My husband and I went to different colleges in the same city, and while I didn’t know him, I knew and dated a couple of guys from his school at the time. Cut to last week, when he told me about an old college friend who was moving back and would be at this party we were going to. Welp, as it turns out, I slept with this guy! When we were introduced at the party, we both awkwardly said hi and pretended we had never met, but I feel weird lying to my spouse. What should I do from here on out? Do I play dumb or do I fess up?
For the most part, I encourage folks to keep mum about past sexual history. After all, there are very few circumstances in which opening up your Little Black Book will provide any kind of benefit. But...there are always exceptions to every rule, and this just might be one of them.
Here are the two reasons why I think you should tell your husband about your former flame.
1. It’s possible this new friend will tell him, and that’s completely beyond your control.
Whenever you’re in possession of a joint secret, it's possible the other person will simply decide to share. Or not even realize it’s a secret to begin with. And you certainly don’t want your husband to feel like you lied to his face when he introduced you two, because you left out that key little nugget.
Obviously, you slept with this friend a long, long time ago. And I’m going to assume there’s zero, zilch and nada left in terms of feelings. But if you lie by omission, it might make it seem like there was something more to it than there is. And if it does come to light, dear hubby might be genuinely upset that you pretended this guy was a stranger while he carried on in the dark.
2. He deserves to know the extent of the relationship, in case it impacts his feelings about the friendship.
Some people really don’t want to buddy up to their husband or wife’s exes. And that’s fine! (Sometimes it’s an issue of discomfort; sometimes it brings up trauma if there was cheating in the past.)
Your spouse deserves to know the extent of the relationship before he rekindles this old friendship. Whether it was a long-term thing or a short-term fling or simply a one-night hookup, knowing what happened might ultimately cause him to choose a different route with this dude. And he should have that choice.
Now, here’s how you tell him...
Don’t wait. Tell him you were stunned to see “Drew” after a decade, and you didn’t know how to react, so you just stayed silent in the moment. In a few words, be 100-percent honest about how you two know each other and the extent of the relationship. “We hooked up a few times,” “we slept together just once,” or “we had a short-term relationship during fall semester of our junior year” will do.
Leave it at that. No need to invite questions, or answer anything that feels too detailed or invasive. Whatever else happened between you and “Drew” ten years ago is still your information to hang onto.
Tell your husband you just wanted to let him know what happened out of respect for your marriage, but not because you’re ashamed of anything in your past. Then give him a kiss and let it go. If he’s an adult and you bring it up promptly, he’ll handle this revelation with grace and hopefully humor.
But no matter the outcome, sharing means you won’t be caught in a situation where your spouse thinks you lied to him, and you won’t have to walk on egg-shells every time you see Mr. College Hookup. Bottom line: Hiding the fling makes it seem much racier than it is—aka NBD.
Jenna Birch is a journalist, speaker and author of The Love Gap: A Radical Plan to Win in Life and Love, a relationship-building guide for modern women. To ask her a question, which she may answer in a forthcoming PureWow column, email her at email@example.com.