can make the infidelity more real. Confronting this hard truth takes strength and courage, which you just demonstrated by doing the activity. Finally, remember that doing this activity also helps you figure out if you’re ready to make a private matter public. Disclosing the affair in front of the mirror simply gives you information, and it’s up to you on what you do with it. Besides this, there’s something else to remember.
It’s Not All on You
So far, we’ve been talking about things that you can do on your end. Though this is empowering and highlights your agency regarding the affair, remember that you don’t have to be alone in this. Try asking yourself what your partner can do. Here are some questions to consider.
- Do you want your partner to tell others?
- How would you feel if your partner disclosed the affair to others?
- If your partner apologized to you, how do you know that it was genuine?
- Should they apologize to your family?
- Should they apologize to their affair partner?
- Whom can your partner disclose the affair to?
- Does the type of affair make a difference (e.g., one night stand, emotional affair, long-term sexual affair, multiple partners)?
- What if the affair isn’t over?
Once again, telling others that you were cheated on can be a huge, complicated matter. Just remember that you don’t have to carry that burden all on your own. Your partner cheated on you, so they can at the very least help you through this.
Unfortunately, the dilemma on whether to disclose about the infidelity is inevitable. It’s an added hardship to an already hard situation. Don’t get discouraged, though. There are some activities that you can do to help you through this. Use self-care activities like journaling to ground yourself. Next, try writing out the pros and cons about disclosing the affair. If your decision is still unclear, disclose the affair in front of a mirror. It’s easy to feel lost after being cheated on. However, remember that there are still things that you can do to help you find your way.