Infidelity has caused many hurts and has ruined many relationships, but it isn’t impossible for couples to survive it, learn from it and thrive, especially if both parties are willing and committed to work on their relationship.
You’ve cheated, but you realize you don’t want to be unfaithful anymore and want to work on your relationship with your partner. There’s really nothing you can do if he or she decides to end the relationship, but if by some miracle they want to stay with you, the road to recovery will require hard work. There’s no guarantee that your relationship can be saved after an infidelity, but some couples survive, and their bond becomes even stronger as they learn more about themselves, their values, and the importance of their relationship. Both of you must be willing and committed to learning and moving on from the betrayal, and offering and accepting forgiveness. The injured party needs to learn to trust the other, while the betrayer must patiently and sincerely earn that trust.
Both parties must be involved in the process of healing and restoration, but the one who cheated must take the first step.
There is really no good reason to cover up your infidelity. If you really want to move forward in your relationship with your partner after you’ve cheated and keep on the straight and narrow, you will need to be completely honest with him or her from now on. If your partner finds out on their own, that could damage your relationship even more than confessing can. Alternately, if you don’t tell your partner about the infidelity and you aren’t found out, what’s to keep you from cheating again, knowing that you got away with it once? Yes, your partner will be furious with you, and you need to accept that and prepare yourself for it. Own up to your wrongdoing and accept responsibility for your actions. It is very likely that there are underlying problems in your relationship with your partner and you both may be responsible for it; however, you are the one who cheated and you need to acknowledge this fact.
Do it right.
This might come as a surprise to some people, but there is a right way and a wrong way to come clean and apologize to your partner. While it may be easier to confess or apologize via email, text, or over the phone, this is the absolute worst way to handle it. You might also think it’s a good idea to bring her somewhere public to minimize the chances of her blowing up at you, but it would be better to talk to her somewhere she can feel safe and comfortable to express her feelings, whether she wants to cry, rant, yell or all of the above. Be genuine in your apology and use your own words – not the lyrics of a song or quotes from a book or movie. Tell her how you feel, how much you regret your actions, and how badly you feel for hurting her, but refrain from being melodramatic. If you are sincerely repentant, your partner will feel and hear it in your words. If your partner says they want to be left alone, respect their wishes. Give them time and space to process what you said and let them go through the stages of grief that such an admission entails.
Answer your partner’s questions honestly but kindly.
Expect your partner to ask you questions you will find difficult to answer, such as why you cheated, who you cheated on them with, how often you were together, how long the affair lasted, and whether or not you loved the other person. You need to honestly answer your partner’s questions, but you don’t need to go into intimate, explicit detail about your cheating. Carefully phrase your answer if pressed for more details (e.g., if asked what you found attractive about the other person, don’t reply with, “She has a gorgeous body, fiery red hair, and green eyes I could lose myself in for days.”) Also, whatever you do, never compare your partner with your lover (e.g., “He listens to me more and is much more open with his feelings than you.”)
Tell your partner what you want.
Let’s get this straight: you are coming clean and apologizing but not with the expectation that you will be taken back. The things you are doing now are not contingent upon your partner agreeing to take you back because you are not in a position to demand anything from your partner. However, you can humbly let your partner know that you hope they will somehow and someday find it in their heart to forgive you and allow you to prove you are willing to work hard to regain their trust.
Prove you’re committed to changing and working things out.
Admitting your mistake, saying you’re sorry, and telling your partner you are going to change are all good but actions speak louder than words. It should go without saying that your commitment to change starts with breaking it off with the person you cheated on your partner with and ceasing all contact with them. Delete the person’s number from your mobile phone, remove them from your social media, and never see them again. Because you hurt your partner, you will need to deal with the consequences of your betrayal. There will be good days and bad days; your partner will be triggered by seemingly innocuous things so you will have to reassure your partner that you still love him or her, that you are committed to your relationship, and won’t betray them again. You need to be honest, reliable, consistent and patient with your partner in order to regain their trust. Your partner may have trust issues for a while, so you need to prove that he or she can rely on you.
Caveat: You should show how genuinely remorseful you are and that you truly want to win back your partner’s love, trust and affection; however, you shouldn’t be made to feel like a punching bag. You did something wrong, but that doesn’t give your partner the right to attack or abuse you. You shouldn’t feel like you are losing yourself, that you need to give up all of your privacy, or allow your partner to control your life just to appease them.
Consider going to counseling with your partner.
This isn’t an absolute requirement in order for your relationship to survive infidelity. However, it offers a greater chance of successfully hurdling the betrayal, as well as other underlying issues. This goes especially for married couples. A professional and neutral counselor or therapist can provide a safe environment for you and your partner to examine your relationship and express your feelings. The counselor can help you come up with a strategy for overcoming the issues in your relationship, but you need to make sure that you are fully engaged in the process by honestly answering questions asked by the therapist and your partner, and giving your best effort towards any exercises or homework assigned by the therapist.
Understand that your partner might not want to take you back.
Even though you have apologized, this won’t automatically mean that you will be forgiven or that your partner will take you back. In fact, it is entirely possible for your partner to forgive you but choose to move on with their life outside of a relationship with you. You need to prepare yourself for this possibility, and accept and respect whatever your partner decides to do.
Yes, you made a serious mistake and hurt your partner. You need to examine why you cheated, the consequences of your infidelity, and how you can make sure not to repeat the same mistakes. However, rather than beat yourself up for the way you acted and behaved, you need to learn how to forgive yourself. This doesn’t mean that you are not taking responsibility for your actions, or that you don’t need to work on changing your behavior. What it means is that rather than focusing on your guilt and letting it dictate how you live and how you relate to your partner, you are focusing your energy on working towards healing your relationship and changing your bad habits.