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Does it Help or Hurt to Confess Adultery to Your Spouse?

By Dr. Don Dunlap
Pastoral Counselor
Learn why it is so important for the adulterer to confess to the injured spouse. -

In this third part of a four-part case study, Dr. Don Dunlap answers many of the objections adulterers raise as to why they should keep their sin secret. Scripture shows us that keeping the sin of adultery a secret not only harms a marriage but also prevents the wronged spouse from growing as a Christian. All sinners must confess before God’s intended restoration and reconciliation can truly take place through the process of humility, confession, responsibility and restitution.

A man came to my office for counseling because he was overwhelmed with guilt feelings. Many years earlier, he had been involved in an adulterous affair for several months. Although he ended his involvement with the woman, and had repented before God, he decided that the best course of action was not to confess his infidelity to his wife. The reason he came to me was because he couldn’t figure out why the guilt feelings persisted so many years after the affair had ended.

I gave him biblical reasons explaining why he should confess his adulterous affair to his wife.

In addition to presenting him with five other biblical reasons why I disagreed with his thinking, I reminded him of 1 Peter 4:12,13: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.” I told him that if he chose to keep the sin of adultery hidden from his wife, he would deny her the opportunity to grow in certain important aspects of the Christian life. I explained that no matter how shattered and devastated his wife might be upon hearing of his unfaithfulness, if she asked God to, He would grant her an abundant portion of love, forgiveness and persevering faith.

He believed that if he told her about his marital infidelity, she would be too hurt to forgive him.

He expressed three major objections to my counsel. First, he believed that his confession would only serve to hurt an innocent party. “The affair is long since over and done with,” he protested. “God has forgiven me and the other woman has forgiven me. My wife is unaware that any of this went on, so I would only be hurting her unnecessarily.” I countered, however, that he had already deeply hurt her by sinning against her, whether or not she knew the specifics of the situation. The Bible clearly teaches that when sin occurs, God intends for restoration and reconciliation to take place through the process of humility, confession, responsibility and restitution.

We cannot escape or circumvent these truths. James 4:6-10 is a key passage in this matter:

God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.

When a husband or wife deceives a spouse by being unfaithful, the offended partner usually senses that something is not right in the marriage relationship.

Second, he argued that his wife would not be able to handle the news of his infidelity. He described her as having a volatile temper, and he was afraid that she would leave him. He also mentioned that she was the “nervous type” and would probably have a mental breakdown.

He was convinced that he would lose his children, and possibly even his job, if she decided to act vindictively and tell people what he had done. I explained that a husband or a wife almost always suspects that something is wrong in the marriage relationship when the sin of adultery has occurred. I told him that the destructive seeds of suspicion and mistrust had undoubtedly already been sown in his marriage.

I appealed to him to cast himself on God’s mercy and obediently take the necessary biblical steps to heal his marriage.


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