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How to Apologize For Cheating on Your Partner

Three Parts:Preparing for Your ApologyOffering a Full and Sincere ApologyMoving Forward

Infidelity is a major betrayal, and there is no guarantee that your relationship can be saved after you've cheated. Some relationships can survive, however, and with work, can even be made stronger. Both partners can learn more about themselves, their values, and the importance of their relationship in their lives. The road to recovery is a two-way street, where both partners must be committed to learning from the betrayal, offering and accepting forgiveness, and recommitting themselves to staying together. Nonetheless, even though both partners must be involved, the journey begins with the one who cheated. If you've cheated, you will need to offer a sincere and full apology to your partner.

Part 1
Preparing for Your Apology

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    Determine why you cheated. The first thing to understand is that cheating often signifies that there is something wrong, or missing with the person who cheated. The goal is to find out what that problem is, so once you and your partner overcome the initial shock of your actions, you can decide how to best address the problem. Consider the following questions:
    • Are you feeling insecure or unattractive?[1]
    • Do you feel that something is missing in your relationship?[2]
    • Are you satisfied with your sex life?[3]
    • Are you (or were you, at the time of the infidelity) particularly stressed about some aspect of your life?
    • Even if it's the first time you've cheated, have you thought about it or wanted to cheat for some time now?
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    Determine whether you really want to stay with your partner. Based upon your self-assessment from the previous step, you need to give serious thought to whether or not you really are committed to staying with your partner.
    • You hurt your partner, and thus your partner deserves your apology, even if you will eventually decide to go separate ways.
    • If you decide to stay together and try to move past this betrayal, the road will not necessarily be smooth, so you shouldn't be willing to put your partner through that if you aren't fully committed.
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    Spend some time writing about your relationship. To help you figure out if you are interested in continuing your relationship, consider writing down your reasons: why do you want to stay together?
    • Try to be as specific as possible. Hopefully you do still love your partner—that should definitely go on the list—but it's fairly vague. What do you love about him/her? What do you enjoy about your relationship? How do you see your future together?
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    Understand what you are apologizing for. Obviously you cheated, and you're going to have to apologize for that. However, you need to let your partner know that you fully understand how and in what ways you hurt them. Be ready to express the specific ways in which you damaged your relationship.
    • You didn't just cheat: you betrayed your partner's trust, you destroyed their idea of your relationship, you (perhaps) embarrassed your partner, and you possibly put your partner at risk for STDs.[4]

