I Cheated on My Husband. What Do I Do Now?

i cheated on my husband

“Last spring, I started a project with a colleague. We worked together intimately for upwards of ten hours a day, and it was something we were both hugely passionate about. By fall, sharing thoughts and dreams all day, every day, spiraled into what I’m assuming is an emotional affair (texts, emails, etc.). Finally…we slept together after being brave and tipsy enough following post-holiday drinks. My husband and I have a relatively good marriage. We’re open communicators, and we raise our kids with a great sense of teamwork, but something is missing right now. I have felt things with my work colleague that I haven’t felt in a long time. Still, I am consumed with guilt. How do I even start to feel better about what I’ve done? What am I supposed to do next?”

You can come back from this, but it’ll take a profound willingness to pursue your husband and your problems openly and honestly. To move on with your marriage, it will also take the grace of your husband’s forgiveness. To move on from your guilt will take kindness on yourself. 

What to do next

It’s impossible to get to the seed of why you did what you did via one question. I highly suggest working with a therapist to understand your why. Was it for the fantasy? Affairs are like playing house for adults: We get all the fun things of the relationship without the real-life burdens—taxes, errands, leaky faucets. Or was it a need to be seen, heard, known? Or was it because you’ve actually fallen in love with this coworker?

Understanding the true impetus—even if it’s something you really don’t want to admit to yourself—will help you overcome your guilt and rebuild whatever it is you want to rebuild (or destroy). Exploring and coming to terms with what you actually want is terrifying. But it’s also the most essential thing you do next to begin to move on.

To confess or not to confess

I cannot tell you whether or not to confess the affair to your husband. I believe in honesty—BUT— I will not tell you “You must tell your husband the truth,” because I don’t know enough about your husband. I don’t know his moral chemistry. I don’t know what really exists between you two. Frankly, the only way you can tell him is if you know he can recover. If he can’t, I’m not sure honesty is more valuable than this degree of shattered trust. This is something only you can know, and I’m sorry to leave you hanging like that.

Your options

Here’s what I can tell you. When it comes to your marriage, you have essentially three options: You can end your marriage; you can accept your marriage; or you can work on your marriage.

If you’re leaning toward number one, use this exercise: When it comes to your coworker, try your darndest to logically remind yourself that with every positive quality comes a quality that counters it. Someone working long hours with a lot of drive is rarely the partner you need to raise kids. Someone with whom you share tons of intimacy can also be someone with whom you fight a lot. Someone you’re passionate about physically may lack the intellectual stimulation you need. The list goes on. No one is everything. (You’ve learned this from your husband already.) Try to see the cons of your life with your coworker, because you should know that no relationship is pure fantasy.

But, reading your question, it doesn’t seem like you’re leaning toward ending your marriage, so I’m going to assume you’re not putting this affair on a pedestal, and you are more concerned about what this means about your marriage.

It’s possible the affair made you realize what you are currently lacking with your husband. Perhaps it’s passion—you had amazing sex in the beginning of your relationship and it’s now become occasional and/or obligatory. And maybe there’s some intimacy missing—discussing your thoughts and dreams is something that’s taken a back seat to kids and jobs and general life chaos. 

You can get that feeling back, but you have to be active and intentional about it. Sometimes, over time, we forget to do the little things. Have a quality-time night, where you get a babysitter and focus entirely on being romantic partners instead of parents. Make touch a more natural part of your life; take his hand, touch his leg, stroke his hair. Schedule sex. Find one time in your week that you can definitely do the deed—Wednesday at 10 p.m., 30 minutes after the kids get to bed—and make sure it’s a regular date. These are the things that save and sustain relationships.

And What About The Coworker?

If you’re reinvesting in your marriage, do your best to help your husband feel emotionally safe—especially if you do wind up telling him the truth. Cut off all contact with your coworker outside the perfunctory exchanges you must have. Even if you don’t tell your husband about the affair, that type of deep-rooted security is the cornerstone of a strong relationship. You can’t require it without giving it in return.

And of course, I can’t recommend marital therapy more. You may need extra support in getting through this together (if he is also on board to fix the relationship). Failed marriages are usually two-person failures, but cheating was your choice, and it doesn’t seem, based on your question, that it was the answer in this case. 

Jenna Birch is a journalist and author of The Love Gap: A Radical Plan to Win in Life and Love, a relationship-building guide for modern women, as well as a dating coach (accepting new clients for 2020). To ask her a question, which she may answer in a forthcoming PureWow column, email her at 

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