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#83: Can You Heal When Your Unfaithful Partner is Not Fully Remorseful?

Idit Sharoni

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I'm a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist based in Miami, a relationship podcast host, and an educator. I help couples transform their patterns of communication and heal after infidelity. 


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The decision to stay after an affair is brave and rewarding, but it is full of challenges. It’s no surprise that post-affair pain and confusion can complicate the road back to each other. It also goes without saying that remorse and apologies come with affair recovery territory. 

Or do they?

What if an apology for cheating isn’t forthcoming? Or isn’t sincere? What if an unfaithful partner feels stuck, unsure how to show remorse after cheating? Or isn’t fully remorseful at all?

In this post, I invited two of my amazing team members to help explore this issue. Dr. Yael Haklai-Neagu and Ana De la Cruz are both licensed marriage and family therapists at Relationship Experts, working directly with our infidelity recovery coaching clients. With more than 20 years of experience between them, Dr. Yael and Ana bring a wealth of knowledge and practical insights to affair recovery. Let’s dive in.

Why An Apology For Cheating Matters When It Comes to Healing After Infidelity

Why is remorse vital after an affair? Does remorse make or break your future together?  What do you do if your spouse doesn’t seem fully sorry? Explore the answers to these questions with us and more. Why? Because you don’t have to navigate remorse, recovery, or building trust alone. Let’s find ways to help you heal and make affair recovery work for both of you.

Image of a distant man and woman sitting on a couch. If you and your partner struggle to navigate your relationship after infidelity, learn how a couples therapist in Miami, FL can help support you.

What significant struggles get in the way of remorse?

As a couples therapist, I’ve seen a wide variety of struggles in the aftermath of infidelity, especially as it pertains to genuine remorse. 

  1. Many couples reach a level where their full recovery hinges on the unfaithful partner’s ability to express remorse. The hurt partner needs to know: Are they truly sorry?
  2. There are unfaithful partners who aren’t remorseful at all. This can be a major obstacle to healing. The hurt partner is stuck in crisis and invalidated by their partner. Trust and forward movement are extremely hard without sincere remorse.
  3. Some unfaithful partners do feel remorse, but not full remorse. For instance, they may regret the hurt they caused but not the act of seeking another partner. You can see how this might send mixed signals. The hurt partner is hesitant to trust, wondering whether their spouse is sorry or not. 
  4. Sometimes, remorse isn’t prioritized the way it should be when it comes to healing. If it is forced or inauthentic, it just adds to the pain and confusion. Genuine remorse is vital for rebuilding trust. Trustworthy remorse instills renewed safety in the relationship. But what if remorse is not complete? Is partial remorse enough to work with? 

Due to her expertise in dealing with couples managing infidelity, I asked Dr. Yael for her thoughts:

Why Your Unfaithful Partner May Not Know How to Show Remorse After Cheating

Dr. Yael asserts that some unfaithful partners have trouble expressing remorse for two primary reasons:

1. They Do Not Feel Completely Sorry

Some unfaithful partners are okay with sharing how regretful they are for hurting their partner. Yet they don’t feel total remorse for cheating. Obviously, their ability to offer a genuine apology for cheating is then compromised. If a partner feels entitled to seek happiness or validation outside their marriage due to personal or relationship problems full remorse isn’t forthcoming.

Yael also shared that feelings of anger or resentment toward their partner were so deep that it was difficult for them to genuinely express remorse. Though this is similar to feeling justified in their betrayal, here the unfaithful partner’s unresolved anger prevents them from feeling empathy for their hurt partner. When unfaithful partners live with unresolved pain and hurt, genuine remorse doesn’t come easy. It hinders the healing process to believe that addressing pre-existing relationship issues should occur before dealing with infidelity. When couples try this, the unfaithful partner often forgoes expressing remorse at all and fails to deal with the affair-related injury to their partner.

Unfaithful Partners Try to Justify The Cheating

This is true. Unfaithful partners can get so distressed by prior, unaddressed relationship injustices in the relationship that cheating is justified. This thinking keeps them from becoming the empathetic and remorseful spouse the hurt partner requires.

