Fess Up Or Shut Up?

It depends. “If it was a one-time fling, or was years ago, and there’s no risk that you’ll continue it, there’s a strong argument for keeping quiet,” says psychiatrist Scott Haltzman, M.D., author of The Secrets of Surviving Infidelity. If, however, it’s a repeating pattern, “there’s an ongoing problem with the relationship that has to be dealt with.”

How To Do It

Make your revelation at home, not in a restaurant or other public place, so your partner can fully express his emotions, says Haltzman. “Be direct but sensitive—no matter how you phrase it, it’s going to hurt.” Your partner is likely to demand a lot of painful details, and Haltzman’s general policy is “do ask, do tell. Let him decide what he wants to hear. You need to rebuild trust, which is based on honesty.”

Related: 9 Divorcées Confess Exactly What Ruined Their Marriages

Next Steps

One absolute necessity is to end all contact with the other person. Then make your life an open book, says Haltzman. You might even want to offer your passwords for e-mail and social media as proof of your sincerity. Fully accounting for your time away is reassuring too (“I’ll be having drinks with Sarah, then home”). Saltz also suggests seeing a therapist together. “Tell him you know it’s your fault, and you want to make things stronger between you.”

Watch men and women spill the honest truth about exactly what they think about cheating: