A year ago I did something I’m still ashamed of and regret.
I cheated on my long-term girlfriend during a two month affair with another woman.
It was a mistake, and it brought up issues in my own self and marriage that are still going on.
I was blessed enough to be given a second chance. Here’s my advice for how to apologize for cheating on your partner and actually have it be sincere and well received.
1) Figure out why you did it
If you’d asked me why I cheated last year I think I would have kind of shrugged.
I was bored, to be honest. I also found my coworker’s friend really attractive.
I know that’s not a deep enough answer for most people, but it’s God’s honest truth. I saw her and was very attracted right away.
I knew it was wrong to cheat, obviously, and still cared about my wife, but I started to toy with the idea more and more.
Then we started trading a few flirtatious interactions, sending messages and a month later we were in a hotel room.
Two days later we were in a different hotel room.
Why did I cheat? The answer is sad to say but it’s because I took my girlfriend for granted.
2) Figure out why you still want to be with your partner
To apologize to your partner, you need to know why you want to continue the relationship.
My reason is that I still love my girlfriend and want to be with her.
It’s also that I don’t want a bad decision and moral lapse to define my future.
I was not a trustworthy or disciplined guy and I let that lead me into a really awful situation where I took advantage of a sexual opportunity to basically entertain and excite myself.
I’m ashamed of it, like I said.
If you want to apologize, you need to know why you did what you did and whether your current relationship really is something you want to stay in.
This is especially true if your current partner is threatening to break up with you. Unless you have a very strong love for him or her and are convincing, then the relationship is likely done.
So figure out why you want it to continue and be very sure of that reason before coming clean or explaining what happened if you were caught!
3) Cut off all ties with the person you cheated with
Before getting to the apology, you need to be 100% sure that you’re not in any more contact with the person you cheated with.
They need to be out of your life completely and irrevocably.
No saved numbers, no screenshots, no back channels or mutual friends you pass along messages to.
They need to be out. Cut off. You need to have fully moved on from that affair or relationship before you even think about apologizing to your partner.
If not and if you’re still in touch with them, then everything else on this list is basically useless and not worth doing.
To be serious about moving on from an affair and saying sorry to your partner means that you have truly left behind any contact with the person you were cheating with.
4) Talk to a relationship advisor
You’re going to need some prep before apologizing.
I personally talked to a relationship advisor at Relationship Hero.
This site has accredited love coaches who can understand difficult topics like cheating and know just how ugly it can get.
The love expert I talked to really helped me and walked me through my preparation so that I wouldn’t take the interaction extremely personally or get dragged down into a huge fight.
I admit I was skeptical about talking this out with someone, but speaking to a love coach was a very sound decision that helped enormously.
Check out Relationship Hero here if you want to have some assistance in dealing with how to say sorry for cheating and have it go as less horribly as possible.
5) Choose the right moment and place
Infidelity is one of the hardest experiences out there.
It’s a breach of trust that can scar people for life.
You don’t want to be talking about this kind of subject in a public place or on the spur of the moment.
One option is to write down a detailed explanation in a letter and give it to your partner.
This grants them the right to choose a time and place of their choosing to confront or talk to you about it.
It also allows you time and reflection to write out in detail about why you did this and what happened before discussing it.
If you opt to talk it out in person and not write it down, ensure that you have some privacy and space.
This kind of admission and apology can get very heated and it’s not something you’ll want the whole world gawking at.
6) Come clean completely
If you’ve cheated on your partner, it’s much better to come clean voluntarily than only to do so after being caught.
The first option shows bravery and courage. It’s about repenting and voluntarily admitting what you did.
However the cheating came to light, it’s important that you fully unburden yourself and don’t leave out the truth about it.
This includes definitely explaining why you cheated and not trying to cover your tracks too much or play the victim.
You may have been going through a hard time or been “stupid,” but saying it was a mistake over and over isn’t going to impress your partner or save her feelings.
The cheating happened. However it came to light, this is now your time to really be honest about it.
Start by assuming the relationship is over.
Don’t make it about you saving this relationship.
Make it about you talking to a person you (at least at one time) truly cared for, and tell him or her the real truth about your cheating, including how long it went on for and what drove you to it.
7) Apologize without conditions
There are two basic types of apologies out there.
The first is where somebody apologizes with strings attached or conditions. The second is where somebody apologizes unreservedly with zero conditions.
If you want to know how to apologize for cheating on your partner, you need to absolutely go for the second type of apology.
