I Cheated On My Boyfriend And I Feel Awful. What Can I Do?
When one partner cheats in a relationship, both parties tend to experience emotional challenges. The person who cheated may feel racked with guilt and struggle to come to terms with their actions, while the partner who has been cheated on may feel betrayed by someone they trusted. If you've cheated on your boyfriend and are currently experiencing feelings of guilt, this may show you still have an emotional connection to your partner and you understand the implications of your actions. You may also be feeling lost and confused.
Whatever you’re feeling at this time, you don't need to face it alone. Below, we’ll discuss some possible actions to take after an instance of cheating and ways to obtain support during this time.
How common is cheating?
Cheating may be more common than we may think. Statistics on cheating can vary widely across surveys, but results may be skewed given that respondents might be embarrassed or afraid to admit to cheating.
Regardless of the precise statistics on infidelity, it’s a common experience that many couples face, and both people in a relationship deserve support as they move forward.
There can be many possible reasons for infidelity. For example, a person may be more prone to cheating if they lack an emotional connection with their partner. Many affairs start when one partner experiences an emotional connection with another person in their life, such as a friend or coworker.
Anger and frustration can be other reasons for cheating. Sometimes, we don't think about the long-term repercussions when we cheat, especially if alcohol or other substances are involved. We may take out our frustration in a way that we later regret.
Other people may cheat because they experience a "high" or a rush of endorphins from feelings of desire and the thrill that accompanies a new sexual encounter. If this describes your experience with cheating, therapy may help you to find healthy ways to handle these feelings. You might learn ways to avoid high-risk situations that can lead to cheating.
Even though I cheated on my boyfriend, can our relationship recover?
Cheating is sometimes a reaction to an underlying problem in the relationship. It may help to be honest with yourself and ask yourself why you cheated. Was it boredom? Are you searching for something you don't have? Was it simply because the opportunity presented itself at a moment when you were feeling vulnerable?
If you feel like you still love your boyfriend and want to stay with him after you cheated, you may have to communicate honestly about what has happened. Unless you fear for your safety, it may be best to have this conversation with him in person. Having difficult conversations via text might make matters worse.
If you decide to speak to him, you might give him the necessary details about when you cheated, making sure to respect his own boundaries; he may not want to know all the details. By being honest, you may find that your relationship eventually emerges stronger from this challenging period. Also, a potential benefit of transparency is that you won't be looking over your shoulder, worrying that your secret will catch up to you.
Despite these potential benefits of honesty, it may help to prepare yourself emotionally for what might happen. There's a risk that your boyfriend may not want to be with you anymore. Also, an honest conversation might lead to unexpected revelations of previous incidents of infidelity. It may help to remember that this period may be fraught with intense emotions that are valid, both for you and your boyfriend.
If you decide to tell your boyfriend what happened, he will likely be upset, hurt, or angry; these can all be normal reactions to betrayal. If you want the relationship to continue, it may help to offer a sincere apology and let him know that you felt he deserved to know. Initially, he may be inconsolable, but he may eventually realize that you decided to be honest to try to save the relationship.
Depending on the situation and your relationship, there's a chance your partner will forgive you for cheating. He may be understanding of your predicament, especially if he has experienced similar feelings in the past.
Getting help after cheating
Before deciding how to move forward, it may help to get the advice of a licensed relationship counselor. A trained counselor may be able to help you assess what you feel about the relationship and decide whether to tell your boyfriend that you cheated. Also, if you choose to tell him, they may have some ideas to help you prepare for the conversation. While a therapist may not tell you what to do, they may be able to help you navigate this complex situation and find the best course of action.
If you don’t feel comfortable visiting a therapist’s office to discuss your relationship, you might consider online therapy, which many studies have demonstrated to be just as effective as in-office therapy. With online therapy, you can discuss your emotional experience from the comfort of your home or anywhere you feel safe and have an internet connection.
A therapist may be able to help you explore the possible reasons that you cheated. For example, if you’re experiencing low levels of self-esteem, you can discuss this with a licensed therapist who may provide evidence-based strategies for building your self-esteem and confidence.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
One of the most common forms of therapy is cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), which has been shown to be effective for individuals experiencing low self-esteem. CBT aims to identify false and negative thought patterns and find ways to reframe thoughts into healthier, more positive patterns. One study that looked at married women who had been cheated on found that marriage satisfaction, self-esteem, and quality of life all significantly increased for those who received CBT.
