Are You the Unfaithful Partner? How to Move Forward
You aren’t proud of yourself. The double life you’ve confessed to is out in the open and you can’t pretend to be innocent. You can’t blame your partner for not trusting you. You are branded as the unfaithful partner. A cheater. Someone they don’t even recognize now.
Does it do any good to divulge more? Should you dodge all the questions, swallow the details, deny the parts that will hurt them too much?
Won’t it all just compound the damage and make it too hard to ever recover anyway?
Maybe you can just convince your partner that it’s all over. In the past. Persuade them to just leave it behind and move forward now for the sake of your marriage.
Maybe they’ll agree?
Most likely, they will not. It’s important to tell yourself the truth now. This first phase of disclosure, shock, and reaction are not easy in any way. You can’t ease the pain for either of you. However, to survive it, you must treat this phase with the most care possible.
Your partner wants to know how you could do this to them. How and why and when. They want to understand what could make you risk so much. To restore trust and rebuild your relationship you’ll need to do more than duck the hard questions. You’ll need to provide some answers and commit to the necessary relationship work.
What does that look like? Where do you begin?
Please consider the following advice:
Set clear boundaries for the sake of safe sharing
The emotional journey forward has the potential to be explosive. You know this, it’s why you’ve held back. But further deception will only fuel that fire.
Instead, focus on keeping the process of your partner’s need to know as safe as possible. You must do the following:
- Break off the relationship with your affair partner completely
- Assure your partner that you are prepared and willing to determine why you became an unfaithful partner in the first place
- Express that you are fully open to hearing and understanding their point of view
- Willingly reveal key information you know they need to know. Make it clear that nothing is being hidden or withheld.
Only ask that this process does not include any form of violence or unsafe behavior. Agree on and set any boundaries necessary to that end.
Trust your partner with truthful answers to their questions
Accept and honor the fact that trust can only be rebuilt if you trust your partner with the truth. Be forthcoming and frank. Yet, clearly communicate that you hope they ask about what is really helpful and avoid what will just torture you both.
Do let them know that you support their investigation of your relationship with them and your affair partner. Allow them to heal your answers, absorb the information, and grieve the way they need to.
What should you do if your partner asks questions you know are comparative or unproductive? Agree to answer the next day if they still want to know.
Lower your defenses — Don’t allow pride to cloud the interaction
This initial phase is not about understanding you. Focus on understanding your partner’s experience. Becoming defensive signals that your pride is your priority. Resist the urge to control or manipulate your partner’s view of you or the situation. This cannot be a self-centered endeavor.
How is your partner experiencing this painful period? Ask how they feel, what they think. If your partner senses you can put yourself in their position, it helps to go a long way in reconnecting you.
Total honesty is the only way to recovery…for you and your partner
You’ve got to be honest with yourself to heal well. Take a good look at yourself and what you need to accept about your behavior in this instance as well as the patterns of behavior that hurt you and those you love.
What needs to change? Use this time for self-discovery. Why were such harmful choices acceptable at the time? How did you justify them?
Be totally honest with your partner. Humbly share the whole story. Give them the opportunity to respond and work from there. Acknowledge your partner’s right to make informed decisions regarding your future together.
Listen to what you’ve done, how you’ve hurt them, and what the cost is to your connection. Recognize that their conclusions about who you are and how you feel may be hard to hear. But do hear them out. Though it is hurtful or uncomfortable, your willingness to sit with those feelings speaks volumes on the path to recovery.
Seek healing for your partner and yourself
Daily selflessness, patience, and appreciation are key. Infidelity loses its sting if you can demonstrate unselfish care and consideration. Do anything you can to help your partner heal.
Also, consider how you will seek healing for yourself. Your partner will be willing to ask questions and move through the recovery process if they can see your progress from unfaithful partner to a place of accountability and emotional awareness. You’ll likely want to suggest that you both seek counseling to bring more emotional stability and direction through this difficult circumstance.
Affair Recovery can Happen
You hurt your partner and broke your trust, but don’t get stuck there. The stages for healthy healing are difficult but worth the work.
20 Most Common Mistakes of the Wayward Partner
Moving past your affair is just as important when you’ve been caught as it is for the spouse who has been hurt. If you and your partner are both willing to commit to your relationship and work on it, you need to first work on moving past your affair. Understandably, that’s often easier said than done. But, it’s not impossible.
By knowing and understanding some of the most common mistakes, you can work to keep them out of the way. When you’re able to do that, you can focus more readily on healing and rebuilding your relationship. Let’s take a look at 20 of the most common mistakes to avoid.
- Believing the Affair is Completely Over
Don’t commit to your partner until you are 100% certain you’ll refuse all contact with the person you were cheating with. Otherwise, it’s a vicious cycle that will destroy your relationship.
- Playing the Victim
It doesn’t matter how bad you think your marriage is or what your partner may have done. There is no excuse when it comes to cheating. Never play the victim card or make excuses for your actions.
- Failing to Show Emotion
Emotions are always raw after an affair. The biggest mistake you can make with your emotions is showing the wrong ones, or coming off as disingenuine. Appropriate emotions are important. Acting like you don’t care, or feeling “numb” about the situation will make things worse for you and your partner.
