What are the elements of a heartfelt apology after the affair?
It seems that most betrayed spouses (BS) never really get a true heartfelt, genuine apology after the affair from the unfaithful spouse.
Sure, they may get the standard “I’m sorry” but it seems as though they usually hear those two words much too often as the cheater (CS) continues their lies and poor behavior.
This post is meant to be a guide of sorts to help this whole apology process along. We know that a true heartfelt apology can start to break down some of the barriers to healing.
Cindy Taylor with AffairCare says that a proper apology from the wrong doer contains:
- a detailed account of the situation–not hiding details or covering up what happened; be specific.
- acknowledgement of the hurt or damage done–name what you’ve done; say it out loud and call it by name.
- taking responsibility for the situation–no blame-shifting here; take personal responsibility for your part.
- a statement of regret–indicate that you are upset over your past actions.
- asking for forgiveness–come right out and make the request.
- a promise that it won’t happen again–indicate what your plan is so that the person is not hurt again.
- a form of restitution whenever possible–some actions result in damage, so replace the damaged item; however, some damage can not be “undone” in which case you might give them what they need in order to feel safe.
Breaking Down the Model for a Good Apology After the Affair
I think this is a really good model to follow so let’s break it down even further, point-by-point.
Provide a detailed account of the situation–not hiding details or covering up what happened; be specific. Well, good luck with this one. Obviously this is very important. In fact it’s mandatory for the unfaithful person to accomplish. The truly remorseful spouse will certainly try his or her best to do this, but unfortunately it seems this is where most CS fail miserably. I certainly did. Instead of lying, stonewalling, deflecting, getting angry, etc., just tell the truth in its entirety as calmly as possible.
Acknowledgement of the hurt or damage done–name what you’ve done; say it out loud and call it by name. The cheater must understand as fully and completely as possible all the pain they inflicted on their partner. This means coming to terms with the pain they caused them both directly and indirectly, as well as the pain they caused by what they did and the pain they caused by what they failed to do. Here again is where a little empathy comes into play. The CS needs to walk in the BS’ shoes here as much as possible.
Additionally, the BS may need to take some time to really accept the premise that the CS truly understands what they did, so it’s important that the CS doesn’t try to rush the BS along.
Taking responsibility for the situation–no blame shifting here; take personal responsibility for your part. Once the cheater has a complete understanding of all the pain they have caused, they need to express that understanding fully and completely to their partner in a way that shows that they accept full responsibility for having caused so much pain. This has to be done without justifications, excuses, rationalizations or being defensive. Man (or woman) up and take responsibility for what you’ve done and the pain you’ve caused.
No pussy-footing around here either. If you really want to save your relationship and make a step toward healing, give it your all and really mean it and show that you’re sincere in your desire to fix your screw up.
Provide a statement of regret – indicate that you are upset over your past actions. This is good but I think where many CS fail here is that they don’t do this with any real genuineness. Basically, they say they’re sorry and that’s about it. Sorry for what? Getting caught? Or for destroying the foundation of the relationship? Get specific about what actions you are upset about and what you regret most.
Asking for forgiveness–come right out and make the request. Another mandatory point for sure, but the betrayed spouse cannot make the mistake of forgiving before he or she is really ready. Likewise, the unfaithful spouse cannot expect the BS to forgive immediately and must be patient and persistent in their efforts to earn that forgiveness.
Promise that it won’t happen again–indicate what your plan is so that the person is not hurt again. This may or may not be effective, depending on where you are at in the recovery process. For instance, if you are just after the discovery of the affair, promises made by the cheater will not mean a helluva lot to the betrayed spouse. At this point, these are just words and all the pain and betrayal saps the meaning out of them. The CS really hasn’t done anything to warrant faith in what they are saying is genuine.
Many cheaters first attempts at an apology after the affair are really about their own need to escape from pain. They think that if their spouse accepts their apology they will be off the hook. But this step is about something else entirely. This is about looking within oneself and making fundamental changes about the way they think, feel, and behave in order to make sure they will never hurt their spouse again. It ain’t easy, it doesn’t happen overnight and it won’t happen just because the CS says it will.
A form of restitution whenever possible–some actions result in damage, so replace the damaged item; however, some damage cannot be “undone” in which case you might give them what they need in order to feel safe. This one is tricky as it can mean different things to different people. Some will feel that the damage created by an affair cannot and will not be “undone.” Others may feel differently and can come up with some sort of acceptable restitution.
I think the key word here is “safety.” The CS has to do whatever they can do to provide an environment of safety for the betrayed. At first, the BS might not even know what that is. It can take a little bit of time for them to figure out what they need the CS to do to make them feel safe. Again, effective communication and patience are required here.
However, it’s safe to say that the CS must do certain things like: end the affair and sever any and all contact with the OP, become totally transparent and answer any and all questions pertaining to the affair that the betrayed partner might have, they must communicate their commitment to the relationship and that they will do whatever is necessary to heal the pain – to name just a few.
Hopefully, this breakdown can help in some way. In closing I think that above all, an apology must be genuine. Too many unfaithful people try and apologize in order to hurry the healing process along, which almost always backfires because the BS can sense it.
So instead, it’s important that the CS holds off on any apologies until they are really truly ready. That said, many CS have already said they’re sorry (typically after getting caught), so they more than likely will have to do it again – perhaps several more times – until the BS feels that the apology is genuine.
Here are some questions to consider…
- Did you receive what you would consider a good apology after the affair? If so, what elements did it contain?
- Did you receive a bad apology? If so, what was bad about it?
- Are you willing to accept your partner’s apology? If not, what holds you back?
Please leave your responses to these questions in the comment section below. thanks!