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You Cheated, You Were Caught, Now What?

What You Should Do After the Affair

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Lipstick on Collar Photo: Thomas Northcut / Photodisc / Getty Images
If you made the mistake of cheating, you may be asking the question, "Now What?"

Your marriage doesn't necessarily have to end because you had an affair. Even though you caused your spouse much heartache and anger, your marriage can survive if you are truly sorry for your decision to cheat and not just having regrets that you got caught.

To rebuild your marriage and heal the hurt and mistrust your spouse feels after you cheated, you will have to accomplish these steps.

  • Stop Cheating. End the affair. Really end it. Don't have contact with the other person.
  • Stop Lying. Quit making excuses for the affair. Don't try to justify your adultery. There is no justification for cheating.
  • Accept Responsibility. Don't blame your spouse. You had a choice. You could have ended your marriage before cheating, but you decided to have an affair. That's on your shoulders alone. Apologize to your spouse.
  • Make a Decision. Decide if you want to stay married. Find out if your spouse wants to stay married. If you both want to save your marriage, your marriage isn't doomed.
  • Be Honest. You must be honest, both with yourself and with your spouse if you want to move forward.
  • Keep Your Promises. If you say you are going to be somewhere, be there. If you say you are going to do something, do it. Be dependable and don't break your promises. You can't help your spouse rebuild trust if you are not dependable.
  • Be Open. Your spouse's trust level is low. Be open to letting your spouse know where you are, who you are with, etc. Don't be secretive.
  • Give Your Spouse Some Space. The Mayo Clinic recommends taking a "timeout" if emotions are running high. This doesn't mean you or your spouse will take off for a week or a weekend.
  • Spend Time With Your Spouse. Along with letting your spouse have some alone time, you need to have together time too. Plan date nights and when your spouse is ready have an evening or weekend away together.
  • Be Patient. Don't expect your spouse to trust you again right away. It will take time to regain your spouse's trust.
  • Agree to Get Professional Help. If your spouse wants to see a marriage counselor, say yes. Saying no shows you really aren't serious about rebuilding your marriage. You need to be open to discussing and identifying issues and problems in your own personal life and in your marriage.
  • Accept the End of Your Marriage. Even if you stay together, your marriage as you knew it ended with the affair. Build your new marriage together with honesty and love and look to your future together, not to the past. When your spouse is ready, consider renewing your marriage vows to show your commitment to staying faithful.
  • Note: "Not every marriage touched by infidelity can or should be saved. Sometimes too much damage has been done, or both partners aren't committed. Painful as it is, it's important to acknowledge when this is the case."
    Source: "Infidelity: Mending Your Marriage After an Affair." MayoClinic.com.

  • Be Willing to Forgive. You need to forgive yourself. This doesn't mean you can let yourself off the hook but you don't need to carry buckets of guilt for the rest of your life.

What Others Say

Janis Abrahms Spring, the author of After the Affair: "Never, ever encourage your partner to 'get over it.' Instead, be available to hear your partner’s pain and take it in. Don’t wait in dread for her to bring it up again. Instead, open conversations yourself that let your partner know that you’re continuing to think about the affair and that you won’t leave her alone to carry the pain. Be totally present to hear her anger and sorrow for as long as it takes, which may feel like forever. Dr. Spring explains that if you want your partner to let go of her pain, then you have to hold it."
Source: Harriet Lerner, Ph.D. "Will Your Marriage Survive the Affair?" PsychologyToday.com. 2/26/2013.

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