How to Help Your Partner Forgive After an Affair

Did you cheat on your partner but you both want to stay in the relationship? Do you want to help your partner learn to trust you again but you don’t know what to do? This post is about how to help your partner forgive after an affair.

For many people, being cheated on is one of the most painful betrayals they can experience, so it will likely take time for your partner to forgive you and learn to trust you again. Your partner has their emotions to work through, but you can act in ways that make moving past the affair easier for them.

The most meaningful way to do this is by showing that you’re committed to being honest, that you deserve to be trusted again, and you’re dedicated to creating a better future together.

Be open and honest with each other

Have you been honest with yourself and identified why you cheated on your partner?

Even when people do things they know are wrong, they always give themselves a justification, even if that justification is as simple as telling yourself you don’t care about the consequences. People do this all the time then they tell themselves they don’t need another burger or slice of cake, but then in a second they decide that they don’t care about being stuffed or putting on a little weight and take more food.

You could have been feeling lonely, bored, or were craving something new and exciting, and you went outside of the relationship to resolve these feelings instead of being honest, with your partner and yourself, and saying that something was missing.

Understanding your motivations isn’t to justify what you did or shift blame on to your partner, but to identify what you wanted and to avoid making the same mistakes in the future.

When your partner asks why you cheated and wants details about what happened, it’s important to be completely honest. The truth may be ugly and hurtful, but lying about it – even to spare your partner’s feelings – can only cause more problems and continues bad habits.

However, be mindful about how easily your partner can be hurt during these conversations. Honesty is the best antidote to dishonesty, but it isn’t an excuse for being cold, callus, or insensitive to your partner’s feelings.

You also have to give your partner space to be honest as well – they almost certainly have a lot of painful emotions and unkind thoughts that need to be processed, and part of that process will likely be venting them.

You could be thinking that if your partner wants to stay with you then they can’t be too badly hurt but this isn’t true. There are all sorts of painful emotions they could be feeling while telling themselves awful stories about what your actions say about them. Being cheated on could make your partner feel unlovable, unworthy of respect, ugly, incompetent, like a failure, ashamed, and much more. They might say things you think are unfair, but your partner needs the opportunity to let you know how you hurt them.

Rather than thinking of your partner talking about the past as a way to hurt you, use what they’re telling you to learn from your mistakes. If you don’t understand how what you did affected your partner, you can end up hurting them again in the same way. Ask open-ended questions to learn as much as possible. If you’re not sure you understand, be honest and tell them this so they can try explaining themselves in a different way. If you don’t know what to say when you’re confused, just ask “Can you tell me more?”.

In order to be trustworthy, you have to give up telling any lies, even when the intention is to please your partner or avoid a fight. Partners need to be honest with each other and speak up when they’re unhappy, hurt, frustrated, disappointed, as well as about what makes them happy.

If being honest is difficult for you or your partner, or you’re both struggling to stop hurting each other, you may benefit from working with a professional. Working with someone neutral can make challenging conversations easier and help you and your partner focus on finding solutions.

Take responsibility

Being honest includes taking responsibility for your actions. If you don’t accept responsibility entirely, you’re not recognising that you consciously made the decision to act in a way that was unacceptable.

If you make any excuses, give justifications, or minimise what you did and the harm it caused, you’re distancing yourself from the impact of your behaviour, which is sending your partner the message that they’re overreacting or that you’re not fully to blame; this means you’re resisting change so it could happen again. You’re also sending yourself the message that you’re not fully in control of your actions and are instead controlled by circumstances and how other people treat you, which is a disempowering perspective.

Give a genuine apology

You need to tell your partner you’re sorry because until you’ve apologised, you’re not taking responsibility for your actions.

If you haven’t apologised yet, why not? What do you think apologising will cost you? Do you blame your partner for your actions? Until you apologise, it’s unlikely that your partner will be able to forgive and trust you again.  

Apologising requires understanding how your actions hurt your partner, regretting the pain you caused them, and committing to not repeating your mistakes. But an apology takes more than words. You need to show that you regret what you did and you won’t do it again by acting in ways that demonstrate you’re committed to the relationship. If you’re not willing to change, your apology is another lie.

When you regret your actions, you goal should be to avoid repeating them, which requires changing your behaviour. Apologising for the same things over and over is a sign that you haven’t learned from your mistakes.

