A book by a founder of this site.
Are You Feeling Guilty About What Happened?
Often people tell their husbands or wives, boyfriends or girlfriends, the truth in order to relieve their guilt. Guilt, or feelings of shame, can wear people and make life unpleasant (see Kelly & McKillop). And there are two ways of dealing with feelings of guilt.
The first option is to confess or come clean. This, however, is not always your best option.
Sometimes confessing leads to more problems than it solves (see Kelly & McKillop). When you admit to doing something wrong, often it changes the way that a spouse or partner sees you. It can create suspicion, hostility, and resentment.
And when partners become suspicious, it is hard for relationships to get back on track.
In fact, research shows that marriages and relationships work the best, not when everything is out in the open, but when partners think they know the truth (see catching lovers lying).
Having everything out in the open often leads to more conflict, fighting, anger and resentment. And few relationships can survive when negativity between partners becomes the norm.
So if a partner is not going to find out what happened, and if the problem is not going to reoccur, it may be best to keep things quiet and learn to deal with your feelings of guilt in a different manner. Causing long term problems in a relationship in order to relieve your guilt may not be the wisest thing to do.
The others options for coping with guilt involve the passing of time or sharing what happened with others (see sharing secrets).
While feelings of guilt can be overwhelming, they are also fleeting. People experience the most guilt when they think they are going to get caught. But, as time passes, feelings of guilt tend to fade away.