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I cheated. How do I confess to my partner?

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Most of us would agree that cheating on a partner is wrong, yet the infidelity statistics are still high. 

That's because the notion that it's morally wrong doesn't change the fact that many of us have been cheated on. And if we're being honest with ourselves, some of us have also done the cheating.

We would all like to believe that we would never be capable of hurting our partner in this way – that we would break up with them, be honest with them or stop ourselves before the possibility of actually cheating entered the equation.

But what happens if we cheat?

5 ways people react to cheating

  • They tell their partner as a way to hurt or blame them.
  • They never tell their partner about what they have done. 
  • They keep the infidelity a secret but break up with their significant other to stop the dishonesty. 
  • They tell their partner they cheated as an explanation as to why the relationship should end.
  • They tell their significant other about the infidelity in hopes of repairing the relationship. 

If you cheat, does it cause more hurt to confess?

I've heard of people who were upset when their partner disclosed their infidelity, wishing they never knew if it truly meant nothing. But only some feel this way.

Have you discussed with your partner what constitutes infidelity and the right course of action if it happens? These are not romantic things to discuss at the start of any relationship, but a mutual understanding can be helpful in these situations. 

If you want to tell your partner you have cheated on them, ask yourself: What is your reason? Are you hoping to say an honest goodbye or repair the relationship?

What to do if you want to repair the relationship after an affair

If you want to continue the relationship, here are a couple things to remember during the conversation:

It’s not the time to justify your actions. Maybe you believe that it wasn’t “technically” cheating from your perspective. Maybe you think that there was a good reason why you cheated or why it was too hard to ignore the temptation. Regardless of your justification or rationale, this is not the time to share it.  

It’s not about blaming your partner. Perhaps you are convinced that their lack of effort led you to cheat. Maybe you blame them. The reality is that no one can force you to cheat. The circumstances may have been difficult, but it's essential to take responsibility for the action itself. 

It’s about making space for them. After you speak, realize that you need to create space for them to share their thoughts and feelings (if they want to). Be ready to receive their reactions with empathy and compassion. Refrain from becoming defensive – they need time to process the hurt and betrayal.

It’s about being ready to answer questions. During our latest chat, Elizabeth Earnshaw, a licensed family and marriage therapist, said, "Your partner is going to want to know more information and being open and honest as much as possible in the beginning will increase the likelihood of forgiveness over time. Omitting information or lying will only cause more harm in the long run.”

It's not enough to tell the truth. Telling the truth is one thing, and apologizing is another. Express that you are sorry (explicitly), what you're sorry for and how things will be different from now on. Then, spend time rebuilding the trust through your actions. 

It’s time to do the work. If you no longer want to be in the relationship, say so. If you do, be prepared to go through a period of atonement. This often entails asking your partner what you can do to rebuild safety, trust and intimacy (don’t just assume what they need or want). The actions they ask for or boundaries they set may not be how the relationship had functioned up to that point (e.g. checking in more frequently, coming home at specific times, avoiding places, people or things involved in the hurtful act), but because of the rupture, the contract of the relationship may change for a while. This cannot become a permanent state of the relationship, but you need to be patient. Healing is not immediate.

More on cheating, infidelity and your relationship struggles 

Read next: 8 signs your significant other is having an affair

'Vanderpump Rules' drama: Tom Sandoval, Raquel Leviss, Ariana Madix and forgiveness

Dating after divorce is complicated: What you need to know.

Celebs can 'have it all' and still be cheated on: What does it mean for the rest of us?

Sara Kuburic is a therapist who specializes in identity, relationships and moral trauma. Every week she shares her advice with our readers. Find her on Instagram @millennial.therapist. She can be reached at