How to Repair a Relationship After Cheating (15 Ways + Expert Insights)

Heartbreak hits hard when trust is broken by cheating. You might be wrestling with a mix of anger, sadness, and confusion — totally normal emotions under such circumstances. I’m here to tell you that while there’s no magic fix, there’s a path to healing.

How do you even start, you ask? Well, there’s a healing recipe that involves a mix of honesty, forgiveness, and lots of open dialogue. I’ll show you how these elements can potentially re-establish trust and connection and transform your relationship for the better.

Ready to see what these are? Let’s dive right in.

Disclaimer: This article offers general advice on repairing relationships after cheating based on expert opinions and common strategies. However, individual circumstances vary, and we recommend seeking personalized guidance from a qualified professional to address your specific situation.

Determine if the Couple Really Wants to Stay Together

Deciding whether to stay together after infidelity is a critical first step. It requires honest self-reflection from both partners.

Ask yourselves these questions:
“Can we move past this?”
“Do we still see a future together?”

This isn’t just about staying for convenience or for the kids (if you do have kids) — it’s about genuinely wanting to rebuild what was broken. This decision dictates whether the effort to mend the relationship is worth it or if it’s healthier to part ways. It’s not an easy decision, but it is a fundamental one.

Both Parties Must Be Willing to Work on the Relationship

Once the decision to stay together is made, the real work begins. Repairing a relationship after cheating doesn’t happen overnight. Both partners need to commit actively to the healing process. This means putting in the time for difficult conversations, being open to change, and showing up even when it gets tough.

Remember, it’s a two-way street—both the cheater and the person hurt must work towards recovery. What this looks like in practice:

  • Communication: Regularly check in with each other’s feelings and thoughts.
  • Patience: Understand that healing is gradual and can be unpredictable.
  • Effort: Show through actions that you are both dedicated to making this work.

For example, it might mean scheduling weekly sessions to talk about your progress and feelings, or maybe joining a support group together. It’s about creating a new foundation of trust and understanding step by step.

"...This means being open to communication, compromise, and making an effort to rebuild trust. It won’t be easy, but it’s important to remember that relationships take work. If you’re both committed to making things work, there’s a good chance that you can get past this difficult time."

Heather Wilson, LCSW, LCADC, CCTP | Executive Director, Epiphany Wellness

Openly Discuss the Root Cause of the Cheating

It’s not going to be easy, but opening up about why the cheating occurred is a must. Honesty is the cornerstone here. Both partners need to sit down and be open—really open—about what led to the infidelity.

Was it neglect? Unmet needs? Miscommunication? It’s time to lay all the cards on the table. This conversation might be painful, but it’s necessary to unearth the issues that led to the betrayal, ensuring they won’t reoccur.

Imagine it like resetting a broken bone; it hurts immensely to correct, but alignment is essential for proper healing. Avoid blame and aim for understanding. It’s about fixing the problem, not the blame.

The Victim Must Be Willing to Forgive

Forgiveness is liberating, not just for the one who messed up, but for the one who was hurt. It doesn’t mean forgetting or instant trust restoration; it means you’re ready to start healing. This willingness doesn’t just appear overnight. It develops through open dialogue, seeing genuine remorse from the partner who cheated, and honestly assessing if you can move past the hurt.

What you can do: Start small. If you’re unsure, communicate that. “I’m not sure I can forgive fully yet, but I’m open to explore the possibility.” This acknowledgment is the first step towards potentially healing together.

"There is a negative bias when it comes to forgiving a partner who cheated on you. However, if one wants to repair a relationship, one must remember that forgiveness is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength. It takes courage to forgive someone who has hurt you.

Keep in mind that forgiveness does not mean forgetting or excusing the infidelity. It means letting go of the anger and resentment so that you can move on."

Heather Wilson, LCSW, LCADC, CCTP | Executive Director, Epiphany Wellness

The Offending Party Must Express Remorse

Expressing remorse is more than just saying “I’m sorry.” It’s showing you understand the pain you’ve caused and are making genuine efforts to mend the hurt. The one who cheated needs to express this remorse consistently, not just once but as long as it takes for healing to happen.

Actions speak louder than words here. Regular check-ins, transparency about one’s feelings and actions, and making visible changes in behavior that reinforce the sincerity of their apology are all part of expressing remorse.

Example scenario: Imagine a partner not just apologetically saying sorry but also turning down after-work drinks to come home early, sharing phone passwords without being asked, or booking and attending counseling sessions by themselves. These acts can help show that they mean what they say.

