Yesterday a reader sent me an email with the following question: ”I’m having an affair and I love my girlfriend, but I don’t want to abandon my family. What should I do?”
OK, time to step back from my emotions and try to answer this question from an objective perspective.
If you’re having an affair, you really have three choices. None of these choices is good. Unfortunately, you’ve already made a monumental bad choice, and there will be consequences for that choice. However, I’ll try to detail the three different paths below.
A. - Give up the affair and try to.
This is a hard one, however since my goal is to help people save their marriages, I’m listing it as choice “A.”
If you want any chance of recovering and eventually having a healthy marriage again, you must come 100% clean and truthful about your affair. When you do, don’t try to shift blame. Don’t try to water down the facts. Don’t try to hide anything. Be completely honest and tell your wife everything. If she asks for specifics, give them. Take the heat. You deserve it.
IF she decides to keep you, and that’s a big if, you will have to do all of the heavy lifting. You’ll have to accept her anger. You’ll have to help her through her pain. She’ll be dealing with the hurt and anger for years, and every time they come back, you’ll have to be there for her. Consequences.
While doing that, you both must work on finding ways to reconnect. It’s pretty likely that there were issues with your marriage before the affair, and you will both need to work to make your marriage better. However, you have to deal with the affair first.
It’s kind of like triage in an emergency room. If a patient comes in with a broken foot, a broken wrist, and a gunshot wound to the cheat, the doctors will give 100% of their attention to the gunshout wound and will ignore the broken bones until later. By cheating, you’ve fired a shotgun at the chest of your marriage. It must be dealt with first, or the rest doesn’t matter.
For in-depth practical advice if this is your choice, I recommend Save the marriage. It’s a great program.
B. – Divorce your wife and pursue a relationship with your girlfriend.
Friend, you’re deep in the affair fog. 3% of affair relationships last. 97% fail. They fail because the relationship is built on a foundation of lies and deceit. However, if you’re choosing this path, you’re thinking, “not us – we’re in love!”
OK, leaving your family will be a tough pill to swallow, but it’s a much more honorable thing to do than the third path. Your family will be broken. You’ll only see your kids part of the time. There will likely be hard feelings and even distance between you and your children. Like I said above, consequences.
When you file, you should also come clean about having an affair. You don’t have to give all the details, but it will be better for your wife’s mental health to know that’s why you’re leaving. Suck it up and take responsibility for your actions.
C. – Hide the affair better and stay in your marriage.
No, no, no, no, no!!!
This is a horrible path to take. You hide the affair to keep from hurting your wife. However you need to realize that you’ve already hurt her by having an affair, she just doesn’t know it yet. When she catches on (and she will), not only will she feel betrayed by the affair, she’ll feel just as bad about the months or years of lying. The lying and betrayal is the most painful part of being cheated on. By stretching it out, you’re adding pain.
IF you are really, really good about lying and hiding things, you’ll still have guilt. There was a story last year about an old man telling his wife about an affair he’d had 40+ years ago. He was tired of carrying the guilt. She was furious and filed for divorce. Time doesn’t make the betrayal go away… nor the guilt.
Meanwhile, since you are giving attention to your affair partner, you’re likely not connecting to your wife. Over time, your marriage problems will continue to intensify. Perhaps they’ll get bad enough that she’ll file for divorce.
This is the snake’s way out of a marriage.
So if you’re like the reader who sent the email, and you’re having an affair and don’t know what to do, please read my advice above. Given careful and honest consideration, I hope you choose option “A,” but if you must, “B” is better than staying where you are.
For the rest of my readers, feel free to add anything you’d like to in the comments below. Let him know how you feel.
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