Man looking out a window as he contemplates how he'll tell his wife he's been cheating.

What To Do If You’ve Been Cheating On Your Wife

Life is rarely as clear-cut as we’d like to believe. Each person carries a unique narrative filled with complexities, and the same is true when it comes to relationships. For some reason, you’re cheating on your wife. Those are five hard-hitting words, aren’t they? It’s a statement that doesn’t leave much room for gray areas. Yet here you are, in the midst of one of life’s most tumultuous gray areas.

One of the most essential things to acknowledge for yourself is that infidelity isn’t typically a random, spontaneous event. It’s a path taken for a myriad of reasons, stemming from unresolved personal issues, dissatisfaction, longing for connection, or various other factors that might be affecting your marital relationship.

There’s no need to justify or condemn. Instead, it’s about getting guidance. After all, if you’re reading this, it likely means you’re seeking help or a way to navigate your current situation. What you must understand is there is no easy way out. However, there are actionable steps you can choose to follow. Fortunately, it’s never too late to change, mend bridges, and seek a healthier path.

This journey of change starts with you. It will require honesty, accountability, courage, and time, but the rewards could mean a transformed life and mended relationships.

Step 1: Admit and Accept Your Action

Facing your mistake is a crucial first step of the journey. It’s common to feel a wide range of emotions, such as guilt, fear, or even denial. These feelings can lead to the temptation to bury the truth deep down, hoping it might disappear or resolve itself with time. However, evasion is a misleading comfort.

Admitting your action to yourself is a form of self-confrontation. And it requires immense courage. It entails acknowledging the act of infidelity, understanding that it was a choice you made, and accepting the potential ramifications it could have on your relationship. It’s not about indulging in self-blame but about comprehending the seriousness of your action.

Acceptance is the key that unlocks the door to potential change and transformation. By accepting, you recognize your fallibility, which can be a sobering yet enlightening realization. You come to see that your action may have stemmed from personal issues, unresolved feelings, or discontentment in your relationship. Acknowledging these factors doesn’t justify the act of infidelity, but it provides a starting point for your journey toward healing and self-improvement.

Remember, this process takes time. It’s not about hurriedly patching things up but about embarking on a journey of self-discovery, understanding, and ultimately, personal growth.

Step 2: Cease the Affair Completely

The second step is straightforward but crucial: You must stop the affair immediately. This includes cutting off all forms of contact with the other person. This step may seem harsh, particularly if you’ve formed a strong bond with your affair partner. Yet, it’s an essential action that demonstrates your commitment to change.

Completely severing ties with the other person means not just physical separation but also emotional detachment. This means no calls, no texts, no emails, and no social media interaction. Understandably, this can be challenging, particularly if the affair was with someone you consider a friend or someone in your social or professional circles. But remember, any lingering contact can be a potential trigger that jeopardizes your recovery journey.

In some cases, absolute avoidance is not possible due to circumstances such as working in the same office. If that is your situation and you want to end your affair, you must maintain strict professionalism and limit your interaction to the bare minimum.

If the affair is with someone you’ve developed deep feelings for, this step will likely be painful and difficult. However, remember that continuing to engage with them only perpetuates the harm done to your relationship. Taking this step is a clear indication of your commitment to your spouse and your readiness to heal and rebuild the relationship. This cessation allows space for introspection and paves the way for genuine understanding and change.

Step 3: Full Disclosure to Your Wife

This third step in healing from infidelity is, quite possibly, the hardest. After all, honesty is the bedrock of trust, and while this revelation will undoubtedly be painful for both of you, it’s a necessary part of the healing process.

Coming clean about your infidelity is not a simple one-time conversation. Instead, it’s a process that must be handled with care, respect, and above all, honesty. Confessing your infidelity is only part of the process. It’s also, and maybe most importantly, about acknowledging the breach of trust, the feelings involved, the lapse of judgment, and the intention to make amends.

When revealing your actions, avoid the temptation to shift blame or minimize your actions. Instead, take full responsibility. It’s important to completely avoid phrases like “It just happened,” or “I didn’t mean to,” as these can come across as excuses and invalidate your wife’s feelings.

How and when you disclose this information is also extremely important. Choose a calm, private, and safe environment. Give your wife the freedom to react, express her feelings, and ask questions. She might feel a variety of emotions—shock, anger, sadness, confusion, or even relief that her suspicions were correct. Be prepared for the storm of reactions and respond with patience, understanding, and humility.