Part 2
Offering a Full and Sincere Apology

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    Keep it private. You may be tempted to humble yourself publicly when apologizing to your partner. For example, you may think that your partner will be touched by your willingness to open yourself up to embarrassment and judgment by posting a long apology on your Facebook wall. All this does, though, is place the focus on you and make your private business public.
    • You should even think twice about doing things like sending bouquets of flowers or apology presents to your partner's workplace. This will only draw attention from his/her coworkers—they will want to know what the occasion is—and your partner may not want to discuss your relationship problems at that time and place and with those people.
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    Accept responsibility for your actions when you apologize. It's important that you understand why you cheated, but an explanation is not the same thing as a justification.
    • Even if there are underlying problems in your relationship (for which you both may be responsible), you alone are responsible for cheating. Your goal in this discussion is to make sure your partner hears you acknowledge your mistake.
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    Avoid using “if” language. You're not fully accepting responsibility if you frame your language by saying “I'm sorry if I hurt you,” or “If you hadn't turned me down so often I wouldn't have looked for a sexual outlet”. This sort of language will make your partner feel as though you are trying to shift the blame away from you.[5]
    • Instead of saying “I'm sorry if I hurt you,” acknowledge the fact that you are the direct cause of your partner's suffering: “My actions hurts you, and for that I'm very sorry.”
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    Be ready for hard questions. Whether your partner caught you in the act, uncovered the evidence of your affair, or whether you confessed, s/he will most likely have a lot of questions for you.
    • Your partner may want to know the details of your affair: how you met, how often you were together, why you decided to stray, whether or not you love the other person, etc.
    • If you shut down now and refuse to answer your partner's questions, you are creating a wedge between the two of you. This will lead to further distrust and hurts your ability to communicate openly and honestly with one another.
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    Answer honestly, but kindly. You need to avoid offering vague, elusive answers, but there's no reason for you to go into explicit detail about your hook-ups. For example, if you are asked what you found attractive about your lover, don't respond, “Well, Sam has the body of a model and the most piercing blue eyes I've seen”.
    • If your partner continues to press for details, you should be honest, but careful in how you phrase your answer: “I found Sam attractive, but that doesn't justify my transgression.”
    • You should certainly avoid comparing your partner to your lover when you answer your partner's questions. Don't say, “Sam is so much more open and giving than you”. This will only hurt your partner and of course deflects responsibility away from you.
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    Know that your partner may not be fully rational during this discussion. Even if your partner has known about your affair for some time before you make this formal apology, you should not expect (or demand) that the conversation be calm and rational. Emotions can be unpredictable, and you cannot dictate how your partner ought to feel about or respond to your apology.
    • If things get too emotional, you may need to give your partner some time and space to process before you attempt to finish offering your apology.
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    Offer your apology with no conditions attached. Because you hurt your partner, you owe them an apology regardless of whether or not they decide to stay with you or not.
    • You shouldn't decide to apologize only if they are willing to forgive you or take you back. Your apology is not sincere if there are conditions upon it.[6]
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    Deliver your apology without expecting to be taken back. You deeply regret what you've done, and you may think if you can make your partner see how sorry you are and how much you are hurting, they will take you back. This is only natural, but you can't go into this thinking that so long as you do everything right when you apologize, that things will work out well.
    • You can't control whether your partner will be able to forgive you, and even if they can, they may not be able to trust you again.
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    Let your partner know what you want. While you are not making your apology contingent upon your partner taking you back, it's perfectly fine for you to let your partner know that you hope to be forgiven or that you want the relationship to survive.
    • For example, try something like the following: “Pat, I know that my actions hurt you deeply and that I've damaged your ability to trust. For that I am so sorry. I hope that you'll eventually be able to forgive me, and I'm committed to working hard for as long as it takes to restore your faith in me. But even if you can't commit to that, I hope you can believe just how sorry and regretful I am.”
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    Listen to your partner. It's possible that after you've apologized to your partner, they will not want to speak with you at all, and if that's the case, you will need to respect their wishes. However, this apology isn't all about you—it is about and for your partner. If your partner wants or need to vent and express his/her feelings, then let them.
    • Make it clear to your partner that you hear them, and that you understand the extent to which you've hurt them. Do not interrupt your partner while they are speaking in order to try to justify or explain your actions
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    Show respect towards both your partner and yourself. Cheating on your partner was hurtful and disrespectful, and you are now trying to make amends. Listening fully and attentively to your partner is one way to demonstrate respect towards them. However, while it's very important that you allow your partner to be heard, you should not tolerate abuse from your partner.
    • Even though you were in the wrong to cheat, nothing justifies abuse, so be prepared to leave if your partner becomes violent or verbally or emotionally abusive.
    • If your discussions become too heated, try responding in the following way: “I understand why you are angry, but your language right now is not acceptable. Let's talk later –maybe it would help if we went to counseling together.”