"Without sincere remorse, the relationship is unlikely to heal. The cheater must be willing to take responsibility for their actions and accept the consequences. This means that they must own up to what they've done. Honesty is critical at this stage."

Heather Wilson, LCSW, LCADC, CCTP | Executive Director, Epiphany Wellness

Seek Professional Counseling Together

Sometimes, getting through the rough patches feels like you need a translator, someone to help interpret and understand each other’s feelings and perspectives—a professional counselor can be just that.

After cheating shakes the foundation of a relationship, having a neutral third party involved can help navigate through the emotional chaos. They can help in identifying underlying issues, fostering healthy communication, and guiding both partners towards healing and rebuilding trust.

"A trained marriage/relationship therapist will be able to help both people address the issues in a safe environment while allowing each person to express their thoughts and feelings.

They also provide guidance, feedback, and solutions to help determine where they are in the relationship and if the cheating and other issues (because they always come up) are salvageable."

Kristin Davin, PsyD | Psychologist, Choosing Therapy

Set Clear and Honest Communication Rules

Clear communication doesn’t just happen; it’s crafted with intention. Setting rules for communication can turn chaotic conversations into constructive discussions.

Here’s what setting clear and honest communication rules might look like:

  • No Interrupting: Each person gets a chance to speak without interruptions. Perhaps, use something like a “talking stick”—only the person holding the stick can speak.
  • Use “I” Statements: Avoid accusations. Start sentences with “I feel…” instead of “You always…”
  • Scheduled Check-ins: Establish regular times to check in on each other’s feelings and the relationship’s progress. Maybe every Sunday afternoon is your recap session.
  • Digital Boundaries: Agree on transparency levels, like sharing passwords or providing access to social media accounts, if that is relevant to rebuilding trust.

Setting these rules isn’t about controlling the conversation but guiding it towards mutual understanding and resolution.

Discuss the Affair (Ask Questions Like ‘Do You Love Her/Him?’)

Tackling the tough questions head-on can be daunting but it’s necessary. This isn’t about creating more hurt but opening the dialogue for clarity and closure. Think of it as removing the bandage to properly treat the wound — it’s painful, but essential for healing.

These direct questions might look harsh on paper, but addressing them helps prevent suspicion from festering.

What you can do: Approach this discussion with a spirit of healing rather than accusation. A gentle but firm, I need to understand the full extent of what happened to move forward. Can you be honest with me about your current feelings towards this person? This encourages openness without a battleground setting.

It’s crucial for both parties to have the space to speak and really listen. This may involve several conversations; it’s not a one-and-done deal. Patience and a commitment to the process significantly help in truly overcoming the betrayal.

"...Most clients realize that most of their questions about the affair are filling a "want" to know details. The details of where, when, and how are painful and unnecessary.

Answering questions like, "Are you still seeing this person?" or "Do you love her/him?" are necessary for recovery and would classify as a "need to know." The partner who cheated should exercise humility and patience in this process.

Veronica Lichtenstein, LMHC | Counselor, Veronica Listens

Ensure the Affair is Over and How to Act if the Affair Partner Reaches Out

The importance of ensuring the affair is completely over cannot be overstated. It’s the absolute bedrock on which you’ll begin rebuilding trust. But what if the affair partner reaches out? It’s a wrenching situation that needs clear preemptive strategy.

What this looks like: Perhaps, if the affair partner sends a message, the plan might involve showing the text to your partner immediately and discussing how to respond together to reinforce mutual trust, deciding perhaps not to respond at all. Such openness can act as a reassuring affirmation that the past won’t repeat itself.

"...Now, there is at least a part of you that is willing to give your relationship another chance. To address the wound of infidelity, you both will need to figure out how to ensure that the affair is over and what to do if the affair partner reaches out."

Ellen Durant, LMFT | Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist | Co-Founder, Belong Counseling and Consulting

Establish New Trust Boundaries

Rebuilding trust means establishing clear boundaries that respect both partners’ needs. These boundaries should be specific and agreed upon by both sides. Here’s what setting up these new rules might include:

  • Digital transparency: Openly sharing phone and email passwords.
  • Check-ins: Agreeing to regular updates when apart, which isn’t about surveillance but reassurance and building security in the relationship.
  • Social boundaries: Setting rules about interactions with the opposite sex, like avoiding one-on-one situations with coworkers or friends that might cause discomfort to the other partner.

