People in distressed relationships get stuck in negative patterns. These patterns sometimes influence a person’s decision to go outside of the relationship to get emotional needs met through an affair. These patterns didn’t cause the affair, though. The person who had the affair made a choice. It is important to acknowledge that the affair was a choice and not something that just happened. In other words, take ownership of your decision to have an affair and do not blame your partner for your choice.
If you got caught cheating, you may feel:
Guilt — with regret and remorse for the affair
Shame — about dealing with past decisions and their impact on others
Defensive — about coping with the injured partner’s anger and rejection
Loss — of trust, based on their own decisions
Uncertainty — about what to do in the present and future
Relief — from the lies and deception
Remember that your partner is hearing about the affair for the first time and is most likely shocked and traumatized.
How to build trust after an affair:
Tell the whole truth right away. Do not try to “protect” your hurt partner by only sharing a part of the story or minimizing the story. Share, “who, where, and when” and answer any relevant questions truthfully. Remember that if you only share some of the story immediately and then more comes out later in another disclosure, you risk re-traumatizing your partner and making healing more difficult.
Be forthcoming in the story. When betrayed partners have to snoop, dig and pull the information out of the involved partner, it only erodes trust.
Avoid details about sexual activities. These can create more obstacles and painful memories to overcome.
If you contact your affair partner or your affair partner contacts you, make sure that you tell your current partner and share everything that you have said. Disclose to your injured partner if the former affair partner tries to make contact. Even though this may be an incidental contact (even for a moment) share it.
Make your partner a priority in every way possible.
Have open conversations about the affair with the purpose of understanding the emotional impact of the betrayal on your hurt partner.
Express empathy for your hurt partner. Ask your partner to share how this has impacted him or her. Be a comfort to your injured partner.
Take care of yourself. This is a very difficult time for both of you. Therapy can help weather the storm.
Share some other ways you have coped with an affair in the comments.