If infidelity and sex addiction were not complicated enough, one of the most complicated issues many couples face in sex addiction recovery is when one cheated with their best friend’s spouse. Most likely, their best friend does not know yet. Their own spouse may or may not know. The two couples spend weekends together and may even vacation together. Their children often have played and grew up together. [Read Infidelity in Parents’ Marriage, Now What?] Months, years, and even decades may pass before they ever find out. Some never find out, and the cheaters go to their grave with the secret.
You may not have cheated with your best friend’s spouse. It may have been a close friend, a sibling’s spouse or step-sibling’s spouse. It can be worse, but you get the idea. Sometimes, only the two who cheated know. Other times, three of the four people involved know, and there is only one spouse left in the dark. There are a number of reasons this can happen. “I don’t want to hurt them. It only happened once. It will never happen again. We were drinking. It didn’t mean anything. It would destroy our group of friends. It would destroy our families and our children.”
There is no magic formula for this. It is not right or wrong that you tell your own spouse – let alone your best friend. However, it is wise or foolish how and when you do it. Most often, it is wise to disclose to your spouse. I will say there will be a falling out. At worst, your relationship with your best friend will most likely be over or, at best, never the same. However, you should have thought of that before this point in time. Will your friend’s spouse file for divorce? Will your spouse file for divorce? What if they tell your spouse before you do? The stress, guilt, shame and fear can be overwhelming.
Seven things to consider:
- First, you need to get out of your own selfish perspective and think about it from your spouse’s, their spouse’s and your best friend’s perspective. In my office, I have never had a person who previously did not know tell me they wish they would’ve never known.
In fact, they are most often angry about the infidelity, but that is secondary to the amount of time it was kept a secret from them. They often feel like they are the fool to be the “last one to the party.” They are very angry about not being given the opportunity to be treated like an adult, as well as not needing to be “protected” by you or their spouse. They are often embarrassed from the time spent with this best friend, and the memories made that have now been discovered as being a lie. You also took something from their marriage which was only to be shared between them and their spouse.
- Should you tell or not tell? There are far more justifications not to disclose than to tell the truth. However, the reasons not to disclose are usually to keep the peace and protect the secret. The reasons to be honest are always far more scary and painful for you – not the one who doesn’t know.
- Lying and secrets only protect you. You have most likely told yourself that you do not want to hurt your best friend. However, you have already hurt them by the fact that you had sex with their spouse. This secret created a great deal of shame and guilt inside of you that will grow and cause physical, physiological and emotional problems.
- Honesty is the best policy. In the long run, we believe honesty is the best policy. It will not be easy. The road is long and difficult. However, if you do the work, you will begin to become healthier. It takes seconds to destroy a marriage and a friendship. It can take a lifetime to build them.
- Tell a safe person. You may want to consider sharing with a safe person who is not connected to the situation or any of the relationships. They will be able to give you objective and non-emotional feedback.
- Do I tell my spouse? Finally, what if my spouse and my best friend do not know? I would recommend you tell your spouse first and work on healing your marriage. You will have to set some healthy boundaries with the other couple immediately. In time, you will have to decide together how to approach the topic of telling your best friend who most likely has not told their own spouse.
- This blog does not provide how-to steps for sharing your infidelity. This blog is to get you to think. The Creator of the Universe knows what you need to do and how to go about it. Pray, listen, and then obey.
Cory Schortzman is an author, speaker, teacher and licensed mental health professional. Since 2008, he has served as the Executive Director of Transformed Hearts Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, CO. He is the founder of SARA, the Sexual Addiction Recovery Association. Cory is passionate about helping couples and individuals overcome sex addiction. He is also passionate about bringing awareness to the public and supporting the elimination of sex and human trafficking. Cory has been married since 1998 to his beautiful wife, Kerry, and lives in Colorado with their four daughters. He and Kerry have been seen on the CBS Early Show, Inside Edition, and ABC Good Morning America, Fox 21 News, and TLC/Discovery discussing the harm of sex addiction and the joys of recovery. He has also been heard on numerous radio programs.
Cory’s books include: Out of the Darkness, Into the Light the Workbook, Into the Light the Steps, Ashes to Beauty the Steps, 301 Dating Ideas, 301 Conversational Ideas, 301 Ways to Say I Love You, 301 Ways to Love Your Children & 301 Recovery Tools & Tips.