How To Tell Your Partner That You Were Unfaithful In Your Relationship

Infidelity is one of the more uncomfortable and touchy topics to think about in relationships. Unfortunately, the act of cheating and the betrayal of getting cheated on are both far more common than you might guess. According to Newsweek, one-fifth of Americans have admitted to cheating on their partners at least once in the past. 1,500 adults over the age of 18 were polled, and although the majority of responses were positive ones, the amount of cheaters who were willing to admit what they did is still alarming.


If you've already made the mistake of cheating on your partner, there's only one thing you can do in order to move forward without being stuck with a guilty conscience forever. You'll have to come clean and tell the truth in its entirety. Coming up with the smartest possible action plan when admitting to cheating is your best bet if you want to save your relationship.

Brutal honesty to their face

if you've already cheated, the damage is done, but your partner still deserves brutal honesty from you at the very least. In fact, you need to be willing to come clean with every single detail if you have any interest in saving your relationship. If you keep your infidelity a secret for far too long, it will cause your relationship to start deteriorating. 


Without even trying, a sense of emotional distance and unavailability might start building between you and your partner because of your actions. Even though it's uncomfortable, you owe it to your partner to tell them the truth about what you did including all of the nitty-gritty details. It's best to let your partner know about what you've done as soon as possible before they find out in another way or from another person. 

Although it's a painful conversation, it is still better for your partner to hear it from you first. If you decide that you only want to come clean after your partner figures out some of the details about what you've done, it takes away from their ability to fully trust you again. They might even believe that the only reason you were willing to tell them the truth is that you got caught. You should tell them what you've done first before it reaches that point. After all, anything done in the dark comes to light eventually. 


Have a mutual friend share the details

If you're feeling way too scared or uncomfortable to tell your partner that you cheated on them to their face, you might want to enlist help from a mutual friend. If you know of a mutual friend you can genuinely trust to gently share these details, it will give you a chance to tell your partner the truth without having to deal with their initial reaction. Still, is it okay to reveal someone else's bad news for them?


In a case like this, it's obviously better for you to speak to your partner about what you've done yourself. This option should only be leaned on if you know for a fact that telling them yourself will be too much of a struggle. Naturally, you'll be putting your mutual friend in a tricky situation since there's always a risk that comes along with being the bearer of bad news. Because of that, it will always be best for you to tell your partner what you've done with your own mouth. This is still a secondary option for those who really need the message to be conveyed but are too hesitant to do it themselves.

Tell them in a public setting

If your partner is prone to emotional outbursts or you're certain that they're not going to react well upon hearing news that you cheated, you might consider telling them what you've done in a public setting. When you have difficult conversations in public, you can avoid hugely messy conflicts or dramatic scenes. Since you're having the conversation in a less intimate setting, it might even be a tad easier to get things off your chest.


Although you might be opting for a public setting to avoid an embarrassing outburst, being in public doesn't ensure a subdued reaction. They may end up getting just as heated, angry, tearful, or loud as they would've been had you told them somewhere privately. When it comes to narrowing down potential public settings to share a hurtful piece of news like this, you might consider a restaurant with tables that are spaced out far enough so that guests aren't able to eavesdrop on each other's conversations.

Tell them right after sharing some positive news

The idea of buttering someone up before breaking bad news to them is common practice for a reason. Sometimes it makes the bad news that you're sharing seem less horrible if some good news was just shared not long before. Psychology Today explains that most people tend to prefer receiving bad news before good news. In this instance though, you'll have to be very strategic with the order of how you say things by reversing that logic.


When you put yourself in the other person's shoes, it's easier to figure out how to say exactly what you need to say. You can lighten the mood by telling them something funny like a joke or anecdote from earlier on in the day. You can appeal to their sentimental side by reminding them of some of your more lovey-dovey and romantic memories. There are many different angles you can take when it comes to adding a bit of positivity into the mix before explaining to them that you cheated.

Tell them with a gift in hand

Showing up completely empty-handed to a conversation where you're about to admit that you've cheated on your partner might not be the most brilliant idea. Having a gift in hand while breaking devastating news like this might come in handy for you. There's a difference between guilt and remorse, and you might be feeling both after cheating on your partner. Feelings of guilt and remorse might make you feel inclined to buy something thoughtful or lavish for your partner. Purchasing a gift that you know they'll love is a sign that you want your words and actions to start matching each other.


