Sex & Sociability

Question and commentary on connections, both sexual and social

Confession: Good For The Soul, But Is It Good For The Marriage?

Should you confess to clear the air or keep the secret?

Let's say, only for the sake of conjecture of course, that you have broken your monogamous agreement. If you're not actually legally married you might wiggle around it by insisting you have no actual stated monogamous contract, but in your heart of hearts you know the truth.  So now what?  If this is an event that you have no intention of making your exit strategy from your coupled status, should you confess to clear the air or keep the secret?

I wrote my Master’s thesis on differing communication styles I dubbed Tell Alls vs. Say Nothings.  Some individuals, man or woman, cement their intimacy by revealing every fleeting erotic fancy, let alone actual previous or current encounters. Also in that camp are those who are turned on by these tales and mark the sharing of them as proof of their special status in their partner's life.  If you are one of these or, more importantly, are coupled with one, the decision to tell or not will be far easier. Your conscience will be cleansed, your partner titillated, and your union will be even more solidified.

If, however, you are of the Say Nothing persuasion and you know your partner to be as well, enough said.  You will not want your peccadillo to be held against you or thrown in your face at every future grievous occasion and you will not want to be branded as a cheater. Far better to suffer your pangs of conscience in silence and forever hold your peace.

But what if you and your partner are not both in the same camp or your communication style status is not so easily discerned?  What if you guess and you guess wrong?  That could very well mean the end of your relationship!              

Let me state that for most people, there is a penalty for sexual adventures outside the couple.  Unless the two of you are in an open relationship (and even then in many cases) one person is likely to feel bad about such an occasion. The cheater, for not living up to his or her own standards of morality or the partner’s, and the cheated upon for being supplanted in the partner's affection, even momentarily.  If you tell, both get to feel bad.  If you don't tell, only one of you does.

That might indicate an easy decision then but most of us really have to struggle against the urge to confess.  Whew, what a relief....and then, and only then, do we see the results of obtaining that relief - our partner's anger and distress. So while confessing  might feel better momentarily, the consequences may be dire.

Not confessing has consequences too.  Secrets often create distance, a barrier to intimacy, and the secret holder has to be ever vigilant not to let the cat out of the bag.

Whatever you decide, and no one can make this very private decision for you, here are some points to ponder:

 1) If you decide to confess an indiscretion, plan your disclosure for an appropriate time and manner.  Don=t blurt it out or hurl it out in anger.

2) Be prepared for any possible reaction - from your partner=s leaving you to a long period of healing the broken trust to the possibility of an equal disclosure on his or her part.

3) If you confess, state clearly what you want and expect in the future.  Renewed closeness and appreciation of what you have?  A renegotiation of the rules of your relationship?

4) If you decide to hold your tongue, be prepared for and accept the discomfort that may go along with keeping your secret.  It may be lifelong.

In any case, while it is said that confession is good for the soul, think long and hard before you decide it will be good for yours.

 

Isadora AlmanM.F.T., is a Board-certified sex, marriage, and family therapist, lecturer, author, and syndicated advice columnist of "Ask Isadora."

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