DEAR JANE: I’ve been hiding a terrible secret from my husband for 26 YEARS – the guilt is going to drive me crazy

Dear Jane,

I wed my husband 26 years ago this week – but for every one of those years, I have been hiding an appalling secret from him.

Six months before we got married, I got what I suppose you might call cold feet. 

We’d been together since I was 16, I’d never really had a relationship with another man, and it suddenly hit me that I’d never have that opportunity in the future once we were officially husband and wife. Nor, I should point out, would I want that opportunity. 

I love my husband, I’ve loved him for the entirety of our marriage. But back then I was young, I didn’t really understand the way the world works, that when you find love, you’re supposed to hold onto it, not run in the other direction.

But run is exactly what I did – straight into the arms of another man.

I’d been saving myself for marriage, which had always been my plan, and was something that my husband and I discussed a lot together. But something came over me in this other relationship, I got caught up in the excitement and the secrecy, and ultimately had sex for the first time with a man who was not my husband.

Dear Jane, I have been keeping a devastating secret from my husband for nearly 30 years – the guilt is eating me up but I fear telling him will destroy our marriage 

Eventually, I came to my senses and broke things off – about four months before my wedding. And I was lucky enough – or so I thought – that my husband never seemed to catch wind of what had been going on. On my wedding night, when we did have sex, I pretended to cry out in pain in order to keep up the charade.

Nearly 30 years have passed since then; my husband and I have welcomed two wonderful children, and we have lived an incredible life together. One that I hope we may continue for many years to come.

But the thing is, in recent years, the guilt over what I did has started eating me up inside. My husband often talks about our ‘special’ first night together, and how much it means to him to know that I was so in love with him, he was the only person I ever wanted to be with.

Every time he brings it up, I nod and smile, and usually try to shut him up with a kiss. But my insides are like a pit of tar. I feel horrible and dirty, and desperate to scrub myself clean.

International best-selling author Jane Green offers sage advice on readers' most burning issues in her Dear Jane agony aunt column

International best-selling author Jane Green offers sage advice on readers’ most burning issues in her Dear Jane agony aunt column

The guilt inside me just seems to grow with each passing day – and I feel as though I will burst if I don’t confess. Then I realize what telling my husband might mean and I just start sobbing. 

How can I have been so foolish as to think that I could risk my marriage and the life I’ve built for the sake of unburdening myself from this feeling of guilt?

Round and round in circles I go: tell him and risk him ending our marriage? Or live with the never ending feelings of guilt?

What would you do?


Hidden Guilt

Dear Hidden Guilt,

Happy 26th anniversary – what a remarkable achievement in today’s day and age. 

You and your husband clearly have a wonderful marriage, despite you carrying what you describe as an appalling secret.

Hidden Guilt, your secret isn’t that appalling. In fact, whilst not something to be recommended for all, given that you met your husband at 16, I can see how it would have made perfect sense to you as a very young, innocent woman, to experience sex with someone else.

I am sorry that the weight of this secret is still with you; it is high time that you now put the secret to bed. 

Whilst I do not condone secrets in marriages, you were very young, your decision didn’t lead to any children, and it all happened a very long time ago. The correct path forward in any difficult situation is always the one that causes the least pain to all concerned. 

Right now you are experiencing pain, but spilling the secret is only going to create more pain and havoc, and I cannot see what good it will do other than relieve you of your burden.

Let that burden go, and focus on your marriage to what sounds like a wonderful man.