How to Admit Cheating on a Loved One

Three Parts:Setting the ToneDelivering the NewsMaking Amends, Or Not

Cheating is a common phenomenon. Every year approximately 10 percent of married individuals admit to having an illicit affair. Those rates rise for couples under 35 years of age. [1] While some choose never to expose their indiscretions, other feel the need to come clean. [2] If you’ve decided to admit an affair, there are several techniques you can follow to help ease the delivery of this unwelcome news.

Part 1
Setting the Tone

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    Choose an appropriate time and place. Privacy is a must for this type of conversation. Pick a time and location that will allow you to carry on a long, uninterrupted discussion.
    • You will most likely be better off having this conversation at home in your living room than in a public setting such as a restaurant or café.
    • Try not to choose a time when your spouse is already stressed, such as right after he or she gets off of work.
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    Consider your spouse’s schedule and preferences. You may also want to check with your partner to be sure that the time and place you are considering for this conversation will work for him or her. Try telling your spouse that you have something important that you want to discuss and ask when he or she would like to talk.
    • For example, you might say, “I have something important that I need to talk to you about and I want to make sure that we will have enough time. When would be good for you?”
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    Stick with the truth. If you’ve decided to come clean, now is the time for the truth. Even if your partner asks painful questions, complete candidness is necessary. Try to be as straightforward as possible and do not leave out any details.
    • You may think that leaving out some of the details of your affair may be a good idea, but only offering up a partial confession will end up making you feel worse.[3] For example, if you cheated on your partner multiple times, then a partial confession would be telling your spouse that you only cheated once.
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    Listen to your spouse. While you have a lot to get off your chest, your mate will probably want to say some things as well. Avoid talking over him or her and simply listen. Showing respect for their thoughts and feelings will go a long way towards repairing the relationship.
    • Show that you are listening by leaning towards your partner and maintaining eye contact.
    • Remove all distractions to avoid interruptions. Turn off your phone, TV, laptop, etc.
    • Don’t interrupt your partner when he or she is talking. Listen until he or she finishes saying what he or she has to say.
    • Rephrase what your partner has just said to show that you were listening. For example, you can start by saying something like, “If I am understanding correctly, it sounds like you are saying….”[4]

Part 2
Delivering the News

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    Use simple, direct statements. Unnecessary details and long-winded stories will only derail the conversation. Stick to the pertinent details to avoid prolonging an already painful conversation.
    • “We met at work.” is better than beginning a long story like “The mailroom manager needed a new assistant. So she hired this new guy and began training him. . .”
    • Be ready to elaborate when asked, however. Don't skimp on the details if your mate wants to know more.
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    Respect their right to know. No matter how many questions your spouse has, patiently answer them as best you can. Being willing to talk, even about uncomfortable details, signals openness and a commitment to rebuilding trust. Therapists urge, therefore, divulging all so that the healing process can truly commence.[5] Further, if the shoe were on the other foot, you would expect the same patience and respect from them.
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    Don’t get defensive. Refusing to take responsibility or downplaying your mistakes will only inflame tensions. Your focus shouldn’t be on protecting yourself, but on being there to support your partner in their time of need. Relationship experts have concluded that defensive statements not only sabotage individual conversations but, given enough time, entire marriages too.[6] Avoid these types of statements:
    • "I didn't mean to hurt you!"
    • "It only happened once."
    • "You don't know what you're talking about!"
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    Do not defend the other person in the affair. This sends a clear signal to your partner that you have feelings for your former companion. Why else would you feel compelled to defend them? If you are truly dedicated to repairing your current relationship then you must make it clear that your mate is now number one.

Part 3
Making Amends, Or Not

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    Own up to your mistakes. Sincerely apologize for your wrongdoings. Feelings of guilt aside, seeing how painful this process is for your partner should be motivation enough to admit your errors. Science has show that those who are willing to offer up a mea culpa are also generally happier people.[7]
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    Explain why you're sorry. A heartfelt apology usually includes a statement that not only acknowledges your error, but also shows remorse for injuring the other person. Confessing aloud that you've wounded your spouse shows them their feelings matter too. If you're still at a loss for words in saying you're sorry, here are a few suggestions:
    • "I'm so sorry I lied to you. You did not deserve to be treated that way."
    • "This was all my fault. I apologize for hurting you."
    • "Lying was wrong and I'm sorry I violated your trust."
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    Suggest couples’ counseling. If you’re committed to making the relationship right again, suggest a joint therapist visit. Dealing with the fallout of infidelity can be a long and messy process. A trained counselor might be able to help you and your partner put the pieces back together.
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    Commit to total honesty. It will take a long time to rebuild trust. Being completely truthful with your partner from this point forward, however, shows that you're willing to work hard to make your relationship work.
    • You may need to agree to some terms that will help your partner to trust you again. For example, you might agree to check in more often when you are out or to allow your partner to have access to your phone, email, and social media accounts.
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    Share your feelings with your spouse. Therapists emphasize that in order for a relationship to truly heal after an affair, it requires sharing insights and feelings with your partner.[8] Take time to understand your motivations for seeking extramarital companionship and then share what you've learned with your spouse. Some useful questions to ask of yourself include:
    • "Was I feeling lonely?" "If so, why?"
    • "Why did I choose that person over my spouse?"
    • "What feelings did I have for my former lover?"
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    Expect rejection. While 70% of couples will go on to work on the relationship and try to stay together, some couples will not stay together after a spouse cheats.[9] Make sure that you are prepared for the possibility that your relationship may end.
    • You should also be prepared for anger from your spouse. Remember that your spouse has a right to be angry. Be willing to listen to your spouse as he or she expresses feelings of anger.
    • Keep in mind that you have had lots of time to prepare yourself for this discussion, but it may be a total surprise to your spouse.


  • Inform your spouse as soon as possible. Finding out from a third party is especially painful.
  • Your mate will want to know why you strayed. Answering this question might take some time, and countless hours in therapy, to uncover. So be patient.
  • Explain that your partner was not at fault. Your partner’s self esteem will take a hit when they hear the news. They might even begin blaming themselves. Take the time to emphasize that the mistake is yours alone.


  • Seek out a clean bill of health from your family doctor immediately. If you engaged in any risky sexual behavior outside the relationship and then had sex with your loved one, they deserve to know.
  • Everyone reacts differently to the delivery of bad news. Be prepared for your partner to scream, get physically violent or leave altogether. Manage your anger so that you can help them in their time of need.

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Categories: Cheating in Relationships