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How to Apologize for Cheating on Your Loved One? 13 Things to Consider 

Last updated on November 10, 2022 by Sian Roelofsz

Apologizing to your loved one for infidelity can be one of the most challenging things to do in a relationship. Cheating erodes your partner’s trust and confidence and causes massive emotional turmoil that may be close to impossible to recover from.

“Infidelity can have lasting impacts1 on partners and children the couple may have. Grief, brain changes, behaviors down the road, and mental health conditions such as anxiety, chronic stress, and depression can result.” 

That being said, people make mistakes. If you’re in this situation, where you need to learn how to apologize for cheating on your loved one, find the right words and methods, then continue reading. 

“According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, national surveys indicate that 15 percent of married women and 25 percent of married men have had extramarital affairs.”

How, when, and why you apologize to your spouse/partner will have a significant impact on the future of your relationship. You’ll likely only have one chance to ace the apology process, make sure you get it right.

What’s Considered Cheating in a Relationship? 

Typically, when one thinks of cheating, having physical relations (i.e. sex) with anyone other than your partner would be considered infidelity. However, there are also many ‘gray areas’ when it comes to infidelity and what your partner may/may not consider cheating. These gray areas can cause major issues in a relationship. 

Developing a level of intimacy - whether physical or emotional - with anyone other than your partner is considered cheating by most. But what about situations like lying about your relationship status? Or flirting with someone over social media? Or financial infidelity? Establishing where your boundaries lie might help avoid heartache.

Boundaries to consider when it comes to infidelity: 

  • Talking to and seeing exes
  • Flirting on social media
  • Exchanging phone numbers with someone whose intent is to meet up/chat
  • Lying about who you’re meeting up with
  • Discuss what sort of physical relations would be considered cheating i.e. is cuddling considered cheating?
  • Financial infidelity

After establishing boundaries regarding infidelity with your partner, overstepping any of them would be considered cheating. 

Understanding Why You Cheated so You Can Explain It to Your Partner at a Later Stage

Understanding the reasons behind your cheating is a big step towards your growth and development as well as the future health of your relationship with your partner.

I would suggest you sit down, write, and process where things went wrong and what led you to cheat. Talking to a professional could also be extremely helpful in unpacking all of your thoughts and emotions.

People cheat for many different reasons2 - i.e. out of anger or revenge, an unfulfilled sex life, falling out of love, commitment issues, or having low self-esteem. Identifying your issues/unmet needs is a critical part of the process of fixing things.

Once you’ve established where things have gone wrong, you’re able to rebuild and repair. Don’t be fooled, however, this isn’t going to be a quick and easy process. Learning how to apologize for cheating is an important step, but chances are, things won’t go back to how they were anytime soon. 

Apologizing for Cheating: How to Communicate It to Your Partner

1. Write a cheating apology letter

Offering an apology in person and hand-delivering a letter is the most sincere way to say sorry and show genuine remorse for your actions. Writing down your thoughts and feelings allows you to say everything you need to. It also allows your partner to read the letter over again, should they feel the need to. 

How to apologize for cheating and what to include in your apology letter

  • Admit to your wrongdoings 
  • Have empathy and show understanding for how your actions may have affected your partner
  • Show remorse and express exactly how sorry you are 
  • Ask your partner for forgiveness
  • Highlight how you plan on fixing things 
  • Promise to never cheat again

2. Avoid making excuses – take responsibility

avoid making excuses - take responsibility

Don’t make excuses for your behavior. Don’t shift the blame. Take full responsibility for your actions and admit to the terrible mistake you have made, regardless of the underlying reasons behind your cheating. 

After all, no one forced your hand in the affair or manipulated you into doing it. Committing adultery was your decision and yours alone. Own up to it! You will also need to take full responsibility for how your actions will affect your partner mentally and emotionally, and how your actions will affect the relationship. 

As tempting as it might be to try and justify your behavior, an apology letter is not the place to do so. And, shifting blame is certainly not going to get you the outcome you’re hoping for - so don’t go there. 

3. Cut all communication with the third person

Cutting all communication and contact with the person you had an affair with is the only option if you want to salvage your relationship with your partner. It would be best if you considered going as far as blocking them off of all social media. You will also want to avoid bumping into them in person, so avoid the places they frequent. 

