Skip To Content
  • Hey Stephen badge

I Had An Affair Three Years Ago And Got Divorced — Do I Need To Tell My New Boyfriend About It?

"I want to be honest, but I don't want him to think differently about me."

Hello, world. My name's Stephen LaConte, I'm a writer here at BuzzFeed, and my favorite thing in the world (besides my dog) is giving people advice.

So I've invited readers like you to message me on Instagram and Twitter (@StephenLC in both places) with your biggest problems — and I'm solving 'em right here on BuzzFeed, one DM at a time. Let's get right to it.

Today, we've got this woman, who isn't sure whether to tell her boyfriend of five months about the real reason she got divorced — she had an affair. Here's what she wrote to me:

Screenshot of DM

Yeah, I think you should tell your boyfriend about the affair. It sounds like this was an impactful, formative, life-changing event for you, and ideally, those are the types of experiences we should be able to share with a partner we love and trust.

a woman upset in bed

Now, to be clear, you shouldn't have to present this information to him with an excessive amount of shame or self-flagellation. You don't need to seek his forgiveness for this, or get him to absolve you of guilt. The affair was a significant betrayal, yes, but he isn't the one you hurt. So if you tell him, you don't owe him anything more than a simple, matter-of-fact explanation — which I hope he can hear with an open mind and heart.

I think you should just walk him through what happened, step by step, and stick to the facts: Explain how the affair unfolded, what you learned from it, what you regret about it, and how it changed you moving forward. Don't make excuses for your past mistakes, but don't feel like you need to make apologies for them, either — that's between you and your ex-husband. Just be open, honest, and straightforward about your experience. And be ready to answer some questions! It's fair enough if he has a few, as long as he can ask them with care and respect.

Keep in mind that telling him about this difficult chapter of your life should be a moment of closeness, not confession. It's about sharing a painful learning experience from your past — one that shaped you into the person and partner you are today. It's an opportunity to get closer to your boyfriend, to allow him to understand you on a deeper level, to let him see a part of you that's less perfect, and more human, than we usually get to see in the first few months of dating someone. The conversation may be difficult, but having it will be a positive, productive, relationship-building step forward for both of you. Remember that!

A couple holding hands

And here's a bonus reason to tell him about the affair: He's likely to find out anyway. If you two are in this for the long haul, he's bound to eventually ask some questions about your previous marriage, and why it ended. In the long run, I think you'll sleep better at night not having to worry about keeping this thing a secret. Get it out in the open, and then you can both move on with your lives.

a couple talking

For the record, I hope your boyfriend can receive this information without casting too much judgment. Obviously, it's not fun to learn that your partner has cheated in a past relationship. But it also shouldn't be a dealbreaker — especially when you can demonstrate, through your honesty and openness about the situation, that you've used the painful lessons you learned from that affair to bring yourself into a stronger, healthier place today.

At the end of the day, our goal in life should not be to find a partner who has never messed up in a relationship before. Such people do not exist! Instead, we should seek out partners who have the capacity to recognize their failings, reflect on them honestly, and grow from them. That's someone worth building a life with.

There's real strength in owning your mistakes, and being able to articulate — first to yourself, and then to others — how they've made you a better person. I hope this conversation can be an empowering one for you. Good luck.

That's all the advice I'm giving today, folks, but if you've got any words of wisdom for our DMer, share them in the comments! I'll be reading...

Want more advice and updates on previous DMers? Follow me on Instagram and Twitter (@StephenLC in both places). And if you want to submit a question to be featured in the column, DM me — just be sure to read the rules below first.