How To Tell Your Partner You Were Unfaithful

People cheat for lots of reasons. Sometimes it's a drunken mistake, other times it's the allure of forbidden fruit, and then there are those situations where a partner has fallen in love with someone else. But no matter the reason for it or the excuse a partner might give, it hurts. There's no pain quite like the suffering that comes with knowing your partner has been unfaithful. But when you're the unfaithful one, the regret and guilt can make it feel impossible to come clean.


According to a 2022 poll by YouGov, 33% of respondents said they had cheated on their partner in one way or another and, interestingly, 54% said they had been cheated on. When you do the math, those numbers don't really add up, not that we can expect everybody to be completely honest about the topic. But who's telling the truth and who isn't aside, for those who have cheated, there may come a time when you need to tell your partner. If that's the case and you don't want to lose the relationship, you need to be direct with your partner. It's a conversation that will involve a lot of openness and honesty to be forgiven — that is if you want to save the relationship.

Choose the right timing and location

Because you don't know how they'll be affected, be mindful of when you break the news. Avoid fessing up right before a stressful event for your partner, like a big work meeting or an emotional family gathering. It's important to be cognizant of the fact that what you say isn't just going to hurt but is going to be a blow on many levels. Sit them down and ease your way into the conversation. Ask them how they're feeling, how their day was, and similar questions that show you care about their well-being to get a gauge of their mindset. If they are already in a stressful or emotional state, it may be best to wait until they are more mentally at ease.


As for where you do it, you want to be reasonable in your choices. Sometimes in the movies when a breakup scene is about to happen, the dumper chooses to take their soon-to-be ex to a restaurant in the hopes of minimizing any sort of hysterical reaction. Rarely does this ever play out as planned and the same goes for real life. You can't expect to drop a bomb on someone in public in the hopes that they won't toss a martini in your face. So, instead of worrying about keeping any type of reaction to a minimum, think of your partner and a place where they feel safe. Giving them the privacy to react with their raw emotions is important. It's also important to select a location that allows them to easily retreat if they need some alone time to process the information.


Have your reasons for cheating prepared

You cheated. Full stop. You betrayed your partner's trust and did what many couples consider the worst of the worst. Instead of giving your partner the run around with a bunch of excuses, have your reasons prepared and tell them why you did what you did. Even if you're not sure at first why you were unfaithful, think about it. If you dig hard enough into your psyche, you'll find there's a reason, because there's one for every action. Don't try to disguise your cheating or downplay it. 


"Before telling your partner that you cheated, realize why you did it, as you will be asked," life coach Nina Rubin tells Elite Daily. "Was it due to bickering or fighting? Were you looking for adventure and excitement? Did you want to break up but didn't know how? Is it something you've done in other relationships and is habitual?"

Yes, the truth hurts, but it's a truth your partner deserves to know. Don't come up with a less painful version, don't use your reasons as excuses, and don't use ambiguous language. Be clear that you already know that there's no reason in the world to justify your behavior, so just get it all out there. You owe your partner at least that much respect.

Stick to the facts and skip the details

It doesn't matter how the cheating came about, once you've come clean, been honest with your reasons, and stuck to the basic facts, that's where it should stop. However, if your partner wants to know, and some do, choose the right words and framing to do as little harm as possible. Don't mention details you know your partner will never be able to unsee in their head or make comparisons. Avoid sharing things that will cause your partner to more clearly and painfully visualize your acts of cheating. Even if you think you're doing your partner a favor by reassuring them of things like they're better in bed, you're not. You're planting more seeds for your partner to obsess over and pick apart in their mind. 


However, if there's an issue surrounding unprotected sex involved, you absolutely need to communicate that. Although hopefully, you practiced safe sex not just for yourself, but out of respect for your partner, sometimes people are forgetful or careless in the moment. If so, you must tell your partner about this detail, especially if you have been simultaneously sexually active with them. And with this in mind, make sure you get tested for STIs a week after you cheated, then again a few months later because each infection has a different incubation period. 

Tell your partner how you hope to move forward

In order to move forward, you need to take accountability for your actions. Even if your cheating was your way of acting out, you still need to admit you were in the wrong, then tell your partner how you plan to proceed and make it right. 


"By being accountable, you let your partner know that you are owning up to your mistake, you've accepted that you've done something wrong and you're willing to work on it," psychologist Aakhansha Varghese tells Bonobology. "It shows that you are courageous enough to accept responsibility, instead of blaming someone else... Hopefully, the planning can come into play once your partner sees you're willing to take responsibility for your actions."

Where there's cheating involved, there's a lot of judgment and speculation from people who don't know the full story. If you decide to share what happened, then both you and your partner should be prepared for family and friends to take sides, even though no one asks them to. This can change the dynamics of your relationship with each other. If you have children together, there is yet another layer of people impacted. There are a lot of moving parts in navigating past infidelity and many aspects that go beyond just the two of you. So, looking into couples therapy to help you handle these, especially during the early stages, can be a major asset. 


Making the decision to end the relationship

Once you and your partner have talked it all out, it's time to make a decision. If it comes down to ending the relationship either because you want to pursue other romantic opportunities or because your partner knows they'll never trust you again, it's a resolution that should be respected by both of you. But where things can get complicated is if your decision to leave your partner is to be with the person you cheated on them with. Before you make that move, ask yourself if that person with whom you cheated didn't exist, would you be leaving your relationship? Or, is it just a novelty?


"Falling in love with someone else when you are in an intimate relationship can be like eating dessert first and then assuming that the main meal was equally as good," licensed clinical psychotherapist and relationship expert Dr. LeslieBeth Wish tells Elite Daily. "If breaking up is the best choice, then tell your current partner why the relationship is not working for you. After all, that should be the main reason you are breaking up — not that someone else has come along."