How to Save My Marriage After I Cheated on My Wife (16 Rules)

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see our disclosure for full details.

If you cheated, it’s a long road to rebuild trust.

How to save my marriage after I cheated on my wife?

  • Be an open book and take 100% responsibility
  • Give your wife access to your phone, email and personal accounts 
  • Don’t just fix the cheating—fix your other marital problems, too
  • Be humble when your wife brings up the affair
  • Fix your cheating triggers and become a better version of yourself

As you may be deeply concerned, there are many pitfalls.

To avoid them, you’re going to need a clear road map of your wife’s psyche—and your own. 

For that, we recommend long-time marriage therapist Dr. Lee Baucom’s guide Save The Marriage.

Click the link above for the guide, or keep reading for how to save a marriage after cheating.

Will My Wife Ever Forgive Me?

I hardly need to tell you that cheating on your spouse destroys their trust.

There are no shortcuts, but if you stay the slow, torturous course of rebuilding trust, your wife may eventually forgive you.

According to licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Gabrielle Applebury, married couples today are more likely to survive cheating.

That is a glimmer of hope, but as you are probably painfully aware, you did the crime—

Now you’ll have to do the time.

As your wife struggles to accept what happened, you’ll see her go through the classic stages of grief. 

And it will be hell for you to watch.

Many husbands don’t have the stamina for it.

But if you really want to save your marriage after cheating and redeem yourself, you’ve got to know how to repair the damage.

Let’s talk about the steps you need to take next.

Read next: How to Apologize to Your Wife

I Cheated on My Wife. How Can I Save My Marriage?

1. Tell her the whole truth upfront

man confessing to woman with a quote about telling your wife the truth about infidelity

If you’re still considering hiding your infidelity from your wife, it’s time to stop living in a fantasy.

Whether she knows only the partial story of what happened or none of it, odds are it’s going to come up eventually.

The truth usually has a funny way of outing itself, and you don’t want to be on damage control when it does.

Not to mention, whatever trust you have rebuilt at that point, you will undo by lying by omission.

You can’t save a marriage with deception, even if the truth hurts.

So first things first, tell your wife what happened.

Don’t leave out information because you don’t want to hurt her more.

It shows her respect and honors her intelligence.

Read Next: How to Save Your Marriage

2. Take full responsibility

As you undoubtedly expected, you’re going to have to accept total responsibility for the cheating.

Don’t defend your actions by justifying what led up to it.

Yes, maybe your wife has been cold lately. Perhaps your marriage has been sexless and you feel you’ve lost your spark.

But you can be sure, throwing in a “but” will sound like you’re trying to make what you did okay.

Fair warning, you’ll need to be prepared. 

Because in real life, when you’re looking into your wife’s eyes saying you’ve been with another woman, you’ll desperately want to offer SOME type of rationale.

But that won’t soften the blow. And your wife will not sympathize with you.

No excuses—don’t dilute the power of taking responsibility.

3. Don’t beg her not to leave

husband begging wife on a couch with a quote about not asking your wife to stay after cheating

Against all urges, resist begging your wife not to leave you after making your confession.

Both you and your wife are fragile and, let’s face it, probably not the most rational right now.

But most importantly, it’s critical to show her you want what’s in her best interest.

Not your own.

No one wants to watch their spouse walk out the door after dropping a bomb like that on their relationship, feeling vulnerable and alone.

But there will be time later to tell her that you want to work on your marriage.

Right now, it’s about your wife—not you.

Read Also: How to Survive a Bad Marriage Without Divorce

4. Answer ALL of her questions completely honestly

It might seem masochistic, but if your wife asks for all the details, give them to her.

Even if you think it’s going to hurt her more—and be prepared that it will.

If she needs to know the who, what, when, where and why, it’s because she’s struggling to understand how this could have happened.

She may just want to check to see you’re being straight with her.

Remember, complete honesty is the best policy to save a marriage.

5. Show sincere regret

Do you want to convince your wife that you’re really a decent human being who just made a terrible mistake?

If so, you must show true remorse.

Don’t hide your feelings—now is not the time to be stoic.

Your wife may be furious, devastated and heartbroken. But underneath all of that, she still has love for you.

Be sincere, make your apology heartfelt and demonstrate that you wish you could take it all back.

You will trigger her compassion in that part of her that still cares for you.

Never come across like you’re apologizing to get it over with or to win her back.

