Writer Tracy Schorn received a very unexpected phone call just six months after getting married in 2006. It was from her husband’s mistress.
The author of Leave a Cheater, Gain a Life: The Chump Lady’s Survival Guide recalled the voice on the other end. The woman told her: “I bet you wonder where your husband is. He’s with me.
Schorn struggled to take it all in as the other woman was telling her more details about the affair she had with her husband, and the details of how she even broke up the man’s earlier marriage.
She told the woman: “Oh my god, I hope I’m not pregnant.”. The woman on the other side burst into tears, and Schorn says that it was surreal, to say the least.
Schorn thanked the other woman for making the call before ending the conversation. She says that the woman was a toxic person, but she is grateful that she told her, even if her motivations were not pure. It took her a while to act on the knowledge, but she eventually left her husband.
Her experience highlights an ethical conundrum for people that have affairs with married men and women: Should you tell their primary partner, or it is not your story to tell?
Megan Fleming, a psychologist and s*x therapist based in New York City says that it’s important to consider if the affair was a one-time encounter or a deeply involved, ongoing relationship.
She said that if the affairs are in the past and the other person is committed to their marriage, she would advise not to disclose. It may be painful to hold that secret, but it might destroy a relationship the couple had already gone on to rebuild if you “throw” the info onto the spouse.
Kate Rose, a writer, and a one-time mistress had this dilemma some time ago. She had the full support of her lover to do whatever she felt was right at the time, but she chose to keep it to herself.
“We had been together for two years and for me, I didn’t want to make someone else’s choices for them. I didn’t want to force my lover’s hand or betray the trust that we had built. I left the telling up to him. After all, it was his relationship that was affected. I thought it was his choice to be honest, not mine.”
Alicia H. Clark, a psychologist in Washington, D.C. says that it is important for the other man or woman to consider their motives for disclosing the affair. Sometimes affair partners want to regain power and strike back after being pushed away by revealing the relationship, however, it rarely works in their favor.
“You may want to speak up to punish your lover for staying with their partner, or seek some level of legitimacy for a relationship that has lived too long in the shadows or dismissed. Unfortunately, such disclosures seldom yield such satisfaction and may backfire.” – she said.
Fleming said that the desire to disclose sometimes truly comes from a place of goodwill. It may be the motive if the affair was short-lived or if the affair partner had no idea that their lover was in a monogamous relationship. One of her married clients had met women on Twitter and started ongoing s*xting conversations until one of them reached out to his wife and told her that she thought she’d wanted to know. The revelation shook the couple’s marriage at first, but it ultimately made it stronger.
Schorn started her blog “Chump Lady” after she left her unfaithful husband, and she almost always advises the affair partners to come clean.
“Unless you truly didn’t know they were married, you were party to conspiring against this person. That’s s*xually humiliating. They did not consent to be cheated on. The least you can do is return a little of their dignity and tell the truth. Take your lumps, and then exit.”