A few years ago, I was counseling a guy who had been hiding his affair from his wife. He had long since ended contact with the other woman, and even confessed his affair to a chaplain friend. However, he continued to hide the truth from his wife. On the day he confessed the affair to me, he was in the midst of struggling with the need to confess to his wife. I wasn’t surprised that he hadn’t confessed to his wife, or that he was struggling with whether or not to do so. What did surprise me was the advice that he received from his chaplain friend.
The chaplain friend, a Protestant Christian, suggested that confessing his affair to his wife would destroy her sense of security and safety in the marriage. The chaplain told him that because he was repentant and confessed (in this case to the chaplain), there wasn’t necessarily a requirement for him to confess his affair to his wife. I have several concerns regarding the chaplain’s advice.
The idea that you will destroy the security and safety of marriage, for your wife, by confessing to adultery is absurd. By committing adultery you have already destroyed her security and safety. Whether or not your wife is aware of your adultery is irrelevant. Any perception of security and safety a wife holds in the marriage, after her husband commits his body to another woman, is false. It is akin to erecting a fence made of cardboard and then painting the cardboard to look like a wooden fence. The owner may see a wooden fence, but it remains cardboard. The painting does not make for a strong fence. By committing adultery, you’ve already decided for your wife that your marriage is not a safe place. Along with that, if you think she doesn’t know, you’re wrong. She knows. Even while she doesn’t know the details; she knows something has changed.
I made the decision to have an affair during my first marriage. I never confessed. Eight years later, during our divorce, I finally confessed to everything. Her response to me was, “I know. I always knew. I was just waiting for you to tell me.”
Your wife knows.
Additionally, the advice that you don’t need to confess to your wife, because you already confessed to someone, is a hard pill for me to swallow. Aside from the legalism found in that advice, I have difficulty with it because it opposes what Jesus said in Matthew 5:23-24. While Jesus was preaching the Sermon on the Mount, and teaching on anger and offenses, He said, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Jesus is saying that if we have committed an offense that causes, or would cause, someone to be angry at us; we need to go to that person, settle the issue and reestablish our close relationship. If he takes that stance with a “brother” (or sister), how much more do His words apply to the one that is intended to be the other half of our one?
Saying that it is not necessary to confess your adultery to your wife, is a cowardly and legalistic way of attempting to fulfill the call to “confess your sins to one another” without having to face the earthly consequences of your sin. Saying this ignores Jesus’s command to “love God and others” and Paul’s prompting for husbands to love their “wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her…” When you gave your body up to another woman, you ceased giving yourself up for your wife.
“Do I need to confess my adultery to my wife?” No, you do not. There is nothing that requires you to confess to your wife. Arguments could be made that scripture recommends it, but there isn’t anything that specifically states you must confess to her. However, I believe asking that question is weak. By the time you get to that question, you already know that you should confess. But you may still be looking for someone to tell you that it is not required.
“Do I need to confess my adultery to my wife?” That is the wrong question to ask. A better question is, “WHEN do I need to confess my adultery to my wife?” If you desire real intimacy with Jesus and your wife; eventually the weight of your sin will become too heavy to bear. The Holy Spirit will change your heart and give you the desire to confess to your wife.
“Eventually you will want to tell her. Why live another day without the true intimacy of really being known? Why wonder whether or not she would leave if she found out? You don’t need to tell her every detail of your acting out, but she will need to know the general nature of it. It is important to find a truly humble and willing heart first. You should also be totally committed to your marriage and to sobriety from all sexual sins before you talk to her. You may need the help of a pastor or counselor to get honest with her. Your wife will also need lots of support. Don’t expect her to just forgive and forget. Rebuilding trust and finding true intimacy will be a lifetime journey.”
You do not have to tell her. However, if you desire true intimacy with the other half of your one, you will want your wife to know.
If you’re struggling with adultery, sexual addiction or pornography there is hope; there is help. Route 1520 is a ministry dedicated to helping those struggling with these addictions and their families discover the freedom offered by the Gospel. You can contact them HERE.
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