Infidelity is a sensitive topic for many. Besides the feelings of betrayal and mistrust it creates in the partner cheated on, infidelity also raises issues within the person who cheats. It can lead to intense guilt, shame, and blame while making you doubt your feelings towards your partner.
Although cheating places a serious strain on a romantic relationship, it’s important to consider that more complex underlying issues led to it. According to a study published in the Journal of Family Psychotherapy, around 25% of men and 20% of women participated in extramarital relationships.
Since there aren’t many guidelines for how to forgive yourself for cheating on someone, especially in specific cases such as how to forgive yourself for cheating when drunk or how to forgive yourself for cheating without telling, the best thing you can do is speak to a therapist who can help you explore the feelings and thoughts related to this event.
How to Start Forgiving Yourself
When dealing with self-accusatory thoughts, bringing clarity to your mind and achieving self-acceptance can be difficult. Some things you might consider doing in this process are:
Now that the mistake has already been made, ruminating on it and blaming yourself will not fix the issue.
Indeed, you can learn from the mistake and explore what has prompted you to stray in the wrong direction. However, remaining stuck in the past while feeling guilty about your behavior will only worsen your relationship with yourself, further affecting your relationship.
Instead, choose to practice self-acceptance by admitting that you have weaknesses and blind spots which you are now willing to improve. Here are a couple of ideas for how to forgive yourself when dealing with thoughts of shame and blame:
- Practicing loving-kindness meditation, which encourages self-acceptance and self-forgiveness while enhancing positive emotions.
- Speaking to yourself as you would speak to your best friend. Use kind words, a soft tone, and a gentle attitude
The goal is to be able to ask yourself: “can you ever forgive yourself for cheating?” and be able to honestly answer “yes.”
Apologize to your partner
Although this might feel incredibly difficult, remember that broken trust can only be repaired with total transparency and vulnerability. It is normal if you do not feel ready straight away – give yourself the time and space you need to find your words and have an honest and raw conversation with your partner.
Remember that cheating is more hurtful for them than it is for you. Therefore, it would mean a lot to your partner to see that you are willing to step forward and take the initiative in fixing the broken trust.
When trying to apologize to your partner, expect that they might get defensive or become accusatory. This only means they are deeply hurt, but don’t let their defenses stop you from showing your willingness to fix the relationship.
Can Infidelity Counseling Help?
Working through feelings of guilt and blame when you’ve cheated on someone might feel incredibly challenging. Remember that you don’t have to go through this process alone; there are kind, empathetic, and trained professionals who know best how to support someone in this situation.
Psychotherapists and mental health professionals are the best sources to rely on when it comes to finding ways how to forgive yourself. Here’s how they can help:
- Supporting you in rewriting the internal narrative you developed about cheating. Instead of accusing yourself, you can shift the narrative to one that allows you to admit that you are a fallible human being who deserves forgiveness.
- Exploring the thoughts and feelings you have about the event. Most of the time, what keeps us in a situation is what we tell ourselves. A therapist can help you replace those limiting thoughts with accepting, kind, and adaptive beliefs.
- Understanding the relational dynamics that lead you to cheat. In many situations, cheating happens when people try to meet unfulfilled needs in a relationship. Therapy can help you better understand your needs in the context of a relationship so that you avoid further mistakes.
Can Relationship Therapy Help?
If addressing the cheating event by yourself is not the best solution, keep in mind that you can always bring your partner to therapy.
In this respect, relationship therapy approaches, such as marriage and family counseling, are great approaches for you and your partner.
Relationship therapy and infidelity counseling can offer you and your partner the opportunity to express any resentment, guilt, hurt, or any other emotions related to this event.
Under the guidance of a therapist, this can allow you to work through these feelings and find the best ways to move forward in your relationship.
When looking for the best resources for how to forgive yourself for cheating in the past, remember that a therapist is the most reliable person to talk to. Therapy is objective, confidential, follows sound ethical principles, and is always a safe space for any matters you wish to discuss.
Thanks to modern-day technology, you can even meet with a therapist online. This can save you a lot of time. Online therapy has been shown by research to be just as effective as face-to-face therapy if you had any concerns on the matter.
Moving On After Cheating
Cheating on your partner does not automatically mean that you are a bad person who should blame themselves for the rest of their lives. Instead of living with heavy feelings towards yourself, ask for the support of a trained mental health therapist who knows how to help you best.
You can forgive yourself for cheating and repair the broken trust in your relationship despite how gloomy the situation may look right now.
At DoMental, our relationship therapists are ready to help.