Gift-giving is incredibly common after an affair takes place. This method only works in some instances, though, because not everyone is impressed by receiving gifts. Some people may not react well to a gift because they'll feel like you are trying to distract them from what you've done or buy your way out of the problem. If you decide to go this route, you have to keep in mind that the gift you've gotten for your partner does not cancel out your infidelity whatsoever. It merely just softens the blow.

Consider their upcoming obligations

It's important to consider your partner's obligations before breaking the news to them that you've cheated on them. If your partner is still enrolled in college classes and they have an upcoming exam, it would be unfair of you to break this news to them right before their test. If your partner is part of a recreational sports team and they have a big game coming up, they would feel incredibly distracted among their teammates if they just received news from you that you cheated. If you know your partner has a meeting about a possible promotion at work on Monday morning, you might want to wait until Monday evening to talk about it.


It's important to take their obligations into account before sitting down to have such a difficult conversation. Unpleasant conversations can cause emotions to run high and tempers to flare up, and choosing the wrong time to start this conversation can make everything worse. Just because a certain moment is convenient for you, that doesn't make it ideal for your partner. Since you are the one who is in the wrong, you should be considering their comfort, convenience, and schedule before all else.

Be a good listener

After admitting to your partner that you've cheated, they might have a lot to say about it. It's your job to be a good listener. In fact, you have to be the best listener you've ever been if you want to save your relationship. Listening has become somewhat of a lost art, but it doesn't have to be, especially because being a good listener allows your partner to feel like their concerns are being thoughtfully absorbed.


Clear your mind and give your partner all of your attention at this moment. It's very likely that they'll be angry, frustrated, and possibly confused by the news that you've cheated on them. If they go off on a tangent venting to you about all of their emotions, being a good listener will show them that you genuinely care and that you have true regret. While you're listening to them speak, you should use body language including eye contact and gentle nods.

Write them the truth in a handwritten letter

You might be feeling really antsy and uncomfortable about sharing news of your infidelity with your partner. Instead of telling them out loud in an emotional sit-down conversation, you can tell them the nitty-gritty details in a handwritten letter instead. Honesty is something that should feel good, whether out loud or on the page. That being said, as long as you're being honest, it's not the end of the world to say what you have to say on paper. 


In a handwritten letter, your goal should be to take ownership of the damage you've caused. Specifically, telling your partner you cheated in a letter should include words that prove you're taking responsibility, a promise that you would never cheat again, and details highlighting exactly what happened. if you choose to go the route of a handwritten letter, you have to keep in mind that it could possibly be the last correspondence you ever have with your partner. You'll be taking a risk with this one because they may not have an interest in speaking with you out loud on a phone call or in person after reading what you've written.

Don't leave out the details

The worst possible thing you can do when admitting that you've cheated is to leave out the details. It's unfair to your partner if you try to treat the situation like a vague mystery. When you leave way too much up for interpretation, their mind will wander in several different heartbreaking directions. It might be easy to forget important details of an affair from the perspective of the unfaithful individual because compartmentalization and shame might come into play. No one wants to dwell in the memories of the shady things they've done, so your brain might naturally push out the thoughts and memories of your cheating scandal.


Nevertheless, you still have to do your best to tell your partner as much as you can remember. When sharing the news with your partner, you don't have to offer excessive details, but they still deserve to have every burning question answered. If they want to know who you cheated with, when it happened, and what it felt like for you, you have to be ready and willing to talk about all of that whether it's pleasant for you or not.

Describe what you're willing to do to save the relationship

Are you willing to do whatever it takes to save your relationship after cheating on your partner? If so, you need to make that abundantly clear to them. You must gather the courage to express your truth. Showcasing your vulnerability proves that you're willing to set aside your pride and ego to fight for them. Building a culture of honor and respect is necessary when fighting for the survival of your romance.


If your partner needs a couple of months on their own to assess the damage done before they'll consider rekindling anything with you, you'll have to agree to that. If they need you to make major changes to your social presence, weekend schedule, or communication style, it'll be in your best interest to agree to their terms if the relationship is truly worthwhile in your eyes. Your partner might make requests of you in order to regain the trust that you disagree with entirely. If you're really willing to do whatever it takes to make it work, there are compromises and sacrifices you will have to make. 

