In the aftermath of an affair, both partners can struggle with difficult and conflicting emotions. It may not be obvious what is the right thing to do or say when dealing with hurt, loss, and betrayal. Assuming you are in a monogamous relationship, infidelity is a sign that something is broken in your relationship.
In order to help heal after an affair, you’ll need to apologize for cheating but also repair those parts of your relationship which led to the affair in the first place. Both spouses need to be involved in this process, and both must be committed to making the relationship work. Here are some tips for how to effectively apologize for cheating and start rebuilding your relationship after an affair.
Why Do People Have Affairs?
Affairs can be exciting and addictive. Being with a new partner can feel invigorating. There’s a rush of energy, mystery, and just plain fun in being with someone with whom you seem to “click”. This is especially true if you’ve been with your partner for a long time. You feel more attractive, sex seems so much better, and the affair is a seemingly effective escape from the responsibilities and routines of married life.
However, it is unfair to compare affair sex to marital sex. Almost always, sex is like fireworks at the start of any relationship but it wanes over time. If left unchecked, this can result in a sexless marriage. Affairs are tempting because it allows you to feel that spark again. But having an affair is a sure sign that something is broken in your marriage and that you’re looking to satisfy some needs which are not being met within your relationship.
How To Apologize For Cheating
The first step in the healing process after infidelity is to offer a meaningful apology. This is where you acknowledge what you have done and articulate what you’ve been going through which led you to have the affair in the first place. A simple “I’m sorry for cheating” won’t cut it. Think about what’s been going on in your life which led you to cheat, and consider how your actions affected your spouse. All of this should be part of your apology.
An effective apology is one where you acknowledge your actions show self-understanding. Take responsibility for cheating without blaming your partner (you can discuss your partner’s role at a later time). If your affair is the result of some past trauma, name it.
Here are a few examples of meaningful apologies:
“I’m sorry for not talking to you about what I’ve been feeling. I’ve been sad, lonely, and in a rut both at home and at work. I should have turned to you to work through all this but I just couldn’t face all the conflicts and difficult conversations. So instead I took the easy way out and distracted myself by having an affair. I now see that this was selfish and immature and I caused you so much unnecessary pain.”
“I miss you but didn’t know how to get close to you again. I feel like our jobs have pulled us in opposite directions and there was so little time left for us to spend as a couple. I want us to find a way to be each other’s priority again.”
“The truth is that I’m really upset with myself. I told myself I’d never be like my father who cheated on my mother constantly and was never around when his kids really needed him. The last thing I expected was to repeat his mistakes in my own marriage. I’ve let you down, and I’ve let myself down too.”
Steps To Help Heal After Infidelity
The Power Of Touch
Touch is a powerful tool for connection. Whether you desire sexual touch or just the comfort of a warm hug at the end of a difficult day. People who are touch-starved within their marriage are more likely to seek out touch outside their marriage. If you crave touch, find ways to satisfy that desire with your partner again to reconnect and strengthen your marital bond.
Address Childhood Trauma
Fear, emotional triggers, and a strong need to control are some common signs of childhood trauma. Difficult experiences in our past can cause us to act out in harmful ways in current relationships. In fact upwards of 90% of issues stem from your background, childhood, culture and religion. The remaining 10% has to do with present issues. By confronting your history of trauma and difficult relationships in your past, you’ll be able to ensure that your current relationship has a better chance of withstanding life’s ups and downs. This will also prevent you from embarking on affairs in the future.
Bring The Energy Back Home
Your affair shifted your focus away from home and toward some external target. To help you and your partner both heal and rebuild after an affair, you’ll need to bring the attention back into your home and your partnership. Bring some fun back into your marriage by setting up regular date nights and making time for shared activities you both enjoy. Something as simple as putting on some good music and having an impromptu dance party in your living room will do the trick.
If you travel a lot for work, bring your partner with you if possible. Find ways to maintain communication while you’re apart – send each other funny thoughts or interesting photos throughout the day. Abstain from overindulging in drinking while you’re away and instead make plans to go out and party with your spouse when you’re back home.
If infidelity has rocked your marriage and you could use professional support to help you recover faster, Marriage Quest counselors are here for you. Whether you’re struggling with the aftermath of a physical or emotional affair, we are here to help you save and rebuild your marriage.