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Bonny Albo

Would You Tell Your Partner You Cheated?

By May 14, 2012

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An overheard conversation about a magazine article got me thinking the other day about cheating and betrayal in dating relationships. Specifically, an article that a friend of a friend read stated that one of the newest dating rules was that you didn't tell your partner if you'd cheated, as it would only add to the pain on both sides. Rather, the article suggested (as told to me second hand), if you were remorseful for your actions and knew you'd never do it again, there was no reason to share with your partner about the unfaithfulness.

Although I kind of, sort of, get what the article was getting at (why stir the pot if the issue has been resolved already?), why would any relationship 'expert' tell people that betraying their partner was acceptable behavior? Sure, coming forward might end the dating relationship, but it might also strengthen things after the initial shock. In fact, I know of several folks whose relationships were better off after having been cheated on, serving as a wake up call to all parties with regards to what wasn't working, and who gave them a means to make their bond even stronger and better than it was prior to the infidelity.

Which isn't to say I condone cheating, or that I feel cheating is a good thing for a relationship - I most definitely do not. But I know I'd much rather know if my partner had betrayed me than be left in the dark, so I could (at the very least) make an informed decision about my next step.

But what about you? Do you think that its ok not to tell your partner that you cheated, especially if you've learned from the experience and it will never happen again? Or, if your partner cheated on you, would you want them to tell you?

Related:Did He Get Caught Cheating?, Signs of Cheating, Predicting Infidelity, Lust in Translation, Can You Break Up To Make Up?

May 26, 2009 at 4:09 pm
(1) GiGi @ Incrementum says:

This is such a delicate issue. I sometimes think that if it truly is NEVER going to happen again it’s better off not bringing it up. However, once it becomes a recurring thing, or if even the thought of doing it again comes up, there is something lacking in the relationship and it needs to be addressed.

May 28, 2009 at 9:28 pm
(2) Andrew says:

Not a chance on either question! I’d take it to my grave and hope that she did too!

May 29, 2009 at 1:55 am
(3) Kyle says:

Honest, open communication is extremely important in a relationship. This is no exception.

I’ve been on more than one side of the situation, and yes it’s painful. But, why live a lie or let someone you supposedly care about live in ignorance? As much as it may have hurt, I’m glad I was informed. When I was unfaithful, I let her know. She was hurt deeply, but was also glad I told her.

Something obviously isn’t working. And both people in the relationship should respect each other enough to be honest with what/where the relationship is.

That’s just my opinion..

May 29, 2009 at 11:02 pm
(4) xve says:

This has become a big issue without definition.
people who are just “dating” feel that they have a dibs on the person or persons that they are dating. Married is the same as millions wrestle with the reality of modern living.
There are rules for this.
1. it is not their business only yours.
2. It means also treating you gf/lover (if it is ongoing) to more of the truth no lies or misleading (no,I’m not leaving my husband)
3. they shall never meet
4. thou shalt keep you mouth shut

May 31, 2009 at 7:25 pm
(5) Anonymous says:

You misinterpreted–
The relationship expert wasn’t suggesting that cheating is acceptable.
If you honestly knew in your heart that you regret your actions and would never do it again, then obviously don’t tell your partner. That will just create unneeded chaos.

June 2, 2009 at 4:12 pm
(6) Cathy Meyer says:

I believe in open and honest communication but there is such a thing as too much communication. There are also times in life when ignorance really is “bliss.”

If someone cheats, feels regret and knows in their heart it will never happen again I see no motivation for telling their partner.

Why would anyone admit to something they know they will never do again if it is going to cause tremendous pain to the person they love?

June 8, 2009 at 1:58 am
(7) rose says:

my husband cheated on me–with girlfriend from 45 yrs ago. I cannot get past the distrust issue. We are trying to work it out but am I just decieving myself, for security??!!

