Trying to pick up the pieces of your relationship after you’ve had an affair or betrayed your mate in another way can be difficult.
You need to be patient and do whatever it takes to rebuild trust if you want to stay in this relationship. Many times the road to re-connection can start with an apology. How you choose to say “I’m sorry” can make the difference between trust beginning to turn around and you two continuing to move further apart.
Do you remember when you were a child and you broke a family rule? Perhaps you lied about a low grade at school or maybe you ate cookies before dinner after being told not to. When your parents found out about what happened and called you out for your actions, you probably apologized. What were you feeling when you said “I’m sorry?”
Was it your primary intention to do whatever it takes to get out of trouble, or were you truly, deeply remorseful about what happened?
Those same dynamics can occur when a person apologizes to his or her partner after infidelity. While having an affair is certainly a larger trust violation than eating cookies before dinner, the intentions behind “I’m sorry” can be similar. The one who had the affair might feel regret about his or her actions, but if the primary intention is to just “get out of trouble,” the apology is probably not going to help turn trust around.
If, on the other hand, “I’m sorry” carries with it a sense of understanding the damage and hurt that was caused by the affair and includes a willingness to make amends, then the door to healing and rebuilding can open.
Acknowledge the betrayal and take responsibility.
If you were the one to have the affair, be sure you are coming to your partner with an apology that truly comes from the heart. Acknowledge the hurt and upset your mate may be feeling because of your actions. It might be helpful to you and your partner for him or her to share the emotions going on. Don’t assume to know in advance what he or she might be feeling. You can share your feelings as well, but be sure to listen and really hear what the other person has to say.
You don’t have to rehash everything that happened around the affair, but do recognize that you made a mistake and that you are now wanting to make amends– if that is how you really feel. Above all, take responsibility for your actions. Yes, there are almost always habits and patterns within a relationship that both people created and that can breed the disconnect that can then lead to infidelity.
It is up to you to apologize for what you are responsible for—not focusing in on what you think your partner has done. That is his or her decision. Choose your words consciously to reflect your intentions.
Let go of expectations.
What may be the most difficult part of saying “I’m sorry” after an affair is actually your expectations of what will happen after you apologize. Yes, it can be a huge challenge to take responsibility for your actions and then listen to how upset your partner feels because of the affair. But it can be even more challenging when you assume that your apology will quickly or even instantly “fix” your relationship.
As important as “I’m sorry” is, there is almost always more time and healing needed in order for trust to turn around.
See if you can offer your apology without expectations about how your mate will respond. Rebuilding trust is a process and it might take awhile for your words to be received and felt. Be prepared to give room for your partner to deal with what you’ve said and then make choices about what he or she needs to happen next. It might be the case that your mate needs to hear you say “I’m sorry” in a heartfelt way again when he or she is more receptive. Really pay attention to what your mate is requesting of you.
You might ask what actions you could take to make amends and begin to prove you are trustable. Sometimes the ways your partner wants you to demonstrate your dependability and trustability are different than what you might assume. Listen and only agree to actions that you are willing and able to follow through on.
Even before you step into the same room with your partner with an apology on your lips, be clear within yourself. Be clear about what you need to do for yourself to forgive and earn your own trust. Again, this can be just as much a process. But once you have started to forgive yourself, it can be easier to know what next steps you need to take to rebuild trust with your mate.
As you can see, there is a lot of behind-the-scenes work that can go into an apology. Of course, there are no guarantees. But when you say “I’m sorry” from the heart and with an intention to take responsibility and do what it takes to make amends, re-connection is a possibility.