True Confessions: 5 Tips for Coming Clean

Of all the bad news that can follow "We have to talk," confessing that you've been seeing someone on the sly is probably among the very worst.

If you positively must admit your betrayal - i.e. if it wasn't short-lived and very sincerely regretted or if there's a very good chance you'll be found out another way - there's a way to 'fess up while still keeping your love - and limbs - intact.

Confession Must-Have #1: A Darn Good Reason

There are good and bad reasons for confessing your unfaithfulness. Bad ones include hoping that it will make her break up with you (do it yourself, you coward) or simply to ease your own guilty conscience. But you have good reason to confess if you have reason to believe your betrayed is going to find out about it from someone else. He or she deserves to hear the truth from you first.

Confession Must-Have #2: Good Timing

You'll want to reveal your affair under the best possible circumstances - not in public, or after sex, or during already stressful times - but don't put it off too long. The more time that elapses between the cheating and the confession, the more difficult it will be to convince him or her that you genuinely regret it and want to fix things.

Confession Must-Have #3: Preparation

Think about personality for a minute. Is your partner someone who'll likely fly into a rage? Do you think you'll be picking your clothes off the sidewalk later? Will there be a shouting match? Or tears? Decide what you can reasonably expect from your announcement and plan accordingly. Remove any sharp objects or heavy frying pans. Warn your friends that you may need a place to sleep for a few nights. Buy extra tissues.

Confession Must-Have #4: Delivery

Forget about trying to soften him or her up with a fabulous date, a coveted gift or a special event. You'll undo all that hard work the minute you say the words. Better to just dive in (and save the sweet stuff for afterwards). Start by declaring your love for him or her. Then reveal that you've made a mistake that you will never, ever make again. Do not divulge too many details (even when you're pressed), and make sure to emphasize there were no emotions involved. Acknowledge the damage and hurt you know you've caused. Show how remorseful you are (tears will help here). Offer reassurances that it will never happen again - and have a plan in mind for how you can start to rebuild trust.

Confession Must-Have #5: Faithful Follow-Up

Don't ask him or her to make a decision about the future of your relationship right away. He or she will need time to digest this new information. Forgiveness is going to take more than just promising not to screw up again. You can expect to put up with some residual anger for awhile. And anticipate that you're going to have to pay some extra attention to the relationship for awhile. Show that you're committed to making up for your mistakes - but also that you're fully committed to the relationship.

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