I Cheated On My Boyfriend: Now What?
By: Robert Porter
Updated December 17, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Sonya Bruner
'I cheated on my boyfriend.' Maybe this phrase is something you thought you'd never thought you'd hear yourself utter. Or, maybe you suspected it would happen from the very beginning. Whatever the case, now that it's happened, you're probably feeling a myriad of emotions. Shame, guilt, sadness, anger, fill in the blank. Now you're a point where you have to decide what to do next. Do you admit what you've done or kept it a secret? Do you stay and try to repair the relationship or do you instead move on to a new love? Here are some things to consider as you make the difficult choices that follow infidelity of any kind.
Cheating on someone is significant and it certainly has consequences. If you're wondering what to do next, that depends on the situation. Does your boyfriend know about the infidelity? If he doesn't, you're going to have to think about owning up to your behavior.
If you want to continue the relationship, it's important to be truthful. The potential is there for your infidelity to ruin the relationship, but you cannot go back and change what has happened. If you're honest and remorseful, your boyfriend might be willing to work with you to save the relationship. You might not want to save the relationship, though. It's also possible you cheated on your boyfriend because you wanted out.
You Cheated for a Reason
No matter how often you tell yourself it meant nothing, you're still left with the fact that you cheated. These things don't happen without a cause. There are many reasons why people choose to be unfaithful. The reason could be that you don't find your boyfriend very attractive anymore. Or maybe you retaliated for some type of emotional pain your boyfriend caused.
It might not have anything to do with your partner at all. If you don't feel good about yourself, you might not feel like you deserve a happy relationship. Low self-esteem is often a factor in cheating since the rush of doing so can help you feel better about yourself-but only temporarily.
Before you make any major decisions on how to move forward, you need to get to the root cause of why you were unfaithful in the first place. Did any of the following play a part?
- Running away from problems
- Long-distance relationship
- Social media/the internet
- Lack of respect
- Growing apart
- Pornography addiction
- Prior infidelity
- Feeling unappreciated
- Body image/aging issues
Once you address the underlying reason for cheating, within yourself and with your partner, you'll be ready to move toward a solution. It can be tough to confront your reasons for cheating on your boyfriend. Even just saying "I cheated on my boyfriend" might turn your stomach if you feel remorseful for what you did. Just know that it's important to confront the truth so that you can address the issues that lead you down this path.
Do You Tell Your Boyfriend or Keep It Secret?
This is one of the most common questions someone asks after cheating. It's probably tempting to hide your affair if you want to stay with your boyfriend. It's understandable if you don't want to face his anger and hurt. Your friends might even tell you it's best not to say anything.
If you want to have an honest relationship, infidelity is too big to hide. Keeping such a significant secret is painful. You would have to be careful about everything you said. The lies would eventually eat away and destroy your relationship. It's also not right to be untruthful. You need to own up to what has happened, and telling your boyfriend is the first step, even if it's scary.
Repairing the Relationship Won't Be Easy
Once you do reveal your infidelity, the real work can be done. Don't expect this to be easy. Infidelity can feel like a gunshot to the victim. As the shooter, you have a lot of damage to repair. If your boyfriend chooses to stay, saying the words 'I'm sorry' isn't likely enough to get back to the relationship you once had.
You'll have to show your boyfriend how much you care for him over and over until he feels comfortable trusting you again. You'll have to deal with the natural suspicions he might have after your affair. It will take time, patience, and effort. However, if your relationship is extremely important to you, your hard work will be worth the effort.
Research suggests that to move past any form of breach of trust, including cheating, a couple must progress through each of the following stages:
- Knowing the details
- Releasing the anger
- Showing commitment
- Rebuilding trust
- Rebuilding the relationship
The following tips can help you move past infidelity.
Explain it all. Your significant other might want to know all the details. That is normal and necessary. Being completely transparent will help your boyfriend feel more comfortable moving forward with the relationship should he choose.
Understand your boyfriend will have a wide range of feelings of his own. He may no longer feel unique, respected, or stable. He might be angry, confused, or emotionally out of control. Walking away or distancing himself might be part of his way of handling the betrayal. He will need healthy ways to release these negative feelings. As the offending party, it is your responsibility to make sure you are there as a supporter.
Commit to rebuilding trust and take it one day at a time. Ask your partner what it will take to earn his trust again. Have him make a list of things that will allow him to move past the betrayal and get back to a stronger place.
Deciding to forgive and be forgiven. This might not seem like a big deal, but the act of giving and accepting forgiveness is needed for the relationship to move on.
Keep your promises moving forward. Be consistent. Do what you say you're going to do. Don't keep secrets. Don't do things that might hurt your boyfriend or cause further mistrust.
Don't rush-focus on consistency. Things may never be the same. But even if you do rebuild your relationship, the process can't be rushed. Instead of trying to 'jump back in,' focus on being consistent instead.
Set long-term goals for yourself and your relationship. Fixing your eyes toward the future and a new beginning is one of the best ways to forgive yourself for cheating on your boyfriend and in turn be forgiven. As bad as the situation is, it could lead to a fresh start for you both.