It’s critical to have professional help during this stage. The guidance of a relationship coach or therapist can help in mitigating the initial trauma of disclosure, navigating the tough conversations that follow, and laying the groundwork for healing and rebuilding trust.

Remember, this step is not about seeking forgiveness instantly but starting the process of re-establishing trust. It’s about expressing genuine remorse and showing commitment toward change. Healing will take time, patience, and consistent effort, but full disclosure is a significant first stride in the right direction.

However, you also need to keep in mind that full disclosure does not mean going into all of the explicit details of the affair. The major details are absolutely fair game, but all the details about the sex acts are not necessary.

Step 4: Seek Professional Guidance

While you may have confessed your infidelity and are committed to change, it’s crucial to understand that mending a broken marriage is a complicated process. And although previously mentioned, getting professional guidance from someone who has deep experience with helping couples heal from the betrayal of infidelity. Professional therapists, relationship coaches, and couples counselors are equipped with the tools, expertise, and experience to help you navigate the stormy waters of healing after infidelity.

These professionals can offer a safe, neutral environment to explore the issues that led to the affair, understand its impact on your relationship, and learn how to rebuild trust. Professional guidance is beneficial for both you and your wife.

As the one who cheated, you might be grappling with guilt, regret, or confusion about why you strayed. A therapist or coach can help you delve deeper into these feelings, identify any underlying issues you might have (e.g., unresolved personal issues, dissatisfaction, addiction), and provide you with coping mechanisms and strategies to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

For your spouse, therapy can be a safe space to express her feelings, navigate her pain, and help her understand that the infidelity was not her fault. It’s an opportunity to learn how to rebuild trust and also decide what she needs from you to heal.

Couples therapy or relationship coaching is also a place where you both can rebuild your relationship. You’ll learn new communication techniques, resolve any underlying issues, and set boundaries and expectations for the future. Whomever you choose to work with will provide you with the tools and strategies to strengthen your bond, increase intimacy, and promote a stronger, healthier relationship moving forward.

It cannot be emphasized enough. You want to make sure that whomever you choose to work with is trained in infidelity recovery. The journey to attempt to repair your marriage will not be linear. So, you need to have a guide who understands the complexities of the situation and can navigate it effectively. Recovering from cheating on your wife is not a quick fix and, yet, if that is what you both decide to do, it can create a better and more honest relationship.

Another option to consider when looking for the correct help for you and your wife is engaging in an intensive private couples retreat. A retreat can provide a focused and comprehensive approach to healing. It allows you to step away from everyday distractions and stressors and solely focus on healing and building a better relationship. In the caring hands of relationship experts, a retreat can accelerate the recovery process and set a positive tone for the healing journey ahead.

Step 5: Patience and Consistency

The journey to healing after infidelity is neither easy nor quick. It requires patience and consistency from both of you, especially you since your choices started this particular journey. If you’re serious about mending the relationship with your wife, understanding and accepting that this journey is a marathon and not a sprint is crucial.

Patience is key in dealing with your spouse’s reactions. Your confession of infidelity will likely send waves of shock, pain, and possibly even denial through your wife. Her emotions may fluctuate intensely, ranging from anger and betrayal to sadness and confusion.

There may be days filled with tears, questions, accusations, and intense discussions. Understand that this is all part of the healing process. Your patience, empathy, and willingness to weather these emotional storms without becoming defensive or dismissive are vital.

Consistency in your actions is fundamental to rebuilding trust. And rebuilding trust is the only way to rebuild your relationship. Actions are louder than words. Be punctual, keep promises, follow through on your commitments, and be open and transparent about your activities. Consistently demonstrate your willingness to mend what’s broken and to work toward a healthier relationship.

In large part, your wife will judge your sincerity based on your consistency. It’s not enough to say you’ll change. You have to actively show it in your daily behavior. Remember that rebuilding trust after cheating on your wife is a process and will take time.

Also, it’s crucial to remain patient with yourself. You might feel a multitude of negative emotions – guilt, shame, regret, and self-blame. These feelings, though uncomfortable, are natural. However, they can be destructive if not managed properly. It’s important to forgive yourself, learn from your mistake, and move forward.

Consistency in attending therapy sessions or relationship coaching, and implementing the strategies suggested, is also important. This shows your commitment to healing and change. You can also choose to further show your commitment by opting for an intensive couples retreat, where you’ll dedicate exclusive time and effort to work on your relationship, away from daily distractions.

