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Guilt and shame

Community Member

I had some minor anxiety issues as I approached my thirties, but always seemed to pull myself out of it.

Then, two years ago I went overseas for a family occasion, leaving my wife and children in Australia. I got very drunk one night and took drugs, and had a one night stand with an old family friend. I couldn't believe what I had done. I never believed that I would ever behave in such a way.

 I agonised for days about whether to confess, and decided to stay silent when I got back for the sake of my young children. My marriage (and life) would be over.  The other woman has assured me she won't say anything, and has been good to her word. She regrets it as much as I do.

The last 2 years have been really hard. I've had counselling, am on antidepressants, and have been slowly improving. But every so often I just crash and burn. Anxiety sweeps over me, I pour sweat all day, can't concentrate, leg shaking constantly. I took up smoking again in the hope I get cancer and die. I feel so guilty and worthless on many days. Today is one of those days.


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14 Replies 14

white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi NickyV

It's definitely a case of avoidance is better than cure. But you know that now. The guilt and shame you are suffering now is testimony to your true character because I'm sure many wouldn't batter and eyelid over such an event.

All I can say is what I would do in the same situation. I'd keep it to myself. That in no way is a reflection on my marriage etc just what I'd do if I was you.

I do think time plays a large part in our lives and we try for the quick fix, and expect it all to blow over or to get answers soon so we can move on. Give it a couple of more years IMO.

So strategies should be reinforced in your mind as to future situations when you are going away. 1/ don't get drunk at all! 2/ Don't socialise for long periods with other people that could lead to an intimate period.

Your act was a mistake. There is a good percentage of couples whereby one of them has affairs or hires prostitutes to satisfy themselves and the other party never finds out. That activity is not a mistake. It's planned and often continuous.

So falling short of endorsing what you have done please try to move on from it because you cant change it now, its past. Place your children first as you have already expressed and enjoy your family.

Tony WK

Community Member
Hi Nicky.  I think your shame and guilt says enough for you to know that what you did was wrong.  If you want judgement and 'telling off', you've come to the wrong place.  You were right not to tell your wife, why hurt an innocent person for something they didn't do.  You have to learn to put it behind you, maybe 'venting' here is enough to help.  Constantly beating yourself up is counter-productive.  The way you're acting your wife will be asking what's wrong with you.  Have you tried talking to a priest, no joke, that might help. 

Community Member

Oh NickyV, you have gotten yourself in a pickle havent you?  I'm sorry that you are still suffering for an indiscretion that occurred while you were drunk and under the influence of drugs.  In other words not in your right mind.  I admit that I do feel a little sorry for you, as it sounds like it is not something you would normally do.  And thats why you are feeling so guilty and ashamed of it all now.  Do you think the anxiety is because you think your wife may one day find out what happened from your family friend?  People often say they are sorry for something, but in reality they're only sorry if or when they are caught out!

Perhaps it may help you if I tell you my own story which may shed light on how your wife may react if you chose to tell her one day.  Keep in mind that its far better for her to hear it from you than to discover by accident.

I was in your wife's shoes about 8 years ago.  My husband and I were happily married (10 yrs at the time) and our sex life has always been good.  He travelled overseas a lot on his own or with some of his ex-service friends.  It never occurred to me that he may be unfaithful, and I saw no signs.  Then one day a few weeks after his return from one of his trips he came to me and told me that I needed to go and see my doctor for some tests.  He had been having some problems with a rash and had seen his GP during the week.  After some tests his results came back for an STD.  If it weren't for that, I would never have found out. This resulted in the need to discuss how he had contracted this STD.  In the end he finally admitted to a one night stand.  Naturally I took it really hard and was devastated.  But I loved him and he assured me that he loved me and that it wouldnt happen again. He threatened to kill himself if I left him.  I gave him a second chance, trying to forget the pain it had caused me.  

I gradually regained my trust in him and I thought things were back on an even keel.  Then about 2 years ago I found out, again purely by accident, that he was once again 'playing up' with at least 2 women. I know now that it isn't in his nature to remain faithful to one woman.  He sees sex with anyone he choses as being his right.  He is after all a narcissist. 

I wonder if I'd be better off not knowing, and been happy in my ignorance?  Your situation may be different in that you may never digress again. I hope that is the case.  But I think from your post that it would take a load off your mind to confess.  xx

Community Member
Dear Sherie.  While I totally understand where you're coming from with a narcissistic, unfaithful husband, Nicky's situation is totally different.  He doesn't come across the same way your picture of your hubby does.  You said your hubby's actions show he is not capable of being faithful.  Nicky's indiscretion which is two years ago is still 'eating' him.  If he had the same tendencies as your hubby, he wouldn't have posted here, guilt ridden.  He would've laughed it off and said, these things happen, it doesn't mean I don't love you.  If Nicky tells his wife, it could destroy what he's been trying mentally to repair for the last two years, and for what?  I honestly doubt he'll ever repeat what he did, if he does, then, maybe his wife should be told.  I think, after two years, if he had contracted any sort of problem, it would've shown by now.  Perhaps a visit to his G.P would ease his mind in that department, but if there's no on-going medical problem, leave well alone.  If there is a problem from what happened, the G.P would be the best person to help him.   As I said, I totally understand how you feel, but each situation differs, as does each person.       

