On June 19, 2006, The Today Show on NBC did a segment titled: "Should you tell if you cheated?" It was prompted by an article in the July issue of Cosmopolitan Magazine titled: "If you Cheat, Should you Tell?" Unfortunately, the advice was: "No, don't tell."
Regarding telling if you had an affair, the Cosmopolitan article advised:
If your partner does find out, The Today Show guests advised: "Don't tell details."
Unfortunately, in both instances the advice was attributed to "experts." While those who subscribe to the above ideas may offer excellent advice regarding other marital issues, they are not necessarily experts in the specific area of dealing with affairsand they do NOT reflect the advice from the extramarital affairs experts I know and respect.
Here's a short (alphabetical) list of some of the most reputable experts on this issueall of whom agree that Honesty is essential.
Willard F. Harley, Jr. - author of "Surviving an Affair"
Don-David Lusterman - author of "Infidelity: A Survival Guide"
Frank Pittman - author of "Private Lies"
Janis Abrahms Spring - author of "After the Affair"
Rona Subotnik - author of "Surviving Infidelity"
Peggy Vaughan - author of "The Monogamy Myth"
Shirley Glass (now deceased) - author of "NOT Just Friends"
Then several years ago John Gottman, the well-known researcher, encouraged me to do a study in order to produce statistical evidence of the importance of this kind of honesty. He believed this would be essential in getting the attention of those in the professional community who still advised against it. So I conducted a survey through my website that asked about a lot of different issues, but the primary goal was to establish whether there was a correlation between "answering questions and talking through it" and "personally recovering and rebuilding the marriage."
There were 1,083 responses to the surveywhich included 35 multiple-choice questions as well as an open-ended opportunity to submit "advice to therapists" as to how they could be more effective. And my hypothesis about the importance of honesty was confirmed: those who answered questions and talked it through were more likely to personally recover and rebuild the marriage. (For those who are interested in statistics, the 8 Chi-square statistical analyses of responses showed the positive correlation to be statistically significant with a value of p <.001 )
You can read an "Overview" of the Results of the Survey. Please note the link on this page for downloading a FREE PDF copy of the full 147-page report titled Help for Therapists and their Clients in deaing with affairs.
As with any other aspect of affairs, there is no absolute guarantee that following any particular path will provide the desired results. But it's important that we advise according to what is much more likely to lead to a positive outcome. Also, I encourage some additional reading (cited below) that clarifies that the best advice regarding telling is based on the understanding that this is not a black-and-white issue. Like everthing related to affairs, it's much more complex than that. So despite the fact that it's better to tell than not to tell, that does NOT mean it's wise to simply "unload and dump" the truth.
Telling is a process that requires laying the groundwork for the telling and doing the telling for the right reasons at the right time and in the right way. In other words, it's not just whether to tell; it's also why, when, and how. And, as you will see in some of the additional reading recommended below, it's important to always be moving toward telling. And most of all, it's important to reject the "media advice" and adopt an attitude of "never saying never" to the idea of telling.
Here are some other articles related to the importance of honesty in dealing with the issues surrounding extramarital affairs.