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Why you shouldn't tell your partner you've cheated, according to a marriage counsellor

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 7/11/2018 Rosie Fitzmaurice
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Party season is just around the corner, which means our calendars will be filling up with drinks parties and events. But the booze-fuelled period can also present the opportunity to get drunk and make mistakes.

And while many people believe that the best way to deal with having cheated on your partner is to immediately tell them what you've done, not everyone agrees this is the right course of action.

Megan Fleming, a New York-based marriage counsellor and sex therapist, told Refinery29 that you should actually keep it to yourself.

Telling your partner and therefore immediately unburdening yourself of your mistake is actually pretty selfish, she says.

"You're the one sitting with the guilt, and if [the affair] is over and done, you absolutely don't want to then put that on your partner," she told the site.

Instead, assuming it was a drunken one-off or that the affair is over and you want to salvage your relationship, Fleming suggests you use this as an opportunity to take a long, hard look at why you’ve committed this unfaithful act.

Ask yourself if you have needs, emotional or physical, that are not being met? See this as an opportunity to acknowledge and address underlying issues in your relationship.

"A lot of times, the crisis is the opportunity," she said. "So, the affair in some ways was a crisis, and it's the opportunity to repair the relationship and make it better."

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There will, of course, be situations, when honesty is the best policy, if say an affair has been going on for a long time, or your partner suspects something.

Psychiatrist and addiction therapist Dr Ken Rosenberg, says he believes only around 10 per cent of people who have affairs get caught. But he firmly believes that a relationship can thrive after the discovery or disclosure of an affair if you avoid a few common pitfalls in the immediate aftermath. The key is to avoid the urge to be impulsive.

"Impulsivity is what got you into this mess and now acting impulsively will just make it worse," he previously told the Standard, adding that this includes not immediately jumping into bed with each other.

"People may decide they're just going to have lots of sex to forget about this and make it go away. That doesn’t usually work," he said.

"In an odd way someone having an affair can actually turn the couple on," he went on. "They’ve ignored each other or may have taken each other for granted and now all of a sudden there’s this third person in the relationship and this may infuriate them but it may in an odd way turn them on and make them more attracted to each other."

But this is not what Rosenberg would prescribe. Instead, he, like Fleming, recommends using this as an opportunity to reflect on and understand what's happened and why, rather than attempting to patch things over.

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