June 8, 2009 at 10:18 am
(8) RGL says:

Ive been there along with many others,I happen to be a very secretive person in everyday life. Ive Been In this relationship for only 5 years,some people would say thats a long time I think not…but thats not the point. We have both had out molments, He didnt tell me about his I had to find out the hard way and feel that Id been lied to for 6 months…and It hurt!!! I think it hurt more to know that his guilt wasnt stonge enough to come out into the open,If id been told…yes I still would have been upset but I think it would have been easyer to stomach. I in my molment told him just after it happened, some people think this is a way to releave the guilt so you can feel better about it, and In someway I beleave it. But personally that guilt never goes away, and telling takes strangth of its own…Ive been lied to and I would never keep something like that from someone I love, there are two people in a relationship and both of them should know whats going on with the other. No matter how painfull it is… it is a part of all relationships, your in it togeather and you need to get threw it togeather. If you cant then you were not ment to be togeather. And if you never tell, how will you ever know? I beleave cheating is wrong and hurtfull and would never incurage such actions, but when these things happen they should be delt with not denyed!!! Your partner should have a chance to leave,stay,cry,or be cryed to…to actually know who you are and If your sorry. If you deny them those rights you are a coward and Karma’s a bitch!

July 12, 2009 at 3:57 pm
(9) sharonfrtn09 says:

Cheating and Telling? When I got married 20yrs ago, my husband and I swore that if we ever found ourselfs desiring someone else we would be up front about it and tell the other one. I took that promise to heart. Now 20yrs and 2 kids later I am in the middle of a nasty divorce because my husband went back to stay with a woman he has been cheating with for the last 10 years, on and off. To this day even though he knows I know he is living with her, he still denies that he is an adulterer. Go figure. I would never have done such a thing because I loved him and would never have hurt him so much. So who’s the fool!

December 23, 2009 at 12:36 am
(10) Bart says:

I have problems with fidelity. My GF has been gone for a week and I’ve gotten a handjob from another girl and touched her boobs. I told her I wouldn’t cheat on her when she left, as we have had situations in the past. I guess I convinced myself that wasn’t cheating. Fact is, I won’t tell her I cheated on her. Why? Because I know it is an illness that I have and I am at least happy I didn’t go further. I showed considerable restraint considering I could have gone further. We have something really strong between us and I have been working on fidelity, but it’s really hard for me. I guess it’s because of my father. Anyway, the truth is, I would say not to tell your spouse/ girlfriend if you can resolve it within yourself. As for me, I’m just happy because I could have easily used these two weeks to have tons of sex with this girl, and considering this is all that happened, then I pulled away, I am happy that I have imposed limits. No, I’m not perfect, but I’m working on myself.

December 10, 2011 at 10:24 pm
(11) raj says:

me and my husband have been together for 3 years and married for 2 of them. we have 2 beautiful baby girls together and i wouldnt trade anything in the world for them. a few months ago my husband began telling me that he didnt know if he wanted to be with me any more. for 2 months i went with him going back and forth from that he loves me and wants to be with me to wanting a divorce. all i could do was pray and cry my eyes out, and on top of it needed to be strong for our 17 mnth old and our 6 month old. well he started getting to where he would dress up and tell me that he would be back in a min making up excusses to go somewhere like to get gas get snuff and it would either take him a few hours or all night so i thought he was cheating. not only that but he began abusing me to so i felt like i ment nothing to him any more. well the night before my birthday he pulled the same crap so i had my sister watch my girls and i went out and drank a little with an ex sister in-law well all night her brother kept telling me how beautiful i was and stuff like that after so long of not hearing it from my husband it made me feel good about myself . well things went a little to far and i cheated if i could take it back i would bc now my husband treats me the way he use to. i dont plan on telling it to my husband because i asked god for forgivness it was a one time thing i was weak . i feel that if you cheat once out of pain it should be kept to yourself only god should judge and be the punisher but if its a never ending thing then yes you should come clean especially if your loved one is always there for you no matter what and treats you good.

May 14, 2012 at 7:57 am
(12) Grace Pamer says:

This really is a delicate subject Bonnie. I’ve known good and bad cases on both sides of this arguement so I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer.

Some things get out no matter how much people think they won’t so by hearing the truth on the rumour mill a cheated partner may be less inclined to continue the relationship thereafter. But then I also know people who have fessed up and that has been the end of the relationship.