- Withholding Information
Whether you got caught cheating or you admitted it to your spouse, you need to be sure to tell them everything as soon as possible. Don’t let information about your affair slip out over time. When you do that, it opens the wound for your relationship all over again and will take longer to heal.
Instead, get everything out in the open and be completely honest with yourself, and your partner.
- Being Defensive
Being defensive never works when it comes to moving past your affair. If you act defensive about the affair with your spouse, it will only lead to more hurt (and more arguing!). This goes hand-in-hand with owning up to your actions. But, once you’ve admitted them, don’t try to defend them.
- Not Talking About It
Even though it’s important to provide information about the affair upfront, don’t assume that means you’re done talking about it forever.
Your partner will have to eventually learn to forgive you. But, they might have additional questions, or they might just want to bring it up now and then. This shouldn’t be done as a way to hurt you, but be open to answering any questions they might have periodically.
- Talking About it Too Much
When you’ve both committed to healing your relationship, it’s important to strike a balance between talking about the affair and not letting it dictate your lives.
Don’t assume things will be back to normal right away. But, it’s okay to eventually plan a night out together and not bring up your infidelity. This is something you’ll both have to agree on, but it can make healing and moving past your affair easier.
- Assuming the Marriage is Over
Once your spouse finds out about the affair, they’re bound to say a lot of things. Some of them will be directly hurtful. Other things, they’ll say due to their own pain.
Don’t be surprised if they suggest they want a divorce or time apart. But, don’t automatically assume it will actually happen. Give them time to process their emotions before believing any serious statements.
- Not Listening to Your Partner
While you shouldn’t believe every declaration your partner makes in an emotional state, don’t make the mistake of not listening to what they have to say. Not only will that come across as uncaring and dismissive, but you could be missing out on an opportunity to begin the healing process.
It’s very important that your spouse knows you’re listening to their thoughts and feelings. Let them know you’re hearing what they say, and that you understand it.
- Sticking Up for Your Affair Partner
Your spouse will undoubtedly be angry with you when they find out you’ve had an affair. But, it’s often easier for them to be angry at the person you were having the affair with.
Don’t stick up for your affair partner, even if you felt/feel a connection with them. Your spouse may say a lot of hurtful or even untrue things about them. If you start to defend them, it makes it seem like you’re more loyal to that person than you are to your spouse.
- Trying to Rush Your Spouse
While it’s important for you and your spouse to both move past the affair within a healthy time frame, take care not to rush the work. Your hurt partner will have to deal with their own timeline in a productive way. Let that be their battle, and encourage and help them through it, instead of pushing them or dragging them through it quickly.
- Blaming Your Partner
No one is perfect. Your partner obviously has faults. But, as stated above, you can’t use those faults as an excuse for your own behavior. You also can’t blame your partner for the affair or anything leading up to it.
Trying to turn the situation around will only lead to more distrust within the relationship. Don’t flip the blame if you’re the one who has been cheating. You can work through other issues with your partner at a different time or with the help of a counselor.
- Lying or Withholding the Truth About Other Things
Your spouse will undoubtedly be on high alert for a while. It will be hard for them to trust you. Avoid telling other lies within your relationship, and don’t keep things from your partner. Doing so will only keep severing the trust that needs to be built back up.
- Being Inconsistent
Together, you and your spouse should create a plan of recovery and rebuilding your marriage. You can do this on your own or with the help of a professional. It’s important to stick to that plan and be consistent. Inconsistencies will tell your partner you don’t care about rebuilding and strengthening the marriage. Inconsistency is your enemy when it comes to this stage of strengthening.
- Ganging Up on Your Partner
It can be frustrating if you feel like your partner is taking a long time to move past the affair or to forgive you. You might be tempted to get your friends and family “on your side.” Doing this will only make things worse for both of you.
When mutual friends or family members start to gang up on your partner to encourage them to get over the affair, it can actually prolong the time it takes them to really move past it. It will also likely hurt the relationships between your partner and those individuals, which can make them feel more isolated and alone.
- Taking Time for Yourself
A big mistake many people make after an affair is not taking time to consider why they pursued it in the first place. You may not even really understand why you decided to stray, in which case a professional can help.
It’s important to understand these things, so more infidelity doesn’t happen in the future.
- Not Making Yourself Available
After an affair, it’s essential to be as available as possible to your partner. This isn’t because they need to “keep tabs” on you, but because you need to be there for them emotionally. You need to show them that you can and will be available for them throughout the rest of your marriage. Show you’re committed to moving past your affair and rebuilding your marriage side-by-side.
- Being Ungrateful
If your partner wants to work on saving your marriage, be grateful! Far too often, spouses who have been caught cheating are ungrateful for their forgiving partners. Make it known to them that you’re grateful for that forgiveness, and you won’t take it for granted.
- Threatening your Partner
Never, ever threaten your partner to stay with you for any reason. Believe it or not, the hurt spouse in an affair often feels a lot of guilt and shame. Don’t play on their fears or make empty threats.
- Sticking to the Patterns of Your Old Relationship
If both you and your spouse agree to stay together after you’ve had an affair, use it as an opportunity. Consider your relationship new and fresh, and start from the ground up. You can both create something completely different and stronger than before if you work together.
Don’t fall into old unproductive relationship habits. Moving past your affair makes it possible to have a successful marriage!
Northside Mental Health Site Admin