Keep it to yourself

I can't be the only person who feels a little ... icky about former rugby league star Andrew Ettingshausen's public self-flagellation over his affair with an ex-teammate's wife ...

When it comes to infidelity, I'm firmly in the camp of "what they don't know, won't hurt them" - not because I condone cheating on your partner but, if you're piss-weak enough to do it, don't then dump the pain on to your other half.

The cheat's bleating of "I just wanted to be honest with them", "I didn't want to lie any more" and "It wasn't fair to them" are completely valid but are really just another way of saying "I can't deal with the guilt".

It strikes me as reprehensible firstly to betray your partner, then to think you can absolve your pain and dishonour by shifting it to the other side of the bed and making your squeeze feel like crap.

Talking about it to a national women's magazine, humiliating your missus, and trying to pass it off as an act of contrition? Wow.

Fairfax columnist Bettina Arndt argued on Sunday that many high-profile men face temptations the average bloke does not - and men of all stripes may also be pushed into infidelity by sexless marriages.

Both of these are valid points but neither justifies a public confession which, in Ettingshausen's case, Arndt characterised as "brave".

I disagree completely - I think it's the antithesis of bravery.

There are three reasons people "confess" to infidelity.

1. They are gutless and can't deal with the guilt.

2. They want an excuse/catalyst to break up with their partner.

3. They get caught (which usually results from the first two).

In my books, reason number two is the most legitimate because people seem to like nice simple answers to complex problems and "they cheated on me" is far easier to process than "they fell out of love" or "they're not attracted to me any more".

People rarely break up for one reason, just as plane crashes rarely happen for just one reason.

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell says the typical aircraft accident "involves seven consecutive human errors ... the result of an accumulation of minor difficulties and seemingly trivial malfunctions" and I reckon you can apply the same explanation to most relationship breakdowns.

A bunch of things stop working between a couple, which is often why people choose to cheat and the discovery of this fact is simply the relationship's wing clipping an icy mountain ridge and exploding into flames.

But when the cheat instead initiates the "I have to tell you something" conversation because they want to "clear the air" and "start fresh", well, that's just serving the other person horse shit with a fashionable salad dressing splashed on top.

If you know with certainty your partner will leave you because of your infidelity, you're confessing simply to end the relationship and feel better about yourself that you were honest.

However, if you know they are the type to forgive you, I'm betting there's a part of you that also thinks "I've got the upper hand", "they won't leave", "I can get away with it".

So not only are you a cheat, but you're a coward and an emotional weakling, unable to suffer for your own misdeeds.

Sam de Brito's latest novel Hello Darkness is in bookstores now. You can follow him on Twitter here. His email address is here.