Having these clear delineations helps prevent misunderstandings and cultivates a safer emotional space for healing.

"Trust is built by acknowledging, accepting, and owning your imperfections — not your perfections. Yes, when you confess your mistakes, that is actually trust-building."

Nathaniel Gustafson | Counselor & Coach | Owner and CEO, TenderHearted Men

Avoid Trying to Rationalize or Justify the Cheating

When infidelity shatters trust, the path to recovery isn’t paved with excuses. Rationalizing the cheating—whether it’s blaming a moment of weakness, lack of judgment, or external pressures—can feel like a salt rub into an open wound for the hurt partner.

Instead, focus on being accountable. Recognize that reasons can explain but not excuse the actions taken. A useful mantra could be: Understanding the why helps us navigate the how of our recovery, but it doesn’t erase the what happened.

This stance allows both partners to confront the painful situation directly, without diminishing the gravity of the breach of trust, therefore opening a door to deeper empathy and healing.

"The first thing you need to do if you have been cheating is to not defend yourself at all. Avoid trying to rationalize or justify the cheating. That is only going to set you back in your efforts to eventually repair things.

Just take responsibility for acting wrongly without trying to explain any extenuating circumstances like "I was lonely," "We never have sex anymore," or "I was drunk."

While many of these might be helpful to explore later, in the early phases of trying to apologize and getting a second chance, it is going to come off as you trying to avoid taking responsibility."

Krista Jordan, PhD | Board Certified Clinical Psychologist | Writer, Choosing Therapy

Spend Quality Time to Rebuild Intimacy

Repairing a relationship after cheating means rediscovering each other and rebuilding intimacy, not just physically but emotionally too. Quality time together is key. It goes beyond just being in the same place—it’s about engaging and connecting deeply.

What this looks like:

  • Planning regular date nights where the focus is on enjoying each other’s company without the distraction of phones or other technology.
  • Participating in activities both partners love or trying new hobbies together, forging new memories to replace the painful ones.
  • Taking weekend trips to change the scenery and allow room for relaxed and organic conversations that deepen the bond.

Setting aside dedicated time to reconnect helps restore warmth and affection, laying the groundwork for a renewed relationship.

Monitor Progress and Set Relationship Goals

Keep track of how the relationship is healing. Regularly evaluating the progress made helps in understanding what’s working and what isn’t. Setting small, achievable relationship goals can provide motivation and clear direction in the healing journey.

Examples include:

  • Keeping a weekly “relationship check-in” where both parties can express how they felt during the week about the recovery process.
  • Setting milestones for therapy or counseling, such as completing a couples’ workshop or therapy sessions until a certain date.
  • Celebrating small victories, like a month of enhanced communication or a week without any trust breaches.

Measuring progress and achieving these goals not only propels you forward but also instills a sense of accomplishment and hope in both partners.

Determine What Needs Are Not Being Met in the Relationship

A crucial step in mending a relationship is figuring out the gaps. Often, cheating doesn’t come out of nowhere—it’s the symptom of unmet needs within the relationship. Identifying these can prevent future issues and strengthen the bond.

What you can do: Start by having an open conversation about what each of you feels is lacking. It could be emotional connectivity, physical intimacy, or simply feeling appreciated and heard. Addressing these needs proactively can create a more fulfilling relationship where both partners feel valued and understood. This task requires honesty and vulnerability but leads to a deeper connection.

"...The next part of responsible action is for each of you to determine what needs are not being met in the relationship. Possible needs include support, affection, intimacy, trust, time together, space apart, acceptance, validation, autonomy, security, prioritization, etc.

To take this a step deeper, you then have to decide on how the needs need to be met by the relationship and individually."

Ellen Durant, LMFT | Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist | Co-Founder, Belong Counseling and Consulting

Be Patient with Each Other’s Healing Process

Healing from infidelity is more of a marathon than a sprint. It requires patience from both partners, as everyone heals at their own pace. Being patient means giving space when needed and supporting without pressure.

Practical tips include:

  • Celebrate small achievements in trust and understanding.
  • Remember that setbacks are part of the journey, not failures.
  • Allow each other to express emotions without judgment.

Understanding that recovery is nonlinear and allowing each other the time and space to process the betrayal can help foster resilience and understanding in the relationship.

"The healing process after betrayal takes time. The relationship may look like a different relationship because it involves having to rebuild trust and assessing what new boundaries have to be in place for the relationship to continue forward in a healthy way."

