I cheated just once. Should I tell?

Before we got engaged, I had an online hookup. Now the secret is driving me crazy

Cary Tennis
September 15, 2011 4:20AM (UTC)

Dear Cary,

Two months before I asked my wife to marry me, I cheated on her with a woman I met through an online hookup website. This woman and I met only once, proceeded to engage in oral sex, and left feeling awkward and guilty. I never saw her again.


I was consumed with guilt and confusion over my double life, and wondered if I would always be a liar and a cheat. At the same time, I was in love with my soon-to-be fiancée, and I made a decision to keep my mouth shut and go ahead with my plans to propose. We've been married now for nearly two years, and most of the time I'm happy. My wife is happy. And yet I still occasionally experience bouts of guilt and emotional pain, not to mention a secret fear that what I did as a senior in college will somehow be uncovered someday.

I've convinced myself that keeping the experience a secret is the best choice, especially now that we're married. Furthermore, I resolved from that day to never do anything like that again. Have I made the right choice, or am I just making excuses for myself in order to not have to do the right thing? I'm tired of feeling like a bad person.

Worn Out With Guilt


Dear Worn Out With Guilt,

The best thing, in my opinion, would be to consult a therapist who is expert in sex and relationships. If you are having intense feelings of guilt, it's time to explore the reasons and perhaps learn some new behaviors.

But that's me. I'm a big proponent of psychotherapy because I figure there's often a lot more to our suffering than we at first realize.


There are pluses and minuses to telling your wife about it. I lean toward doing so. But it's your choice. At the very least, talking it over with someone will help you spell out the choices.

If the idea of working with a therapist is not to your liking, then I suggest you at least find someone to share it with. Unburden yourself with a trusted friend, a religious figure, or, if you were in a 12-step program, you might do this with what we call a "sponsor" -- someone who has agreed to help you do the 12 steps.


You may find immediate relief if you just set a deadline by which you will decide what to do. Then you can let yourself off the hook, knowing that you are working toward a solution.

Please know that this doesn't have to be catastrophic. There are many factors in your favor. It happened before you were even engaged. It happened just once. It was not a love affair. It sounds like it was not even very enjoyable. Plus, you deeply regret it. And it's been driving you crazy.

Also, the fact that it bothers you is a good thing. It shows you have a conscience and that you care about your wife's feelings. It shows you have high ideals for your own conduct.


So talk it over with someone and make a decision.

Frankly, I lean toward telling your wife. I have a feeling that will be good for both of you. But I don't know you or your wife, and people can be unpredictable. So it's your decision.

Good luck. I have a feeling things are going to work out OK.


Creative Getaway

Citizens of the Dream

What? You want more advice?


Cary Tennis

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