Dr. Yael says that some couples and couples therapists get off track, assuming that tackling pre-affair relationship issues is the first course of action. This is problematic because it communicates that the infidelity is indeed justifiable or that its effect on the hurt partner should be minimized. The result is an abandoned, unacknowledged, betrayed partner. One who may even feel pressured to resolve past issues while at their lowest point emotionally.

Again I agreed. Too many hurting couples go to a therapist after infidelity only to be advised to put the affair behind them and deal with earlier relationship issues. This assumes too much: 1) that issues existed and 2) those issues led to the cheating. Hurt partners aren’t helped by this approach. Instead, hurt partners end up feeling vulnerable, blamed, and doubting themselves.

2.  They Are Ashamed

Many unfaithful partners are stuck in shame. To admit their actions and express remorse completely feels impossible. Instead, guilt and shame fuel avoidance or defensiveness. They don’t understand or believe in their capacity to help heal the spouse they hurt. They have no idea how much the hurt partner needs them to recover.

Relationship experts see this all the time. Shame is a significant issue when it comes to infidelity. I then asked expert Ana de la Cruz to share her thoughts and experiences regarding unexpressed remorse and the unfaithful partner. 

What Else Keeps Unfaithful Partners From Making A Sincere Apology for Cheating?

Given her work with couples, Ana thinks there may be another idea to add:

3.  They Want to Skip to a New Chapter

Unfaithful partners often hope to “move on” and start fresh in the marriage right away. An ongoing discussion of remorse feels like relationship stagnation or regression. Why?

  • Reviewing past behavior and hurtful memories can intimidate an unfaithful partner.  Remember that the unfaithful partner is dealing with roiling emotions too. They may be wrestling with anger, shame, and guilt. One of Ana’s clients likened showing remorse to the day they revealed their affair. Making a sincere, vulnerable apology for cheating brought up the same kind of anxiety and terror. Their solution? To go on stuck in a crisis, trying to rebuild trust without really knowing how to show remorse for cheating on the person they love.
  • Trying to move on quickly may be rooted in the urgent need to resolve pre-affair issues within the marriage. Is this productive?
    • Yes. If the unfaithful partner can comprehend their own choices and their impact. This helps them manage the degree of their shame. They can recognize cause and effect without getting bogged down by the idea that there is something intrinsically wrong with them (“I am not a bad person; I chose to be unfaithful because of the problems in our relationship”)
    • No. Not If the unfaithful partner sees the hurt partner’s push to understand WHY the affair happened as a pass to address all the pre-affair relationship problems before dealing with its aftermath. Distracting from the present devastation to focus on past resentment further harms the traumatized partner.

Understanding the Emotional Complexities Behind Remorse

Ana recalled a real-world couple who was dealing with this:

A betraying wife was extremely remorseful for hurting her spouse. Yet, she still felt very angry with him. She’d felt abandoned in the marriage for years. Her affair offered the companionship and validation she longed for. She believed her husband was emotionally neglectful. She maintained that his behavior caused her to turn toward the comfort of an extramarital relationship. 

Those feelings of mistreatment kept her from fully feeling or expressing remorse. While she was truly sorry for the damage she’d done, she was also wrestling with the pre-affair pain from unresolved relationship problems. The affair was the result of those things in her mind. She felt that she needed to be seen and heard too. 

What about her husband? He was grieved and anguished by pain and her deception. His wife’s anger and view of the affair hindered their healing journey significantly. Ana believes this situation illustrates how crucial it is to recognize and validate such complex emotions. 

Understanding these core reasons may provide insight as to why betraying partners might not feel totally remorseful. Now, let’s consider whether this can be overcome.

Image of an older couple sitting down looking into each other's eyes. Overcome the aftermath of infidelity with the help of infidelity recovery in Miami, FL.

How Do Couples Dealing With Remorse Issues Heal?

