So you’ve had an affair with someone who is not your partner. Perhaps he was exceptionally attractive, or perhaps she was sympathetic to your crazy schedule, or maybe you were completely bored – the reasons for cheating are endless.
Cheating has a variety of motivations, and many people are unsure how to go with their relationships in its aftermath. The silver lining is that an affair isn’t always a sign of the end of a partnership.
That isn’t to say that determining your next course of action is simple. Because every relationship is unique, there is no “off-the-shelf” approach to dealing with the aftermath – but these 20 things can help along the way.
1. End things once and for all.
Cut off all contact with the individual you had your affair with. If you think they’ll entice you again, block their phone number and social media profiles. Having them out of sight and mind can assist you in moving forward.
2. Stop lying.
Make no more excuses for the affair. Do not attempt to rationalize your adultery. Cheating has no place in the world. While there may have been multiple variables that influenced your behavior, you must remember that you decided to act the way you did.
3. Confess at your own discresion.
Before confessing to your partner about the affair, think your actions through. Consider whether you want to tell them the truth to alleviate your own guilt or if you believe it is necessary information to take the relationship ahead.
If it’s the former, telling them might be more selfish than helpful.
If you don’t intend to do it again, confessing can be very detrimental to your relationship. For your spouse, hearing about and working through the affair can be very painful.
… on the other hand, some argue that telling your partner is important since it allows them to decide whether or not to stay in the relationship. Telling them the truth allows them to see your openness, willingness to be sensitive and admit your mistakes, and dedication to a genuine and reliable relationship.
Although this viewpoint is divisive, sometimes it may be best to keep your affair to yourself. Most people don’t notify their spouses unless they’re caught red-handed, which is a personal choice. You must think about the nature of your affair yourself before you lay it open.
Understand that admitting an otherwise unknown affair (especially one that has ended) causes your partner significant distress. Although it may momentarily ease some of the burdens of keeping a secret, the risk of your partner suffering potentially irreversible emotional harm may not be worth it.
4. Give a sincere apology.
If you choose to come clean and tell your partner you cheated, don’t do so just to rid yourself of the guilt. Without a genuine determination to change, your confession is pointless. Instead, look at your apology as a chance to learn and develop from your mistakes.
Knowing why you did what you did and articulating it to your spouse is more valuable than a simple “I’m sorry.” You’ll never be able to guarantee that it won’t happen again if you don’t know what you did and why you did it.
5. Acknowledge your mistakes.
You were given a choice. You could have dissolved your marriage before having an affair, but you chose to cheat instead. The responsibility of that decision is all on your shoulders. Make an apology to your spouse.
Judging your partner for your own wrongdoings makes it harder for them to re-establish the trust that your marriage will need to withstand the affair.
Did you send naughty photographs, sexts, and love letters by email or phone to your paramour? All of this is verifiable evidence. Trying to deny the reality if your partner confronts you about it is just unpleasant.
If you’ve been caught lying multiple times, you shouldn’t try to hide the glaringly obvious truth. Instead, own up to your mistake and be ready to apologize numerous times.
6. Accept full responsibility.
Whether or not you choose to notify your partner about your mistakes, you must accept responsibility for your actions. It’s difficult to admit to yourself that you cheated on your partner.
Acknowledging that you made a mistake without making excuses is the first step towards change. If you wish to avoid cheating in the future, you need to first take responsibility.
Deflecting blame might make you feel justified in your decision to cheat, leading to you making the same mistake again.
7. Be open and patient.
Ask your partner to see if they want to stay married. If you both want to save your marriage, it’s a great sign – since it implies you’re both ready to work on it and that you both have the same goal in mind.
To do this, both of you must be determined enough to reestablish the trust and communication needed for your relationship to thrive again.
If you decide to break up with your current partner and start fresh with someone else, do so with honesty and love – and focus on your future together rather than the past.
8. Communicate openly.
One of the most widely reported reasons for marriage failure, according to research, is the partner’s inability to communicate with one another. Listen to and communicate with your companion and let them vent out their disappointment at the betrayal.
9. Get professional help.
It can be difficult to figure out what caused you to cheat and how to proceed from there. Fortunately, some professionals can assist with this.
A therapist can help you identify the patterns or underlying problems that led to your infidelity and help you decide on a course of action.
