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How To Fix a Relationship After You Cheated – 4 Experts Reveal Their Best Tips + Insights

by Kendra O’Hora – Ph.D., LCMFT, Erica Blystone – LCSW, Rachel Elder – LMHC, MHP, Amy Sherman – M.A., LMHC

How To Fix a Relationship After You Cheated

“Good communication is the bridge between confusion and clarity.”

~ Nat Turner

Nat Turner Good Communication Quote
Erica Blystone

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with liquid gold. The idea is that by embracing imperfection you can make something more beautiful, strong, and valuable. 

This concept isn’t limited to ceramics – fractured relationships can become stronger after an affair. 

If you were the one to cause the crack, take a deep breath, remember good people make bad choices sometimes, and read on.

If you’ve decided to tell your partner, come clean soon. 

Don’t wait to get caught or for your partner to become suspicious. Trust is broken once with the cheating and a second time – much more deeply – when you lie about it. 

Hard truths are an important part of building back trust, and it starts here. 

When you share your mistake you might consider suggesting therapy as you both have things to work through and a couples counselor can help you navigate a difficult process.

Allow room for grief. 

Your partner has just begun grieving the loss of the relationship and partner they thought they knew. Grief isn’t linear and we can skip stages and bounce backward and forward some, but in general we make our way through shock/denial, guilt/bargaining, anger, depression… and then we start to adjust, function, and finally accept what happened. This obviously can take time so dig deep into your reservoir of compassion and patience.

Be ready to answer questions. 

Hopefully you’ll be in couples counseling soon, but in the meantime know that answers to “broad stroke” questions (How long has this been going on? Did you have sex? Do you love him?) are typically critical for your partner’s healing, whereas details (What positions did you use? Did you have a pet name for him? How many times a night did you text?) are more harmful than helpful as they create a movie in your partner’s head they’ll replay, always finding another moment where more detail is needed.

Your partner can be struggling with two points in time: past and future. 

They might know in their heart you’re remorseful and will never cheat again, but they can’t wrap their head around the fact you cheated in the first place. 

The past betrayal is the biggest block. Or they might forgive your indiscretion because they understand infidelity is complicated and doesn’t mean you’re bad, but they can’t trust you won’t do it again. The obstacle is a future fear. Very often both must be worked through.

Your partner isn’t the only one struggling. You likely feel guilty, ashamed, scared, possibly angry and confused. 

Your work is to understand why you cheated because it almost certainly wasn’t about sex. Unmet needs – sometimes in the relationship but usually deep within one’s self-esteem and self-concept – are typically the motivating force behind this destructive behavior. 

Developing insight to why this happened and skills to strengthen connectedness is the liquid gold in repairing your relationship to make it more beautiful, strong, and valuable than it was before.

Erica Blystone, LCSW – www.wakeadultcounseling.com

Rachel Elder

Going through cheating or infidelity in a relationship is painful and challenging to work through.

Hope is not lost, though, as many couples and relationships have recovered from cheating and adultery. It is essential to recognize that you both have to decide to fix a relationship after cheating. Recovery from infidelity does not work if only one party is committed to doing the work. 

First, you both need to decide whether you want to heal the relationship together.

If one of you is not interested in doing this, you need to end your relationship in a graceful and healing way.

Second, the partner who has betrayed needs to identify what they need to heal.

What are the questions they have about the cheating incident? Keep in mind that the questions they ask need to focus on their healing. They may have many questions they want to ask, but not all of them will help with healing. 

The goal is to ask questions that connect to your relationship:

What made you decide to cheat on them?
What needs did you have that were not being met?
How long did the cheating occur?
What stopped you from telling your partner earlier on?

Stay away from why questions:

Why questions are hard to answer, and sometimes there is no why. 

As your partner thinks about their needs here, consider what your needs are to heal as well.

What do you need from yourself and your partner to heal? 

Maybe they need some space to process. Perhaps they need them to do check-ins with you for a few weeks as you build back trust. 

Keep coming back to this question as you work together, as your needs at the beginning may change as you work through this. 

Finally, the most important part is at any time during the healing process, you both have the right to change your mind on whether you work through this together or not. 

Healing from cheating is hard work; it’s possible, but it requires a lot of effort, desire, and willingness. 

Our hearts can change during this process, and it’s valid whether it may be for the continuation of the relationship or the end. 

