07/07/2014 03:52 pm ET Updated Sep 06, 2014

How to Tell If a Cheater Is Truly Sorry

Robert Koene via Getty Images

If you've ever been cheated on, you've probably wondered if your cheater is truly sorry. Is it real remorse, or is it the other kind? What I call "genuine imitation Naugahyde remorse (GINR)." You know, sort of looks like the real thing, but upon closer inspection is a cheap fake.

Here's a handy check list to help you distinguish.

1. Humility. Cheating comes from a place of entitlement. One set of rules for the cheater, and another set of rules for the chump. Cheaters feel they deserve their infidelities. So much so that they have to game the system and deny their partner's reality. (Cheating? Who me? How could you ever think that! You're crazy!)

Being truly sorry, on the other hand, comes from a place of humility. That means giving up entitlement and special privilege. Real remorse doesn't lead with its grievances. GINR thinks its complaints about the marriage trump its infidelities. GINR wants special consideration for its "healing." GINR asks for patience while GINR "grieves" the affair partner.

Real remorse tells GINR to go sit shiva on its stupidity somewhere else.

Real remorse is the cheater recognizing their place on the food chain -- the disgraced person who needs to demonstrate their apologies. GINR meets the betrayed person's grief with dismissive anger. GINR indulges in false equivalencies. (Well, you suck too!) True remorse has a deep awareness that infidelity broke a sacred trust, and it is not owed reconciliation.

2. Initiative. Real remorse books its own shrink appointments. Real remorse does the homework. Real remorse does not need to be cajoled, wheedled, or dragged by its ear. Real remorse buys the books and reads the books. GINR waits for you to do it, and then finds a very good reason to be too busy.

3. Honesty. You can't cheat on someone without lying to them. Real remorse spits out the truth. All of the truth, and it doesn't editorialize and say things like "she really needed me" or "he was just a friend." Real remorse answers the same questions over and over and over again and gives truthful, consistent answers. (None of which is "I don't know.") If real remorse doesn't know, real remorse does whatever it can to find out. Real remorse will do whatever it must to give you peace of mind even if real remorse thinks it's pointless.

GINR can't remember. No, really, GINR has absolutely no idea where GINR was on Christmas Eve, and just please shut up already.

4. Patience. Real remorse understands that repairing a relationship after infidelity is a long haul with dubious prospects. GINR wants you to "get over it" already because hey, it said it was sorry.

5. Ownership. See Humility. Real remorse wears the shame. Real remorse takes responsibility for the fallout. Real remorse is okay if you tell people, because you need the support. GINR wants you to protect its image. GINR blameshifts and says "we all brought issues to this marriage that made me cheat." GINR minimizes and obfuscates.

6. Recompense. Real remorse understands that reconciliation is a risky investment. GINR wants you to assume all that risk and how dare you ask for any assurances, because don't you trust me? Real remorse puts its money where its mouth is with a post-nup with an infidelity clause. A completely useless document if the cheater never cheats again, which of course, only the cheater has control over. Real remorse gives you a credit report on itself, listing all the P.O. boxes and secret credit cards it used. Real remorse pays your legal bill. Real remorse compensates you and your children for every dime spent on the affair(s). Real remorse recognizes that there are financial and time losses as real as the emotional ones.

Time and heartbreak cannot be recompensed. Money can. Real remorse says, it's the least I can do.


Tracy Schorn is the author of The Chump Lady Survival Guide to Infidelity. This article originally appeared at her blog Chump Lady.