When Maria told George what she knew about his affair, he struggled. He just wanted to focus on their future, not on his mistakes; but he also knew he had to come clean and say, “I hate admitting it, but it’s true.” Again, depending on the circumstances, this might also be a good time to offer a simple apology (“I’m sorry.”).

If your partner gets some of the facts wrong, don’t point it out right away. First, take responsibility for what you did do. Your partner needs to hear you accept responsibility for your actions. You can clarify the details later. If your partner is hurling broad accusations at you, try to help him or her describe how your behavior violated their trust. Ask, “Can we talk about what I did that upset you, not what a terrible person I am?”

We know it can be difficult to hear someone pointing out mistakes you’ve made. It can bring out feelings of shame and inadequacy. If that happens, tell your partner you need a moment. Try not to let feelings of shame get in the way of admitting what you did. The sooner you take responsibility for what happened by admitting to the basic facts involved, the sooner you’ll be able to talk about your perspective or the issues you want to raise. It’s all a matter of timing. You need to listen and validate your partner now, so they will be more open to listening to you later—it’s through this collaborative process where couples talk to each other in considerate and respectful ways that trust is slowly regained.

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