Sex & Relationships

You Cheated. Now What?

Written by Savannah Esposito

There are times where things happen. Maybe there was too much to drink. Maybe there were insecurities building. Whatever happened, you cheated, and there is no excuse. It takes time to realize what happened sometimes, but when you see your significant other, there is this gut wrenching feeling inside. Do you tell them? Do you keep it a secret, hoping to spare them from the pain of knowing you hurt them? Do you spare yourself the yelling that inevitably would happen when telling them? When cheating occurs there are a couple of options. One, leave the relationship and stay with the person you cheated with. Second, leave both people and be single. Third, stay in the relationship and not tell your partner (and they eventually most likely will find out due to behavioral changes). Finally, stay and come clean.

Most times cheaters keep their cheating a secret. If you cheated and truly love your significant other, and you see a future with them, or you are in fact already married, the best decision is to tell them. It will be one of the scariest things to do, but in the end, doesn’t your significant other deserve honesty? Don’t they deserve to have a choice to stay and reconcile or to leave and take care of themselves? The question remains, how do you tell them? Blurt it out when you first see them? Write an email? When it comes to high emotions, thinking can be impaired and the way you reveal your cheating may be more damaging than intended. One way that prevents lack of judgment in disclosure is to sit down, write a letter to your significant other about how, what, and why the cheating happened. In the letter, it’s best to apologize as well. Describe how sorry you are, and at the end, say that you are willing to do what is needed to repair the relationship (only if you truly mean that).

When first disclosing what happened your significant other most likely will react in a multitude of ways. They could cry, scream, throw things, walk out of the room and puke, they could stay silent, or they might just decide right then and there to leave. You never know, and it’s best to prepare yourself to handle a multitude of possible emotional reactions. The best thing to do when your significant other reacts is to validate their feelings. Saying things like, “You have every right to be angry and hurt by what I did,” is a great response because it shows that you do understand you made a mistake and you are understanding the consequences to your actions. Nothing says sorry like taking 100% responsibility for your actions and validating your significant other’s feelings. If your cheating was only once, and if you told your partner within twenty-four hours, that will show your significant other that they mean a lot to you. The longer you wait to disclose the cheating the more damage will occur. There is nothing that tears a relationship apart faster than lying (especially long term lying).

Another aspect to fixing your relationship after cheating is your attitude. If you want to rebuild your relationship successfully, then being humble and accepting the new boundaries your significant other desires will be most beneficial. If your attitude comes off as angry or defensive that will only push your significant other further away from you. Trust has been shattered once cheating has occurred and time is the only healer. It may be months, or years before your partner heals and comes to terms with this. The time it takes to heal depends on how long you lied about the cheating, how many times you cheated, and your attitude after disclosing. If you didn’t disclose it, and were caught, that will only make healing take longer. Hence why most suggest disclosing it rather than being caught. If you honestly understand what you did and how that affected your partner, then the chances to rebuild the relationship are much stronger. If you want to heal your relationship, it goes without saying that you must cut off all contact with the person you cheated with. That means no texts, no being friends on Facebook. That person should no longer exist in your life, and it should stay that way.

From disclosure onward, there should be no more lying. Some say it can take two years from the last lie told to rebuild trust back. The sooner the lies stop, the sooner the relationship can heal. If your significant other wants passwords and access to computers and phones, don’t hesitate or fight them on that. They have every right at this point to ask for those things if you lied. If you were honest, and feel uncomfortable, then that is something to discuss with them. Patience is key when trying to help your partner heal from your betrayal. Don’t rush their healing, accept that it will take time for trust to be regained. Remember trust is earned, not given. If you demonstrate that you are more concerned with their pain than your own guilt, that will speak volumes to your significant other during their time of healing. Empathy has to be present for healing to even start. Your significant other may have triggers due to your cheating, and if you show that you are willing to do anything it takes to alleviate their pain and be patient when they are triggered, they will feel safer with you much faster than if you get frustrated at them for not “moving on fast enough.” The betrayed person sets the pace of healing, not the cheater.

If you’ve cheated, hopefully by now you some insight into what can be beneficial versus detrimental to healing your relationship. You must also not forget to take care of yourself during this time, and must do your own individual healing outside of the relationship. Making sure that you find support in dealing with the guilt and shame is essential for your own health. Cheating unfortunately happens a lot and what most betrayed partners forget is that the cheater is also suffering to. Often the cheater has already been mentally punishing themselves. The relationships’ success rate comes down to whether the cheater is open and honest when they cheat, whether they accept full responsibility, and whether they accept that healing will take time.

About the author

Savannah Esposito

Savannah has been writing since she was fifteen years old when she started a book series, which became popular online. She attended SCAD, studying Creative and Dramatic writing until she transferred to John Jay College of Criminal Justice to study Forensic Psychology. She now has a blog called Millennial Mrs and Mom that she writes while she finishes pursuing her education.