Caleb from Texas writes, “I feel terrible, but I cheated on my boyfriend when I was traveling for a conference last month. It didn’t mean anything, but I feel like I have to tell him. What do you think I should do?"
Yikes. There is never a right answer when it comes to these things. Most people might think the only answer is yes, you should tell him. And if you were unsafe during your sexual transgression and could potentially place him at risk for a sexually transmitted infection, then telling him is exactly what you should do. But if it is not his health but his trust in you that is at risk, the answer is not so simple.
If you feel that this truly was a onetime thing, then disclosing your indiscretion would only serve to relieve your conscience. After all, the guilt you are carrying is a great burden to bear, and by revealing your act of infidelity, you are unloading the burden onto your significant other. The guilt you relieve yourself of often transforms into pain that he may never be able to fully quell. So if you stand firm in your conviction to never do it again and there isn’t a chance in hell that your partner could find out, it is my opinion that you should live with what you’ve done and spare your partner the anguish.
If you believe that this was not a onetime thing but the beginning of a pattern, then you need to have a discussion about the importance of trust versus monogamy. Plenty of couples have gone through exactly what you have gone through because they just weren’t suited for sex with one person. You owe it to your partner to consent to a relationship where commitment is a separate concept from fidelity.
This is a hard question to ask yourself. You might want to believe that it was a onetime thing, a slip-up that you are sure won’t happen again. But take time and dig deep into the motivation behind why you chose to venture into another person’s bed. For some, it might be the last remaining remnants of your single behavior before you decided to settle down and commit to one person. But for others, it is a sign that you may be more suited for an open relationship.
Regardless of what you decide, remember that the two of you will be fine; you just might not be fine together. People cheat. It doesn’t make you a horrible person. It might, however, mean that the two of you may not be compatible if you have differing viewpoints of what commitment and fidelity should mean.
Be truthful with yourself about why it happened in the first place and the likelihood of it happening again. It’s the only way you can do what is ultimately best for him.