April 14, 2024
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April 14, 2024
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Should I Keep a Secret From My Wife?

Dear Dr. Chani,

I am ashamed to admit that I have done something in my marriage that I am not proud of. I did not exactly have an affair, but I met with another woman who I previously dated. I feel terrible keeping a secret from my wife but I do not know what to do.

Before I met my wife, I seriously dated a girl named Rachel. We became extremely close right away and we could talk about anything. After dating Rachel for a year, I decided that she was too emotionally unstable and was not religious enough for me. Even though it was painful, we broke up. Rachel and I have not formally kept in touch, but every so often we message each other about milestones in our lives. Recently, I went on a business trip to the city where Rachel lives, and, beforehand, I mentioned to her that I would be there. She invited me to go out for a cup of coffee together and we met.

It was nice to catch up with Rachel. I wondered what life would have been like had I married her. But at the end of the day, it was nothing more than a conversation. Rachel and I parted ways amicably and I went home to my family.

Since then, I have been plagued with guilt about meeting Rachel. I have a decent marriage and my wife and I do not usually keep secrets from each other. Rachel is my one big secret. My wife has no idea how close we were when we dated. If she finds out that I have kept in touch with Rachel and actually met her for coffee, I am afraid she will be jealous and angry.

I was wondering if it is best to tell my wife what happened and explain that it was no big deal. I hope that our seven years of marriage will help her to see this in the perspective of our generally good relationship. But I am not sure that she will be so understanding. She may never fully trust me again.

The other problem is that it is always possible that someone saw me at the coffee shop with Rachel and that the news or a photo will eventually reach my wife. If she hears about what happened from someone else, I am sure that she will disown me.

What do you think I should do? What is my best option?

Thanks for your advice,


Dear Regretful,

Admitting to yourself that you have done something wrong and having remorse are the first steps toward change and renewal. Now that you recognize the ways your actions can damage your marriage you wish you could turn back time. Yet, before you explore whether or not you should tell your wife what happened, it is important to recognize what led you to this point in the first place. You need to be aware of your underlying thoughts and behaviors that caused you to reach out to Rachel before you can be truly sorry and change your ways.

Keep in mind that you did not suddenly bump into Rachel when you were on your business trip. You kept in touch with her over the years and you let her know in advance that you would be visiting. It is interesting that until you took this recent action of meeting Rachel, you did not mind keeping your relationship with her a secret from your wife. If your relationship with Rachel was “no big deal” why did you hide it from your wife all along? Why not let your wife know about your friendship and upcoming meeting with Rachel? What led you to maintain a private relationship with Rachel in the first place? Your answers to these questions can help guide you to the inner work and self-awareness you need to repair your relationship with your wife.

Often when a person looks outside of their marriage for a romantic relationship, it implies that the person is unsatisfied on some level with the marriage. It is unclear why you might feel this way. There can be many reasons. One possible factor that seems to be implied by your description is that you and your wife have not developed an emotional bond that is strong enough. Theoretically, if your bond was strong enough it would have either led you to confide to your wife about Rachel before your meeting or prevented you from meeting with her.

When you think about the question of whether or not to tell your wife, consider how this would change your relationship from the status quo. Right now, you fear that telling your wife what happened might upset her and cause a distance between you. Yet, holding back a secret from her that could affect your relationship with her ironically already affects your relationship. When you keep a secret, it creates a gap between you. A secret like this causes you to feel stressed and makes your marriage feel less stable.

One of the reasons you fear telling your wife what happened is that she will not trust you anymore. Yet, interestingly, by not telling your wife, you are implying that you do not trust her to handle the information. If you are worried, there seems to be something to worry about.

However, it is possible that after exploring your answers to these questions you will realize that what happened is really “no big deal.” If you decide to tell your wife, visualize your conversation with her in advance. Think about what you would say and how you could say it to let your wife know what happened, how you feel about it, and how you hope that she will respond. Focus on how you will convey to your wife that you love her and trust her. Let her know that you sincerely regret what you did and how you kept your actions a secret until this point. Try to reassure her that you will never repeat this again.

Going forward, make an effort to improve your communication with your wife. Share your inner world with her and let her know more about your thoughts and feelings. For example, you can share the highs and lows of your day, your triumphs and challenges and your goals and dreams. If this seems unnatural to you or if you are hesitant, seek a professional who can guide you further. Sharing your inner world with your wife can make you feel closer and more connected to your wife, which can help you repair and build your marriage so that you are never faced with this challenge in the future.

Wishing you much success,


Dr. Chani Maybruch is a social psychologist and relationship coach, specializing in teaching emotional connection and communication skills for over two decades. She coaches individuals and couples, and teaches online courses to help you create your ideal relationship. Get free relationship resources and contact her at www.chanimaybruch.com.

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