Yesterday, I read an interesting article on Jezebel. A man wrote in to two advice columns (Salon and Slate) asking for guidance and the columnists published their responses on the same day. (One assumes by accident.) Here is his moral quandary:
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.
Did this guy do a terrible thing? Absolutely. Does the fact that he married her based on a lie (his perceived fidelity) make him an asshole of an unmeasurable order? Yep. But, for me, the to-tell-or-not-to-tell issue boils down to one simple question: Why does he want to tell her that he cheated?
Is it because he feels truly sorry and wants her to know the truth because she deserves his honesty? Or is it because the guilt is eating him up and he wants to lessen the internal turmoil by sharing the secret?
If it’s the first, then he should tell her. He should also be prepared to live with whatever she decides to do.
If it’s the second, then he should keep it to himself. He deserves to feel like crap, and causing her pain in order to alleviate his own would be even worse than what he’s already done. Because if the only reason for his sudden bout of honesty is so that he can sleep at night, then he should put the pin back in the grenade.
So what do you think: Does her right to know trump his selfish reasons for being honest? And if you found out your husband cheated on you, before he asked you to marry him, would you forgive him or leave him? Thoughts in the comments.