On my commute into work, I listen to a local radio station that dispenses relationship advice. This segment on KS95 is called “Love ’em or List ’em.” Today’s situation involved cheating and the advice given was mostly awful.
A quick recap of the situation:
Angela is the caller. She just got engaged but is sick with guilt over what she did.
Two years prior, she cheated on her now fiance with his brother “regularly.” But she broke it off, and that brother is now subsequently married. The cheater brother told her to never reveal what he did with her to her now fiance.
She is calling in to get advice on whether or not to reveal the fact about her cheating with the fiance’s brother. Angela is afraid that such a revelation would end the relationship, and she really wants to marry this guy whom she cheated on with his brother.
Take a listen below to hear the story as well as listener response:
Divorce Minister’s thoughts for Angela:
1. To NOT tell the fiance is to deceive him–i.e. lie by omission. The choice to keep this a secret is not a noble action but a devious and treacherous one. I can tell you as one who has been cheated upon that not knowing is one of the cruelest aspects of the experience. And don’t be so naive to believe that the fiance is completely oblivious to at least something being “off.”
2. Just consider the consequences of this secret being divulged by third party after you are married. Assuming the fiance is still in the dark about the cheating, think about the consequences of him learning about your infidelity with his brother from someone other than you.
Maybe the brother breaks down from the guilt and tells him? Or maybe a friend who saw you two together says something to the fiance? Or maybe your fiance has always been suspicious and comes across some sort of evidence confirming his hidden suspicions?
Now, you will not only be dealing with the consequences of cheating with his brother but also with the consequences of deceiving him (see point #1). If you are already married, it might mean a divorce. Who knows?
3. You will be starting a marriage with the foundation undermined by deception, and by you having to question whether or not you would be married apart from you lying by keeping the infidelity a secret (plus hoping that secret never gets exposed, which isn’t entirely in your control–see Point #2). This secret is going to be destructive to the marriage whether or not you reveal it. Anyone saying that it will be settled by hiding the truth is selling false goods. It is already eating you up, which means it is already impacting your relationship!
4. When we choose and do something bad, we choose the consequences with them. It is a packaged deal. This hand-wringing over whether or not to tell the fiance is really about trying to avoid the consequences of one’s previous poor choices. The personally responsible and ethical thing to do is to tell him and accept the consequences you chose by cheating with his brother “regularly” two years ago. Whether or not he forgives you and has mercy upon you ought to be up to him.
If you choose to tell him, it is best to tell the whole truth. A partial truth is fully a lie. It is a way to break trust as you will still be dealing with potential fallout over that partial-truth lie just as if you lied by keeping it all secret.
When telling him, focus on actions. Do not editorialize and minimize by calling it a “blip.” Also, hiding that this happened on more than one occasion–i.e. “regularly”–is not advised either. He does not need your judgments or assessments regarding what happened…he needs to know what actually happened.
Covering for the brother is strongly discouraged! Part of the consequences of him betraying his brother in cheating with you is dealing with this fallout.
It is not your job to lie for the brother!
If he wanted to avoid the ugly consequences that follow cheating, then he could have decided to act like a decent brother and not cheat with his brother’s girlfriend in the first place.
You telling your fiance what happened is not what is responsible for damaging family relations. It is merely revealing what is already a reality:
The brother has betrayed his brother and was active in covering those betrayals up. That is the truth of who the brother is.
The brother created and planted this ticking-truth-time-bomb in his family system by choosing to cheat with you–his brother’s (now) fiancee. He does not get to blame you when the bomb he created goes off as bombs do.