Found this in good old HuffPo. This article is pretty good and spot on, I feel. I took exception to the word "mistake" in #5, but overall, pretty good.
Step 1: Understand what you are apologizing for.
A genuine apology sounds easy. You probably know by now that it's not. If you've had an affair, I'll bet that on many occasions you've already tried to say "I'm sorry." Or, having had your first apology rejected, you may have tried, "I've already said I'm sorry. What else would you like me to say?"
If you have already apologized, your mate may have failed to accept it because it does not feel genuine. Even if, in your heart of hearts, you swear you mean it, it may not be perceived that way. For your message of remorse to get across, you've got to do a fair amount of introspection to figure out what you are apologizing for -- even before you say the words. You are apologizing for much more than "having an affair." There is a lot more that you have done, or not done, that surrounded the affair: things like causing embarrassment to the family, giving up family time, or even bringing home STDs. Your partner wants you to take responsibility for all of it. You should.
When you do tell your partner that you hurt them with your actions, you should give a full account of all the wrongs you have committed. Don't be surprised if your partner chimes in with a few you didn't think of.
Step 2: Accept responsibility.
When it comes time to offer an apology, you must, above all, be clear about what you have done. Be absolutely certain not to shirk responsibility by sharing the blame with anyone or anything else. Apologizing is not saying, "It never would have happened if I hadn't been hanging out with my sister," or "The captain shouldn't have assigned me a female partner." In particular, be careful to avoid labeling your spouse as responsible, for example, with words like: "If only I had been getting more love from you, I wouldn't have looked elsewhere." Your behavior is your responsibility and no one else's. You'll know you're on the right track when no one offers any disagreement about what you are apologizing for.
People sometimes try to decrease their own responsibility by adding "if" to their statement about the other person's reaction. Saying "I'm sorry if what I did hurt your feelings" is very different from saying "I'm sorry for what I did, and I know it caused you pain." The "if" statement tells the person that you have remorse about the outcome, not about your actions. Don't do that.
Step 3: Offer alternatives.
You've probably heard the advice to stay away from the "coulda, woulda, shoulda" attitude toward life. Well, here's a place where this is exactly the attitude you need. A hearty dose of "I should have told you that I was going out to lunch with her," or "I wish had not shared my problems with him" tells your partner that you understand there "coulda" been a better way of handling things, and gives hope that you will make better choices in the future.
Step 4: Abolish expectations.
Another aspect of a genuine apology is to offer it without expectation to get something back. This isn't a proposition of "I'll say what I did wrong so you will tell me what you did wrong," or even "I'll say I'm sorry if you say you'll forgive me." Your sole goal should be to make sure your partner hears you. It's certainly okay to offer the hope that your partner will accept the apology, but you cannot make that a condition for offering it.
Step 5: Say, "I'm sorry."
You may be thinking that you are very, very sorry. You may have admitted to all your wrong doings. You may have asked for forgiveness, and you may have promised never to do it again. But your partner may still turn to you and say "You never said you were sorry." Don't forget to say you're sorry!
Studies about gender differences reveal that women tend to offer spontaneous apologies more than men do. Women are more likely to perceive things they have done as requiring the offer of apology, but men tend to see real and imagined wrongs as not deserving an apology, because they "weren't that big of a deal." In the case of affairs, there is no room for gender differences: saying "I'm sorry" is a necessity.
Not every affair gets splashed across international headlines, but mistakes do happen in everyone's lives. That's what apologies are for. Having an affair is a big mistake, and it healing requires a genuine apology. Then the rebuilding can begin.
BW (me) 50ish FWH 50ish
Married 33 years, 3 children
d-day 3/12/10 LTA (2 year EA?, 2 year PA?)
"Oh, why do my actions have consequences?" ~ Homer Simpson
"She knew my one weakness: That I'm weak!" ~ Homer Simpson