Q&A Should the Betrayed Spouse Inform the Affair Partners Spouse of the Affair?

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Question: 

Affair Recovery recently posted an article titled, “Eight Reasons Not to Confront the Affair Partner”. What about the spouses of the affair partners? What's your opinion on reaching out to them in a respectful, kind manner to let them know they have been being betrayed? Almost every betrayed I've ever known wishes someone had told them the truth, rather than allowing them to waste months, years, or even decades living a lie. The spouses have a right to know, and every day the betrayed keeps the unfaithful's secret is another day a spouse lives a lie, is gas-lighted, and is at risk for STD's. This is likely a continuing risk for the unwitting betrayed, as unfaithfuls rarely quit just because a particular affair partner is out of the game. There are risks in telling, but there are also risks to not telling. The people who knew about my wife's affairs and didn't tell me, they did a horrible thing. I don't want to be anything like them, or like an affair partner who thrives in untruth and half-truth.

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Thank you for addressing this

Thank you for addressing this question.

I think you make some good points; yet I also have disagreement. Both.

"There's not really one right answer." Totally agreed.

"Typically we don't encourage it, because you (the betrayed, but also the former unfaithful) have enough on your plate right now." I agree... to a point. Recovering from infidelity is hard enough, without adding more stress (angry betrayeds knocking on the door, and many other possibilities). I also believe that failing to disclose the truth is also SO selfish. During my wife's affairs, those who knew and said nothing were willing to place me at continued risk, and reality of harm, both. If one of the AP's or their spouses (if they themselves discovered they'd been betrayed) decided that they were going to work on their marriage, but that telling ME that I had an unfaithful wife was just too much burden for them, and they cost me 6 months, a year, years of living a lie... I don't know if I could forgive that. And what if I got hepatitis, AIDS, etc... or just more emotional trauma, because it was just too inconvenient for them to tell me the truth? I understand that when you go to the bank to make a deposit, and the bank gets robbed, and you see a robber's face by accident, that you have a burden upon you that you did not ask for. I understand being selfish... but isn't that precisely how infidelity is perpetuated, focusing only on self-interest? If that robber hits more banks and kills someone because you didn't have the guts to ID him, don't you now bear a portion of the responsibility?

GREAT question: "We have to check what our motives are." Absolutely. Very important point. Well done.

"Unless it's somebody you know, is in your inner circle... I wouldn't tell them." You might not; but I don't agree that's the right choice in all cases, or even in any case. I wish I'd been told. I hold my wife responsible for her betrayal, and her concealment of that betrayal; and I hold others who knew responsible for the magnification of my pain and loss. I have higher standards than choosing to allow another to continue to be violated. I wouldn't keep the secret if I knew a child was being sexually violated. It's not that far a leap to protect a woman, or a man, who is unknowingly being sexually and/or emotionally violated. Grown people are young people who have been around a while. They too deserve the compassion and action of caring, brave others.

Regarding just "praying for them... that he/she would find out" -- that rankles me. Christians claim, "We are the body." Then use the part of the body that speaks! Praying is fine, but prayer does not absolve anyone of the responsibility to act, to speak, when it can make a positive difference. The betrayed CAN find out -- and one way to find out, is to have someone speak. If the unfaithful won't do it, and if they don't stumble upon the truth, then a third party is a reasonable path for discovery.

"At the end of the day it's your choice on what you do." I agree. In some ways it's not an easy choice, for it's a tremendous burden to reveal such a horrible thing on top of the healing process, and to face potiential backlash or other budens. It's also a burden to the unfaithful, to the coupleship, to reveal the truth. That having been said, I truly wish I'd been told. Too many people knew. I don't think that's right, and it's a burden on my soul NOT to speak.

To healing,

~HT

PS: To those considering revealing what's happened to an AP's wife, I would add this: Please, consider your actions carefully. I'm NOT counseling inaction or analysis paralysis. Just truly understand your motivations, what speaking will mean to you and your family, what the possible outcomes may be, and know that you cannot predict all the outcomes. What if they have an open marriage? What if the betrayed commits suicide? What if the AP seeks revenge, or circles back to attempt to insert him/herself into your own marriage? There are potential horrific outcomes to speaking, but so too it is with not speaking. At the end of the day I quite agree with AR: It's a personal choice, and an unwelcome burden, no matter what you do.

I'm in full agreement here.

I'm in full agreement here.

Contacting the AP's spouse is not necessarily an end-all, problem solver, but as long as that's kept in mind, the consequences/effects are considered, and the motivations are "right", I totally feel it should be done.