In practical terms, this means that you need to actually be willing to take the consequences of what you did, including the potential end of your relationship, being slapped or a crying and furious partner.
You’re not apologizing if your partner takes it well…
You’re not apologizing if it means you get a second chance…
You’re not apologizing if your partner is understanding and compassionate about it.
You’re just apologizing. Because you mean it and because you feel sick to your stomach thinking of what you did.
If you don’t feel truly bad? Don’t even bother apologizing. End the relationship.
8) Respond to questions honestly and fully
You have zero guarantees about how this interaction will go when you come clean and apologize to your partner.
You may opt to apologize by letter or verbally and at a time and place where you have some privacy.
Either way, once the conversation happens you want to be present.
Do not duck away as soon as you’ve said sorry or get angry and just refuse to say more.
Some people will also play the victim and act as if their apology took so much out of them that it’s not fair to now grill them about it or demand answers.
You’re the one who cheated.
However good your reasons were, you don’t get to decide what’s “fair” right now.
You’re in the hot seat and that’s just the way it is.
So the least you can do is at least be neutrally present and responsive about questions your partner has.
Even if he or she is done and going to break up with you, the least courtesy you can offer is to respond to their questions honestly and fully.
If you feel overwhelmed, that’s on you. It also speaks to the importance of choosing a time and place to come clean where you feel you have the energy and emotional resilience to deal with this.
9) Listen to your partner for real
Everyone reacts differently to being told they’ve been cucked or cheated on.
I was cheated on by one ex and said nothing. I just rolled my eyes said “f*ck this” and walked away.
My girlfriend started crying and then started cursing me out.
I stood there and took it. For almost an hour if I remember right.
I was listening and I heard what she said. The words stung like knife blades but I felt very sure that I had a real duty to hear her out.
You need to listen to your partner for real and you have to be prepared that he or she might say some things you find really hurtful or unfair.
You may feel extremely attacked and blamed and your instinct to fight back and insult or demonize them is going to be strong.
Resist that. Listen to what your partner says whether or not you think it’s reasonable.
They may say crazy stuff, but consider this as part of their venting process.
What’s more is that there’s no point in responding and escalating this cycle of conflict. If you do break up, so be it.
But when you’re apologizing is not the time to jump into interrupting or one-upping your partner.
Apologize fully. Spare no dirty secret and don’t try to weave in your justification or defense.
Sit down, shut up and listen.
10) Avoid easy excuses
I talked earlier about why I cheated: boredom and horniness.
I basically treated my girlfriend like she was a side piece.
The amount of disrespect and arrogance I had to have to do that makes me really worried about my strength of character.
But I’m also determined to move forward.
That’s why I avoided easy excuses.
I also was honest that purely physical excitement had been one of my reasons. I didn’t try to make it into this big deep issue.
I also made it clear that I definitely am still physically attracted to my girlfriend.
If you find that you’re not or you cheated because you truly don’t like your partner anymore, you need to come clean about that in the coming clean step that I pointed out.
It’s extremely hurtful to lose attraction for someone physically and then lie about it.
Be honest. It’s a horribly awkward conversation, I know, but if you don’t really feel a desire to sleep with your partner anymore you owe it to them to admit that.
If the reasons for cheating were more emotional or deep, get into that.
But if the reasons were that you’re not physically into your partner anymore, be honest about that.
If, like me, you wanted to have your cake and eat it too, then be honest about that!
There’s definitely a common theme here:
Honesty, honesty, honesty.
No matter what.
11) Take full responsibility
You have to take full responsibility for cheating.
An apology means nothing if it’s conditional and it means nothing if it’s all about you.
Your reasons for cheating may be very profound and meaningful, but that doesn’t mean you’re not responsible.
Cheating is called cheating for a reason.
You’re the one who did it, so don’t mix it with your other issues.
The incident of being unfaithful to your partner once or many times is what’s under discussion here, and you need to be an adult about it.
Trying to shirk the subject or get into all the extenuating circumstances will backfire on you and ruin the apology.
There’s a fine balance here however and it relies on the following:
You need to come clean completely about why you cheated and why you want to stay together.
You need to do so in such a way that it is 100% free from self-victimization or justification.
How to do this?
Explain as objectively as possible what happened and your reasons for doing this.
But do not get into the validity of your reasons.
You did what you did. You were thinking and feeling this at the time. You are extremely ashamed and sorry. You know there is no justification regardless of your motivations at the time.
You are extremely sorry.
12) Work through the issues together
Earlier I recommended Relationship Hero as a great resource to get you in the right space for apologizing.