As ever it really is a case of if you can’t do the time don’t do the crime. Cheating is no good for anyone so just don’t go there. After that, if you have, well you need to weigh up your conscience, guilt and thoughts of a future. Whatever someone decides at that point will have a major impact on the relationship.

All I know is that if my partner cheated I would want to know. And maybe that’s the best anyone can hope for, namely, to tell their partner if they do cheat you want to know – at least then you might have a chance of repairing the relationship. If they cheat and you hear about it some place else then it’s definitely game over.

Another thought provoking excellent article.

May 27, 2012 at 5:25 pm
(13) Gloria Reibin says:

The first question is, what was their relationship before the cheat? If they agreed that they were “going out” with others, then it is not cheating. So it is a non-issue and keeping quiet isn’t lying.

But if they were engaged or almost engaged or in some way in agreement that each other was the one and only, then it becomes “cheating” and a problem.

My impulse is to be honest. But there are dangers involved. Yes, it could make a relationship stronger if approached directly. Be prepared for how to get him/her back if he/she is not so understanding.

June 2, 2012 at 5:20 pm
(14) Kenneth says:

I think that you would have to take the sleep factor into account. I’ve heard people say that if you can sleep at night, it isn’t a real problem. I’ve been cheated on before, and I’m just 18. My girlfriend didn’t tell me. I guessed. Unfortunately for me, I guessed right. My point is that if you keep it a secret, and it surfaces, the effects will be much worse! For instance, if you were to push a snowball down a hill, whether you keep pushing it or not is irrelevant. It will just keep getting bigger and bigger…

June 4, 2012 at 5:36 pm
(15) anon says:

i hate been seeing my girlfriend for 6 months. recently i kissed another girl because i was angry with my girlfriend but i could not go through with having sex with her. the guilt is eating me up inside and makes me feel physically ill. the act made me realise how much i love her and how i could never ever do it again and i know this. if i tell her she Will leave me and that Will kill me. somebody please help me i dont know what to do.

September 9, 2012 at 11:44 am
(16) Loise says:

I just told my boyfriend I cheated because I kissed someone while playing the truth and dare game. He was devastated. I hope we could still work it out, I know he loves me but I have no face to show him. And what’s worst is that, we are in a long distance relationship. :( Please pray for our relationship.

September 28, 2012 at 3:35 pm
(17) Corey says:

First of all, let’s be honest,,,,, people are so unwilling to admit the truth of what’s inside them, men especially are bad at this. 1.) Monogamy is totally unnatural., especially for men, the desire for variety sexual partners is written into our DNA, spreading the seed is the driving force behind our sexuality, it’s millions of years of evolution. Sex is one thing, Love is quite another. You can totally be in love with someone and still want to sleep with other people. That being said, if you love someone and don’t want to hurt them. You should keep your mouth shut about your infidelity, It will hardly help strengthen your relationship.

October 28, 2012 at 5:23 am
(18) jean says:

I cheated, I told. I couldn’t stomach the guilt. I wasn’t eating, I wasn’t sleeping, it got to the point where I was throwing up blood because I couldn’t hold down food. Confessing did nothing to ease the guilt but I couldn’t lie to him anymore. He tells me he didn’t need to know but he’d rather know then be lied to.

November 29, 2012 at 1:25 am
(19) True Lies says:

I cheated on a girl I had a ld relationship with a Lot! I do have a problem with it, it’s interesting how we justify our actions when we know we are wrong, I know it’s wrong when I’m doing it yet I do it anyway. We broke up and I didn’t tell her figured why damage what’s already done. I’m staying single for a while work on my self, self love or lack thereof I think causes one to cheat. The one who is cheated on will always feel betrayed and feels the victim but the reality is it’s not true, the person doing the cheating truly cares and loves the person they’re cheating on their looking for a another avenue of the filament because something is missing not even so much in the relationship but in themselves. They were never whole to begin with and entering into the relationship was dishonest on their part. I am at an age now where I realize this…it took many years many broken hearts and many betrayals to come to this conclusion. Not telling your partner is lying and in time it eats away at your soul and the relationship suffers. It has mine…better to be free and honest than in the trap of a lie yours or another’s. Fear after all is why we withhold…fear is the absence of love. Cheating and not telling keeps the relationship bound in fear.

