After cheating on your partner, you know you’ve broken his/her heart. Like it or not, through your actions you’ve destroyed relationship trust and you’ve caused your partner to doubt every aspect of your relationship. The good news is that these things can be repaired, and reading articles on this website (and perhaps seeking treatment) is a good start in this direction. That said, you can easily make the situation worse rather than better. If you’d rather not do that, here are seven behaviors you should avoid at all costs.
- Continued Cheating. If the infidelity continues even after you’ve been caught, you’ve got a serious problem that your relationship may not survive. As your partner sees it, maybe you didn’t know how much it would hurt him/her when you first cheated, but now you do, and you’re still cheating. In other words, your partner will view continued infidelity as an intentional betrayal meant to hurt him/her and destroy your relationship.
- Continued Secrets and Lies. The foundation of healthy relationships is trust, and you’ve badly damaged that with your cheating. If you continue to keep lies and secrets, even about things unrelated to your infidelity, your partner will find out and will again view this as an intentional betrayal meant to hurt him/her and destroy your relationship.
- Blaming Others for Your Behavior. If you fail to accept responsibility for what you’ve done, choosing instead to blame others (the person you slept with, for instance), your partner will be sorely aggrieved. What your partner wants and needs is for you to take responsibility for your actions so you can work to behave differently in the future.
- Apologizing and Expecting Immediate Forgiveness. The wounds wrought by cheating are deep. An apology (even with a promise to never do it again) is not enough to fix things. And thinking that it is will only make things worse. To make things right, you need to understand what you’ve done, accept responsibility, feel your partner’s pain, and rebuild relationship trust. That’s a process, not an event.
- Trying to Buy Forgiveness. You cannot buy your way out of the doghouse with flowers, candy, dinners, trips, jewelry, or any other tangible gift – regardless of how expensive that gift might be. At best, you’re buying yourself a short reprieve. If you love your partner and want to repair your relationship, you need to rebuild trust by being rigorously honest in all aspects of your life over a long period of time (usually at least a year). Everything else is window dressing.
- Using Aggression or Threats. You may be tempted to gain control over your angry partner by threatening divorce, loss of financial support, or even physical violence. That is not the way to rebuild intimacy and relationship trust. What it does do is drive an emotional wedge between you and your partner, pushing him/her further away instead of bringing you back together.
- Trying to Calm Your Partner. No matter how angry your partner is, trying to calm him/her down is a very bad idea. Your partner will view this as evidence that you have no idea (or that you just plain don’t care) how he/she is feeling. You might as well be saying, “I cheated. I don’t feel any remorse. And I’m going to continue cheating and hurting you in other ways whether you like it or not.”
After infidelity is discovered, these and similar behaviors will compound the damage done. If you continually engage in one or more of these behaviors, that may hurt your partner more than the actual discovery of cheating.
The good news is that neither infidelity nor engagement in the above behaviors automatically means your relationship is not fixable. What these behaviors do mean is that you’ve got a lot of work to do if you want to restore relationship trust and re-establish intimacy.
For more information about repairing relationships after infidelity, read Out of the Doghouse by Dr. Robert Weiss. For residential treatment related to chronic infidelity and/or sexual addiction, click here. For free online help with these issues visit our affiliated website, SexandRelationshipHealing.com.