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Affair honesty 'very risky'


Julieanne Strachan

To kiss and tell? Honesty after an affair could be risky, according to a psychologist.

To kiss and tell? Honesty after an affair could be risky, according to a psychologist.

HONESTY after an extra-marital affair is not always the best policy and neither is confessing to ease a guilty conscience, clinical psychologist Bruce Stevens has said ahead of a national conference on mental health and relationships.

In his 20 years of experience, Dr Stevens said only about 50 per cent of couples who entered counselling after an affair managed to salvage their relationship.

''Anecdotally, that is what I have seen, but in some cases working through all the issues afterwards can make a relationship stronger,'' he said.

''After an affair is found out, it's like a bomb has been dropped on the relationship and you cannot predict how it will go.

''I don't naively suggest using truth and honesty at all costs - especially is you are trying to repair the relationship.''

Dr Stevens, who is an associate professor at the University of Canberra, will present a talk at the Australian Psychological Society's clinical psychology conference in Sydney next week. He is also the author of a book for clinical psychologists on couple counselling, called Happy ever after?


''We know that disclosing an affair will be pretty explosive but you can't guarantee you will be able to manage the consequences - it's very risky,'' Dr Stevens said.

''I think a lot of people disclose it to get it off their conscience and that is not a good reason.

''The problem is that you are practically playing Russian roulette with at least three bullets in six chambers.

''But if they do get through it and say, 'OK I'm married to a flawed person' and take some responsibility for the emotional poverty of the relationship, they can work on building a relationship which is based on reality and building a life together.''

Dr Stevens said affairs were usually a sign of desperation that started with a honeymoon period that didn't last.

''It's a period of un-reality,'' he said.

''It's like a fairyland because it is protected against seeing your partner in hair rollers and things like that. They are always dressed to go out and in that head space. And if somebody goes into an affair then someone gets hurt and it's hard to pick up the pieces.''


  • That's why you clear it with the partner beforehand. If it won't fly, don't do it.

    Date and time
    June 24, 2012, 1:08PM
    • What a load of rubbish coming from this clinical Psychologist.
      You are going to solve the problems by not telling the truth & it will go away?
      So what about a guilty conscience by not telling the truth.
      This is a half baked solution.
      Accepting the truth & try to move forward would be more honourable & respectable instead of hiding the truth,it might come out one way to another anyway as usually it does.
      To receive a counselling from this man might ruin your chance of recovering & moving forward.

      Date and time
      June 24, 2012, 2:44PM
      • Why is the book 'Happy ever after?' for 'clinical' psychologists. Don't the rest of us count? and what of the public? Are they too dumb to get learn anything from a book? or is this book 'exclusive', not available to the public. Oooh what's in there, we shouldn't know about?

        Date and time
        June 24, 2012, 2:52PM
        • @Philoed - There is nothing secret in the book that should be kept hidden from the public, it is a text written as a guide for psychologists who do couples counseling. There is no secret place where it would be sold that the general public cannot access, it is just that the intended audience is people who work in the field. Mathematical text books are intended for students of mathematics and their teachers, this is no different.
          Also, clinical psychology is a branch of psychology that focuses on abnormal behaviour, mental illness and psychiatric problems. It is not, as you seem to believe, some sort of made up adjective put in place to make the psychologist in this article try to look more important.

          Date and time
          June 24, 2012, 4:27PM
        • Philoed: The book is freely available, just check the usual booksellers.

          Date and time
          June 25, 2012, 12:10PM
      • Although I had initially thought to start this comment with 'And so begins the decline of The Age into tabloid mediocrity', if I'm to be honest, the decline has progressed over many years now. This story is not close to being national news. I very much understand that if I didn't want to read the story, I needn't have clicked on the link; however, I also note that currently this is the #1 highlight story on Whereas the NY Times remains a newspaper for adults, The Age has, IMHO, lost its way.

        Date and time
        June 24, 2012, 2:54PM
        • I married a woman who was the business chick above all else. That also meant the relationship / marraige. paid an appropriatre priced To say I became a handbag was an understatement so I disengauged and had multiple affairs.
          The corporation became everything the relationship an also ran.

          The affair & sex was fun, as was the social time out. My current friend with benefits enjoys a great mate a fellow concert goer and when we have time we scratch that itch.
          Having an affair and making it work is a lot of work but a good one is worth the effort. As for the marrage... its getting better she has finally woken up to the fact that she is facing her later years on her own if she does not pick up her act which she is finally doing. It was only when I stopped being a loving giving 100% attentive caring person that the message finally started sinking in.
          Stop caring and just accepting that your partner will be there without any input and guess what? You find yourself alone. Yes you can be very alone in a marrage don't think that outdated institution will save you or make the sky bluer or the birds song sweeter it's a total crock.
          I fell out of love with my wife, fell in love with a lover but worked on rebuilding a relationship with a woman I used to love. The marrage is coming back but until things are totally fixed I will keep a lover close by should everything fall in to a heap.
          As things are, the marraigeis salvageable but if I fessed up... I may as well move to NZ as a sheep farmer.
          Some days lying is a safer option.

          from a guy
          Date and time
          June 24, 2012, 2:55PM
          • I don't get it. Why are you still married? You don't love your wife. You actually sound like you hate her. You love your 'lover'. Why stay? Totally weird. To quote Pauline "please explain".

            Date and time
            June 25, 2012, 3:02AM
          • @ from a guy:

            Sounds to me like you're using your wife (financially, maybe?) even though you don't love her and using your lover as a "possible back-up". Lame.

            Date and time
            June 26, 2012, 12:34PM
        • Pure genius. Keep your fling, affair, whatever you would like to call it , a secret.

          20 years of study to figure that out ?

          Date and time
          June 24, 2012, 3:08PM

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