Your Boyfriend Has to Be Willing
Staying together is a choice you both have to make. None of the above matters if your boyfriend isn't as committed as you are to making it work. If your boyfriend isn't willing to put your affair in the past, you might have no choice but to move on. Don't beg or try to force him. You have to understand that it is up to him to decide whether you can be forgiven and whether the relationship can move forward.
You Bring Your Problems with You
If you decide or are forced to leave your boyfriend, your problems won't be over. You still have to deal with the issues that caused you to cheat in the first place. Otherwise, you'll carry the same behaviors into your new relationship. It's going to be very important to work on becoming a better and more stable individual before entering into a new relationship. This should help you avoid the pitfalls you fell into before.
Can Anyone Help Me?
No matter how bad you might feel about yourself after cheating, you can overcome those negative feelings. You can change your thoughts and behavior. Eventually, you can have a happy relationship with your boyfriend or with a new love. A counselor can help you explore and resolve the issues that got you to this point in the first place. Reaching out to an online counselor at BetterHelp can put you on a path that will lead to happier relationships in the future.
If you want to try to work on things with your boyfriend, you can also receive couples counseling. This is possible without even leaving your home. You can enjoy professional counseling that will improve your relationship significantly. It's discreet and will give you the results you're looking for when you're able to commit to the process. Read below for reviews of BetterHelp counselors, from people experiencing similar issues.
"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."
Cheating on your boyfriend doesn't necessarily have to be the end of your relationship. It's possible to overcome the personal problems that have been holding you back in life. Working together with a dedicated counselor will allow you to become the person you want to be so you can have a happier future. Take the first step today.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What should I do if I cheated on my boyfriend?
No matter how you look at it, cheating in a relationship is a pretty big deal. Cheating can leave you morally bankrupt. If you decided to cheat, you may be afraid of being faced with the “once a cheater always a cheater” mentality that others have. Even though it may not feel like it right now, you do have a say-so in how the rest of your life plays out. Relationship problems do not have to a permanent part of your story. However, if you want to avoid relationship problems moving forward, it is important to address what led you to cheat in the first place.
Whether you decide to tell him at this point or not, it is still important to deal with your thoughts and feelings. Talking to a best friend or loved one may be helpful. You may find it easier to talk to someone who is more neutral, such as a licensed counselor or therapist. Whatever you decide, it’s important to understand that having peace of mind and well-balanced mental health can have a positive impact on several areas of your life.
Should I tell my boyfriend I cheated on him?
If you have cheated on a boyfriend, it can make you feel bad about yourself and leave you wondering if it’s possible to stay in the relationship if he finds out. Deciding whether you want to tell him can be a gut-wrenching decision. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer and there are consequences no matter what you decide. If you tell him, you may risk the loss of your current relationship with him. On the other hand, if you keep the secret to yourself, it could become too much to live with. As difficult as it is at times, in most situations, honesty is usually the best thing for you and him.
Why did I cheat on my boyfriend?
There are many reasons that may have led to you cheat on your boyfriend. Only you can say for sure why it happened. If you are experiencing insecure feelings about yourself, especially your sexuality, you may have found yourself looking for some way to build your confidence, such as flirting with another guy. Maybe things got out of hand before you stopped it. Another reason that some people cheat is the fear of settling down. While being in a relationship has its positive side, it’s not uncommon to get cold feet and wonder if you’re with the right person. If your boyfriend is inattentive to your wants and needs, maybe you felt like you needed the companionship of someone and turned to someone else.
If you have cheated on your boyfriend, it’s important to acknowledge your own thoughts and feelings about what has happened and to seek help, if needed. While cheating once does not mean that you will cheat again, having unresolved issues that led to the indiscretion can increase the likelihood. If you are having a hard time dealing with the guilt of cheating, you may find it helpful to reach out to a counselor or mental health professional who is trained in relationship or couple’s counseling so you can have a neutral person to talk to. If you feel like you need to include your boyfriend in on the sessions, that is an option that you can discuss with a therapist and plan to do when you are ready.
Do you really love someone if you cheat on them?
Depending on who you ask, you may get conflicting answers to this question. Some people believe that it is possible to feel some form of love for a partner, but not feel totally committed to them. In this case, the person may not feel that cheating equates a lack of love.
Should I forgive my cheating boyfriend?
Deciding whether to forgive your cheating boyfriend can be hard. Falling in love with someone and then finding out they ended up cheating on you can leave you feeling like an emotional wreck. The most important thing to know is that only you can decide to forgive someone else for a wrong they committed against you. Both anger and forgiveness can have a powerful impact on your emotional well-being. It comes down to the question of whether you feel like you are prepared to carry anger or pain in your heart from now on or if you are willing to look beyond what has happened and release yourself from the hurt. The truth is, while forgiveness may benefit your cheating boyfriend, it can also help you. Choosing to forgive means you have decided that you will not let the past determine how your future unfolds. Forgiveness does not mean that you must remain in the relationship or that you must tolerate poor behavior from anyone else in your life. It simply means that you have chosen to let go of something that hurts you so that you can move on to a happier, healthier life.
