RELATIONSHIPS are based on trust and when trust has been broken by infidelity it's very hard to repair the damage.

RELATIONSHIPS are based on trust and when trust has been broken by infidelity it's very hard to repair the damage.

When one partner discovers the other has been having an affair, the results can be quite devastating.

Asiphe Ndlela, a psychologist, says on a scale of possible offences to a marriage, infidelity rates a 10.

"Issues of trust, betrayal, abandonment and inadequacy can all come together in one painful discovery or admission, and you as the offender may find yourself on the outside beholding the shattered remains of your marriage."

Ndlela says the steps one takes in the next few days, weeks or months can determine if the relationship is salvageable and one's partner is willing to forgive.

"Remember, you are now living on borrowed time, so you'll have to make each gesture and pledge mean as much as it possibly can. This is not the time to add emotional manipulation to your list of challenges."

Here's some advice on seeking forgiveness after admitting an affair from

l Promise to stop the affair - and to stop seeing your lover - immediately. Agree to sever all contact. This lifts secrecy and creates a sense of safety for the betrayed party.

Stopping an affair goes beyond not having dinner dates or sex. All phone calls, in-person conversations, and quick coffee breaks together must stop.

If you work with the person with whom you had an affair, keep your encounters strictly businesslike - and tell your partner everything that happens.

Avoid private lunch dates and closed-door meetings. It's also important to report any chance meetings with your former lover to your partner before he or she asks about it.

Talk about your conversation. If your former lover contacts you, announce that too.

l Answer any and all questions. Marriage experts agree that couples heal better after an affair if the adulterous spouse supplies all of the information requested by his or her betrayed partner.

In a study of 1083 betrayed husbands and wives, those whose spouses were the most honest felt better emotionally and reconciled more completely, reports affairs expert Peggy Vaughan, author of The Monogamy Myth: A Personal Handbook for Recovering from Affairs, who developed the international Beyond Affairs Network.

l Show your spouse empathy, no matter what.

The single best indicator of whether a relationship can survive infidelity is how much empathy the unfaithful partner shows when the betrayed spouse gets emotional about the pain caused by the affair, according to infidelity expert Shirley Glass.

l Keep talking and listening, no matter how long it takes. You can't speed up your spouse's healing process, and you shouldn't ever negate its significance.

Be ready to answer questions at any time, even months or years after the affair has ended.

And listen to his or her reactions without anger or blame.

l Take responsibility. Blaming your partner for the affair won't heal your marriage. Showing sincere regret and remorse will.

Apologise often to your spouse and vow to never commit adultery again.

It may seem obvious to you that you'll never stray again, but your spouse may have worries, so renew your commitment to your spouse as your one-and-only.

l Don't expect quick or easy forgiveness. Your partner may be in deep pain or shock. Expect tears, rage, and anger.

l Find support. Reconnecting with family and friends, and even finding a support group to join, can help you feel less isolated.

l Spend time together without talking about the affair. Connect as friends and romantic partners by doing the things you've always enjoyed.

l Forgive only when you are ready. You'll never forget an affair, but the painful memories will fade with time.

Forgiveness allows you to move past the pain and rage and to reconcile with your partner.

Take this important step only when you feel ready to let go of your negative feelings, when your partner has been completely honest and has taken steps to rebuild your trust.

l If you are married, agree to any form of professional marriage counselling your wife requests.

This won't be the counsellor's first case of infidelity, so don't downplay the significance of the sessions.

This wasn't a misunderstanding or a small matter blown out of proportion.

It was a voluntary breach of marital vows, so you owe it to everyone involved to be totally honest during counselling sessions.

Your wife might surprise you with her own honesty about the issue.

Most times it's not the act itself that is irredeemably bad, but the level of dishonesty displayed to cover it up.

A spouse might be able to understand a sexual fantasy taken too far, but emotional infidelity is often the deal breaker.