I Cheated On My Partner: What Should I Do?

Medically reviewed by Elizabeth Erban, LMFT, IMH-E
Updated January 10, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

"I cheated on my partner." This phrase may be something you'd never think would apply to you. Or, perhaps you suspected this mistake would happen for a while. Whatever the case, if it's happened, you may find yourself feeling a myriad of emotions. 

You might be at a point where you have to decide what to do next. Do you admit it or keep it a secret? Do you stay and try to repair the relationship with methods like online therapy or move on to a new love? This guide explores some things to consider as you move forward.

Deciding What To Do After Cheating

Moving Forward After Infidelity Can Be Challenging

In a closed relationship where you've agreed to exclusivity, cheating on your partner can be significant and have consequences. Your next steps likely depend on the situation. Does your partner know about the incident? If they don't, have you considered whether you'll discuss it with them?

Honesty increases the chances of your relationship's survival. If you want to continue the relationship, being truthful about your actions is likely the best course. Yes, it may end the relationship, but if you're honest and remorseful, your partner might be willing to work with you to save it. 

However, it's also possible that you don't want to save the relationship. Perhaps you cheated because you weren't sure how else to end things. 

If you need help deciding what to do, whether you'd like to be honest, or if you'd like to save the relationship, speaking with a therapist might help. With online therapy, you can talk with a professional via video, phone, or messaging and work through this challenging time. It's as effective as in-person therapy, and an outside opinion can help you better explore the situation. 

Finding The Reason

While the encounter might have meant nothing, once you've cheated, you can't take back that it happened. And there's usually a reason that things like this happen. It could be anything, from a reaction to changing attraction levels in your relationship to seeking revenge for past emotional pain. Or it might be related to things like impulsivity or low self-esteem unrelated to your partner.

It can help to explore why you cheated before deciding how to handle the situation. Here are more potential causes: 

  • Running away from problems

  • Long-distance relationship

  • Social media/the internet

  • Boredom

  • Lack of respect or attention

  • Growing apart/increased space

  • Pornography addiction

  • A reaction to prior infidelity

  • Abuse

  • Insecurity/feeling alone

  • Feeling unappreciated

  • Body image/aging issues

If you tell your partner about the incident of cheating, they might ask why it happened, and being able to explain could help the discussion. Speaking about this with a therapist could help if you can't identify a reason. In addition, a therapist can help you explore subconscious thoughts and help rule out or identify mental health issues that might have contributed to the incident. Therapy can also help you process any guilt or shame you may feel after the incident. 

In addition to telling your partner the reason, knowing can help prevent something like this from happening again. This is another way working with a therapist can be helpful after cheating on your partner.

Do You Tell Your Partner Or Keep It Secret?

It might be tempting to hide the truth from your partner, as facing their pain or anger can be difficult. However, hiding infidelity may be more harmful to the relationship than the incident itself. Honesty might be the best approach if you want to continue the relationship.

If you decide to tell your partner but cannot bring yourself to do it, revealing the truth in a therapy setting could help. You could ask your therapist if your partner can attend a session and request their help disclosing the truth. Or, you could engage in relationship counseling and use this as a safe place to keep what happened. 

Repairing The Relationship

After revealing that you cheated, you and your partner can begin to repair the relationship if they decide to continue it. However, infidelity can feel intensely upsetting to your partner, and a simple apology might not be enough to mend things. Working with a licensed relationship counselor might help you understand how to proceed, with insight into how to show your care and regain your partner's trust. 

You can skip professional help, but you'll likely still need to navigate trust issues and complicated emotions. Your partner might also need time to decide if they want to continue the relationship, and giving them this space might be integral to saving it. 

Research suggests that to move past a breach of trust, including cheating, partners must progress through stages including:

  • Knowing the details

  • Releasing the anger

  • Showing commitment

  • Rebuilding trust

  • Rebuilding the relationship

Moving past cheating is usually a delicate process, whether working alone or with a relationship counselor, but these steps might help. For example, you could start by allowing your partner to ask as many questions as they'd like about the details of the incident to address "knowing the details." 

Then, according to the steps above, you might allow your partner to express their emotions, which could include shock, anger, confusion, disappointment, and a loss of control. They might want to be alone during this time, and you may work on showing commitment by giving them what they need. 

From there, it might be time to navigate rebuilding trust and the relationship. This entire process will likely look different from relationship to relationship. Suggesting a relationship counselor might be appropriate if you need help approaching the process. 

Moving Forward After Infidelity Can Be Challenging

Takeaway

If your partner is willing, it's often possible to overcome an incident of cheating with caution and sensitivity. And you can work to address the reason behind the event personally to reduce the risk of it happening again.

A licensed therapist or relationship counselor can be helpful regardless of how you choose to proceed. And BetterHelp can match you with a professional based on your needs and preferences so that you have someone to talk to. In addition, sessions are easy to schedule, and you can use in-app messaging to reach out to your therapist whenever you need. 

If you choose to pursue couples counseling, this online format of BetterHelp can make it easier to arrange sessions that work for both of your schedules. And you'll enjoy the benefits of therapy from the comfort of your home. 

Read below for reviews of BetterHelp counselors from people experiencing similar issues.

Counselor Reviews

"Frankie is a great therapist. She is very responsive, her advice is always simple and straight forward, yet well-thought out too. She is currently helping me with infidelity, marriage, separation, divorce, and much more and her kind sincerity always helps me to move forward with confidence in my life."

"Dr. Murphy has been very helpful in identifying issues and behaviors that led me to withdraw from my relationships and now she is helping me to repair them."

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