An affair doesn't have to signal the end of a relationship, but recovering from one requires hard work, patience and understanding from both parties. As the person who cheated, it is perfectly natural for you to feel guilty. This is an emotional red flag designed to let you know when you have acted in the wrong, explains John M. Grohol, who holds a doctorate in psychology, in the article "5 Tips for Dealing with Guilt," for "Psych Central." Guilt helps you to develop a stronger sense of what is right and wrong, but guilty feelings should not be allowed to stop you moving forward in life.
You Can't Change the Past
In order to move on from an affair, you must accept that you can't go back and rewrite history. Face the facts: you had an affair and hurt your partner, and possibly many other people. When you accept what you did, you will stop wishing it had not happened, says relationship coach Marina Pearson in the article, "Are You Wracked With Guilt Over An Affair?" for "YourTango." This will go a long way toward alleviating your guilt.
If you don't forgive yourself for your affair, you will never be happy, or be in a position to make other people happy, warns Pearson. Everybody makes mistakes. The key is to recognize those mistakes and to remind yourself that you are only human, advises Grohol. Your affair does not define the type of person you are. Remind yourself of your good qualities, suggests Pearson. Write them down -- if it helps -- and look at your list regularly.
Learn From the Experience
Everything you go through in your life can teach you a valuable lesson. Take the time to consider why you had an affair. This process is not about justifying your actions or blaming somebody else, but about recognizing that your affair was a result of problems in your relationship. If you had been completely happy and fulfilled with your partner, you would not have cheated. Identify what aspects of yourself you need to work on, suggests Pearson, in order to avoid making the same mistakes in a future relationship. For example, perhaps you were unable to communicate your needs to your partner and turned to someone else in the hope that he would make you happy. Working on boosting your self-esteem and improving your communication skills will help you make the necessary changes to avoid falling into the same relationship patterns.
Work to Rebuild Trust
The sooner you take action to make amends for the hurt you have caused, the sooner you will get over your guilt, says Grohol. As the person who had the affair, you need to let your partner take the lead, Michele Weiner-Davis, who is a social worker, tells Heather Hatfield in the "WebMD" article, "Overcoming Infidelity." You must be willing to talk honestly and openly about what happened, if that is what your partner wants, and to keep your partner informed about your whereabouts at all times. To move on and create a happier, healthier union, your partner must also be prepared to take responsibility for his role in the breakdown of your relationship.