December 14, 2012 at 2:03 am
(20) knowingfool says:

my wife and i also made a promise to each other (after an incident i almost had with her Gf ) that if we ever got feelings for others we would say it upfront /divorce and go our own way.
After that,i caught her, TWICE, 2 different “men”, and “forgave” her and tried to live with it. Starting straight after our promise. Recently a drunk friend dropped some remarks and i stated pushing another friend for answers and stories.
Now, connecting stories, call them rumors/ gossip amoung friends, it seems like my wife has cheated me for the first 10 years without a doubt, prove and confessions, and if i must believe so, and after being hurt ,lied too and humiliated twice it is not hard to believe you have been lied to all the 30 years of marriage , in my eyes this has been going on until this day.
Not confronting her without prove is a good idea but that only holds up once or twice. And still i want to try and live my last years happy. But i insist on knowing the truth and the whole truth. Only then can i deal with it. One way or the other.
Another just as painful matter, all our friends are her’s and mine. They all knew, had seen things, gone out together, And never ever let me know or gave a hint. This hurts as much as what the wife did. I do doubt that i will be able to live in this small community with them so near me on a daily basis.

April 9, 2013 at 11:20 am
(21) Vera says:

In all honesty, i am of the opinion that partners in relationships of all sorts be genuinely open to each other.

It is better he or she walks away because you truely opened up, than you living forever with the guilt and your partner in the dark..

Keeping matters of this nature to oneself will only grant one a permissible ground to keep on sinning (afterall, sin thrives in secrecy)… If you’re constantly cheating on your partner, it means there’s something that’s lacking in your relationship or, you guys are not just meant for each other….
This is a very sensitive issue…. Honestly it is..
May God help us..

April 21, 2013 at 2:33 am
(22) Rebecca says:

I was cheating on my boyfriend for almost 6 months. I started catching feelings for the guy and everything. I don’t know what I was thinking. I have always been against this. My boyfriend is a great guy and dad but he doesn’t show his love and he lacks in some places. He found out a few weeks ago because someone I called a friend told him everything. I prob would of continued and not told him for a while altho I had many thoughts of telling him. I have got myself caught up in a situation that I shouldn’t have been in in the first place. I wanted to leave him before this even happened but I didn’t have the heart. He’s willing to forgive me but sometimes he’s obviously still upset over it. I don’t blame him I’m just saying. I don’t know. Point of this, if you do do it and don’t want them to know…don’t tell anybody about it!

August 3, 2013 at 8:17 pm
(23) jman says:

A relationship built on lies is meaningless. imagine taking that to your wedding night…

August 15, 2013 at 11:04 pm
(24) Lurch182 says:

Cheating on your partner for any reason is wrong and abhorrently selfish without any justification. The is NO excuse for betrayal at any time. Anyone who says that you shouldn’t own up to your mistakes are the vary people who would be apoplectic if they had to deal with this sort of deception.

Cheating and not admitting it is the worst form of theft. You steal someone else’s right to choose. I’m in a relationship with a divorcee who cheated on her husband of 26 yrs during their engagement and never told him. I think this is disgusting because though she blames his alcoholic behaviour for the demise of their marriage it all come down to her guilt over what she did to him. It ate away at her all during the marriage and she was very dissatisfied with him as a result and treated him in a way that drove him to drink.. Had she told him and taken the heat they both would’ve had happier lives with other people.

August 15, 2013 at 11:06 pm
(25) lurch182 says:

To continue mystory

As it is I caught her in a lie myself. Early on in our relationship I was diagnosed with prostate cancer but we were already speaking long term at that point. I have no children but would have had children had the right woman come along. She has had two adult children with her ex hubby and is now post menopausal but I was willing to accept that as she seemed to be a decent person. Two months prior to my prostrate surgery I began suspecting she was cheating but couldn’t prove it. I begged her to be honest with me without outright accusing her of infidelity. I had to take a long term relationship into account and choose the correct course of treatment with the least chance of the cancer coming back so I chose surgery which left me unable to conceive children so she wouldn’t have to face the chance of me being ill all over again in 10 or 20 yrs. I would have broken up with her and not had the surgery to keep my options open to find fulfillment and a family of my own with someone else by taking radiation treatment and the risks that go with it and not loosing my ability to conceive had I found out the truth.

