When I first encountered this idea online I was shocked. Multiple people put forth their belief that if one were to be sexually unfaithful to one’s spouse, the best thing to do would be to end the situation and then “resolve” it by moving on without saying anything to one’s spouse. They asserted that apologizing to one’s spouse requires informing one’s spouse, and that the wronged spouse would only be more hurt by knowing about what had happened.
This seemed, well, disgusting counsel to me. So I did what any reasonable person would do and asked the Twitter world what they thought. I was even more surprised to find that about half of those who responded passionately insisted that admitting wrongdoing to anyone other than God was “selfish” and would turn the guilty party into the victim.
Their reasoning was that if one does not confess then one bears the burden of one’s crime alone while the wronged spouse is able to go on with life as normal. But, if one confesses then the wronged spouse must live with the knowledge of what has happened and that will only make his or her life worse.
While the personal pain behind these comments helped me to understand this view more, I cannot understand how it is supposed to work in real life. We are, after all, assuming very intimate relationships of a sexual nature.
1. STIs are real. It takes 3 months to have 97% reliability when testing for HIV, and six months to get almost 100% accuracy. Exposing one’s unknowing spouse to infection is morally reprehensible, and how exactly is one supposed to quietly go about repairing one’s marriage while abstaining for six months without providing an explanation to one’s spouse?
2. The cheating spouse is clearly weaker than she or he imagines. Something about the guilty party, and likely the marriage as well, opened the way for infidelity. If nothing changes, then nothing will change. It seems incredibly presumptuous to imagine that the cheating spouse is somehow magically strong enough to repair everything by him/herself. It only takes one to destroy a marriage, but it takes two to rebuild it.
3. When one is sexually unfaithful, one loses one’s right to a normal marriage. Under civil law infidelity is grounds for divorce, even without no-fault divorce. Under Church law infidelity is grounds for separation, though not divorce. Thus, by deceiving one’s spouse, one is depriving the victim of his or her right to decide that he or she does not wish to continue living with the unfaithful spouse.
It is simply untrue to say that by confessing one is transferring the burden and requiring the victim to forgive. Yes, the victim will need to forgive in a general sense in order to not be eaten away by bitterness, but the victim is not required to forgive in the sense of forgoing all punishment. While the dissolution of married life is an inferior option and will likely hurt the victim as much as the cheater, it is the victim’s choice to make.
I know that other people have different values, and different life experiences, but I doubt I will change my mind on this issue.
What do you think? Is it selfish to confess infidelity?
- Skin and the Sun