Remember, patience and consistency are not about immediate perfection but about steady, progressive improvement. Your consistency in your actions and your patience with the process and each other will be crucial to your journey toward reconciliation and building a stronger relationship.

Step 6: Rebuilding Trust

Once the initial waves of shock, pain, and anger start to recede, you and your wife can begin the intricate process of rebuilding trust. When you cheated on your wife, you shattered the foundation of trust that your marriage was built upon, but with concerted effort, commitment, and time, trust can be re-established.

Here are some key actions that you can take to rebuild trust with your wife:

  1. Follow through on your promises.

    Do what you say you’re going to do, every time. Even small broken promises can set back the healing process, so be sure to keep your word consistently.

  2. Maintain transparency.

    Be open about your activities, whereabouts, and interactions. This could mean sharing your phone or email passwords with your spouse or telling her about your day in detail. Transparency helps to alleviate any lingering doubts and insecurities.

  3. Practice open communication.

    Regularly express your thoughts, feelings, and concerns to each other. This includes admitting when you’re wrong or when you’re struggling. Open communication helps prevent misunderstandings and reinforces your commitment to honesty.

  4. Active listening.

    When your wife expresses her feelings or concerns, listen attentively and respond empathetically. Show genuine interest in understanding her perspective – avoid trying to fix her perspective.

  5. Recommit to your relationship.

    Reaffirm your commitment to your wife and the relationship. Regularly remind her (and yourself) why you’re choosing to stay and work on the relationship.

  6. Be consistent and predictable.

    Be consistent in your actions and your commitment to change. Your wife needs to see that your efforts are not temporary but rather a new way of life.

  7. Be patient.

    Regaining trust takes time. Don’t rush your wife through her healing process from your betrayal. Show her that you’re there for the long haul.

Rebuilding trust is a two-way process that requires effort from both of you. It’s not only about you proving yourself trustworthy but also about your wife’s willingness to take the risk of trusting you again after you cheated on her.

Rebuilding trust is about creating a new relationship dynamic that’s stronger and more transparent. The goal isn’t just to go back to how things were before the affair, but to create a new, stronger relationship that’s built on a deeper level of trust.

If you’re cheating on your wife, facing the facts and taking action is crucial. This journey towards healing, although tough, could potentially lead you and your wife to a stronger and more connected relationship than you’ve ever had before.

Each step in this process carries its own weight, significance, and challenges. You may falter, feel overwhelmed, or be tempted to give up. However, patience, consistency, and commitment are vital elements that can guide you through this challenging time.

The process of overcoming infidelity is incredibly complex and cannot be adequately addressed in a single article. It’s a deeply personal and unique journey for each couple, filled with nuances and variables that can’t be fully anticipated. However, this doesn’t mean you have to navigate this challenging path alone. Professional help can make a huge difference.

People who are appropriately trained and experienced will be able to provide you with the tools, perspective, and strategies you need to heal from infidelity.

Keep in mind that it’s never too late to make amends and work toward healing. If you’re determined to make things right, now is the best time to begin the process.

Cheating on your wife is a decision that has led you down a painful path, but it doesn’t define your entire relationship or the rest of your life. With sincerity, effort, and professional guidance, it’s possible to navigate out of the storm and into a place of healing and reconnection. It won’t be easy, but it could be the most worthwhile journey you’ll ever embark on.

Mary Ellen Goggin offers relationship coaching for individuals and collaborates with her partner Dr. Jerry Duberstein to offer private couples retreats. To learn more about working with Mary Ellen, contact her here.

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Mary Ellen Goggin

Mary Ellen is a highly skilled and intuitive relationship guide. She brings over 35 years’ experience with individuals and businesses as a lawyer, mediator, personal coach and educator. She received her J.D. at University of New Hampshire Law School and a Master’s Degree at Harvard University. Mary Ellen co-authored Relationship Transformation: How to Have Your Cake and Eat It Too with Jerry Duberstein — and they were married by chapter 3. Mary Ellen brings a unique blend of problem-solving, practicality, and warmth to her work. She’s a highly analytic person, with geeky and monkish tendencies. She’s a daredevil skydiver, a voracious seeker of knowledge, and an indulgent grandmother. Her revolution: helping people become the unapologetic rulers of their inner + outer realms. Read more about the retreats