It’s a bad time of year for anyone who’s signed up to Ashley Madison. The ‘dating site’ for married folk got hacked and millions of user details were leaked, not least of which included user profile details and pictures.

Naturally, the fall-out is life-changing for many users and their relationships. Whether you’ve found your digital dalliances under the spotlight because of this, or you feel like it’s time to come clean with your other half about your affair, here’s how to go about it.

Prepare your partner. This is information that you have had for a long time and jumping it on your partner at your easiest convenience is unfair.

Tell them that there is a big conversation involving information that is weighing heavily on you.

Give them some prep time to – let’s not beat around the bush here – consider the worst-case scenario. This is a same-day ‘prepare and chat’ operation.

Make enough time for the talk. Don’t try to squeeze this in before a dinner with the folks. Depending on the depth and extent of the affair, this conversation could very well change the course of both of your lives.

Respect that, and give your partner and the conversation the uninterrupted time it needs. Switch off all your devices and arrange for a babysitter.

Don’t complicate your message. Let your first words be clear, honest sentences: ‘I’ve had an affair’ or ‘I am having an affair’ or ‘I’ve been thinking of having an affair’.

Don’t confuse the message with grey-area feelings to ‘soften the blow’ using any variation of: ‘I have feelings for someone else’, ‘We’ve developed a relationship’ or ‘Something is happening’… The extent of your involvement can be made clear with answers to his or her questions.

Take responsibility. Don’t make excuses, don’t blame life, work, your relationship, your kids, your partner, or the person you are or were having an affair with.

It seems easier to explain our poor behaviour by pointing to all the reasons we felt we never had a choice in the matter.

But you always have a choice. However ill-informed, badly judged or poorly conceived, it’s still a choice you need to own.

Answer questions honestly. You’re going to get uncomfortable questions you need to be honest about, without embellishment.

This is about drawing a simple, clear, honest picture about what’s been going on for you, not getting Tarantino-graphic about the grisly details.

Answer the questions you can, and if you feel you need help make an appointment with a counsellor to go through the rest.

Honestly? Expect the worst response. Even if we have an instinct that our partner has lied to us, getting confirmation that this is the case isn’t pleasant.

You can expect a reaction that can look like anger, rage, numbness, sadness… This may be especially true if you’ve been living a duplicitous life for a while, and/or you disparaged or patronised earlier suspicions they may have brought to you.

Try not to respond to this with defensiveness and excuses.

Read more from Dorothy:

Do you have sex with the lights on?

10 sex myths that must go

Are you the side chick?

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