If you are staying together or taking a break, now is an ideal time to also speak to a love coach.
They can help you figure out how to work through the issues together.
This may include time apart, but a love coach can really help in figuring out the balance of energy and attraction here.
There is a time to talk and a time to stay silent.
There is also a time to know when the energy has shifted and you can go back into trying to make this work.
It can be confusing to suss out exactly when the right time is and how the two of you can work through the range of difficult emotions that come up.
Try out speaking to a coach at Relationship Hero now, I highly recommend it.
I found the coach helped me sort through the mess in my head and heart and get down to what I really wanted to focus on in strengthening my bond with my partner.
13) Make amends in the real world
Saying sorry is one thing. Making it stick and making it real is a different matter.
How does one make amends in the real world for something like cheating?
Most of all, one does so by emotionally re-dedicating to the relationship.
That is to say that you devote true love and affection to your partner in what you do and why you do it.
You do not treat him or her well because you feel bad. That is a horrible thing some cheaters do, and it’s very unctuous and condescending.
Instead, you do kind and loving things because you really are feeling love and appreciation for them.
If you’ve been broken up with, you can still likely find one or two kind things to do for your ex, possibly even anonymously.
Is it a bit selfish to do good things for someone partly to feel better yourself? Honestly yes, but if you ask me a little bit of selfishness can be good.
If the whole world became more selfish about the great buzz you get from helping and loving others (especially without taking any credit or being recognized) we’d all be a lot better off, wouldn’t you say?
14) Take your relationship to the next level
Taking your relationship to the next level is an option if you are being given another chance.
To do this is a matter of being proactively invested in the relationship.
You’re not just a cheater who’s being shown grace, you’re a cheater who’s now choosing to go down a different road.
You’re not just avoiding cheating, you’re consciously choosing your partner again.
You’re not with them because of inertia or on autopilot, you want to be with them and have chosen to work through this.
If that isn’t the case, then you definitely have to do some soul searching and speak to a love coach to find out where your heart is at with the future of this love.
If you’re not genuinely committed then sooner or later you’re only setting yourself up for more heartbreak.
The least you can do is be fully in or out.
And if you’re fully in, commit to really being there emotionally.
Cooking special dinners, romantic dates, caring about your partner’s day are all perfect examples of this, as long as you remember that it’s not the outer actions that are the key here but rather the intention and love behind such actions.
15) Ensure it doesn’t happen again
No apology is worth anything if you’re going to reoffend.
You may be fully sure that you’re serious about not cheating, but grasping the gravity of the situation and knowing you don’t want to cheat again is different from really being completely and utterly committed.
I’ll explain what I mean…
I have a friend who’s cheated on her husband several times. She and her husband have a very up and down relationship, and he’s taken her back both times.
But she always says it won’t happen again and then it does.
How would you feel being lied to about something like this?
That’s the thing:
She wasn’t even necessarily lying. As she told me, she meant it 100% at the time she promised never to do it again.
But then she fell in the same issue again.
That’s why ensuring it never happens again is not just about meaning it when you say sorry.
It’s about actively constructing and having self-accountability in your life to make sure that you do not cheat again.
Easy to say, hard to do.
But if you want any self-respect to endure and any real core of your relationship, you need to be sure that you not only mean it when you say it won’t happen again, you actually ensure every day going forward that it does not happen again.
That’s theory vs. action.
Actions will always speak louder than words.
The road ahead
Cheating leaves a mark.
It undermines trust and makes the road ahead difficult and bumpy.
I won’t lie and say that my relationship is sunshine and roses, because it’s not.
What I will say is that my partner has truly accepted my apology and knows I will not cheat again.
It will take time to continue to rebuild, but I am committed to that process and look forward to giving my partner all the time she needs to heal and trust me again.
Can a relationship coach help you too?
If you want specific advice on your situation, it can be very helpful to speak to a relationship coach.
I know this from personal experience…
A few months ago, I reached out to Relationship Hero when I was going through a tough patch in my relationship. After being lost in my thoughts for so long, they gave me a unique insight into the dynamics of my relationship and how to get it back on track.
If you haven’t heard of Relationship Hero before, it’s a site where highly trained relationship coaches help people through complicated and difficult love situations.
In just a few minutes you can connect with a certified relationship coach and get tailor-made advice for your situation.
I was blown away by how kind, empathetic, and genuinely helpful my coach was.
Take the free quiz here to be matched with the perfect coach for you.
Click the above link to get $50 off your first session – an exclusive offer for Hack Spirit readers.