Only when you make her see how much you regret what happened will she start to believe that it might not happen ever again.

6. Cut all ties to the affair partner

man texting on his phone in a park with a quote about cutting ties with your affair to save your marriage

If you haven’t already, delete and consider blocking the phone number and email address of the person you were seeing outside of your marriage. 

Same thing on social media—anywhere there’s a connection, sever it.

Otherwise the affair is not over for your wife.

And frankly, it’s playing with fire if there is any shred of temptation for you.

Granted, cutting all ties if it’s your co worker is not going to be so simple—you will likely run into them sometimes.

So you have some choices to make.

If you work in an office, is it possible to move desks where you won’t bump into them anymore?

Involve your wife in your plan of action. Allow her to dictate the steps you should take to cut the other woman out.

In fact, giving the power over to her to make these calls is a good step toward reestablishing your spouse’s trust and showing that you’re serious about changing.

7. Consider whether you really want to be in this marriage

Is this really what you want—to be married to your wife?

It may come as a shocking question, but it’s one your wife deserves for you to answer.

There’s a reason you cheated.

If you subconsciously sabotage your own efforts because your heart isn’t 100% in it, you will fail.

When it comes down to it, the only way you can save your marriage after an affair is if that’s truly your goal.

Don’t stay out of guilt.

Allow yourself the compassion to consider your own feelings.

If the answer is that you really and truly do want to fight for your marriage and stay in it, then you will discover new motivation and gather strength from that.

Recommended Reading: How to Practice Detachment in Marriage

8. Take a deep look at how you got here

More often than not, infidelity is a symptom.

Odds are, there were problems under the surface of your marriage well before it happened.

Maybe you fought about finances, intimacy, career or how to raise the kids.

Bottom line, you must get to the root of your problems if your wife is going to have a relationship worth coming back to.

The thing is, your fights were never really about money, sex, work or child rearing.

They’re about dynamics like power and control.

If you really want to stop the issues dead in their tracks, that’s important to understand.

Because they damage the integrity of your relationship, and you just get further and further apart.

Dr. Lee Baucom does an excellent job of explaining how to overcome these toxic patterns in Save The Marriage.

Undo them, and your marriage can become resilient enough to withstand a transgression like cheating.

9. Have respect for her mental health

closeup of a woman meditating with a quote about prioritizing mental health after an affair

Your wife is going through trauma right now.

Her state of mind is fragile, and she needs to take care of her mental and emotional health to get back her self esteem.

As a loving and supportive husband, you must let her do what she has to do.

If she needs to talk to her best friend or closest loved ones about the betrayal, show you understand even if it’s embarrassing and painful.

If she wants to speak to a therapist, don’t try to block her path because you’re afraid.

What you can do, however, is suggest couples counseling if she brings up therapy.

Which leads us to the next rule…

10. Consider a family therapist

Sometimes cheating in a marriage is bigger than both you and your spouse.

If you need a marriage counselor, don’t feel like that’s admitting defeat.

Marriage counseling isn’t for everyone, but it can have benefits that can support a marriage after an affair in the long term.

And showing your wife your willingness to go demonstrates open-mindedness and a real desire to put your marriage first.

If you choose to go with a couples therapist, try to find someone who specializes in mending relationships that have suffered from infidelity.

Just remember that couples therapy is one part of your action plan.

At the end of the day, it’s still up to you to commit to solving your problems and fix your marriage.

11. Rehash the affair when your wife needs to

You may be focused on closing the book on the affair.

But in order to move forward, your wife may need to delve into the past again and again.

She may want more clarification on a detail, or she may just need a moment to express her anger and sadness.

Prepare for finger-pointing, rage or rudeness from your wife.

While you shouldn’t be anyone’s emotional punching bag, understand that your wife is working out some heavy emotions.

You will need strong communication skills to get through this together.

Listen to her with compassion.

Love and clarity should be behind all your interactions with each other.

12. Sacrifice your privacy while you build trust

closeup of a man on a cellphone at a cafe with a quote about communicating with your wife after infidelity

To win her back, it’s crucial that you prove your wife can trust you.

Along with being open and honest in everything that you do, you will need to be willing to let your wife screen your calls.

If she wants to read your texts, let her.

If she wants to join you when you’re going out to run an errand, let her.

You may hardly get any alone time.

