I cheated on my mate online. Now, how do I fix it?

Question

I've been with my partner for about 4 years now, 5 in October. I have broken her trust by cheating on her with someone on Second Life. Even though it was digital, it was still cheating and I fully regret everything I did. I want to fix this relationship. Now, what do I do?

Received via email (name withheld)

Answer

Any time trust is violated, it can be difficult to move beyond feelings of betrayal. However, it tends to be easiest to move past an infidelity when the cheating partner is truly remorseful and regrets what he or she did (as you seem to be) and wants to make amends (as you do).

As you rightly point out, cheating isn't any less of a betrayal if it occurs online rather than off. I think you have already done something very important for the healing process in that you have taken responsibility for your actions and thereby validated your partner's feelings of betrayal, and not downplayed what it is that you did. Many online cheaters make the mistake of saying "it was just RP" or "it was only online" as a way of minimizing their guilt and excusing their actions, but such statements only serve to victimize the partner you've betrayed a second time, making your partner believe that you don't even think she deserves to feel as hurt and betrayed as she does.

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From what you have said in your question, it sounds like you have been going about this the right way; taking responsibility for your actions, expressing remorse over what you did, empathizing with your partner and validating her feelings, and trying to make amends.

What happens from here is mostly up to your partner; for some, moving past a betrayal is simply not possible. Not everyone is capable of forgiving such a transgression and violation of trust. If it turns out that your partner isn't capable of forgiving you, no amount of apologizing will be able to make things right and bring you back to where you were in your relationship before you had an online affair. The rest of my advice is predicated on the assumption that your partner does have the capacity to forgive you; if not, I truly am sorry.

Now, when you are trying to move past an infidelity, it is very important that you prioritize rebuilding trust with your partner. Until trust is rebuilt, however, it may be necessary for you to make some concessions towards your partner in terms of the privacy you normally enjoy so that your partner is able to remain with you and still feel safe and secure in her relationship with you.

You might consider granting your partner access to some of your online accounts, for example access to your Second Life account. You might also consider granting your partner the ability to request access to your smartphone or to your computer in order to verify that you've been faithful. If you do choose to grant your partner access to some of your personal accounts and devices, It is important that you set a time limit as to when this access might expire.

After the agreed-upon amount of time has elapsed, check in with your partner and determine where the level of trust currently lies. Once you and your partner determine that trust has been properly and fully restored, it is important that your partner return to you the ability to have privacy. At this point, it would be safe to say that you and your partner have fully recovered from the infidelity.

In the future, if you find yourself feeling the urge to cheat on your partner, it Is important that you practice self-reflection and determine the reason why it is that you are feeling tempted to cheat. Is there something lacking in your current relationship, such as physical intimacy or affection? Is there something that you want sexually that your partner is unable to provide, for example, a particular kink or fetish that you would like to explore? Are you angry at your partner for some reason and acting out to get back at her? Are you simply horny and not particularly good at controlling your sexual impulses? Do you crave novelty and new relationship energy?

Once you have practiced this self-reflection, it is extremely important that you communicate with your partner about why it is that you're feeling tempted to cheat. If there is something that your partner is unable to provide, and that you feel you need in order to be sexually satisfied, it is of paramount importance that you request the ability to pursue this interest with your partner's permission and enthusiastic consent. If your partner is unable to grant that enthusiastic consent, you owe it to your partner to break up with her, or you must learn to live without whatever it is that you have been denied as a price of admission for being with your partner. Cheating is not an option that you should ever be considering in your relationship, unless your partner has made it very clear to you that sexual connection with her is permanently off the table and there is a very good reason for you to stay with her — for example, having children together.

Hope that helps! If you have any follow-up questions, feel free to leave a comment below or consider getting in touch with us via our contact page.

Viro the Science Collie

Viro Science Collie is a PhD virologist and medical writer, experienced in teaching, technical communication, and writing for the public. He has been active in the furry community since 2012 and has been happily and ethically non-monogamous for much of that time. His interests include non-traditional relationship structures, technology, biological science, and tennis.