Research shows that CBT is also effective when delivered online. With an online therapy service like BetterHelp, you can participate in CBT via live chat, audio, or videoconferencing. You can also contact your therapist at any time through in-app messaging, and they’ll get back to you as soon as they can. This feature may be especially helpful if you experience relationship distress in between therapy sessions.
Also, if you and your boyfriend would like to speak with a couple’s therapist together, you can do so online through BetterHelp’s sister platform, Regain. The same modes of communication are available at Regain, which has a network of thousands of couples therapists who have experience helping couples navigate infidelity and other common relationship challenges.
Regardless of what happens with your relationship, talking to a counselor may help you move forward with confidence.
Below are some reviews of BetterHelp counselors who have helped people in similar situations.
"A year ago I was experiencing difficulties in my relationship, which highly affected my psychological state and interfered with my work. At one point, I decided to try BetterHelp.com. My counselor Dr. Brewer helped me to see some things I couldn't on my own and encouraged me to prioritize myself. It was a huge help for me at that point, which led to the decisions I am happy about."
"Stephanie is a gem! She's very thoughtful, thorough, honest, insightful but most of all helpful. This is coming from a person that never wanted to do counseling and just "knew" I didn't need it. She's been key in helping my wife and I find our better place. She made us grow as a couple and individually. Thanks Steph!"
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Should I tell my boyfriend I cheated on him?
It can be difficult to tell your boyfriend about infidelity, but doing so may lead to greater transparency. If you decide to tell him, you might first consider doing so in a safe space. Difficult conversations after cheating can lead to some intense emotions, so it may be helpful to consider your safety before beginning the conversation.
Also, some people experience emotional trauma upon receiving news of infidelity. Your boyfriend may need support or space, depending on how he reacts. The decision to tell him could result in separation or the end of the relationship. However, some couples find a path forward that leads to healing and a more fulfilling relationship.
It may be helpful to speak with a licensed counselor, whether individually or together, as you try to figure out your next steps.
What do you say to your boyfriend after you’ve cheated?
If you’ve cheated on your boyfriend, it can be challenging to know what to say and how to say it. You may find more peace if you decide to be transparent and tell him what happened. However, it may be helpful if you respect his boundaries and only have certain details.
It may be best to avoid the temptation to try to justify your actions, but you may have to discuss the reasons why you cheated, as this may be necessary to repair the relationship and move forward toward forgiveness. If you aren’t sure how to approach this conversation, it may help to discuss the topic with a licensed relationship counselor, who may be able to help you devise a plan before beginning the conversation.
Why did I cheat on my boyfriend? Why do cheaters cheat?
People cheat for a myriad of reasons, but some of the most common reasons may involve:
a desire for connection
difficulty with commitment
a lack of intimacy and other unmet needs
Can a relationship go back to normal after cheating?
Many couples have found a way to move forward with their relationship after an incidence of cheating. However, there may be challenges related to trust at first. It may help to speak with a couple’s counselor to work through this period of your relationship.
Do cheaters always cheat?
There is an old saying “Once a cheater, always a cheater.” While this can apply to some individuals, it doesn’t for everyone.
While cheating just once isn’t encouraged, it's not indicative that you will be a serial cheater. It’s possible for people to learn from their mistakes and never cheat again.
Do cheaters feel guilt?
Even people who repeatedly cheat can still have feelings of guilt and remorse after doing so. Some can even feel pain and emptiness, knowing that their actions will hurt their partner.
Some people admit that they are at fault, and these feelings may be a catalyst for change, forgiveness, and growth.
Do you really love someone if you cheat on them?
It is possible to still love someone even if you cheated on them. Transparency may show them that you care about them and want to move forward together.
Can I forgive myself for cheating?
It can be challenging to find a way to forgive yourself for causing pain to someone that you care about. It may take time, but it is possible. A counselor may be able to help you assess your feelings so that you can reach the point where you can forgive yourself.
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