I've had an affair, how do I tell my partner?
- Choose a venue where you are unlikely to be disturbed.
- Make time available rather than rush through your discussion because you have to leave.
- Be honest. Explain that you have something difficult to say and then say: "I have had an affair". Avoid using euphemisms such as "I have met someone else" or "I feel strongly for another person", as this might be confusing for your partner.
- Take responsibility for your affair. Do not attribute responsibility to your partner or the person with whom you had the affair. Apologise for the hurt you have caused.
- Resolve to answer your partner’s questions about the affair and to be truthful in your responses. Be guided by his/her needs, because you cannot be the arbiter of what your partner needs to hear. If you are asked questions about the quality of the sex and the emotions involved however, bear in mind that this will be painful for your partner to hear, especially if s/he is in shock.
- Answer truthfully, but without embellishment, promising to give more detail as and when your partner wants more information. E.g. “I enjoyed the sex, but part of this was because it was with a new partner and we had more time available. It wasn’t better than it is with you.”
- Be honest about whether you practised safer sex. Your partner has the right to know whether his/her health has been compromised, or whether a pregnancy is possible.
- Offer an explanation of why you think the affair happened, but take responsibility for your own choices. Avoid blaming your partner and if you believe the affair happened because of problems in your relationship, recognise that you had other options. For instance, do not say, "If only you had been more attentive I wouldn't have needed to confide in him/her". Instead, explain any of the contributory issues that are appropriate and truthful. For example, you might say "I have been under terrific pressure at work and I didn’t share my worries with you. Instead, I shared those worries with another person who was supportive and that led to an affair. I am so sorry I didn’t give you the chance to help me and that I gave that chance to someone else.”
How Relate can help:
Relate counsellors can help you as couple or on your own to understand how you've arrived at this point. For face to face counselling contact your nearest Relate or have counselling by phone. A Relate book that can help is After the Affair by Julia Cole.