I get a lot of correspondence from people who have recently found out about or are trying to effectively deal with their spouse’s affair. One of the biggest concerns that most of them have is whether their spouse is truly remorseful, sorry, and guilty about their cheating. People who have been cheated on want very much to see remorse and signs of guilt from their spouse because they think this indicates that it won’t be repeat behavior and it also allows for some empathy and motivation to make things right.
So, people will often ask me what sort of things or signs they should be looking for when these things are present. I will outline some of the most common indicators of both guilt and remorse in the following article.
When A Spouse Feels Guilty About Cheating, They Will Often Repeatedly Tell You That They Are Sorry: Admittedly, actions in this situation are more important and telling than words. However, many people who have been cheated on want very sincere and repetitive terms of sorrow. When you are dealing with someone who feels guilt and remorse, you’ll often hear repeated and heartfelt apologies.
Not only that, but they will often take this further and tell you exactly why they are sorry. So you’re not only getting “I’m sorry,” you’re also hearing things like “I’m so sorry I hurt, betrayed, and took you for granted in this way. I know that you’re so hurt and feel that you can never trust me again but I can assure you that I’m going to do everything in my power to make this up to you.”
Often when I tell spouses this, they will respond by telling me that they aren’t getting this type of apology, but they feel that they want and need it very much. Many people will ask me if it means that their spouse isn’t remorseful or sorry enough. It does not have to mean this and it might not.
It’s not at all uncommon for the cheating spouse to try to diminish or gloss over the affair because they know the fall out is so painful for everyone involved. To this end, they will clam up thinking that they are choosing not to rub more salt into the wound. In this situation, you will sometimes have to very directly have to tell them that you need these things for your own healing. With that said, it truly is the actions that a person takes rather than the words that they say, that tells you what their motivations, intentions, and feelings truly are, which leads me to my next point.
When A Spouse Feels Remorse About The Affair, They Will Often Make Every Attempt To Give You What You Need To Move On And They Will Take Full Responsibility: Hopefully, it goes without saying that people who feel that the affair is all their fault will take swift and decisive responsibility for their own actions. This is so important. Many spouses who have cheated will avoid this “it’s all my fault” stance in an effort to not draw attention to their actions or themselves, but this strategy is almost always a mistake.
It’s important to remember that the faithful spouse had done nothing wrong. Sure, the marriage was probably not perfect. Few are. But only one person made the decision to be unfaithful. And, only one person is at fault and is responsible for this. While both people will need to work together to right this wrong, only one person took the action that put this whole thing into motion.
A spouse who is truly guilty and sorry about this will take full responsibility for their decisions and for fixing this. This may take some coaxing or some candid discussions, but at the end of the day, they should come to realize that the healing process lies with them.
To that end, many spouses who are fueled by remorse will do whatever is necessary to help you move on. They will offer reassurances. They will check in and become accountable. They will go to counseling if this is what you want. And they will be patient with all of your questions and struggles because they know that they themselves created this. Again, if you are not seeing this from your spouse, try telling them directly what you need and require it to see if they will respond in the way that you need for them too.
A Spouse Who Is Truly Taking Responsibility For The Affair Will Support You Rebuilding Your Self Esteem: There’s no question that finding out your spouse had an affair can change your world overnight. You doubt yourself in so many ways. Sometimes, you don’t even feel like the same person anymore. You wonder how you were so naive and you worry that you’re no longer attractive or desirable.
These doubts are very painful and destructive and many people will intuitively know that in order to really heal and move on, they will need to address and overcome to these things. A remorseful spouse only wants what’s best for his or her partner. He places their well being above all else, so he will support their need to rebuild their self-esteem and self-worth.
Occasionally, I’ll have the cheating spouse tell me that they are worried that their spouse is making improvements so that they can go out and retaliate with their own cheating. This is rarely the case, and honestly, it’s in everyone’s best interest that both parties are as emotionally healthy and confident as possible. Part of restoring the trust is believing that you are strong enough to handle what comes your way. And people who have been wounded deeply will often have work to do in order to get to this place.
With that said, over time, you don’t want for guilt and remorse to define and be the overriding emotions in your marriage. At the end of the day, you want to rebuild the marriage to a point where both people are happy and fulfilled rather than experiencing mostly negative emotions like guilt. But this is a process that will take time and will include many baby steps before the process is complete.
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