Your companion may benefit from therapy as well. If your partner has a safe space to process their emotions and vent about their feelings, they might recover from the ordeal much faster than they would’ve done otherwise.
Accept your spouse’s request to consult a marriage counselor. Refusing to support their initiative demonstrates that you aren’t serious about repairing your relationship.
You must be willing to talk about and recognize the challenges and problems in your personal life as well as in your marriage, and couples counseling can help you get past the agony of infidelity and create new ways of engaging with your partner.
While there isn’t much data on the outcomes of couples who seek therapy after an affair, the data in existence shows that those who seek professional assistance are more likely to have positive outcomes to their marriage after the affair and may be able to rebuild their relationship.
10. Let them know if you used or didn’t use protection.
If you put your partner’s safety in jeopardy by refusing to use condoms or other forms of contraception, it is your responsibility to inform them.
Also, bear in mind that condoms don’t protect against all sexually transmitted infections (STIs), so using them with other people doesn’t mean you’re genuinely protecting your partner from STDs.
11. Understand your partner’s feelings.
It’s just as crucial to listen to your partner’s response as it is to apologize to them. Understanding how the cheating impacted them will help you and your partner make an informed decision about what to do next.
Give them permission and encouragement to say what they’re thinking and feeling. It’s critical to comprehend how your actions affected them. What are the underlying emotions that you and your partner will need to address in order to move on from the affair?
13. Forgive yourself.
Some people confess their infidelity to their partners to be forgiven, but it’s also important to forgive yourself. Carrying that emotional load can limit your potential to be the best version of yourself, and as a result, a good partner in the future.
If you chastise and loath yourself for your decisions, your partner will do the same. Neither of you will have the chance to grow, love, or accept yourselves.
14. Figure out why you cheated.
Understanding the factors that motivated you to cheat can help you resolve the issues that prompted you to do so in the first place.
Most people cheat not because they are no longer compatible with their partners. They cheat because they experience negative emotions such as feeling confined, unwanted, overburdened, spoiled, and bored. They’re looking for a way out.
What an affair really does is bring attention to a need. Why did you need to cheat? It could be as simple as releasing anxiety and stress quickly. Or, it could be something more serious, such as a desire to reclaim a piece of oneself.
Self-sabotage can also sometimes take the form of cheating. In relationships, this usually takes one of two forms: Damaging a relationship that you already wanted to terminate or destroying a relationship that you think is too good to be true.
If this resonates with you, consider why you feel compelled to take severe measures when your relationship becomes difficult. Breaking the cycle of self-sabotage might be as simple as figuring out what’s causing it.
15. Assess your relationship.
Infidelity can sometimes be a symptom of deeper relationship issues, and understanding these problems can help you move forward in the healthiest way possible. It’s best to discuss things like whether you’d both want to know if the other cheated and what constitutes cheating.
If you haven’t already discussed these, your affair could be the catalyst for such a discussion.
For instance, you may feel the need to be in an open marriage. Discuss your needs with your spouse to see if you can both meet them. We can flourish as individuals inside a partnership if we put our true wants on the table from the start.
16. Check in with yourself and your partner regularly.
Communication is the core of any successful relationship, irrespective of its dynamics. Plan monthly check-ins with your partner to talk about how you’re both doing as individuals and as a couple so that crucial topics don’t have to wait until tensions are high.
Instead of dragging up past mistakes in the middle of an argument, discussing problems as they arise can help you both move ahead respectfully and effectively in your partnership.
17. Track your changes.
Journaling is a simple but effective approach for holding yourself accountable for your actions. It can also help you move forward more positively.
Writing down what you’re doing to improve the relationship with your husband or your behavior is a great way to turn over a new leaf. It can also be a smart approach to show your partner how hard you’re seeking to prevent cheating in the future.
18. Take time to grow.
Even if you want to keep the relationship going, taking time away from your significant other can be beneficial in the long term. You’ll have more time and space to prepare for round two and being a better companion.
If you promise never to cheat again and end up doing it again, it’s the equivalent of being recruited for a job you know you won’t be good at. Why would you go through the motions if you have no intention of following through? Take advantage of this time to work on yourself.
The Bottom Line
For a long time, you (or both of you) may have been dissatisfied with your marriage. Cheating is not the solution, because it will only make things worse – even if it seems nice at first.
It takes love and courage to see if you can keep your promises and undertake the effort necessary to restore your relationship – and move forward.