Do cheaters feel pain?
Cheaters often feel pain. It is sometimes hard to see past your own pain from being cheated on to even begin to understand why the other person did it. However, whether it was an isolated incident or an ongoing affair, the emotional weight of cheating in a relationship can be devastating to the person who is doing it. The guilt, embarrassment and fear of losing a relationship can all bear down on a cheater and cause significant pain. Additionally, it is not uncommon for someone who has cheated to experience physical symptoms because of the emotional strain. High blood pressure, headaches, and gastrointestinal problems are among some of the physical symptoms they may experience.
What to say to your boyfriend after you cheated?
The mere thought of confessing that you cheated can be overwhelming. If you have been unfaithful and you feel like you are ready to admit your transgression, it’s important to prepare yourself for how your boyfriend may act. Think about what you want to say and be willing to listen to his response, even if you don’t like what he has to say.
You can begin the conversation by telling him that you have something you want to confide in him and that you would like for him to hear you out. Don’t drag the conversation out. Be matter of fact and to the point, but don’t be harsh with your words. Tell him how you feel about what you’ve done and ask for his forgiveness. Even if he doesn’t willingly forgive you at first, it’s important to ask for forgiveness.
Don’t try to downplay the seriousness of what has happened. Chances are, he is going to feel violated and angry. He has that right. After you’ve told him what has happened and asked for forgiveness, ask him if there is anything he wants to know or if he has anything he wants to say to you. It’s important to understand that he may not want to talk right away, but he may come back to you later. When all else fails, try to imagine how you would feel in his situation.
Can I forgive myself for cheating?
Perhaps one of the hardest things to do after cheating is to forgive yourself. The guilt that you feel may feel overwhelming. It’s okay to acknowledge how you feel about the affair and what you want out of life moving forward. Even if your partner forgives you, you may still need to deal with the emotions you are experiencing. If you and your partner are trying to work out your relationship, be honest about how you feel and tell them you are working on yourself. Also, reaching out to a counselor for individual and/or couple’s therapy, as needed, could be helpful as you work through this difficult time.
Should you tell your partner if you cheated once?
Opinions vary about whether one unfaithful transgression should be revealed to the unassuming partner. Perhaps the bigger question is, can you live with yourself if you don’t tell your partner? In many cases, one lie leads to another and another. If you want to have a healthy relationship, now or in the future, learning to address your own shortcomings and admitting to wrongs will your partner feel like you are willing to work on problems if they arise.
Can a relationship go back to normal after cheating?
Some relationships can go back to normal after one partner cheats. Other relationships may not be salvageable. The long-term success of a relationship depends on a couple’s willingness to work together to overcome the hardship. In some cases, it may be necessary to seek the help of a counselor or therapist. It may take a while for healing to begin and each person should be prepared to experience emotional ups and downs. Cheating is a violation of trust and it takes deliberate effort to overcome the effect that it can have. Nevertheless, if you value your relationship and both of you are willing to work, it is possible to experience a normal relationship after someone cheats.
What makes a person cheat?
There are several factors that may lead to a person making the decision to cheat. For many, it is not an instant decision, but more of a process of feeling the need for more connection with someone. Lack of sexual intimacy in a love life, lack of emotional connection, and being overworked are some common things that may lead to one partner cheating. If you have been cheated on, it is important to understand that you are not accountable for your partner’s choice. No matter how difficult you can be, your partner must accept accountability for their own behavior. Also, if you are the one who cheated, blaming your partner’s shortcomings (real or perceived) for your behavior is not right. If there are issues in the relationship that make one partner feel dissatisfied, it is essential to address those issues and try to put forth effort to resolve the problems.
Should you tell the truth if you cheat?
If you want to salvage your relationship, as difficult as it may be, it is usually a good idea to tell the truth. Of course, your safety is of utmost importance. Therefore, if you are unsure of how your partner will react to what you’ve done, you may consider asking them to go to counseling with you and let the counselor lead you into a therapy session that is focused on addressing what has happened.
Also, if your partner asks you directly if you have cheated, it is important to tell the truth. In fact, if they ask you, they may already have some idea and may be trying to see if you will try to lie about the situation. It may be hard to talk about and you may feel like it would be easier to avoid the subject altogether. However, if you have any intention of rebuilding your relationship, it needs to start with a foundation of truth.
Do cheaters always cheat?
No. Cheaters do not always treat. In fact, buying into the old “once a cheater, always a cheater” notion seems to undervalue a person’s ability to change. A friend of mine who had an affair once told me that if a person believed a cheater always cheats, that person had probably never felt the gut-wrenching pain and humiliation that comes with being a cheater. Changing one’s behavior can be difficult, especially if has been a long-term pattern. However, change is possible and people who cheat can go on to have healthy relationships that are stable and faithful.
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