How to Forgive Yourself for Cheating

How to Forgive Yourself for Cheating: 7 Steps for Self-Forgiveness

Navigating how to forgive yourself for cheating can be tricky and seem impossible. But you deserve to be able to move on, whether that’s with your primary partner, your new paramour, or on your own.

To support you, we’ve put together our top 7 tips backed by advice from therapists and self-help resources. Whichever path you choose to go down after your indiscretions, follow our guide so you can take steps to self-forgiveness and finally move on.

Our 7 steps to help you truly forgive yourself for cheating:

1. Follow the four R’s
2. Learn from your mistakes
3. Be clear about what you want
4. Start journaling
5. Practice self-care
6. Be patient
7. Create support systems
cheating the four rs

Expert Advice from Therapists: How to Forgive Yourself for Cheating

Learning to forgive yourself for cheating is a long process that requires lots of patience and tough personal development.

Whether you want to forgive yourself for cheating so you can repair your primary relationship, or you want to get rid of your guilt to enjoy your affair more fully, here are some practical exercises that might help.

Step 1: The Four ‘R’s

showing remorse

Kelsey Schultz, a Ph.D. candidate from the Berkeley Well-Being Institute, states that the four R’s are the most important thing when it comes to learning to forgive yourself.

The four R’s include:

  • Responsibility
  • Remorse
  • Restoration
  • Renewal

These are the four basic steps you need to take in order to forgive yourself and make amends with your partner. Responsibility and remorse are fairly self-explanatory; you need to take responsibility for what happened.

Restoration refers to making amends with your spouse. Although not telling your partner about your affair seems easier, it actually makes it harder for you to move forward and forgive yourself.

The final R, renewal, is all about personal growth. This is where you learn from your mistakes and come out the other side with a better understanding of yourself, self-compassion, and stronger personal values.

Step 2: Learn from Your Mistake

making a mistake

Healthline has a few tips on how to forgive yourself for cheating and not telling. One of Sara Lindberg, BS, MEd’s top pieces of advice is to learn from your mistakes.

Everyone makes mistakes, but if you can turn yours into a teaching moment, you can get something worthwhile out of it.

When reflecting on why you cheated, try to identify some common triggers that made you want to act on those urges in the first place. This is the first step to self-improvement. It can also be a great place to start rebuilding your relationship with your partner.

Just remember that “I” statements are important when discussing this with your partner.

Step 3: Be Clear About What You Want

talking to spouse cheating

Healthline also mentions the importance of knowing what you want. When you’ve worked out what caused you to cheat in the first place, you can focus on what that means for what you want in life and relationships.

This also refers to how you want to proceed in terms of telling your spouse. You might want to protect them from the upset, but be mindful that this can hinder your own healing process and might cause them more harm in the long run.

If you decide to disclose the cheating to your partner, make sure you choose a calm, quiet moment when you can dedicate time to talking it out. Try to avoid blurting it out during a high-stress moment.

Step 4: Start Journalling

creating a journal for therapy

Choosing Therapy is another great source of advice for learning to forgive yourself. Journalling is a tried and tested way to help you organise your feelings.

Besides guilt and shame, you’re probably feeling a bunch of other emotions all at once. Getting them down on paper can help you make sense of them, process them, and decide how to move forward.

Making sense of your feelings can help you articulate them more clearly to your partner if you choose to discuss them. It can also help avoid misunderstandings that can make the situation worse.

Step 5: Practice Self-Care

self care isnt selfish

Self-care is a common suggestion for just about anything, but it can be really beneficial when trying to forgive yourself.

We’re human beings; we make mistakes, but that doesn’t mean we should wallow in self-pity and stop taking care of ourselves.

Some of our top tips for self-care include

  • Spending time in nature
  • Exercising
  • Resting
  • Take care of your hygiene
  • Journalling
  • Indulging in your hobbies
  • Reaching out for help

Whatever your version of self-care looks like, it’s important to ensure that you’re truly immersing yourself in the activity to get the most out of it.

Step 6: Be Patient

showing patience

We’re going to say this over and over again in this article, but healing takes time.

