Man sitting with elbows resting on knees, as if contemplating his spouse about his affair.

Before You Tell Your Spouse About Your Affair

(An Excerpt from When You’re the One Who Cheats by Dr. Tammy Nelson)

If you’re having an affair, and you want to disclose the affair to your spouse before you are confronted, here’s an exercise that may help you prepare.

Use the following steps to help guide you before revealing the affair to your partner. You’ll want to handle this delicate conversation with respect, dignity and compassion. Remember, what you’re about to reveal to your spouse will undoubtedly hurt; you’ll need to show empathy and kindness.

Things to Think About Before Revealing Your Affair

Think about these five things below before you begin. If you don’t agree with these, you may not be ready to tell your partner.

One. You’re about to reveal something that will cause pain; nothing your spouse has done to you, up to this point, matters. Don’t make this conversation about revenge for things they’ve done to you in the past. This conversation is purely to disclose your affair. This isn’t the time to tell your spouse how you feel about them, or about your marriage. Do not do any finger-pointing.

Two. Your spouse is not an extension of you. They’ll make up a story about what this affair means to them that has nothing to do with you. Allow them their own reality. Don’t tell them what they should be feeling; allow them to express their feelings. Don’t let the words “you are wrong” come out of your mouth. (For how to deal with disagreement, keep reading.)

Three. Keep this conversation focused on the basic information about the affair. You don’t have to tell your spouse specific details about when, where, how many times, or even with whom you had the affair. That may come, in time, if you decide it’s best for them to know details.

Four. Make an appointment to talk to your spouse. Let them know you have something important to discuss. Make sure they’re available and open to discussion. You don’t have to tell them what you are going to share, but let them know you’ll need at least an hour of their time. After your disclosure, remind your spouse that this is not the end of the conversation. Tell them when you can talk next.

Five. Honor the “why” questions your spouse will have. For more on this and how to deal with being the one who cheats, check out When You’re the One Who Cheats or go to for more information.  

Tammy Nelson, PhD, is the author of the new book, “When You’re the One Who Cheats; Ten Things You Need to Know” – she can be found at

  1. Mirtillo
    | Reply

    Having an affair is wrong when you both agreed on an exclusive relationship or marriage. Unless it is an open relationship or marriage. I would rather end the relationship or marriage if i promised to be loyal, than have an affair with someone else. It is a huge betrayal, and it is heart breaking when the other partner finds out.

    I have a friend who was on the verge of cheating on her partner, her reasons were that, he doesn’t tell her she is beautiful anymore, he never compliments her, does not buy her gifts, he doesn’t even know her proper shoe size. Then she met a man at the airport who told her she was gorgeous, then she forgets about her 12 years marriage and three children. And wanted to actually go on a date with the man. She said, he understands her the way her husband does not, he makes her smile and brings some sparks in her life. He finds her attractive, her husband doesn’t .

    I advised her, do not go on any date with this man, it might start out like an innocent conversation, the gradually it begins to get personal and then you begin to think of this person in a way you should not. You made a vow to stay faithful in your marriage, instead i rather you talk to your husband about how you feel. He may not be doing it on purpose. If you do this, it doesn’t end in one date, before you know it, you become physically or romantically attached to this person while you are bound to another. Affairs causes more damage in ways one doesn’t realize.

    If you don’t find fulfillment in your relationship, discuss it with your partner, unless it is an open relationship then you will not be betraying your partner. People who have affairs claim it just happened. i do not agree with that, affairs do not just happen. An affair is a choice , there is a threshold line in monogamous relationships and you choose to cross it. It is a bad idea to have an affair in an exclusive relationship because there is betrayal of the primary relationship, there is lying, covering your tracks and there is also worry (Will she/he find out?)What will people think when i am caught? when you have an affair, you are choosing to be out of integrity with yourself. If you think its a good thing, why do it in secrecy? If your relationship is awful, you either work to change it or leave it, you don’t have to hurt the other person by having an affair.

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