I Cheated On My Boyfriend And I Feel Awful. What Can I Do?

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia
Updated February 21, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

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.

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Infidelity may be a sign of a bigger issue

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.

One study published in the Journal of Family Psychology found a 16.3% lifetime prevalence of infidelity. The same study found that more than half of respondents (53.5%) were most likely to cheat with someone close to them, such as a friend. Nearly one-third (29.4%) cheated with someone they know well, such as a coworker or neighbor.

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? 

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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.

Getty/AnnaStills
Infidelity may be a sign of a bigger issue

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.

Counselor reviews

"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!"

Takeaway

If you’re experiencing fear, stress, guilt, or anxiety after cheating on your boyfriend, know that you don’t have to face it alone. Regardless of the reasons for your actions, it may help to speak with a licensed therapist. If you prefer, you can connect with a licensed therapist online. With BetterHelp, you can choose a therapist who has experience helping people find a way forward after cheating. Take the first step toward getting support and reach out to BetterHelp today.

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