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Confessing Adultery to Your Spouse

By Dr. Don Dunlap
Pastoral Counselor
Dr. Dunlap provides insight into what is required of Christians who have committed adultery.

Family Counseling Ministries -

When a person breaks the marriage vow and commits adultery, should that person tell his or her spouse about the transgression? Would it be helpful or hurtful to the wronged partner to do so? What is the correct action for a Christian to take? This first part of a four-part case study by Dr. Don Dunlap provides insight into what marriage vows mean and what is required of a person biblically should he or she break them.

A man came to me for counseling because he had been involved in an adulterous affair many years earlier. The affair had gone on for several months before he finally responded in repentance to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. He admitted to God that his behavior was sinful, and he broke off the relationship. He even went so far as to ask the other woman who was involved for forgiveness.

He told me that he could not decide whether or not he should tell his wife about his adulterous affair.

He told me that he had agonized for weeks over whether or not he should tell his wife about the affair, but finally decided that he had done everything that was biblically required of him.


He said that he had been tormented by guilt ever since his involvement in the affair, but he was afraid that it would make matters worse if he admitted his infidelity to his wife now. He believed that God had forgiven him, but he couldn’t understand why he continued to have overwhelming feelings of guilt.


I assured him that he would be hurting his wife far more by not telling her about the affair.

I told him that I believed he was experiencing guilt because he had not made full restitution for his sin. I advised him that he needed to confess the extramarital affair to his wife. I explained that there were compelling scriptural reasons in support of telling her. The first reason was that he had broken the vow he had made as part of his wedding covenant to be faithful to her.

The statement that is included in most marriage ceremonies is worded,

I take you to be my wedded husband/wife, and I do promise and covenant, before God and these witnesses, to be your loving and faithful husband/wife, for richer or for poorer, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, as long as we both shall live.

When we get involved in an extramarital affair, we are breaking a holy and sacred vow that we made in the presence of God.

The writer of Ecclesiastes 5:4,5 sternly advises,

When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it, for He takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow! It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay.

We read in Numbers 30:2 of the utter seriousness of making a vow before God,

If a man makes a vow to the Lord, or takes an oath to bind himself with a binding obligation, he shall not violate his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.


Clearly, Christians should not take vows lightly.


The second reason for confessing spousal infidelity is that deceitfulness is an integral factor in the sin of adultery. A person has to lie to his/her spouse in order to explain where he/she was at specific times or what he/she was supposedly doing or whom he/she was allegedly with. An adulterer must weave a web of deception to cover up his/her moral impurity. We are warned in Proverbs 12:22, “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal faithfullyare His delight.”

Someone who has lied can clear his/her conscience onlyby confessing his/her sin of lying to the person who has been deceived, and by asking for forgiveness. Until then, he/she will be plagued with intense feelings of guilt. We should praise God that confession and repentance are the remedies for guilt.

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