Social Question

wundayatta's avatar

Why do people feel an urge to confess to affairs?

Asked by wundayatta (58349 points ) January 16th, 2013

In this question, we were asked if we would tell a friend that their SO was having an affair. Most people say they would tell.

My question is why someone who was having an affair would tell anyone—much less a close friend who was also friends with the person they were cheating on—that they were having an affair. Why would you put your friend in a position of either having to keep a secret or of divulging the secret?

Are people unaware they are putting their friendship at risk? Do they secretly want to have their SO told what is really going on? Do they not realize the position they are putting their friend in? Do they think their friend will happily keep a secret? What is going on?

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14 Answers

Sunny2's avatar

You may feel so good or so happy, you want to share it with someone. You have to be careful who you tell and must be able to trust them with your secret. Just as you must be very discreet with when and where you see your ‘friend.’

Shippy's avatar

I am very divided on this. I used to think if people I knew were having an affair it was none of my business no matter if the person being cheated on was my friend. I just figured that is life, that life is hard, and well, life takes care of its own.

If the person was a close friend of mine, I am still not sure I would. It takes guts, it takes courage to warn that friend, because yes the messenger gets shot, and I would imagine ultimately you stand to lose a friend.
But really would you like your friend to be made a fool of?

For me, I would never be unfaithful so I would never have to lie. I don’t say that from a high moral ground. I simply have a partner who gives me total freedom so there is no need to lie.
I certainly though would never advise someone to tell their SO that they are being unfaithful or were unfaithful that to me is an abomination.

ucme's avatar

It’s a defence mechanism designed to relieve the burden of guilt, releasing this dark secret goes some way, for them at least, to lending credence to their actions.

KNOWITALL's avatar

People can’t stand not to tell someone, anyone, especially women in my opinion. Human nature is crazy.

In our office full of women, they tell everyone everything, even things that could get them fired, it’s like an uncontrollable impulse for some people I think.

Shippy's avatar

@KNOWITALL That is certainly a generalization and also in terms of women

Akua's avatar

Guilt plays a big part in why people feel the need to purge secrets. They feel, as in the catholic church that if they confess, they will be forgiven either for coming clean or for being so broken up about your indiscretion that you had to tell. I feel like this though: If you have done anything you don’t want the world to know then keep it to yourself. But for me it has a lot more to do with the lack of trust rather than guilt.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Shippy I know, but I put ‘in my opinion’ as I’ve worked in an office composed of women since age 19. Sad but true.

glacial's avatar

Good question. I think a big part of it is wanting someone else to tell them that it’s ok, or that they’re forgivable. And I agree that another part is secretly wanting their partner to find out, so that they don’t have to keep the secret.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

I think it’s a cultural thing. Confession, testifying, public atonement, humiliation… in our case is very Judeo-Christian, Abramaic. I don’t buy into this thing about divulgence always being cleansing, I think that’s bullshit. It smacks of a “massa” mechanism to me, from when people lived under tyrannical states and churches. If you fuck up, or if someone near you fucks up bad enough, you handle it. You correct it because you know if you don’t, it could become public and somebody else might step in and correct it for you. Rarely is it necessary or really helpful that anyone beyond the principals need to be brought into non-felonious peccadillos. Going on Maury or Oprah and telling the world your personal transgressions does not help, it just feeds another dirty little cultural neurosis.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

Because guilt and remorse are heavy burdens to carry alone?

Bellatrix's avatar

I also think it’s to assuage their guilt. A sort of unburdening (onto the person they have now dumped this news on).

Pandora's avatar

I think some people want someone to they are close to, to agree with what they are doing. If their best friend is happy for them, then they must be right to carry on.
Another reason may also be to have, a sensible sounding board. They tell someone they feel is always reasonable and can offer insights without judging them. Especially if they know both parties.
I believe that most people who have affairs and tell their friends, really don’t care if the relationship survives the affair. They probably are looking to end the relationship and are too cowardly to initiate the break up. They already show that they do not care for the feelings of their partner, so why would anyone believe they care about their friends feelings of being put in the middle.

Yeahright's avatar

I don’t think it’s out of guilt, remorse, or that they’re looking for approval or reassurance; but rather, their motivation is more practical. They’d probably want to alleviate the burden—anything shared between two is more bearable. They want to be able to discuss the situation and clarify stuff in their minds or need help in making decisions. They need an accomplice who’d be willing to cover up for them should they find themselves in a situation where they don’t have a credible excuse or an alibi.
I don’t think anyone who tells a friend really thinks they’re putting their friendship at risk. In their minds their friends would understand and sympathize with them and in the worst scenario their friend would keep their secret out of loyalty. After all they consider them best friends or close friends, not just any friend or a simple acquaintance. In the event that the friend is also friends with the person they are cheating on, there is a possibility they think that the friend will take their side because they feel the friend is closer to them than to their SO.

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