Avoid getting defensive

The more defensive you get during a conversation like this, the worse the situation will be. Trying to defend your actions in any capacity is simply wrong and unfair to your partner. Getting defensive after cheating makes you look even guiltier and more problematic. As Psychology Today explains, cultivating a growth mindset is one of the first steps you can take to avoid coming across as an overly defensive person. You need to prepare yourself before starting the conversation by knowing your triggers so you can anticipate them. 


You made the mistake of cheating, but triggers from childhood trauma or past adult relationships can still pop up for you in a stressful moment. If you anticipate your triggers, you won't need to apologize for getting defensive in the heat of the moment. Exercise self-compassion as you're breaking the news also. Your partner might be angry enough that they'll say a few harsh words. Instead of growing defensive with them, be inwardly compassionate with yourself and remind yourself that being honest is still the right thing to do no matter what.

Don't gaslight or shift the blame to your partner

Gaslighting is the act of convincing someone they should be questioning their own sanity and reasoning. In tons of cheating scenarios, the partner being cheated on ends up feeling gaslighted because they've been lied to blatantly. When you finally decide to sit your partner down to tell them what you've done, all forms of gaslighting need to be removed immediately. 


Validate their feelings and acknowledge that they were right to feel doubtful or paranoid about things if they ever brought those emotions to your attention. Blaming your partner for your choice to cheat on them is also wrong. If you were unhappy enough to cheat, then you should have just ended the relationship before it reached that point. 

Since you decided to be unfaithful, it's a little too late to blame your partner for your desire to be with someone new. Cheaters can often be in denial about the fact they cheated because they don't want to view themselves in a negative light. Because of this, shifting blame might naturally occur. You have to ignore whatever slight part of your conscious that believes your partner should be blamed for your cheating. The truth is that your cheating on them was entirely your fault and no one else's.


Offer a sincere apology

It's fairly obvious when an apology being offered isn't a sincere one. If you waited until you got caught to apologize, it will be very challenging for your partner to receive the apology with all of its value. When you go out of your way to be honest before getting called out or exposed, that honesty has the power to go a long way. The most sincere apologies include an acknowledgment that you were wrong, a discussion of what's allowed within the relationship moving forward, an expression of your regret and remorse, and the fact that you're willing to learn from your mistakes.


A sincere apology should highlight some of the new ways you intend to handle struggles in the future and your plan to open up new and improved lines of communication with your partner. A sincere apology must include a clear description of what you did wrong, empathy, and self-reflection. If your partner feels like they are getting a truly sincere apology from you, it can help you both move forward in the healing process.

Suggest couples' counseling to solve trust issues

After something as serious as infidelity takes place within a relationship, professional couples' counseling might be the only possible thing to try. An impartial third party can offer tons of advice and insight to a couple who is in dire need. Trust is essential when it comes to intimacy. Without trust, it's hard to feel connected to your partner. A therapist who is trained to help couples solve issues like these can come in handy after a cheating scandal has taken place. There are many different styles of therapy to participate in to heal trust issues at the core. 


Private therapy, group therapy with other couples in similar situations, EMDR therapy to heal trauma, trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, and psychoeducation are some ideas to explore. If you let your partner know that you're willing to do whatever it takes to save the relationship, including couples' counseling, it will show them how serious you are about making changes and getting back into their good graces.

Expect to be rejected or dumped

Just because you've decided to tell the truth about your infidelity, it doesn't mean your partner is going to forgive you or agree to stay in a relationship with you. If your partner chooses to stay with you, their insecurities and negative thoughts might slowly start to eat away at them. The outlet also says your partner's willingness to accept you back after you cheated might start to deteriorate their levels of self-esteem, self-worth, and confidence.


For these reasons and more, it's possible they'll want nothing to do with you after learning the truth. You've done all you can do if you told them the truth and proved your willingness to fight for the relationship. If they still don't see a future with you beyond the broken trust, you must be willing to accept the loss. In fact, you should expect to be rejected and remain as realistic as possible about the outcome. Even though the threat of losing your relationship over your cheating is very real, it's still better to tell them the truth instead of letting your own sense of guilt and shame tear you apart inside.