I asked Dr. Yael how she supports a couple when the unfaithful partner is not fully remorseful or outwardly expressing remorse. Here is her strategy for healing:

1. Determine Why the Unfaithful Partner is Struggling to Make A Full Apology for Cheating.

What is fueling their reluctance? Are they angry, resentful, ashamed, entitled? Why did they choose infidelity as a solution to their unhappiness in the marriage? Yael notes that choosing infidelity is often a tactic used to please and/or avoid conflict.

Regardless of what keeps the unfaithful partner from wanting or knowing how to show remorse after cheating, they must acknowledge that nothing justifies their betrayal. Most people start to understand that they could have chosen differently as they look back. That’s when genuine remorse starts to materialize.

2. Discuss Why Addressing Pre-existing Marital Problems Too Soon Complicates Healing

The magnitude of the harm done by the betrayal cannot be overshadowed by pre-affair problems if healing is to begin. Both partners need to be invested in processing the infidelity. Expressing genuine remorse is a crucial part of that healing. Glossing over this step undermines this process and dismisses the hurt partner’s trauma. Yael notes that it’s too much for them to process pre-affair relationship issues in their mental and emotional state.

Instead, the idea is to create a foundation for authentic healing and understanding. Once the betrayed partner feels heard, acknowledged, and validated, their emotional ability to address past relationship issues occurs. At that point, they can lean into relationship repair.

I appreciated Yael’s perspective and thought this friendship story illustrated her point:

Imagine you have had much time to spend with a longtime friend. Your work, responsibilities, kids, etc have kept you from reaching out much. Then, you hear that your friend invited everyone to their massive birthday party. All of your shared friends went without you. So you contact your friend to share how hurt you feel. Instead of understanding, they keep reiterating that you weren’t invited because you’ve recently been out of touch.

Why doesn’t their explanation make you feel better? Because they offered no apology, they expressed no remorse. Your friend’s reasoning wasn’t the key to soothing your hurt feelings. Sensing genuine remorse makes us open to understanding the justification.

What Helps Unfaithful Partners Grasp The Value of Genuine Remorse? 

Dr. Yael knows that many unfaithful partners simply are not aware of how important they are in healing their broken relationship. The gravity of expressing remorse before other relationship problems isn’t really clear. Thus, it is difficult to embrace an attitude of genuine remorse and empathy.

Why Metaphors Matter

Yael constantly tries to help couples connect with key recovery concepts. She’s found that metaphors or analogies effectively capture emotions and help clients shift their thinking.

Are you an unfaithful partner? If expressing remorse is troubling you, consider this metaphor:

Imagine your partner drowning in a deep, roiling ocean.  They are struggling against high waves, swallowing seawater, and crying for you. You see them from the dock and you know you pushed them into the ocean. You stand there ashamed, angry, resentful, or held back by a sense of entitlement. 

Pacing, you say to yourself, “Oh my God, I can’t believe I did that! I can’t stand to watch  them drowning.” At times, you escape the dock not wanting to witness their struggle. Sometimes you watch, upset. You go around in your head about what initially caused you to push your partner into the waves. There are times, you might even think there are some justifiable reasons that landed them in that water…All the while, your partner is drowning, overwhelmed, calling for help.

You must jump off the dock. Dive into the ocean and save your partner. Rescue and steady them. Help them overcome that sense of being dragged down and drowning. 

Yael personalizes this analogy on a couple-by-couple basis, encouraging unfaithful partners who struggle to show up for their partners. She shared that clients tell her it changes the game for them. It becomes a turning point in recognizing their part in their healing journey.

How The Metaphor Method Helped Ana’s Couple

Returning to the relationship Ana referred to earlier in our discussion, I wanted to know how she approached their remorse issues.

In that case, the husband was deeply wounded and longed to receive a genuine apology for cheating from his wife. She was sorry for hurting him. Yet, she was angry too. She felt pushed into infidelity by her husband’s inattention.  Caught in a cycle of guilt, she communicated that she was sorry for hurting her husband while simultaneously demanding that he see how he led her to cheat. Unsurprisingly, her husband wasn’t able to hear her. He was devastated. They were caught in a spiral of unhelpful arguments and blame.

