This Is How To Mend The Damage You’ve Done To Your Relationship


Producer’s note: Someone on Quora asked: How does one make up for cheating and lying? Here is one of the best answers that’s been pulled from the thread.

Sometimes it is not possible to make up for the way we have hurt others. A fact of life that is often overlooked is, we cannot undo what has been done and we cannot un-say words that have been spoken. The other person may not be willing to reinvest their heart and trust you within a relationship ever again. If that is their decision, you must respect it and move on by yourself.

If that is the case, you may stop reading now. Move forward and live life in such a way you never have to ask this question again. If you believe there is hope for reconciliation – read on.

Mending a severely damaged relationship (if possible) is a long and multi-step process. There are no quick fixes. Below are some basic guidelines that may help you get started with the process.

First step

Once a partner has been discovered cheating, it is best for both parties to just step back and breathe. Then, respect your partner’s wishes during the early weeks after discovery. This is the most difficult time for everyone.

Stop the lying and deception and answer their questions, no matter how painful they are.

If your partner tells you they need time and space, give it to them. If you share a home and they ask you to leave for a while, then pack some things and go to a hotel, call a friend and crash on their couch, or pitch a tent. Yeah, your life is gonna suck for a while.

Step two

Find a good relationship therapist, this is imperative. You may need objective help figuring out what went wrong. One cannot fix something if they do not know why it is broken in the first place. Be picky about the therapist you chose. Take your time, read reviews on line and get referrals from people you trust. Make sure you understand a therapist’s credentials, level of education and professional licensing, these things do matter and make a difference.

Then make an appointment for yourself, this is not a couple’s therapy appointment – this is time for you alone. When infidelity is newly discovered, it is best to do individual therapy first. A couple’s counseling session a week after you find out your partner has been unfaithful is not going to bring about any positive results, the anger and other emotions are too high at that point.

If you do not get a good vibe from the first therapist, go to another. Therapists are people and they come to work every day with their own biases, hang-ups and relationship baggage. You will know right away if a therapist is comfortable helping you work through your problems. If they are not the one, keep looking.

Step three

You must answer some hard questions and be clear about your own motivations. Hopefully, you have found a therapist who can guide you through this phase. Being honest with ourselves is hard work and difficult. Often what we learn about ourselves is not so pretty or nice.

There are no details in your question; thus, I cannot give you any specific suggestions. I do not know if this was a short college romance or a long term marriage. If this was a short term romance, it may be best to just let it go and chalk it up as a painful lesson not to be repeated. If you are married and have years invested with each other, shared children, assets, etc., it can be a completely different ball game.
Here are some basics to contemplate:

What do you hope to accomplish by trying to fix things? Do you want to rebuild the
relationship, or are you hoping to soften the blow as you end it?

2) Do you love your current partner? Is this the person you see yourself with in 25 years?

What kind of cheating were you doing (yes it matters!)? Were you meeting people at bars and having drunk sex in backseats, or meeting random strangers off Craigslist for quick hookups and meaningless sex, never seeing them or contacting them again?

On the flip side, were you in long-term love affair with someone you developed deep feelings for?

5) Are you in love with someone other than your partner?

Do you have a sex addiction?

7) Do you have other addictions; drugs or alcohol?

8) Are you truly remorseful and committed to change? Or, are you jumping through hoops because you were busted cheating and now (in your mind) need to make amends to avoid gossip, save face – or your bank account, business or house?

These are important questions one must address in your situation. If you were hooking up with random strangers for sexual encounters, you must figure out what drives you to do this. If you were in a long-term love affair with another person, that is huge, and an indicator of serious deficits within your primary relationship. Are the problems fixable? If you are in love with the person you had an affair with –deal with it! Just because a relationship was an affair does not mean real feelings for another person did not develop. We cannot simply turn our feelings on and off like a light bulb because our back is up against the wall.

Trying to reconcile one relationship while half a person’s heart is somewhere else is a mind-fuck; it is unfair to the person you are reconciling with and a recipe for failure. If this is the case, step back from both parties; pull your head out of the dark hole, and don’t resurface until you know what you want. The risk you take here is that neither person will be there for you in the end.

Then again, salvaging a relationship after infidelity is a risk. Healing on this level may literally take years and years to achieve. And at the end of the day, there is no guarantee that your partner won’t say, “I tried, but I cannot do this anymore.”

This answer originally appeared at Quora: The best answer to any question. Ask a question, get a great answer. Learn from experts and get insider knowledge.