What to Do When You've Been Caught

By Matt W Sandford, LMHC

You worked hard to cover up your infidelity, but then you were found out. Maybe at first there were suspicions that you were able to doge and accusations that you were able to head off or evidence that you were able to cover up or erase? But then the jig was up. Or maybe you got a conscience and got tired of all the lying? Or maybe you actually wanted to come clean and deal with your betrayal?

But now it’s all out there. And your spouse is heartbroken and you are racked with guilt and shame. (I hope you are feeing guilt and shame, for these would be appropriate feelings. I don’t mean to say that I am wishing ill on you, I merely mean that unless you are feeling these emotions, you have little hope for redemption and recovery.)

I am going to assume that you are struggling with you infidelity and that you want to successfully recover your life and your marriage. Otherwise you would be reading something about how to deceive your spouse, or how to enjoy being a non-moral person and shake off those pesky, nagging shameful feelings that have no business showing up in your life. You know, those articles that tell people doing badly that it’s not really bad at all. So, I guess this is some kind of spoiler alert, that you won’t be getting that here.

I think that’s okay, because you probably weren’t looking for that. The ones that are didn’t get this far. You, on the other hand, want to face what you have done and find a way through the mess to a place of forgiveness, for yourself and from your spouse. A place where you and your family could find healing and somehow get back to normalcy of some kind. Let me offer my thoughts to help you get on the track to healing and wholeness.

1.      You are going to have to eat the whole humble pie.

Too often the perpetrator looks for a foothold to justify their behavior, to subtly point a finger, to try and balance the scales so as to share blame. In this way, they hope to ease the burden of their own shame and guilt. I am not suggesting that your partner has no strokes against them. They likely have contributed to marriage difficulties and issues at some point in some way. But pointing at their issues does not lighten your burden. They do not share culpability in your choice to commit adultery. They did not push you into it or give you no choice. Those are rationalizations. Facing that and accepting your responsibility and the pain of your choice is a crucial and necessary step to reconciliation. And it is necessary for your own healing. You can’t heal what you won’t let yourself face. 


2.      Then you need to confess what you have done to the offended party.

Let me explain what this really means. It does not mean offering some weak “I’m sooooo sorry” type thing, in which the focus is on your guilt and shame rather than on the hurt your have caused to someone you claim to love. Often we make quick apologies to others when we feel bad, because we long to feel better, to receive the “it’s okay” and be let off the hook. That’s shoddy work reserved for the little slip ups and inconsiderateness’s of everyday life, for which   we are all notorious. But infidelity is not in that category. And that may be something that you need to grapple with. Because you can’t really confess it until you have owned its significance. The depth of betrayal, the damage to trust, the brokenness of covenant. Not exactly the popular stance of our current culture concerning marriage and sexual fidelity.  Of course those living by the current culture are also mired in emotional, relational and spiritual quicksand and are drowning in immaturity and pain.


God’s view is different. And it offers real healing as a result of real confession. And that means that the perpetrator must listen to the offended party and allow them to express the depth of the hurt. Not to punish you, but so you can know and understand them. When you have listened and understood, then you can make your confession, which is mostly an expression of how you see how you have wounded them.  


3.      Next, you will need to be transparent, if you desire to rebuild trust.

You will absolutely need to grant your spouse complete access to your phone, internet accounts, finances, schedule, business clients, Facebook page, you name it. And I don’t mean when they ask for it. I mean, you surrender all of it, willingly, before they ask. And not just a few times; you consistently volunteer up your accounts and activity and bare all to them. I understand your protest, that it feels unfair and embarrassing, maybe controlling, or being treated like a child. And if it is demanded of you it would seem that way. Which is why you volunteer it first. If they have to ask for it, that’s when you’ll feel weird. And if you put up any resistance, then that will only erode the relationship at the very point at which you are trying to rebuild. You will need the attitude that decides that transparency is what I really want in my relationship. And to see it not as a punishment, but rather a privilege to share all of myself with my spouse. No secrets. Again, this is actually not just good and healing for them, but you too.

4.      Accept the Consequences

Some consequences will be specific to each situation. But certainly a couple of  consequences are suspicion and lack of trust from your spouse. Balking and complaining about them only reveals that you don’t understand the depth of the pain you have caused and that you aren’t committed to the healing process. Is it hard and uncomfortable to be under suspicion, over a period of time? Sure. Accept it anyway. Learn patience and humility through it. Let God use it in your life.

5.      Focus More on Personal Growth than on Felling Better

Notice that the elements here are all about personal growth – humility, empathy, patience endurance. Acknowledge that there was some kind of very dangerous personal issue inside you that brought you to this point in your life. Brokenness is what God would have you experience, in order to restore you and transform you. Psalms 51. Not to take you down, but to lift you up. There is a passage in Hebrews 12, in which we are taught that discipline from God is for our good, that although it is painful it produces the fruit of righteousness for those who have been trained by it.

I can’t conclude better than that.



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