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How to Confess Adultery to Your Spouse

By Dr. Don Dunlap
Pastoral Counselor
Biblical guidelines show how confessing adultery becomes the beginning of forgiveness. -

In this fourth part of a four-part case study, Dr. Don Dunlap outlines and encourages adulterers to adhere to biblical guidelines for confessing. The wording, setting and timing of the confession should be carefully and prayerfully planned, because when a confession is not handled scripturally, the outcome is often worse than if the unfaithful party had never confessed. Dr. Dunlap reminds the adulterer, turned confessor, that confession is only the beginning of the forgiveness process.

The counselee who came to me because he had ongoing guilt feelings for years after he had ended his extramarital affair was very reluctant to tell his wife about his sexual betrayal. He was convinced that she would not forgive him and that she would divorce him upon hearing the news.

An unfaithful marriage partner should not assume that his spouse knows nothing about it.

I explained to him that I had witnessed countless situations where an unfaithful husband, for example, was convinced that his wife was completely ignorant of his infidelity and was subsequently shocked to hear that she had suspected for some time that an affair was going on. I told him that his wife would probably not be surprised by his confession.

I assured him that God gives His children sufficient grace to handle all of life’s trials when they act in obedience to His commands. He also supplies abundant grace to the offended party if he or she chooses, by faith, to appropriate that grace. I explained that his wife might decide to forgive him, or not to forgive him. The sin, however, would be hers—not his—if she should choose to refuse God’s offer of grace and disobey His command to forgive “seventy times seven.” I reminded him that when we trust the Lord, we leave the results in His hands. I pointed out the obvious fact that God was doing a sanctifying and cleansing work in his wife’s life as well. I encouraged him to confess his fears to God and then to confidently obey His Word.

A confession that is not handled biblically always makes matters worse.

I further explained to him that he should carefully and prayerfully plan the wording, the setting and the timing of his confession to his wife. When a confession is not handled scripturally, the outcome is often much worse than if the unfaithful party had never confessed his infidelity. I urged him to consider three important biblical principles. First, he should confess his sin to her in the presence of an experienced counselor who could minister to her in the aftermath of the confession. He needed to choose someone who was trained to deal with this kind of situation and who was thoroughly acquainted with how to apply the biblical principles of guilt resolution, forgiveness and restoration to their situation.

The offended spouse seriously hinders the restoration process when he or she insists upon hearing all the sordid details of the affair.

Second, the confession should include information about the person with whom he was involved, when the adultery took place, and how often it occurred. I cautioned him to make every possible effort to avoid talking about the details of the affair, in obedience to the scriptural command that forbids us to speak of the details of evil. The counselor should encourage his wife to ask any questions she might have that are related to the general nature of the offense. If, however, she felt that she must ask specific questions, she should be urged to do so only when the counselor is present. Finally, I told him that he and his wife should begin going through the process of biblical forgiveness together with the counselor. The point of confession is only the beginning of a rebuilding process between a husband and wife whose marriage has been sabotaged by the heartbreak of adultery.


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