Whether you are the other person, the discoverer, or the discovered, virtually all of your relationships have been altered by the affair.
Especially at first, the impulse to keep the affair a secret is usually very strong. Certainly, the person having the affair doesn’t want anyone to know, and the secrecy can even add excitement to the affair relationship. However, if you are feeling conflicted about the affair, it may be painful to have no one to talk to about it.
Once discovered, you and your partner may regard the affair as a shameful secret that must be kept at all costs. Some couples do not disclose the affair to anyone, including extended family. Cultural values play an important role in these decisions. Extended family is more likely to be told in cultures where affairs are more commonplace. Class also plays a similar role. For some, keeping up appearances can feel more important than anything else. And often an affair happens to the “ideal couple” in everyone else’s eyes.
It can be extremely anxiety provoking to imagine the shock, disappointment, criticism, and even rejection that might follow disclosure. You also might be afraid of pressure to make decisions quickly that you don’t feel ready to make. Although enraged and deeply hurt, some discoverers feel they must protect their partner’s reputation. However, you also may be surprised to find that after the initial shock, friends and family are more supportive than you would have imagined.
It is important for you and your partner to evaluate the pros and cons of sharing what has happened with each important person in your lives, weighing the possible benefits and risks. Something to consider is that in general, the more secret something is kept, the more shameful it becomes.
Peggy Vaughn’s survey contained the following question: Was it helpful to talk to friends/family/others? The responses were: 12% – Didn’t talk or not useful. 50% – Helped some, but not as much as I’d like. 38% – Extremely helpful. No one volunteered that it made things worse.