How to Repair a Relationship After Cheating

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You cheated on your partner, but your relationship does not necessarily have to end. Even though admitting infidelity to your partner will cause much heartache and anger, your relationship can survive if you both want it to.

But repairing a relationship after infidelity can only happen if you truly regret your decision to cheat. If you decide to confess to your partner, make sure you are doing it for the right reasons, not just to ease your own guilt.

Should You Save Your Marriage?

If you cheated on your spouse, you may wonder whether you can or should keep your marriage going.

Infidelity comes in many forms. Some people consciously or subconsciously use cheating as a way to end a marriage. Others cheat when seeking validation or fulfillment from an outside relationship. While others may be impulsive and take opportunities for immediate gratification. Regardless of the reasons, some relationships will be salvageable after cheating and some might come to an end.

There are a number of reasons why a marriage might not survive cheating. When the betrayal is too painful or when both partners are not committed to mending the damage, it is likely that the partnership will end.

Deciding the relationship is not salvageable after cheating can be a painful but necessary conclusion.

Ways to Save a Relationship After Cheating

There are steps you can take to rebuild your relationship if both you and your partner are willing to make it work.

Reflect on How You're Feeling

You'll want to take some time to yourself and process your emotions. Notice whether you feel regretful about cheating on your partner. Do you feel ready to be held accountable for your actions? Are you willing to invest the time to heal your relationship?

Is cheating on your partner something you feel you'll do again? Be honest with yourself. Getting in touch with your feelings can inform the emotional work you'll need to do if you want to make your relationship work.

Stop Cheating

If you are recommitting to your relationship, it's important that you not continue to cheat. In cases where the infidelity was fleeting, it may be easier to stop and cut ties. When ending an emotional affair, on the other hand, the process may be more difficult.

If the person you cheated with is someone you see every day, like a co-worker, you will have to establish boundaries with them. For instance, you may avoid speaking with them about anything that isn't work-related, and you don't socialize with them outside of work.

The person you cheated with might also have feelings for you. If they continue to pursue you, you will need to make it clear that you can no longer see them.

Accept Responsibility

No matter your "reasons" for cheating, you must accept responsibility for your actions and rebuild trust. Avoid putting the blame on your partner or on your relationship problems. Apologize to your partner.

Make a Decision

Do you and your partner both want to stay in the relationship? If you both want to stay together, you have a common goal. Make a decision knowing that you'll both have to commit to rebuilding trust and communication.

If you stay together, your relationship will be different moving forward. But you can build a new relationship. It will take time, but try to look toward your future together, not the past.

If your partner wants to end the relationship, you need to respect their decision. They may also need time and space away from you before they decide, and that's OK.

Be Honest

You must be honest, with yourself and with your partner, if you want to move forward. It's likely that you had to lie to your partner to keep your cheating a secret. Now is the time for transparency.

Be direct and open in order to help your relationship get to solid ground. Honesty in relationships is associated with lower conflict. But it is important for both partners to agree on being honest and to talk about their expectations.

Keep Your Promises

If you say you are going to be somewhere, be there. If you say you are going to do something, do it. Be dependable and don't break your promises. It'll be harder to rebuild trust in your relationship if you are not dependable and reliable.

Be Open and Patient

Be open to letting your partner know where you are, who you are with, and so on. Try not to hide things from them anymore.

It is normal for your partner to feel betrayed and be mistrustful. Acknowledge their feelings and work toward rebuilding the trust that you have betrayed. Don't expect your partner to trust you again right away. But, with time, you can try to regain their trust.

Communicate

Research has shown that not being able to talk to one another is one of the most commonly cited reasons why marriages fail. Be willing to listen and talk to your partner.

If you cheated because your relationship wasn't meeting your needs, tell your partner what those needs are. It's important you both understand each other fully and have a sense of what the other person needs.

Give Your Partner Some Space

It is OK to take a "time out" if emotions are running high or one of you is emotionally triggered. Sometimes, things need to cool down before you can be around each other again or talk about difficult topics.

Spend Time With Your Partner

Along with letting your partner have some alone time, you need to have together time, too. Plan date nights and, when your partner is ready, consider taking a getaway together.

Get Professional Help

In order to move past the cheating, you and your partner need to be open to discussing and identifying issues and problems in your own personal life and in your relationship. You might consider seeing a relationship counselor or a marriage counselor to help with that process.

Emotionally-focused couples therapy is a good modality for working through the pain of infidelity and to help rebuild new ways of interacting.

Some studies suggest that couples who experience infidelity and seek professional help often have optimistic results and are able to repair their relationships.

Be Willing to Forgive

In addition to being forgiven by your partner, you need to forgive yourself. You should take responsibility for cheating, but you don't need to carry buckets of guilt for the rest of your life.

One study looked at how couples rebuild their marriage after an affair. Researchers found that while the process was difficult, forgiveness played a critical role.

Why You May Have Cheated

Understanding the reasons you cheated can help you make peace with your own actions as well as inform the decisions you make about your relationship moving forward.

Being Unhappy in the Relationship

Be honest about why you cheated in the first place. Many people cheat because they're unsatisfied with the relationship. Maybe you fell out of love with your partner. It's possible you cheated because you were unhappy and wanted the relationship to end.

Or, maybe you cheated because you're not as committed to your partner as they are to you. You may decide you don't want to continue the relationship.

If you aren't feeling confident about putting in the work to repair the relationship and fully committing to your partner, be honest and tell them.

Seeking Revenge

Some people cheat because they are seeking revenge for something their partner did to them. For instance, maybe you are angry at them for betraying you. Perhaps your partner cheated in the past or crossed your boundaries. Victims of sexual betrayal often seek revenge in the form of infidelity.

Maybe you've felt neglected and lonely in the relationship, and you are seeking attention from your partner by having an affair with someone else.

Sexual Desires

By cheating, you might've been fulfilling sexual desires that aren't being met in your relationship. You and your partner can have an open conversation about your sexual needs—especially in a safe setting where you're both comfortable sharing, such as therapy.

However, there may be needs your partner can't fulfill. If you want to engage in sexual acts that your partner doesn't feel comfortable with, you have to honor their boundaries.

Personality Traits

Studies have found that people with certain personality traits may be more likely to cheat on their partners. For instance, people who are more impulsive tend to have a harder time avoiding temptation.

If you often engage in impulsive behavior, you might find it hard to use self-control in situations where you may cheat.

Your attachment style—the way you relate to other people—may also influence cheating. People with an insecure attachment style often feel a lack of love from their partner and have low self-esteem. You might seek validation by having an affair.

No matter what type of personality you have, you can still have a successful, monogamous relationship if that's what you truly want. The first step is being honest and understanding yourself better.

A Word From Verywell

You may have been unhappy in your relationship for a long time. Cheating usually complicates relationships, even if it felt good in the beginning. It is courageous to be honest with yourself and your partner. You can recommit to your partner, or you both may decide it's better to move on and end the relationship. Either way, accepting responsibility will help you progress.

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