Is honesty the best policy?
Lucy says 'I went out with a good chum one evening and we got really drunk and I ended up sleeping with him even though I have a boyfriend. I feel so ashamed as I have never done anything like this before. I love my boyfriend and I am afraid of losing him. I haven’t told anyone. I feel sick. Shall I confess? What should I do?'
Millenial opinions are divided on this.
Some say why tell him as it will only hurt him. But, I don't agree. With strong relationships, HONESTY IS A MUST! It doesn’t matter how drunk you were, your boyfriend isn’t going to accept that as an excuse. Bottom line: you slept with this guy, so you’re going to have to fess up. There’s no easy way to do it, but if you’re like me and you don’t tell him, the guilt will eat you alive and the fear that it'll get back to him from someone else is much worse. As much as you think you want to keep it a secret, these things ALWAYS come out in the wash, and your boyfriend is going to be even more upset and furious if he finds out from someone else rather than straight from you!!
If you tell him the truth straight away, he is also much more likely to forgive you than if you sit on it for ages and let it come out eventually. But there is no escaping the fact that you did fuck/mess up BIG TIME and he will be very wounded. You have to accept that by telling him, there is a chance he is going to dump you and never want to speak to you again. BUT there is always a chance he might want to work things out slowly and see if you guys can work through this problem together. If he is willing to fight for your relationship and forgive you then you need to do everything you can to regain his trust — this isn’t going to happen overnight. But with determination, step by step, you can rebuild your relationship for the better. But I must underline the need for complete honesty with him from the start, as only then will he respect you for for your honesty rather than lying to him.
My article ‘what constitutes cheating’ touches on the drunken one night stand ‘it’s not my fault, the drink made me do it’ common excuse for what is otherwise a clear case of cheating. Unless you were totally blacked out and cannot recall anything, I don’t believe it is an excusable reason.
Ask yourself, why did you do it? You say you love your boyfriend but honestly, is your relationship really a happy, fulfilling one? Are there underlying issues that you are ignoring e.g. do you make each other happy? Do you feel misunderstood, resentful, have unmet needs? Are you going through a sexual dry spell? Often, cheating underlies fundamental relationship issues not discussed as couples bury heads and avoid discussing. My view is that unless you were blacked out, you knew what could happen and the consequences but perhaps you subconsciously chose not to avoid it and went ahead with it.
So is honesty here the best policy? Have you previously discussed this issue with him? Would you like to know if it was the other way around? Some would say, what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him. My view is clear. Painful and gut-wrenching as it is to confess, you should not shirk from your responsibility. Honesty is a central plank of strong relationships and many relationships eventually come apart from lack of honesty as guilt and fear set in.
Take heart. Cheating doesn’t always spell the death knell to relationships if it is strong and I have witnessed a number of happy relationships resulting after cheating becomes the catalyst forcing couples to confront their issues and strengthen relationships.
I suggest you frame your abject apology as part of the wider conversation about the possible strains on your relationship.
Choose a time when you are both feeling relaxed, sit with him, look him in the eyes and say something along the following lines:
''I love you and I love being with you. There are some things we have ignored about us which we do need to discuss but before we do that I need to tell you something incredibly stupid and irresponsible I did which will hurt you but please know that I love you and I want us to work. There is no easy way to say this but I cheated on you. It was a stupid drunken mistake and I am so deeply sorry. It is inexcusable and I feel sick even thinking about what I have done and the hurt you are feeling. It will never happen again. Please forgive me.''
- Keep your speech brief and to the point.
- Do not give the sordid details.
- Show him emotionally how sorry you are.
- Don’t blame the other person- you need to accept responsibility
- Tell him how terrible you feel, but do not expect sympathy. Give your partner some space to process it. His reaction: rage, apoplexy, yelling and even asking you to leave him.
- When he is ready to discuss, explain your reasons and discuss it in the wider context of other issues that need addressing.
- Ask him how you can earn back his trust and accept that he will take time to trust you again.
- If the relationship is strong and you both want it to work and you will learn from this mistake.