Rachel Elder, LMHC, MHP – www.rachel-elder.com

Kendra O Hora

You need to HEAL, that simple.

After a betrayal in a romantic partnership the relationship needs a lot of attention. Good news is, many couples can heal from infidelity. In fact, that’s my bread and butter – helping couples navigate their partnership and heal after a deep wound.

Where do you start? 

I’ve been asked this question time and time again so I’ll summarize four key steps for you to do if you were the one who cheated. If you’ve been cheated on, let’s save that convo for another day because there are actually key things for YOU to do as well.

Step 1: First things first, if you’ve wounded your partnership you need to practice honoring your emotions and getting honest with your needs.

Your piece in the relationship breakdown was that you had something going on inside that you either felt hopeless that things would never change or you were stuck in communication breakdown. This has to change. 

You may feel neglected, unimportant, or unseen in your bond but your relationship cannot heal if you don’t start honor your own emotional landscape and advocating for your needs.

Step 2: Next, you have to share everything and commit to engagement.

“Everything” is relative to the couple but a big no-no in the couples therapy world is trickling out details over time. 

While you may think this is protecting your partner it actually is re-traumatizing them, which can make healing much more difficult (check out my recent Instagram reels to learn more about how to share everything after betrayal).

Committing to engagement means that healing as a couple requires a plan for connection. 

Many couples experience a renewed sense of intimacy after betrayal, another honeymoon phase if you will. This is totally normal, don’t feel like you have to withhold sex or punish each other. This season can be a very healing time for the relationship, if you allow it.

Step 3: Admit your wrongdoing and acknowledge that your relationship landed here for a reason.

It takes two to tango. Your partner needs you to clearly state that you were wrong *and* together you need to recognize and practice dialoguing about how you both are responsible for the breakdown and the healing. If you’ve never clearly acknowledged your mistake, apologized, and asked for forgiveness, nows the time.

Step 4: Finally, Let go and Lean in.

We can thank Brené Brown for that last part. If you’ve been betrayed the letting go does not mean forgetting, ignoring, or repressing – it’s actively working with the wound so you can release the stronghold it has on you.

For those who have done the betraying, your task is to lean in.  

Blaming or guilting your partner for bringing up their triggers does not serve your relationship. It actually shows me that you have work to do with your own guilt and shame. In reality, trauma imprints on our bodies so it makes total sense that your partner will be triggered from time to time.

Now is the time for you to lean in and work alongside your partner to heal yourself and heal the relationship.

Alright folks – the recipe is:

H – Honor and Honesty

E – Everything and Engagement

A – Admit and Acknowledge

L – Let go and Lean in

Curious to learn more – check out my e-book Healing the Hurt: Navigating Infidelity in Eight Easy Steps. This workbook is complete with a checklist, eight clear steps, a story of a couple who healed, and a couple TSwift quotes! https://wellnessandco.org/healing-the-hurt

Kendra O’Hora, Ph.D., LCMFT – www.wellnessandco.org

Amy Sherman

Something happened in your relationship and you disregarded your commitment by cheating on your partner.  Now you want to fix things and don’t know how.  

The road to gaining trust again is a long one, but not impossible.  

The first thing you need to do is show your sincere regret and that you are willing to do what it takes to make the relationship better. 

1. Identify your “issues ”  

What brought you to this place of deceit?  It helps to pinpoint what areas are bothering you and identify your underlying concern.  Notice any patterns you keep repeating and be responsible for changing what you can about yourself.  Plus, realize that the only one you can change is yourself.  Be willing to be better and do better.   

2. Once you know the problem areas, feel the feelings associated with them.  

Are you feeling sad, angry, guilty, bitter, hurt, resentful or just plain disillusioned?  Your partner may be unaware of what’s going on with you. 

By getting clear on the triggers, you may be able to neutralize your feelings and make those emotions lose their negative charge.  In that way, you allow your relationship to move ahead successfully, without adding any excessive drama.

3. Remember, you don’t want to repeat your mistakes and blame your partner for things going wrong.  

Instead, take a look at what part you play in allowing any situation to develop. Ask for what you need, like more attention, more appreciation, more love and more caring. Then if you could do things differently, do it.   Insight is the gift you get for learning your lessons and taking another path.

Amy Sherman, M.A., LMHC – www.yourbabyboomersnetwork.com

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