“Crap. I was out at a club at a bachelorette party when a group of guys approached us. We danced together for most of the night and I didn’t think much of it, until one of the guys pulled me out on the dance floor, got a little too close and leaned in to kiss me. I pulled away and ended it immediately, but I feel guilty. Do I need to tell my boyfriend?”
I think you do. Not simply because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s clearly eating you up, and your boyfriend’s response will be useful information for you to have.
First things first: You’re not alone. These sorts of “accidental cheating” moments happen more often than you’d think. And in my opinion, many of them are really no big deal. They’re miscommunications. They’re something you’d never do out of context. In other words, chill. This wasn’t your finest moment, but it’s hardly compromised your entire moral compass.
Still, a partner’s response can range from being livid to literally laughing it off. I have no idea which camp your boyfriend will fall into, but if this is a first-time offense, I think his response will be telling.
If you were not intending to cheat, as you state, then deep-down your boyfriend should already know that. And one alcohol-fueled, mistakenly-placed kiss shouldn’t change things, even if he’s initially shocked.
So, sit him down and lay out the facts. Tell him what you just told me. Tell him that you’ve been feeling guilty and that you’d never want to hurt him or your relationship. Tell the 100-percent truth; You don’t want anything you gloss over to come back and bite you in the ass later.
If he responds by shrugging his shoulders, then great, you can both move on. If he responds with hurt, that’s totally normal, too. Ask him if there’s anything you can do to make it better, to make him more comfortable in the future, or to prove to him that it really was an honest mistake. It’s reasonable that his trust will be shaken. Let him have a moment to recalibrate.
On the other hand, if he responds by shaming you or getting belligerent, then that’s a red flag. No action ever warrants verbally abusive behavior. If he turns mean or depressive or vows to take out a hit on this mystery kisser, well, that’s knowledge you’re going to want in the long run.
Jenna Birch is a relationship coach, journalist, and author of The Love Gap: A Radical Plan to Win in Life & Love.