It's bad enough that infidelity leads to divorce. It's worse when it leads to faux regret. You know, that kind of extravagant self flagellation cheaters do (usually in the passive voice). "Mistakes were made." "I don't know who that person was." "I was in a dark place."
Every time some news-worthy cheater spills their guts about Lessons Learned, I cringe and think, egads... this is not what sorry looks like. If this is regret, I'm Kim Kardashian.
The cheater's sorrow about messing around is usually dressed up with some New Age hogswallop about forgiving themselves and Things Happen for a Reason. I read one recently, where the woman had the audacity to take credit for her ex-husband moving on and pairing up again with someone who's a better match. Really? That's like a drunk driver hitting your kid and saying, wow, thanks to them, you've discovered a new talent for public speaking at MADD rallies.
Cheaters, clearly you need help with this sorry thing. Here's a primer to help you.
1. Make amends. Yes, sorry is as sorry does. It's not enough to wring your hands and tell me you've "accepted" yourself. How about a postnup with an infidelity clause? Because really, only you control whether or not you screw around again. If you want your spouse to believe you and invest in your future together, why not put your money where your mouth is? Think that's crass? Well, it's a perfectly useless document if you don't need it -- and you're not going to need it, right?
No reconciliation? How about a fair divorce settlement. Share custody. Waive alimony. Pay your betrayed partner's legal bills. Financially reimburse them for what you spent on the affair. Don't bad mouth them to the kids. Treat your betrayed partner with dignity. This would all go a long way towards conveying your apologies.
2. Admit you got something out of cheating and you enjoyed it. How many cheaters tell their spouse, oh, I didn't enjoy the sex. Not really. Or moan on about how difficult it all was for them -- the terrible burden of guilt! The judgments of others! Quit with the white lies and the self pity already. Just tell your chump the truth -- deceiving you didn't bother me all that much. Not so much that I didn't do it. Actually, I rather enjoyed it. Cheating was a set of choices I made to get things I wanted -- sex, ego strokes, flattery. I didn't consider your welfare. I was staggeringly selfish. I risked your health. I risked our children's home life. All because I wanted a bit of strange. I didn't think you'd find out, and to me at the time, that seemed like a pretty good trade off.
Anything less than this is insulting your partner's intelligence. We know it felt good, that's why you did it and went back for more. If you didn't confess, but were discovered, we assume you were going to continue. You don't hate the affair so much as you hate the consequences. Being sorry is having the humility to face that you were a douchebag and say so.
3. Admit you weren't "driven" to cheat. All the "reasons" you give -- sexless marriage, poor communication, controlling spouse, insufficient appreciation -- are not reasons, they're excuses. Look, I am actually inclined to believe you're unhappy. That your marriage sucks. That the lack of sex is driving you mad. That your self esteem is shoddy. That your spouse is a controlling ogre who never lets you be you. Okay, so what are you doing with all that misery? If you didn't end your marriage, then your actions are telling me it's not all that bad. You're getting something out of the arrangement. It's time to find your guts and get therapy or end it honestly. Cheating is a crappy set of decisions based in entitlement. Infidelity doesn't improve bad marriages. It makes them worse.
As for the rest of you -- in pretty good relationships, but you just want more because monogamy is "unnatural"? You suck. You need to be single or arrange your open marriage preferences honestly. Stop eating cake at some chump's expense.
You can't blameshift and be sorry. Part of being sorry is taking ownership of your choices.
4. If you reconcile, put your grievances on the back burner. Your litany of complaints about your marital unhappiness now pale in comparison to the damage caused by the infidelity grenade you just detonated. You'll have to take a number on this "I'm unhappy" thing and we'll get back with you. Now there is a whole new mess to clean up that you made, which takes precedence over your grievances. If you want to show you're sorry, begin from the humble position of transparency. Answer all of your partner's questions about the affair. Be an open book. Account for your whereabouts. Your chump is going to be flinchy and not trust you for a long time, if ever -- that's on you. Humility in the face of that suckitude says sorry. Impatience, indifference, and "get over it" tells me you don't get it.
5. Don't waffle. Now that it's been discovered, why not do the right thing and be decisive? Commit wholly to your marriage (if your partner will have you, I'd advise them not to). Or divorce them fairly. (See item 1.) You can't be sorry and expect your spouse to compete with your affair partner for your attention. Fence sitting is insulting -- and still very much about you -- which is how we got into this mess.
6. Shut the eff up about forgiveness. Telling the world that you've forgiven yourself is grotesquely narcissistic. And irrelevant to the people you've hurt. And probably makes God sharpen His lightning bolts at your hubris (Hey, you nitwit, I believe I the Almighty dish out the forgiveness here -- who made you God?) The only person whose forgiveness should matter to you is the person you hurt. And you're not entitled to that. It's on them. They may not forgive you, and you'll just have to live with that. Just like they have to live with the fact that you cheated on them. Try earning some forgiveness. Which you can begin with by behaving as if you're actually sorry.
This article originally ran at the blog Chump Lady.
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