Community Member

Hi Pipsy. I appreciate your comments, and totally agree with you that everyone's situation is different.  I also agree that NickyV's disgression appeared to be out of character and that he has a genuine remorse for what happened.  I do hope I managed to convey that in my post above.  

I just thought it may help him to have a wife's perspective on the situation.  I dont believe that I suggested he should confess to his wife?  If I did, then that wasnt my intention.  But I did want him to understand that if there was the slightest possibility of his wife finding out, then it is very important that it be him to tell her, and not for her to find out from anyone else.  At least if the confession comes from him, then she will be more likely to believe that it comes from genuine remorse and a desire that it not happen again.

Obviously the decision on whether or not to tell her, has to be his.  He knows better than I do what the repercussions are likely to be.  For the sake of his wife and young children, and more importantly his own peace of mind, he needs to resolve the situation somehow.  Whether that means telling his wife, or confessing to a priest as you suggested, then that is his call.

NickyV - I understand your feelings of guilt, and you have obviously paid handsomely for this one time indiscretion. You are very plainly NOT a worthless human being.  You obviously care very deeply for your young children and your marriage and are trying very hard to do the right thing to keep everything together.  But if your anxiety and wish to die are anything to go by, then you are not coping very well.  

I sincerely hope you can resolve something very soon so that you can start to recover mentally, to enable you to continue to be a supportive and caring husband and a great Dad.  

Hopefully some of the suggestions throughout this thread, together with any 'offline' assistance offered, will help you to do that.

I wish you well in every way ..............  xx

Community Member

Hi NickyV,

Only you can know whether it's a good idea to tell your wife or not. On one hand, the prospect of losing your wife and kids must be terrifying, on the other hand, the shame is literally eating you up inside. At the end of the day, you really need to be able to forgive yourself to be able to move on. Being such an honest person, maybe that's not possible without getting the forgiveness of your wife first - or as others have said, maybe not knowing is kindest thing for her. Only you know yourself and your wife well enough to know what's best.

Community Member

NickyV, like everyone else here I have been fixated on your indiscretion and not really looked further.  It is kinda hard to overlook that!  But reading back through your post, I think the more relevant issue here is that you, like many of us here, suffer from anxiety.  I note that you also had anxiety prior to 2 years ago, but was able to manage it better.  So your ability to cope has taken a hit.

It is good that you have experienced some relief overall from your anxiety with the help of counselling and medication. Those of us who suffer from anxiety can all agree that the severity fluctuates from time to time, and obviously during periods of added stress it is definitely worse.  In your case you presently feel you have 'crashed and burned', and I can relate to that.  The symptoms of severe anxiety can be extremely debilitating and distressing as you know. Has the counselling occurred recently or prior to 2 years ago?  If recently, did you discuss what happened, and did it help to get it off your chest?

You may not get a lot of opportunity for regular exercise or sport in your busy work and family life, but exercise can be a very important factor in reducing anxiety and improving mood.  Are you able to fit something into your life?  Perhaps something that the whole family can become involved in?  It doesnt have to be a formal exercise program, it could be a daily walk.  Take the wife, the kids (and the dog?) for a walk in the park or along the beach or something.  Exercise is a distraction that can get you out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed anxiety. Regular exercise has also been shown to be beneficial in helping to keep anxiety from becoming worse again once you are back on track.  So it is worth maintaining an active lifestyle even when you are feeling okay again.  It may help with the frequency and severity of recurrences of the particularly bad times.

If you are to recover however, you need to learn to forgive yourself for what happened.  Just keep reminding yourself that it wasnt the 'real' you that committed that indiscretion.  It was a you that was badly affected by drugs and alcohol.  How can anyone else forgive you if you dont think yourself worthy of forgiveness?

Give yourself a break, you are not a bad person.  You will find a way through this, so try to be positive.

Take care NickyV.  xx

Thankyou all for your responses. They have given me some real food for thought.

 Since I went to the doctor just after it happened, I started seeing the counsellor, and he also advised me to start exercising. I have been seeing a PT weekly ever since, and it does help. The more I think about it, I just think that I have had a huge relapse. I'm concerned the meds I'm on are no longer working. I have an appointment with the doctor again this afternoon to discuss.

My wife did notice, all that time ago, that something wasn't right, and she's been very supportive throughout the process - which makes the guilt worse sometimes.

I'm just praying that it starts to get better again soon.

Thanks NickyV for getting back to us.

Hopefully your GP will have some solutions for you when you see him/her this afternoon.  It may well just be a matter of a slight adjustment to your meds, and then you will be back on track again.  I hope thats the case.

I pray too, that things get better for you real soon.  

I have confidence in you -  you're a good man.   We all make mistakes and need to be able to forgive ourselves.

Good luck     xx