When you’re trying to gain a new perspective or tone down your self-criticism, you have to have patience with yourself. Accepting what happened and moving on is a lengthy process that will have its fair share of setbacks. All you can do is embrace the journey and learn from it as much as possible.

You can always enlist the help of a licensed therapist to help you pace your journey to help make it stick.

Step 7: Create Support Systems

friend support system

Even if you haven’t told your spouse about cheating, it’s important to have a support system to help you through it.

This can be a trusted friend or family member. Although this might seem like a risky move if you’re trying to keep it from your partner for now, it can also be incredibly helpful. Your friends and family know you better than anyone else. They care for you and want the best for you.

Of course, a mental health professional can give you someone to confide in if you’re concerned about being judged by your loved ones. They can also help you deal with your feelings of guilt to allow you to confide in your friends and family.

The Psychology of Guilt and Shame in Cheating

When we cheat on a spouse, whether we are caught or not, we can feel guilty and shameful.

These negative emotions can stay with us for a long time. But before we can begin to overcome them and let them go, we need to understand what they are and how they affect us.

What is Guilt & How to Overcome It After Cheating

Guilt and shame are two very different emotions that are often confused. Guilt is a heavy feeling we get in the pit of our stomachs when we know we’ve done something wrong.

Guilt is probably one of the strongest emotions that we experience when we cheat. It can become so overwhelming that it can lead to depression and anxiety.

The good news is that there are ways to work through guilt, such as talking to a trusted friend or family member about what happened. This helps us process our feelings of guilt and gives us an opportunity to make things right with ourselves and our self-image.

guilt and cheating

What is Shame & How to Overcome It After Cheating

However, shame is a mindset deeply ingrained within us. It has a way of changing our identity instead of simply accepting responsibility.

We might feel guilt for our actions, but when something we’ve done is regarded as shameful, we tend to internalise it as part of who we are. Shame perpetuates the notion of “I am unworthy.” It thrives on evoking feelings of inadequacy, self-contempt, and a profound sense of inferiority.

Overcoming shame can be a difficult task, but it’s something that should take priority when recovering from cheating. It’s important to make sure you’re aware of how you’re talking to yourself and practice being kind to yourself to dissolve your negative feelings.

Remember, there’s going to be a reason you felt the need to explore other options; it may take some time to discover the cause. Cheating is often a sign that something is lacking in your relationship.

It can be helpful to do some soul-searching to find what you’re not getting from your relationship so you can address it with your partner and build from there.

Seeking professional help when experiencing cheating guilt can help you protect your mental health, which can lead to a better outcome however you decide to move forward with your relationships.

According to HealthlineThough guilt can sometimes promote positive growth, it can also linger and hold you back — long after others have forgotten or forgiven what happened.

Rounding Up Our Steps On How to Forgive Yourself for Cheating

It takes a lot of work to forgive yourself for cheating, and there aren’t any shortcuts. It’s important to make sure you give yourself time and understanding to help you work through what went wrong in your relationship. Whether you decide to remain with your current partner or move on with your affair partner…

Read more of our blog posts on how to navigate married affairs and start enjoying your love life once again.


Does the Guilt of Cheating Ever Go Away?

Getting past the pain and guilt and moving on is definitely possible. However, freeing yourself from the burden of cheating is not a straightforward matter. Every now and then, the weight of your actions may linger, and all you want is to leave it all behind.

How Do I Stop Overthinking After Cheating?

It can be easy to get caught up in your thoughts after cheating on your partner, but this isn’t helpful for healing and moving on. When you find yourself ruminating over what happened, it’s important to distract yourself in a constructive way. Practising self-care, taking a walk, or talking to a trusted friend can help break the cycle of overthinking.

Can a Relationship Go Back to Normal After Cheating?

Yes, it can. It takes a lot of work, commitment, and patience from both partners to heal a relationship and get back to normal. It’s also important to note that the process of getting your relationship back on track isn’t linear. Although you’ll face setbacks on your journey, it doesn’t mean you won’t get there.

How Do You Recover Yourself After Cheating?

One of the most important steps to forgiving yourself is to go easy on yourself. Although you feel bad, you still deserve to look after yourself and engage in hobbies and with loved ones. Try to stick to your regular routine as much as possible throughout the process.

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