How to Ask for Forgiveness After Infidelity

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Infidelity is one of the most painful blows to deal with when it comes to an intimate relationship because it is a serious breach of trust. If you have cheated on your spouse and are now seeking forgiveness, it can be difficult to know how to do so without causing further pain or coming across as insincere. Throughout the process, it is important to remember that you cannot dictate how your spouse feels, how long it takes your spouse to forgive you or whether your spouse will ever be able to forgive you. But if you are committed to rebuilding your relationship, asking for forgiveness is certainly a good beginning.

Sort Out Your Thoughts

Before you approach your spouse with an apology, take special care to sort out your thoughts and consider what exactly happened that caused you to be unfaithful in the first place. This does not mean you should excuse your infidelity or justify your actions, but rather, that you should figure out the fundamental reason you were tempted to stray in the first place so that you can make changes and shore up areas in your marriage, lifestyle or perception that are problem spots.

Gently Approach Your Spouse

Gently approach your spouse without being overbearing. If you come on to your spouse too strong or are insensitive with the way you approach her, you may worsen the tension that already exists in your relationship. Respectfully come up to your spouse and make sure she is ready to talk to you before beginning to communicate with her about the mistake you made. Make sure that she wants to listen to you in the first place, and if she does not, make listening to her the priority.

Listen to Your Partner's Side

Listen to your partner's side while resisting the urge to interrupt. It was you who cheated on your partner, and the pain you caused him is deep and undeniable. If you do not listen to him, you will not demonstrate that you regret your actions and want to take his hurt away. He needs to be able to talk to you about the way you made him feel, and you absolutely must have a sincere, listening ear. Staff from the Mayo Clinic point out that it's important to be honest, and important to let your partner discuss the situation, even if it may be very difficult or painful to do so. Take in everything your partner says without offering up an excuse for your actions.

Apologize and Offer Space

After you have listened to your spouse explain what she is feeling, apologize sincerely and completely for what you did. This is not the time to justify your actions to your spouse, but rather, to fully accept your wrongdoing and offer up your sincerest regrets. Dr. Willard Harley, a licensed psychologist and author, notes that it's important to show your spouse that you understand how much you hurt her and that you are taking action so that it will not happen again. Most likely, your apology is not going to be immediately accepted, and this is when you need to give your partner space to sort through her feelings before approaching her again. Giving her the time she needs to figure out how she will forgive you -- or if she even wants to stay in the relationship -- will assist her in the healing process.