Develop a clear picture of what the relationship was missing, what needs to be changed, and what needs to be added to the relationship to be happy together H2

You and your partner need to learn to trust each other again – your partner needs to trust that you’ll be honest and faithful, and you need to commit to communicating when you’re unhappy while encouraging your partner to do the same.

Ask each other the following questions and consider the answers together:

  • What changes need to be made?
  • How will you approach your each other when you’re unhappy about something in the relationship?
  • Consider if you will make requests for change or something new?
  • How will you know when you’re getting unhappy?
  • How can you respond constructively when your partner approaches you to ask for changes?
  • What are the most meaningful ways you can introduce positivity into the relationship?
  • How will you realise if you’re slipping back into old habits?

Even if you both wish your relationship could go back to the way it was before, that isn’t possible. But you can use your painful experience to make something new.

Rebuilding a relationship after an affair is like starting a new relationship after learning painful lessons that can give couples new perspectives and different ways of valuing each other. This doesn’t mean that the affair was a positive experience – you can think of it as surviving a life-threatening disease and having a new lease on life; you would have been happier if you never got sick but you can think of the hardships as an experience that made you more appreciative of what you have.

Give your partner time to heal

You might want your partner to quickly forgive you and trust you once you apologise, but recovering from being lied to and rebuilding trust in someone is often a drawn-out process. Your partner may need many examples of you keeping your word and communicating before they’re comfortable trusting you again. They may never be completely confident you’ll stay committed to them and the relationship.

This can be frustrating if you feel if you’ve done the emotional labour needed to change and you aren’t getting the benefits you believe you’ve earned. But you need to be patient and allow your partner to be guarded with their emotions until they’re ready to open themselves up to the pain they’ll experience if you hurt them again.

If you’re truly sorry and really have changed, you should be willing to give your partner time to consider you trustworthy without believing you’re owed trust.

Repairing a relationship isn’t always possible, but committing to nuturing your connection gives you the best chance of reconciling

There is a lot of emotional labour that needs to go into rebuilding a relationship after an affair. The majority needs to be done by the partner who was cheated on, which can feel unfair since they’re the one who was hurt. So if you cheated on your partner, it’s important that you do everything you can to lessen this mental burden. You can’t do the work for them, but you can help create an environment that promotes healing, show that you’re committed to improving the relationship, and prove that you’re worth learning to trust again.

Not all relationships can survive a betrayal, but the ones that have the best chance are those where both partners accept the time and effort it will take and do their best to rebuild what was lost.

Remember, rebuilding trust and repairing a relationship after infidelity can be challenging, but it’s possible with open communication, commitment, and effort from both partners. If you’re the one who cheated and want to support your partner through this difficult time, it’s important to:

1. Take responsibility

  • Acknowledge your actions and take responsibility for the betrayal
  • Avoid making excuses or blaming external factors

2. Open Communication

  • Be honest and transparent about what happened; your partner deserves the truth
  • Listen to your partner’s feelings and concerns without getting defensive

3. Express remorse

  • Show genuine remorse for the pain you’ve caused
  • Apologise sincerely and understand that your partner may need time to process their emotions

4. Understand the impact

  • Recognize the emotional impact of your actions on your partner
  • Empathise with their feelings and be patient as they navigate through the pain

5. Answer questions

  • Be willing to answer your partner’s questions about the infidelity
  • Understand that they may need information to make sense of what happened

6. Commit to change

  • Demonstrate your commitment to rebuilding trust by making positive changes in your behaviour
  • Consider seeking therapy or counseling to address underlying issues

7. Be patient

  • Rebuilding trust takes time, and your partner may need space to heal
  • Avoid pressuring your partner and allow them to set the pace for the recovery process

8. Set boundaries

  • Establish clear boundaries to prevent future issues and show your commitment to the relationship
  • Be transparent about your activities and whereabouts

9. Seek professional help

  • Consider couples therapy to navigate the challenges together
  • Individual therapy can also be beneficial for both parties to address personal issues

10. Learn and grow

  • Use this experience as an opportunity for personal growth and self-reflection
  • Understand the factors that led to the infidelity and work on improving yourself

Rebuilding trust is a gradual process, and there are no guarantees. It’s crucial to be patient, consistent, and committed to the process. Both partners need to actively participate in the healing journey for the relationship to have a chance at recovery.

Worthwhile reading for helping to forgive after an affair

Affair Recovery Timeline

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