Part 3
Moving Forward

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    Cut off communication with your lover. Obviously both you and your partner have been affected by your infidelity. Don't forget, though, that you've brought another person into your lives when you cheated. For your relationship to have any chance of lasting, your partner cannot fear that you will cheat again—with anyone, but specifically with this person.
    • Your partner may want to be involved with this step, for they may want the reassurance that you've really ended things.
    • You need to contact the other person, explain that your actions were wrong, and be clear that you will not continue to see them romantically.
    • Whatever you do, do not promise your partner not to see your lover again but sneak off to see them, even if only to say goodbye. You must be sincere when you vow to cut off ties.
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    Set clear boundaries with your ex-lover if you can't remove them from your life. It may not be possible to completely cut off ties with your lover if you cheated with a colleague or someone you absolutely cannot avoid. If that's the case, then you need to have a plan about how and when you will interact with your ex-lover.
    • Limit the contact you have with your ex-lover to the fullest extent possible. You may need to communicate professionally at business meetings, but you do not need to eat lunch together.
    • Be sure to offer your partner reassurances that the relationship will never again be inappropriate.
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    Keep communication lines open with your partner. There isn't going to be any way you can put a band-aid on this situation. In order to fix it, you're going to have to reprove your love, which means dealing with your partner's lack of trust in you over a long period of time. This may mean that you need to consent to having less privacy, and you need to be willing to share the details of your day with your partner.
    • For example, your partner may want to have access to your social media sites, phone, and email. Consider granting them this access; if you don't, your partner will think that you are hiding something. If you aren't willing to make this concession, then you should reconsider whether or not the relationship is worth saving (or consider whether or not it can still survive).
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    Give your partner reason to trust you. Quite understandably, your partner may have trust issues for quite some time. If you're just a few minutes late getting home, it may seem like no big deal to you, but remember that you are starting from scratch. You need to be fully reliable.
    • If you say that you'll be home by 11:00, then be home by 11:00, not 11:15.
    • Similarly, be willing to contact your partner if you're going to be late or if plans change, and if at all possible, be willing to come home early if your partner requests that.
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    Understand that you are in a new relationship. If your partner decides to give you another chance, you can't expect things to go back to the way they were. You are essentially starting over, and creating a new relationship together. You and your partner have both been changed by this experience, and you will have to learn to adapt to that.
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    Be patient. You cannot control how long it will take for your partner to be able to forgive you and move past your betrayal. Indeed, things may go well for a time, and then your partner may unexpectedly be angry and mistrustful again. If you try to move forward too quickly and demand that things go back to normal in a short period of time, your partner will not feel respected.[7]
    • If it is worth it to you to try to save the relationship, then you must be prepared to allow your partner to grieve on his or her own time-line, and you must also be willing to suffer set-backs.
    • You cannot control how long it will take for your partner to get over his or her anger and hurt, but you can control yourself: you can be consistent and reliable, and thus will demonstrate your remorse and commitment to your partner.
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    Be open to counseling. It's not absolutely necessary that you and your partner seek professional help in order for your relationship to survive this infidelity. However, there's very little chance that your relationship will be hurt as a result of going to counseling, and there's an even greater chance that your relationship will improve because of counseling. Thus, you don't have much to lose.
    • As a neutral (and expert) third-party, a counselor or therapist can provide a safe space for both you and your partner to express yourselves, examine your relationship, help you come up with a specific game-plan, and assess your progress.
    • By offering to go to counseling, you also send the message to your partner that you are fully committed to repairing the damage you've done and doing what you can to earn your partner's trust back.
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    Be an 'A' student at counseling. Of course, if you do go to counseling, you must be fully engaged in the process. It's not enough to just show up at the therapist's office once or twice a week but expect your partner to do all the talking.
    • Answer your therapist's and partner's questions fully and honestly, and give any proposed exercises or relationship homework your honest effort.
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    Protect yourself throughout this process. Even though you have done the hard work of admitting your mistake and working to save your relationship—which may require you to give up a certain amount of your freedom and privacy—be careful not to make concessions that fundamentally change who you are or violate your integrity.
    • If you feel that you are losing yourself in the process of making it up to your partner, or if you feel abused, it's time for you to reassess the relationship.
    • You may need to accept that it's time to move on, or if you haven't already, seek professional help.

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Categories: Cheating in Relationships