Spouses and significant others who cheat are often racked with guilt about their betrayal. Whether it's happened only once or multiple times, many people are often confused and torn by their simultaneous regret and desire to cheat again. But if you have no intentions of being unfaithful in the future, the guilt of your indiscretion can be crippling. Yet it is possible to learn to accept the act, understand the reasons why you cheated in the first place, forgive yourself, and move on with life.
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Ask yourself why you cheated. Be completely honest. Until you understand the reasons behind your infidelity, you cannot even begin to hope to overcome it. Perhaps you are unhappy in your marriage, or feel distant from your partner. Perhaps your needs for intimacy are not being met by your partner. Whatever the reasons, you must be willing to explore them, understand them, and share them with your partner.
If you do not want to tell your partner about your infidelity, work on improving and eradicating the reasons why you cheated in the first place. Think of this step as setting the groundwork for a whole new life with your partner. It will be important for you to speak with your partner honestly about your concerns, and ask for him or her to join you in rectifying them.
If you plan on telling your partner about your infidelity, start off with a sincere apology. Understand that your partner may not want to continue seeing you or being married to you after you reveal that you cheated. Tell your partner that you understand, and accept, whatever reaction they may have. If your partner decides to break up, this will be painful, but you must be ready for this possibility.
Cut off any communication with the person you cheated with. Recognise the behaviours or scenarios that made you want to cheat, and avoid them. Just like an addiction to alcohol or a compulsion with food, you are more likely to fall back into bad habits if you are exposed to temptation.
Tips and warnings
- Talk with a psychologist to sort out your feelings and seek neutral advice. Speaking to a counsellor can help you understand and accept your behaviour, work on changing it, and then work on changing yourself for the better.
- The road to moving on from your indiscretion may not include your spouse or significant other. This can hinder your efforts to forgive yourself, so it's important to seek help from a psychologist, friend or other person you trust to work out your feelings and begin to heal.
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