Cutting contact before you apologize to your partner shows your commitment to moving forward faithfully. 

Cutting contact with the third person doesn’t mean you need to get nasty. After all, they didn’t force your hand in the situation. However, you need to put firm boundaries in place and make them aware of your intention to put the affair behind you.

4. Apologize without strings attached

Unfortunately, the outcome of the apology doesn’t lie with you. That’s something you’re going to need to accept from the get-go. You need to apologize without any expectations of the outcome. A sincere apology is one where you feel and show genuine remorse, regardless of whether or not your partner decides to take you back or kick you to the curb. 

You can probably expect a long and complicated road ahead if your partner decides to let you back in. You will need to rebuild trust, and that takes time and effort. You can also expect emotions to run high, irrational behavior/outbursts, and the need for reassurance from your partner. 

If your partner decides to call it a day, that is also something you will need to deal with and take responsibility for. 

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5. Give your partner space 

After admitting to having an affair, your partner will most likely need time and space of their own to process what’s happened, how they feel, and how they would like to move on. Give them the time and space they deserve. Don’t put pressure on them to accept your apology or to even talk to you immediately. 

6. Consider counseling

Counseling after an affair would be highly beneficial, regardless of the outcome your partner decides on. 

Seeking professional help may help both you and your partner navigate your emotions in the wake of an affair. It can also be extremely helpful for the two of you to get a better understanding of each other's actions and emotions from a neutral, third party. 

Should the two of you decide to continue with your relationship, a therapist can help navigate the long and bumpy road ahead, and lead you to an eventual positive outcome. 

“Infidelity isn’t rare; however, 78% of marriages survive infidelity in the United States, so there is reason to believe that the relationship can be saved3. While infidelity often feels like a marriage-ending event, it can be the beginning of building a much deeper, more intimate relationship.” 

If, however, the two of you decide to go your separate ways, therapy can help you unpack your emotions and better understand your reasons for having an affair. It’ll also help give you the tools you need to avoid making the same mistakes in the future. 

7. Your actions must reflect your words

Talk is cheap. Your actions need to reflect your remorsefulness and willingness to rebuild and repair your relationship. 

You will need to give your partner your undivided attention, be attentive towards their needs and emotions, and make them feel special through your words and actions. 

Small acts of kindness can go a long way - message them throughout the day to let them know you’re thinking of them, buy them fresh flowers, make them a cup of coffee in the morning, or handwrite sweet notes. Your efforts may seem fruitless in the beginning but it’ll slowly show your loved one that you’re serious about fixing things.

Being completely open, honest, and vulnerable with your partner going forward is also an important step in rebuilding trust between the two of you.

8. Tell the full truth

tell the full truth

When apologizing, you should admit to everything. Leave no stone unturned. Don’t exaggerate, and don’t hide any information either. Slipping up on details, or hiding any, will cause further mistrust and erosion of your relationship. 

It’s also important that you give all information at once and not in dribs and drabs. If you give the information bit by bit it’ll cause further damage to the relationship and make it feel as if there’s a never-ending stream of bad information. 

Lastly, be prepared to be interrogated by your partner. They might interrogate you from the beginning, or they might ask you ongoing questions as time passes and things come to mind. Be prepared to answer openly and honestly. Be aware, the truth will come out one way or another, whether from you or another source… rather it comes from you. 

9. Don’t wait too long to apologize for cheating 

You mustn’t wait too long to apologize for your wrongdoings. By waiting, you run the risk of being caught cheating and that’s sure to make things worse. 

If you don’t apologize immediately, your partner might also think you’re not genuinely remorseful or don’t care about their feelings. 

These are all factors you want to avoid. 

10. Be empathetic toward your partner’s feelings

After your loved one finds out they’ve been cheated on by the most important person in their life, they’re sure to experience a whirlwind of emotions. Be empathetic towards that. 

"In general, getting over infidelity follows the usual stages of grief: shock/denial; anger/defiance; bargaining; depression, remorse; and acceptance," explains Dr. Robert Weiss

Your partner will most likely act irrationally from time to time, will display insecurities/mistrust around your behavior, their self-esteem may take a knock, hypothetical situations/worst-case scenarios will run through their mind, and they may display anger towards you. The hurt you caused will be obvious. Take responsibility and be there for them through it all. 