August 15, 2013 at 11:06 pm
(26) Lurch182 says:


As it is 5 days before my surgery I caught her in a MASSIVE lie regarding the guy I thought she might be cheating with but could not prove 100% that something was going on. I had to give her the benefit of the doubt as she would never admit it to me freely and though we have a pretty good relationship this possibility is always in the back of my mind that I she may have stolen my ability to make the right choice for myself by keeping the info I needed to make the correct choice.

So those of you who think that keeping infidelity for any reason to yourself is justifiable just remember that you are stealing the right of someone else to chose what is right for them, you are not protecting them, you are only protecting yourself from the consequences of your actions. No matter how remorseful you may be forgiveness does not come with out repentance and if you don’t repent to the person you’ve wronged forgiveness isn’t forthcoming. What goes around will eventually come around and Karma’s a bitch!

August 24, 2013 at 5:16 am
(27) bigalo says:

My gf cheated on me 6 months in relationship, i caught her in a club, she was so drunk she could barely stand. She swears she will never do it again and i believe her. i am afraid of her actions when she is drunk and i am not around but i guess i have to trust. I would have rather not knowing about it if what she says is true. time will tell.

August 31, 2013 at 9:03 am
(28) Neverknowwhy says:

If you cheated and honestly know you won’t do it again , sometimes it is best left unsaid. But there is the possibility your partner could hear it from someone else , in which case the best choice is honesty. Weigh your options on if you can protect them from pain caused by your weakness , or if you should tell them so hey don’t hear from someone else. And if they do hear from someone else , don’t deny it because its time to own up to your actions. I know that personally I would not wanna know if a one time occurrence had happened. But I would want to know about a
Recurring affair

September 3, 2013 at 3:47 am
(29) Tyler says:

I’m 18, and I have cheated on my gf…..well…I’m probably the worst out of you guys…as I’ve cheated on the same girl eight times…and have dated 6 girls at one time before. Naturally, that was really hard to keep doing…and keep it hidden. Somehow I managed…I knew it was wrong and I knew I shouldn’t do it, but I did it anyway. I broke up with all of them, because I myself didn’t feel ready for a relationship.

Want some advice? If you are in a relationship with someone, and fall in love with someone else, then choose the second person. Because if you truly loved the first, you wouldn’t have fallen for the second.

November 22, 2013 at 11:46 pm
(30) Joy says:

I cheated on my boyfriend once and only once. I would never do it again. I think it would be selfish to try to dump my guilty conscience on him after doing something wrong. Theres no better punishment than to think how horrible a person you are

January 5, 2014 at 4:01 pm
(31) 1man says:

I was cheated on. Would rather not have known and just broken up.

I have also cheated and I never ever told…and why should I? Its my guilt, my pain, my issue. Telling will make you feel less guilty perhaps, like you have done ‘the right thing’, to make up for your wrongs. All you do is shed your pain on to them, giving them issues with trust, because you cant handle it – you are doubly weak. If you did the crime, then you are the one to be punished, your guilt is your punishment, take it.

I am however talking about those ‘one off drunk cheats’. If you are having an affair…well I have never had one so cant comment, but again, I would either end the fling and never tell, or end both and simply say im no longer in love. No need for further destruction by saying you had an affair.

Ultimately everyone and each situation is different – don’t hate yourself, I think pretty much everyone has cheated.