But if it’s what your wife needs to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you’ll never betray her again, isn’t it worth it?

You can also be proactive about it.

Demonstrate your trustworthiness by telling your wife where you are when you’re not home, what you’re doing and who you’re doing it with.

Check in with her frequently, ask her if she’d rather you come home now and then do it if she says yes.

13. Confront your trigger to cheat

If you want to make good and sure that you won’t cheat again, you have to do more than make promises to her and yourself.

Like it or not, you have demonstrated that willpower alone may not keep you faithful to your wife.

Don’t continue to beat yourself up about this.

Instead, be realistic and look at the trigger that leads to the next thing—cheating.

Was it alcohol? Feeling lonely and unwanted?

You can’t just blame the business trip or temporary insanity.

Maybe the sexual or romantic attention that you got from someone else felt missing in your own marriage.

Instead of feeling ashamed, it’s imperative that you identify your trigger so you can remove it.

And if it points to a deeper issue, like lack of intimacy in your marriage, then that’s something you know you need to address with your wife, as a couple.

Expose your triggers to the light of truth, and the darkness that allowed them to overtake you will vanish.

14. Don’t rush the healing process

Your wife’s world has come crashing down.

There’s no time frame for when she will forgive you.

In fact, right now, it may seem like there’s no way that’s going to happen, period.

But one thing is for certain—it definitely won’t if you try to force it.

Forgiving you is only going to happen when she has regained a sense of control of her life.

That should be on her terms alone.

15. Don’t crowd your wife’s space

couple sitting next to each other on a couch with a quote about needing space to heal a marriage

No matter how bad you want to move past what happened, your wife can’t do it with you around all the time.

Having not an iota of space from each other is unhealthy for healing and doesn’t make the marriage work.

In reality, it can recycle the negative emotions.

So give her some room. Trust in her healing process.

Don’t frantically call her when she doesn’t come home at her usual time after work.

If you’re truly worried, you can reach out and show concern for her safety, as long as you don’t come across as needy and controlling.

16. Practice self care

As you start thinking about the problems in your relationship, take time to shift the focus to yourself.

Pay attention to your role in the disappearing romance or growing distance between you and your wife.

Why focus on yourself?

Because, for one thing, the spotlight is on you right now.

It’s up to you to start making the changes to save your marriage after infidelity, starting with yourself, and self-improvements have a tendency to improve your damaged relationship with your wife.

If you have an anger problem, if you hold your emotions in, if over the years you’ve slowly taken your wife for granted or stopped making an effort to “date” her…

Start working on it so that she ultimately wants to stay.

So, where do you go from here?

The next step is to learn the correct building blocks to make your marriage after cheating unbreakable. If that sounds like a tall order, it’s because it is not easy. 

But few things worth fighting for are.

If saving your marriage is, you can start putting the solution outlined in Save The Marriage into practice now.

Check out Save The Marriage here.


Can a marriage go back to normal after cheating?

It depends on how fast you expect your marriage to return to normal, and what you consider “normal.”

Don’t expect it to be like the cheating never happened within a few weeks or months.

Everyone heals at their own pace. But it’s also important to recognize that you can’t simply slide into your former lifestyle pre-cheating.

There were likely issues there that need to be dealt with together, as a team.

Your goal should not be so much, can you go back to the way things were, but can you work on moving forward and rebuilding your marriage after infidelity, stronger than ever?

Saving a marriage is not easy.

If both parties put in the relationship work, then yes, this is completely possible.

Should I try to save my marriage after infidelity?

That’s up to you whether you want to.

Considering that it’s possible to save a marriage after infidelity, there is really no reason not to try.

The real question is, do you want to stay in your marriage, or break up?

Infidelity often points to bigger problems.

You have to want to fix your marriage after cheating, not do it strictly out of obligation.

You owe it to each other to be honest.

How to help my wife heal after I cheated

Give her space.

Give her unconditional emotional support and do what she asks of you.

Be honest, open and sincere.

Transparency, giving it time and putting her first are the keys to helping your wife heal after you cheated.

How does a husband feel after cheating on his wife?

Usually, not proud.

A husband may feel immediate regret and disgust for his actions.

To say he feels guilty is typically an understatement. He may feel like he can’t understand his own behaviors and harbor such anger toward himself that it becomes self-destructive.

Cheating takes a serious toll on the cheater’s own mental health.

It’s damaging to everyone involved.