11. Discuss reasons for your infidelity

At some point (not right in the beginning) you’re going to want to have an open and honest discussion with your partner about the reasons behind your infidelity. Discussing these issues, without shifting the blame, will allow both of you to identify healthy ways of moving forward, or not. 

There are many reasons why people commit adultery, namely: 

  • Unhappy marriages 
  • Boredom 
  • Unfulfilled sex lives 
  • Anger/revenge 
  • Falling in love with someone else
  • Porn/alcohol/drug addictions
  • Living apart for a long time
  • Low self-esteem

12. Be clear about how you’d like to move forward

You need to have a clear idea about how you would like to move forward in your relationship before apologizing and be sure to stick to it. If you truly want your partner back, make it known. If you have fallen for the other person, be upfront and honest with your partner about that. 

If you would like to work things out with your partner, clearly state how/what steps you plan on taking to fix things, in your apology letter. Make sure these steps are realistic and achievable and that you see them through. 

It’s important to keep in mind though, regardless of what you want, your partner might not want the same as you. If they decide to end the relationship/marriage, it’s something you will have to accept and come to terms with. =

13. Consider whether your relationship is worth fighting for

consider whether your relationship is worth fighting for

Most of the above information will be in vain if you don’t feel your relationship is worth fighting for. 

If you don’t truly feel you and your partner have what it takes to work through your infidelity and the underlying relationship problems that led to the cheating, I would suggest being honest about it and rather walking away. 

If, however, you feel that the two of you have the ability to work through everything and recreate a beautiful future together, then promise to put in the hard work and be fully committed to the road ahead. 

If you’re lucky enough to be given a second chance at love, do everything you can to regain trust, make your boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse/partner feel loved, and promise to never repeat the same behavior.

FAQs

How do you fix a relationship after cheating?

First and foremost you need to be remorseful and make sure your partner is aware of how sorry you are. You need to then identify and discuss the underlying reasons for your cheating with your loved one, and potentially seek professional help on the matter as well. Once these factors have been identified, you’re able to roadmap a way forward.

Be mindful that the road ahead will be long and challenging but there is always hope for a bright future.

Can a relationship go back to normal after cheating?

Yes, many couples are able to go on to have happy, healthy, and even stronger relationships than before. “Experts say it’s possible for couples to go on to have a happy relationship after infidelity, provided they’re willing to put in the work. “The couple can survive and grow after an affair,” says psychologist Paul Coleman.

What does cheating say about a person?

Cheating may serve as a red flag for underlying psychological issues i.e. low self-esteem or commitment issues. It may also indicate narcissistic tendencies and a lack of respect for others. Lastly, it may signal issues in your relationship that don't fall solely on the cheating partner’s shoulders.

It’s important to note that while these behaviors are red flags, with the correct help they can be changed.

Can you still love someone if you cheat?

Yes! Cheating is not necessarily a sign that there’s no love in a relationship, and it also doesn’t signal that your partner no longer loves you. Cheating can happen for many different reasons. It’s important to clarify these reasons with your partner and whether/not they still love you before deciding how to move forward.

In Conclusion

Rebuilding a relationship after cheating will require hard work, effort, and commitment. You will have to work hard at regaining respect and trust. Knowing how to apologize for cheating is essential if you want to possibly be offered a second chance at your relationship. 

As someone who’s been cheated on, hearing that your partner has been unfaithful is the worst thing possible. It causes a tremendous amount of hurt! However, not all hope is lost - many people can move past adultery, forgive their partners, and recreate happy futures together. 

If you enjoyed reading this article, comment below and give it a share. We appreciate your support and feedback.

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Sian Roelofsz
Hello, I'm Sian! I've worked in the media industry for the past 6 years and my love for writing, coupled with many interesting dating experiences over the past decade, has led me here. I hope to give you some fabulous dating tips that'll help you navigate the complex world of relationships and hopefully, lead you to 'the one'. I'm a single mama and now work from home in sunny South Africa. I've managed to go on enough dates to figure out what works, what doesn't, and what'll seal the deal!

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