Exposed on Ashley Madison? How to Confess and Keep Your Mate

Overcoming infidelity is a process, taking time and dedication. Reworking and rebuilding a relationship after infidelity isn't easy, but neither is divorce. Stay dedicated to picking up those pieces, and you may find a whole new way to build up your foundation again!
08/28/2015 04:00 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

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As you have probably heard by now, the "have an affair today" married hookup site Ashley Madison has suffered a fatal blow. Not only did the "house of cards" come crashing down, but the "chips" fell too, as the personal information of over 32 million cheaters and cheating wannabes was dumped online when the website was hacked. Talk about being caught with your pants down!

And -- yes -- being the author of a bestselling book about infidelity my inbox blew up! My marriage and family therapist hat has been firmly on ever since. Here is a sample plea:

Dr. Sheri:

"What am I supposed to do? I'm scared to death. I was on the Ashley Madison website more than once. It was fun and I was feeling lonely at home. I talked to a number of women and we shared sexual fantasies and met via Skype, but we never physically met or had real sex. Is that really cheating? Do I have to confess? If so, when? Is it better to confess now, or only if I'm found out? Is there any hope that I can salvage my relationship?

Of course, there's hope! And it doesn't need to lead to divorce or a break-up. But --YES -- being on Ashley Madison is cheating; especially if it has involved secrecy, sharing intimacy with another and sexual titillation. And yes, it's better to come clean and take loving, proactive steps NOW before the sh*t hits the fan.

Three Reasons to Confess Before Getting Busted:

1. Get ahead of the healing curve

Truth is always the greatest foundation to a strong relationship, and conversation. No matter the reason for cheating in the first place, confessing opens the door to healing and gets to the heart of the bigger problem. What is REALLY HAPPENING in your life and your relationship?

2. They already know

People are generally pretty observant, and sense things before they say things. BEFORE you get busted, being brave and coming clean may make the ensuing aftermath less ugly. By keeping it real -- confessing and apologizing -- you have taken the first steps towards repair, stopping the damage and perhaps avoiding divorce.

3. Keeping them in the dark

"What they don't know won't hurt them," is a lie. While convenient for you [even though you are out of alignment] it doesn't change the truth. Particularly in this case, time is the enemy of all deals and is not your friend, especially if you are in a position of being caught. Unless, you are planning to leave your relationship, the sooner you come clean and deal with the emotional aftermath, the closer you are to a new, open, honest relationship.

Ready to Confess? Five Questions To Ask Yourself:

  • Have you ended your affair?
  • Have you addressed WHY you had the affair(s) and/or joined a cheating site?
  • Have you "owned it" and regret your behavior and sincerely want to make amends?
  • Are you willing to do whatever it takes to earn your partner's trust back and rebuild your relationship?
  • Are you ready to be faithful?

If you can answer "yes" to all of the above, you are ready to confess.

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FIVE THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOU CONFESS:

  1. First, confess the whole truth to yourself. Take ownership of your infidelity and the love, attention and affection that you have denied your partner.

  • Plan and prepare what you want to say. This is not the time to be spontaneous or impulsive. Put on empathetic shoes and imagine if things were reversed.
  • Let go of blame and forgive your partner for anything they did [or didn't do] that swayed you to cheat.
  • Prepare yourself for your partner's trust, emotional safety and self-esteem to be fragile for a while.
  • Plan for the long haul, as the discovery and admission of an affair, [especially if it is a complete surprise], is like a 9.0 earthquake to a relationship. But, the path ahead offers opportunity to rethink everything: old rules, roles, and reasons for being together. Down the road, you may be rewarded with a revitalized relationship based on truth in all things.
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    The GOOD Apology

    There is real pain here so be empathetic. Your partner will probably experience everything from post-traumatic stress; shock, confusion, anger, to being highly sensitive. Be patient as your partner moves through their grief. Be ready to apologize often, ask for forgiveness and say, "I'm sorry I hurt you."

    Think of the 4 Rs

    1. Recognize and acknowledge the pain you have caused.

  • Regret what you've done and the pain it caused.
  • Be responsible for your actions and inactions. All of them!
  • Remedy the situation by giving your partner whatever they need to feel safe and rebuild trust
  • In order to heal your relationship you will need the courage of your conviction; that you want to make your relationship work, no matter what.

    After the confession:

    Your job?
    To be dependable, consistent, responsive, accountable and comforting. Stay away from any and all "cheating" drugs of choice; be it a person, pornography or another site on the internet.

    Be a "rock" in your vision and commitment, show genuine LOVE each day and the relationship will calm down and feel safer more quickly. Keep saying over and over, "we will get through this" to yourself and your partner.

    Overcoming infidelity is a process, taking time and dedication. Reworking and rebuilding a relationship after infidelity isn't easy, but neither is divorce. Stay dedicated to picking up those pieces, and you may find a whole new way to build up your foundation again! This time, with solid bricks of truth and love.

    Sheri Meyers, Psy.D is a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Los Angeles, CA, and author of Chatting or Cheating: How to Detect Infidelity, Rebuild Love, and Affair-Proof Your Relationship.

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