I had a friend ask me this question some time ago and we tried to talk through it but ended up still stumped. The story went: if there is a husband and wife in a happy marriage but the husband goes away on a business trip, maybe has a little too much to drink or just has a lapse in judgement, and has a one-night stand with another woman and knows it was a morally wrong act does he have the obligation to tell her even though it will devastate her and potentially end her marriage? Or should the husband keep quiet and live quietly with the shame he has brought on his marriage? If an immoral act has already been committed does it do any good to be truthful about it and bring further harm to others, as would happen if the wife were told? It just seems that if it is immoral to do harm to others than telling the wife might just be as immoral as the act of adultery.

Whether an act is moral or immoral will vary depending on the moral system that's assumed. For example, some people think morality is matter of doing one's duty, while others think it is a matter of the best overall consequences, or of building a virtuous character, and so on. I'm not suggesting that all of these moral systems are equal, but they do lead to different answers, and which system is better is a different question (a meta-ethical question) than whether a given act is moral or immoral.

That being said, most moral systems would recommend the husband in this scenario not tell his wife. Confession may be good for the soul, but it's not an end in itself. It's a means to something else of moral worth: duty to God, perhaps, or character-building, or good consequences. In the absence of these ends, confession seems to be a rather selfish act.

One consideration in assessing the morality of this confession would surely be whether the wife ought to know: does she have a right to this information? Is it a right she would waive, given the chance? Is she more wronged by the act itself, by having to face the act, or by not having the information she needs to make a decision about continuing the marriage -- or about her own health-care needs, given the prevalance of HIV and other disease?

Another consideration suggests itself from the scenario you draw, in which the husband's act seems not to have been a fully autonomous one. Most moral systems don't ascribe full responsibility (and therefore shame) unless the act is done deliberately and with full awareness. He may be responsible (and therefore shamed) for getting himself drunk in a vulnerable situation, but not necessarily for the act that followed.

As a married woman with a particular view of marriage (who happens to make a living teaching ethics), I personally would want to be told. I would be devastated, yes, but I would be more devastated to have my marriage supported by a false understanding. We'd work through it.

I can well imagine someone else might disagree.

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