How To Save A Relationship (And Yourself) After Cheating On Someone You Love

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How To Save Your Marriage After Infidelity When You're The One Caught Cheating

Cheating happens in relationships. And tips for how to get over an affair usually center on the betrayed spouse.

But what about when you're the one caught cheating?

Surviving infidelity as the cheating spouse is a gut-wrenching process, regardless of your decision to leave or save your marriage.

RELATED: 7 Ways To Survive Infidelity When You're The Cheater

When get caught cheating, your load of guilt, confusion, and loneliness may weigh in close to the weight of your spouse’s pain.

But, you may not feel worthy of the same sympathy and support available to your devastated spouse.

The jilted spouse may feel surprising emotions like shame and embarrassment and may not want to share the reality with anyone. But, there will always be an abundance of supportive resources to guide them in healing.

Getting over an affair when you chose to cheat, however, requires commitment. Assuming you want to know how to save your marriage and repair the damage, you need to heal two lives: your spouse’s and your own. And that can feel like a double life in itself.

Even if your marriage dissolves as a result of your infidelity, you will have to do a lot of work to heal from your affair. You will have guilt, loss, and behavioral patterns to process.

And you will have to evolve into a person not forever mired in guilt and also not predisposed to cheat again. If you don’t, you will most likely repeat old behaviors with similar outcomes.

If you and your spouse survive the early devastation with a desire to save your marriage, you can get through this together.

When you cheated, you may not have known what you wanted. But now it’s time to decide and begin your healing.

And that includes healing you. Yes, you chose to stray, and yes, that onus will always be yours. But, creating a new and better marriage means you both have to bring the best of yourselves to it.

For this reason, you need to start with healing your own heart and self-esteem. You will then be much better able to embrace the humbling, challenging work of healing your spouse and marriage.

Self-love may sound like an oxymoron in the aftermath of hurtful, destructive behavior. But, no relationship — whether with yourself or a current or future partner — can thrive if your heart pumps only self-disdain through your veins.

Once you understand these self-healing acts, you’ll be in a better position to do your part in healing your marriage.

RELATED: What It's Really Like To Be Cheated On (& 10 Steps To Recover From The Pain So You Can Save Your Marriage)

Before you can work on ways to save your marriage, surviving infidelity as a cheater starts with healing yourself. Here's how:

1. Forgive yourself

In no way is forgiveness a dismissal of accountability for cheaters. It is, however, permission to pick yourself up and learn from your fall. It is the green light to move forward in gratitude for grace and the opportunity to grow.

Take a personal account of your beautiful gifts and your capacity to love. Write them down, chant them to yourself, and express gratitude for them.

And extend your self-forgiveness to a commitment to use those gifts in a transformational way going forward.

2. Practice acceptance

You will have to come to grips with the choices you've made and the suffering those choices have caused. Acceptance is about owning that truth and being able to stand in that reality without immediately tossing the hot potato off to someone else.

There may have been many defects in your marriage, but the choice of infidelity as a response was completely yours. Your acceptance will ground you so that you can take appropriate action.

3. Give it up to your Higher Power

There’s a reason the 12 Steps have brought sanity, healing, and livability to millions of people.

You don’t have to be a religious person to believe that there is a "bigger plan" at work in our world and our lives. By tapping into that seed of faith, you could open yourself to miracles you might never create on your own.

4. Embrace the balance

Remember the Law of Duality that keeps the Universe in balance — there are two sides to every coin, but one coin.

While you have caused a lot of pain, you are also responsible for a lot of good. Trust that your Higher Power is at work to bring these two extremes into balance and that all will be well.

5. Learn, learn, learn and then move on

The essence of getting over an affair as a cheater lies in what you learn from the experience.

You can demonstrate your remorse by your ardent self-exploration and application of lessons. What are your beliefs, values, and communication/behavioral/response patterns? What needs work?

You can turn this painful chapter of your marriage and life into an inspirational life (and, potentially, an inspirational union too).

As challenging and "raw" as the above work may be, doing the recovery work with your spouse may challenge you even more. That’s why it is so important that you not neglect your work.

You will draw resolve and strengthened virtues like humility and trustworthiness from that work. And these will nourish you, your spouse and your marriage-in-the-making during the work ahead.

The work of getting over your affair and restoring your marriage doesn’t belong to you alone.

Both you and your spouse will have high-level tasks to complete throughout your married life. Some will be tasks you can "check off" and some will be ongoing and evolving as you face new marriage problems throughout your relationship.

RELATED: Men, If A Cheating Wife Broke Your Heart, Here’s What To Do

Now, it's time to save your marriage. And there are 5 ways to do it.:

1. Stop the affair

The cheating has to stop — completely. And only you know if you have forged a relationship that you want and need to end.

You can’t work on any relationship while you are holding onto another. Saving your marriage means cutting off the potential for temptation by cutting off all contact with your affair partner.

2. Commit to complete honesty

No more lying and no excuses or justification for the affair.

You are going to have to answer a lot of questions and they likely won’t end anytime soon.

The sensitive and fragile nature of this process is a good reason to go into couples or marriage counseling as soon as possible. Therapists who specialize in couples only will be able to guide this very delicate process with wisdom and safety.

They will also know how to ensure that your spouse gets deserved answers to their countless questions, while not sneaking into potentially traumatizing details.

3. Take responsibility for your actions

If you have been committed to the above healing work for your own life, you will be prepared for this task.

Taking responsibility doesn’t mean you sign off as a perpetual punching bag as punishment for your transgression. It means you don’t blame the marriage or your spouse — no matter how many defects they may have — for your choice.

It also means you show up for the atoning work ahead, even when it’s uncomfortable. (And it will be.)

4. Be sympathetic, loving, and patient

Your spouse isn’t going to seem like the spouse you once married and loved — or even want to love for a long time. How could they?

Regaining trust is a long earned-moment-by-moment process. You are going to have to be selfless and committed more than ever before.

Your spouse has essentially "waited" for you. Now you have to "wait" for your spouse.

When you feel your patience waning, call upon your gratitude that your spouse has agreed to stay and work on your marriage.

5. Be willing to create a new marriage

If you have to formally say good-bye to your first marriage, do so. What’s important is that you don’t set yourselves up for failure by clinging to a relationship that no longer exists.

Yes, you are the same people with the same children and the same "marriage." And yet, you’re not the same people. And your marriage isn’t the same either.

And that vulnerable, mysterious, unchartered place of creating a new marriage together is also where the power of choice comes in.

Some of the greatest journeys have stepped out of original-plans-gone-wrong.

When you are the one who has been unfaithful, it’s natural not to see a light at the end of the tunnel. The self-damnation is often worse than any sentence your spouse or the world could impose.

But it’s important that you can look in the mirror and see a person whose goodness balances painful choices. It will never justify infidelity as a response to your dissatisfactions, but it will be the wellspring of new and better choices going forward.

Knowing how to get over an affair when you cheated starts in that deep, inner space where all "knowing" exists. And that means you are going to have to be the first to do what you eventually hope your spouse will do: trust you.

RELATED: 6 Brutal Questions You’ll Ask Yourself After Being Cheated On (& The Answers)

Dr. Karen Finn is a divorce and life coach who helps people decide for themselves how they will survive infidelity. You can learn more about Karen and her work on her website.

This article was originally published at Dr. Karen Finn's blog. Reprinted with permission from the author.