I’ve had an affair, how do I tell my partner?

If you’ve had an affair and you decide to tell your partner, bear in mind that it’s never going to be easy but there are certain things you can do to limit the damage and pain. These tips will help you to cope with the difficult task of telling them.

  • Let them know you have something to tell them and find somewhere quiet and private to talk where you’re unlikely to be disturbed.
  • Make time available rather than rush through your discussion because you have to leave.
  • Be honest. Explain that you have something difficult to say and try to be as clear as possible. It can be tempting to soften the language by saying ‘I have feelings for somebody else’ or ‘I have met someone else’ but this can be confusing for your partner so it’s best to tell them clearly ‘I’ve had an affair’.
  • Take responsibility for your affair. Don’t blame your partner or the person with whom you had the affair and apologize for the hurt you’ve caused.
  • Offer an explanation of why you think the affair happened, but take responsibility for your own choices. If you believe the affair happened because of problems in your relationship, recognize that you had other options. For instance, don’t say, ‘If only you’d been more affectionate I wouldn’t have got close to him/her’. Instead, explain any of the issues that are appropriate and truthful. For example, you might say ‘I’ve been under so much pressure at work and I didn’t share my worries with you. Instead, I shared those worries with someone else and that led to an affair. I’m so sorry I didn’t give you the chance to help me and that I gave that chance to someone else.’
  • Think of your partner’s needs when you respond to their questions and remember that they’re likely to be in shock. If you’re asked questions about the quality of the sex and the emotions involved, however, bear in mind that this will be painful for your partner to hear, especially if she or he is in shock.
  • Answer questions truthfully, but without embellishment, promise to give more detail as and when your partner wants more information. If you’ve had unprotected sex, it’s really important that you tell your partner, they have a right to know whether his or her health has been compromised, or whether a pregnancy is possible.
  • Get some supportBoth you and your partner will be dealing with a range of difficult feelings and emotions and it’s important that you both get the support you need. You may find it helpful to attend some Relationship Counselling sessions as a couple or individually to help you talk about what has happened and work out how you can both move forward. You may also find it useful to read our guidance on coping with the aftermath of an affair.