How to Show Remorse After Cheating & Why Saying I’m Sorry Doesn’t Cut it in Affair Recovery
“I said I was sorry!”
Tense and exhausted by the fallout of your unfaithfulness, you repeat your apologies. You’re likely anxious and upset, eager to recover and move on.
Yet, the wounds of your partner remain open, the betrayal and all its consequences, remain unaddressed, and forgiveness remains out of reach.
Why can’t you get past this? Why doesn’t “I’m sorry” work, no matter how much you say you are?
Why Talk About Remorse Expression?
It’s important that couples discuss post affair remorse and effective expression of it because, as much as you may want to recover your marriage, you are likely very far apart on what “sorry” looks like.
As the unfaithful partner, you are the one in possession of the full picture. You are the more stable party.
Your partner is likely reeling from the changes in relationship perception and the realities of your relationship with someone else. For them, apologies may be hard to accept. Your actions may feel wilfully hurtful and humiliating. They may seem intentionally damaging to who they believed you were as a couple. Even if that’s not what you intended.
Thus, you may feel frustrated and hopeless, wondering if your attempts to apologize will always fall on deaf ears.
Still, don’t give up! Get help! Seek support. Whether you are sorry and genuinely show it is a conversation that doesn’t necessarily require professional therapy to be most productive. Let me help you understand how to express remorse that is more likely to be accepted by your partner.
As a therapist, one of the first things I look for in affair recovery is whether actual remorse exists, how the unfaithful partner expressed it, and how that is playing out in a couple’s recovery attempt.
If I ask directly, ”Is he/she really sorry?” Many hurt partners will say, “No, he/she never expressed remorse. At least not the proper way.”
This usually, garners total shock or disbelief from the unfaithful partner: “ Why are you saying this? That’s not true! How many times did I say ‘I’m sorry’? How many more times do I have to say it to be forgiven?”
That’s a good question.
The answer? Remorse is about showing, not telling how you feel.
“I’m Sorry” Never Healed Anyone…It’s Simply Step One
In a nutshell, infidelity demands sufficient, actionable, and expressive remorse to be effective.
You’ve admitted cheating. The affair a level of deceit and engagement with another person that severely damaged your relationship and makes you a stranger to your spouse on many levels.
“Sorry” doesn’t begin to cover the effort it took to betray them. Your partner needs you to live out your apology. True remorse will require as much effort or more. To know and believe you again, your partner needs to hear, see, feel, how sorry you are.
Of course, it may be that you’re completely overwhelmed by the consequences of your choices. You may feel your partner isn’t fairly hearing your regret. That may be true. However, it falls to you understand the crisis you’ve created in your relationship. To recover hinges on your ability to effectively provide an expression of remorse that signifies lasting commitment and dedication to your spouse.
Apologies simply acknowledge that you’re willing to start the work. That’s it.
To recover from your affair, truth and trust repair are what matter now. Your partner needs to see you embrace the next phase of recovery. They need to see you are ready for the hard questions and hard work it will take to get back to each other again.
Are you ready?
It’s tough, but you are not alone. There is a clear path to an effective demonstration of remorse.
So, What is the Right Way to Express Remorse Now?
First, you may be encouraged to know that there is a formula for making your commitment to recovery clear to your spouse. Second, I’ve also provided an outline, or Blueprint of an Effective Remorse, of actual things you can say to help your partner see how remorseful you are. Let’s begin with the first point:
Two Components of Effective Remorse:
1. Quantity of Remorseful Expression –
- Apologize as needed. Your ability to provide reassurance depends on your sensitivity to your partner’s need for it… not your need to be forgiven or ideas about how long forgiveness should take.
- Try to keep apologies appropriate given your situation. Again, respond with the long game in mind. Moderation is key. Your entire relationship needn’t center on your apologies. Think “not too much and not too little.”
- Try not to clam up when your partner is emotional or resistant. It’s better to apologize more than less.
- Try to be less reactionary and more responsive and sensitive. Remember, you are attempting to communicate your own level of dedication to affair recovery. Your remorse is a thoughtful response to the consequences of your mistakes. Not a reaction to your partner’s anger or sadness. Do your best to keep your expressions of remorse independent of your spouse’s feelings and thoughts.
2. Quality of Remorseful Expression
- Accept that “I’m sorry” doesn’t cut it.
- Avoid brief, closed statements of apology. Communication without depth or engagement will not do now. Your partner’s world has been rocked, They need to hear from you. Your expressions of remorse have to be substantive. You need to explain WHAT you’re sorry for and WHY.
- Nonverbals matter immensely. They communicate respect and sincerity. Keep your tone open, never dismissive. Consciously use facial expressions that convey an apologetic message. Willingly engage. Appearing to be withdrawn sends a contradictory message of disinterest.
- Take responsibility vs. being defensive. This no time for manipulation. Don’t play coy or innocent, it undermines trust. Avoid accusing or blaming your partner, it creates resentment.
- Listen and acknowledge your partner’s experience. Work hard at validating what they’ve gone through and how they feel as opposed to minimizing any part of your partner’s pain, upset, or response.
Now. What does all this look like on a practical level? If “I’m sorry” doesn’t cut it, what should you say and how should you say it?
Consider My Blueprint for Effective Remorse
To further assist you in demonstrating your remorse in a way that your partner is more likely to accept, I created the guide: “Blueprint For an Effective Remorse”. This FREE offering details what you can say to help your partner see how remorseful you are.
It is a combination of the specific components of an effective remorse expression above and an example of how you might word it.
You might find that, while it is great to understand what remorse expression is and should include, it is also super helpful to see an example of it word by word.
The blueprint guide is an instant download for you for you to easily reference any time.
It is designed to help you do the following:
- Identify whether you are expressing remorse in a helpful way.
- Understand the 6 parts of an effective remorse expression.
- Craft and express your remorse effectively (using provided examples for direction).
- Make remorseful expressions sincerely and as often as necessary by implementing the ideas in the blueprint.
When all is said and done, don’t you simply want your partner to feel safe with you again? Do what it takes to ensure his or her feelings are acknowledged, validated, and respected. When you can communicate what you are sorry for and why, hope and warmth can return and forgiveness will become more possible.
I do hope this information is helpful and encourages you to take the steps toward recovery and a healthier relationship. For more support and information, please visit my Affair Counseling page or contact me for a consultation soon.