Tiarra Faulkner MA, LPC | Relationship Trauma Expert | Licensed Mental Health Therapist, Graceful Growth Counseling Services

Excerpts From the Experts

“Betrayal in a relationship is a serious blow to any relationship, but there are three things that the person who cheated must realize and actually do to even consider the possibility of repair.

These three “must-do” actions sound simple, but they involve complete honesty and vulnerability on the part of the cheater; and reassurance that it will not happen again for the one cheated on.

  1. Get it: To “get it” means that you truly understand the significance of cheating on someone who trusted you and realize the damage you have done to the relationship and to your partner as a person.
  2. Own it: To “own it” means you must accept full responsibility for the action of cheating. Things in your relationship might not have been what you wanted or expected, but that doesn’t mean you have a right to cheat. In spite of what’s going on in the relationship, you personally chose to cheat.
  3. Fix it: To “fix it” means you have to fix the situation after cheating the way your partner needs it to be fixed. You can’t say, “Well, I said, I’m sorry!” Your partner may need to see some other fixes that are necessary to continue.

    That may include apologizing to people your cheating has affected. Or maybe your partner requires a formal, signed document saying that if you cheat again, a certain financial thing happens.

If the cheater does the three things listed above, there is a chance of moving beyond cheating, allowing you to create a life that is good and full and fun after cheating.”

Suzy Brown | Founder, Midlife Divorce Recovery

“Behavior change is not enough to build trust. Why? Because before or during cheating, the behaviors seemed to be just fine because there was deception. So it stands to reason that now, after deception, those same behaviors cannot be trusted.

Instead, the cheater should manifest heart change. Heart change shows up in everything you do because it is at the core of who you are. Whereas behaviors change only shows up in specific areas. Heart change builds trust.”

Nathaniel Gustafson | Counselor & Coach | Owner and CEO, TenderHearted Men

“The affair was both secret and intimate. The affair relationship has intruded upon the special place that they held with their partner. To be clear, the key aspect of the relationship that shatters upon the discovery of infidelity is trust. As it is the trust that has broken, it is trust that needs repairing…

The first order of business is to conclude the outside connection. And, it cannot conclude in a slipper or wishy-washy manner. It must be firm, clear, and absolute. The couple cannot repair their relationship if the connection to the affair person remains…”

Terri DiMatteo, LPC | Licensed Professional Counselor Relationship and Couple Counselor, Open Door Therapy

“The answer lies in honesty, vulnerability, and a willingness to address the underlying issues that led to cheating in the first place. Questions such as ‘Why did I cheat?’ and ‘How can I prevent this from happening again?’ must be asked and answered with sincerity.”

Steve Carleton, LCSW, CACIII | Executive Clinical Director, Gallus Detox

“Learn better ways to communicate, connect, and achieve emotional safety. The most important thing is to have open and honest communication and try to process the possible scenarios that may arise so that there is greater sensitivity.”

Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, MS, LCPC | Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor | Co-founder, The Marriage Restoration Project

“Once you and your partner can find the true reason for the infidelity, you’ll be able to figure out what you each need to do for each other, yourselves, and the relationship to address this and repair it.

Now comes the hard part: You have to be willing to hear each other out in empathy and hold yourselves accountable for how you each have contributed to the end result of infidelity. That will require you each to decide if you want the relationship to continue, and if so, commit repair.”

Maria Dominique Lopez | Founder and CEO, Ascending Arts, LLC

Final Thoughts

Rebuilding a relationship after cheating isn’t a sprint; it’s more of a marathon. It requires time, patience, and genuine effort from both partners. Remember, this journey is unique to every couple. So, take the advice that resonates with you and fits into your specific situation.

As you move forward, keep in mind that healing is possible. I believe in the power of transformation and growth that can emerge from such challenging times. Here’s to finding strength and rediscovery in your relationship as you work through this together. Stay hopeful and keep pushing forward, step by step.

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Leah is a creative soul with a passion for telling stories that matter. As an editor and writer at UpJourney, she channels her natural curiosity and imagination into thought-provoking articles and inspiring content. She is also a registered nurse dedicated to helping others and making a positive impact.

In her free time, she indulges her artistic side as a hobbyist photographer, capturing the world's beauty one shot at a time. You can also find her in a poor-lit room playing her favorite video games or in a corner somewhere, reading and immersing herself in the rich worlds of fantasy and dark academia.

At home, Leah is surrounded by love and laughter, living peacefully with her partner and their three adorable shih tzus.