When Ana heard Dr. Yael’s metaphor, she was inspired to apply it to this couple. Having shared that they lived near a deep, dark lake she knew she could create a relationship analogy they could grasp.

Applying the Metaphor to Address Remorse Issues

Aiming to shift the wife’s viewpoint, Ana suggested she imagine walking along the lake with her husband. Ana then asked her to imagine what he said upsetting that caused her to impulsively push him into the water. Ana put this question to her:  Your partner is drowning. What will you do?” Right away, the wife said, “I want to get him out of the water. Then I’ll let him know why I pushed him in.” Ana agreed, “Perfect, let’s save him first, and then we’ll talk about why you acted the way you did.”

Was that a breakthrough? Definitely.

That mental picture gave them both a way to pay proper attention to the husband’s present pain. He obtained the space and time to express the depth of the hurt and betrayal. The wife learned how to show remorse after cheating as well as offer love, and reassurance. Therefore, the ensuing empathy and understanding led him to admit his contribution to the pre-affair relationship issue of neglect and own up to his actions just as she had done.

Healing started as they were able to see and hear each other. They agreed that the analogy was key for them, adjusting their mindsets about which and when relationship issues should be tackled. Ana shared that their transformation was amazing to see. Take inspiration here. You can do this. With the right support, couples can meet challenges together, recover well, and even thrive after infidelity. The art of therapy employs science while artfully embracing complex relational circumstances to help couples rethink their connection, rebuild trust, and make meaningful changes.

Why It’s Possible to Cope with A Partner Who Isn’t Fully Remorseful And Recover

A. Partial remorse isn’t a deal breaker; it’s a commitment to keep working on your relationship. 

Do acknowledge that you’ll need help and seek it. You’ll need support for the following steps: 

  1. to explore areas of remorse or lack of it, 
  2. to work through what cheating means to the unfaithful partner and
  3. to design a mutual healing roadmap that encourages these healing conversations. 

Our infidelity recovery program provides the means and environment to help. Please reach out. We want to help.

B. Infidelity recovery means dealing with the damage created by the betrayal first, with genuine remorse. 

Pre-existing relationship problems are not minimized; they are just processed later. Empathy and patience are required.

C. Healing means understanding BOTH partner’s perspectives. You both count.

Each partner is dealing with their own inner distress. It is okay to validate painful emotions. When you manage them in an orderly way you can both build the strong, loving connection you’ve been missing.

Thoughtful, supported remorse and recovery foster honesty and compassion. As a result, you’ll find that, regardless of the challenge, your relationship is capable of rewarding transformation and growth.

Image of a couple standing under a tree on a sunny day kissing. Learn effective ways to cope with your unfaithful partner's actions with the help of a skilled couples therapist in Miami, FL.


I do hope this discussion inspires you to take steps toward healing remorse and affair recovery. You both deserve a happier, healthier marriage. For more guidance and information, please learn more about my Infidelity Recovery Program or contact me for a free initial session soon. My Miami FL private practice would love the chance to support you wherever you are. To start your recovery follow these steps:

  1. Schedule a free consultation
  2. Meet with our infidelity recovery expert therapist for a 45-minute meeting
  3. Start process remorse rebuilding trust with our affair recovery coaching program


Infidelity Recovery is just one service offered in our Miami FL-based counseling practice. Our relationship counselors also provide couples therapy and marriage counseling, communication counseling, and online therapy. For more practical relationship information, please visit my podcast.


Image of a woman sitting on a couch with her hand to her mouth in thought. Discover how infidelity counseling in Miami, FL can help you and your partner begin healing after an affair. Work with a skilled therapist at Relationship Experts.

I'm Idit Sharoni, your podcast host.

I'm an expert on relationships and infidelity recovery. I'm a licensed marriage & family therapist, a podcast host, and the founder of Relationship Experts  - a Couples Therapy & Coaching private practice.

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