January 6, 2014 at 2:28 pm
(32) Kelsey says:

I had cheated on my boyfriend, a few months before he had asked me to marry him. It’s been 24 years and I had not strayed again. At the time we had been together for maybe around a year and we didn’t know how to handle conflict within our relationship properly. He would shut down and I would just nag. Sometimes we wouldn’t talk or see eachother for a week. I was 17 at the time and I was very impulsive and illogical. In the end I never told him. I vowed to myself when I said yes at our engagement that that was never going to happen again. And really even when that coworker tried to swoop me up again to his arms and passionately kiss me again I did stand back to say that I didn’t feel comfortable doing that anymore. Since that time of my life where I had romance and sex with another man I loved outside of my boyfriend-girlfriend relationship, there hasn’t been another. My husband and I are so in love now. We deal with our conflicts and problems differently. We go to bed happy and have children we love. I never told him because he had told me previously that the only way he would leave me is if I cheated on him.

I can remember seeing a councelling at the time who asked me why I associated cheating with something so negative. It makes you think.

Thankfully I ‘cheated’ with the right person. I needed to get it out of my system anyways. I don’t regret it or want it to happen again. But conclusively it was just something that happened 24 years ago and that’s that. Nothing more.

February 9, 2014 at 12:20 am
(33) west says:

First and for most… I have to say that I love my boyfriend a lot out of this world… and also past his pain. And he and I have put each other in pain. Fighting and I would keep giving him chance after chance to stop wanting to fight. So he just got locked up and before he did I told him I’m breaking up with u and I’m seeing someone else. Well I was enjoying myselve to the fullest and then I knew it was going to come down to the sex part and it did… and I did not feel right about it. I was thinking about the one I’ve been with for 5 years the whole tym. And I told him. Because I wanted to be honest with him. And now I’m just hoping that we can get past it after me being honest! Because I do beleave a healthy relationship should be about nothing but trust love and being 100% we all are human

February 19, 2014 at 2:56 pm
(34) Phillip Sinclaire says:

.I really believe that it should cost you ten thousand dollars to get your marriage license, but when you get divorced it should cost nothing. I read with some anger and some humour about people who were able to rationalize a affair away and say it would never happen again so they would not tell their spouses about it. I believe it was Yale or Harvard that did a study about partners that were cheating or unfaithful. Final conclusion was that only less than 1 percent of people who said they learned their lesson and never cheat on a partner again did not. The rest sadly continued the odd cheating or affair through their marriages and partnerships through most of their lives. This pretty well is total opposite of what is said here. Something to truly think about.

March 27, 2014 at 6:14 pm
(35) Em says:

If somebody cheated on me I would most definately want to know a relationship is suppose to be built on trust and if your not telling me you have been unfaithful then basically it’s a lie. People who don’t tell are selfish because they say the love their partner and would never do it again but the reality is why would they do it in the first place? Why don’t you stop thinking about the consequences and how losing the relationship would negatively effect you and start thinking about why you are cheating in the first place obviously something is not right. Your selfish because you are wanting 100% of them but not putting in the same. Even if it’s one time you made a mistake you were drunk it’s still a choice you made in that moment you could have stopped if you cared enough. And now that you screwed up you realise how much you love your partner.., I don’t buy it you just feel insecure and don’t want to lose something which will only make you feel worse. Obviously ongoing (emotional or sexual) is worse and those people really need to rethink the relationship. But if it’s just one time and you don’t tell it’s like your saying to yourself it’s ok to do this, just keep my partner in the dark. Your partner doesn’t think it’s ok to do that so there is actually a problem in the relationship it’s not hot a big lie in it. It’s so sad to see relationships and they look so smitten and especially one person is so in love but you know that he’s been unfaithful ongoing (emotionally and sexually). It’s a shame for the other person. I just expect loyalty 100% I guess but I give it in return I really don’t think it’s that hard as I only enter into a relationship if I’m all about that person and if I thought I wanted to stray and found myself in that situation I would respect my partner and myself and think about what I really wanted then go from there. Ie break up or work on the real issues.

May 15, 2014 at 4:32 pm
(36) jdubb1992 says:

cheating is your problem. you did it, you have to deal with the guilt. If you don’t feel guilty, you probably do not love your partner as much as you think. It is not your partner’s issue that you cheated and telling them will only cause unneeded guilt upon their shoulders. They have already been cheated on, do they deserve unneeded guilt? If my boyfriend cheated and felt bad about and would never do it again, I would honestly not want to know.

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