When you’re surprising your partner on birthdays with the most extravagant gifts and surprise parties, you never expect your relationship to ever have to deal with infidelity. What’s worse, it’s you who cheated. The immediate guilt drives you to look for answers, figuring out what to do when you cheat on someone you love. These thoughts occupy all your time.
It’s a messy, ugly affair when you end up being the villain in your relationship. But if you’ve managed to weather the storm of your own emotions, there’s a lot you can do going forward.
To help you navigate this jarring storm of emotions you’re experiencing, we’ve listed a few helpful tips, backed by psychologist Nandita Rambhia (MSc, Psychology), who specializes in CBT, REBT, and couples relationship counseling.
Can You Cheat On Someone You Love And Salvage The Relationship?
First and foremost, to ease off your anxiety a bit, you need to know that infidelity doesn’t always spell doom for your relationship. In a survey of 441 people who admitted to cheating on their spouse, 15.6% claimed to have been able to work past it.
While that number may look grim at first glance, it could also be because the cheaters didn’t know how to handle such a situation appropriately, and how to go about making amends. Depression after cheating on someone you love can influence your decision-making, which might lead to more damaging outcomes.
Speaking on the subject, Nandita says, “If one person cheats sexually, it does not mean that the relationship is over. Relationships that have a strong fundamental base can work and evolve in different ways, even after infidelity. There’s always a chance to make the relationship work, provided there’s a strong base.”
In her decade-plus-long experience of relationship counseling, Nandita has come across many cases where the relationship survived infidelity. Recalling one such incident, Nandita tells us “There was a woman who cheated on her husband and felt incredibly guilty about it. Her initial reasons for making the relationship work were the fact that they have a young child and fear of what people might say. Over time, I realized her relationship’s core bond was very strong, they had a very healthy relationship.
“Once the wife confessed to the husband, he was predictably devastated and depressed. Till the anger was subdued, they actually lived separately for some time, which helped them both realize their wish for the relationship to continue. When they both committed to working on the relationship together, that’s when their journey began,” she adds.
Did their relationship manage to work through infidelity? How can you tackle painful questions and taunts like, “How can you cheat on someone you love?” or, “You can’t cheat on someone if you’re in love with them!”… Let’s take a look at what to do when you cheat on someone you love.
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What To Do When You Cheat On Someone You Love – 12 Expert Backed Tips
Thoughts and questions like, “I cheated on my boyfriend, how do I fix it?” and, “What to say when you cheat on someone you love?”, can lead you down a path of depression after cheating on someone. Especially since society is quick to presume that you’re not trustworthy and never will be.
Which is what leads us to our very first point while figuring out what to do when you cheat on someone you love:
1. Cut any and all ties with the person you cheated with
It doesn’t matter if they’re your colleague or your best friend of a decade – cut all contact with them immediately. Any attempts at trying to move past this event will be stunted if you’re still in contact with this person.
It seems like common sense, but if you cheated once and decide you’re still going to be friends with this person, you’re just damaging your chances of fixing your relationship. Show your partner you’re serious by cutting off all contact, even if it means blocking your “bestie”.
2. Work on the depression after cheating on someone and forgive yourself
If you cheated, you might have a hard time even telling friends about it, in fear of being judged. The label of “cheater” sticks with you despite how much you try to prove to have changed. When everyone around you is so quick to claim “once a cheater, always a cheater”, it’s easy to see how your confidence can struggle as a result.
Nandita says that one of the most important things you can do for yourself after cheating is to forgive yourself. “Try not to be very harsh on yourself, mentally, and physically. Yes, you might feel guilty and you may come to a point where you need to pause everything as a result. But remember to be kind to yourself, take time to think it over and try to find some answers within you.”
Forgiving oneself is something someone who cheated, may never think of, or even allow themselves to think of. Even though you made a mistake, if you’re committed to change, you deserve forgiveness. At the very least, you must forgive yourself if you want to continue living well.
“To live in the past is to die in the present”, Bill Belichick
3. It’s time for some self-reflection
While you’re trying to forgive yourself, looking inward is always good practice. You won’t find your answers at the bottom of a bottle, so lay off the alcohol. Plus, a drunk, perfunctory apology is just annoying, not effective.
Nandita says, “Introspection is one of the most important things you can do. In a calm state of mind, you need to figure out why you did what you did. Figure out what’s fundamentally wrong with your relationship that led you to cheat.”
If immediately after your bout with infidelity you catch yourself thinking, “I cheated on my boyfriend/girlfriend, how do I fix it?”, you need to fix yourself first. The rest will follow.
4. Can you cheat on someone you love and tell them you cheated?
Some of you might not even have known that the possibility of not telling your partner after cheating isn’t an inherently evil thing to do. While all common sense may push you to tell your partner, Nandita says the decision to do so solely lies with you.
“It’s definitely a personal call. If you do not tell your partner but continue to live in guilt, that might end up doing more harm than good. Confessing to your partner if your relationship is strong is always better for your partner and yourself. Even so, sometimes it may work, sometimes it may not. There is no single answer to this question, it depends on your relationship,” she says.
How does it feel to cheat on someone you love? It feels like accidentally killing Cupid and confessing feels like telling Aphrodite (his mother) about what you just did. It’s a hard decision to make, spend some time on this one.
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5. Own up to it and sincerely ask for forgiveness
The keyword is ‘sincerely’. If you do decide to tell your partner about it, own up to it completely and sincerely apologize to your partner. No half-truths, no beating around the bush, no gaslighting, no downplaying what you did.
Be vulnerable in front of your partner, ask for forgiveness and then give your partner the space to do what s/he needs to do. Expect your partner to be enraged and don’t get angry at them if they say some insensitive things. Remember, you cheated, so it’s okay if your partner says something they shouldn’t in the heat of the moment…they’re feeling angry, hurt and betrayed.
6. The age-old rule: improve communication
Speaking of the couple Nandita told us about, she claims that working on establishing open, honest communication was the game-changer in their relationship. “The biggest thing they did to move past infidelity was to work on their own feelings and to communicate their feelings about each other honestly. They accepted that things would not always be hunky-dory and that it was okay to have good days and bad days. What was most important was to communicate about it, so they could navigate the problems together.”
Improving communication in your relationship will undoubtedly help every aspect of it. Knowing what to say when you cheat on someone you love can make all the difference since it’s often the “I don’t know why I did it!” that causes more problems even after infidelity.
7. Rebuild the trust like your life depends on it
The notion of “You can’t cheat on somebody if you’re in love with them” is one that many people believe, and is often not true. You can be in love with someone and still make a mistake. Read that word again, mistake – it’s something we all do. We’re all human.
Hence, rebuilding trust in your relationship now becomes vital, since your partner might predictably doubt your love. A relationship without trust is destined to fail, there are no two ways about it.
Nandita says, “Trust is built on a lot of factors, so when the trust is broken, winning it back is not impossible, but it will need a lot of effort. Be honest and be kind with yourself and your partner, that’s what will help you on your journey.”
8. Sacrifice, accommodate, and then some
“What to do when you cheat on someone you love? Definitely, work on the relationship. You’ll probably need to sacrifice a lot for your current relationship to work, put in the effort and seek advice from confidants and people close to you,” says Nandita.
Up until now, it’s been all talk, no action. Now is the time to let your partner see how committed you are to making sacrifices for them and accommodating your partner. They might ask more from you, and since there’s virtually no trust for you right now, you might not have too much freedom in the beginning.
Let it slide, at least for a while. You can’t cheat on your partner and expect to go out with your friends every other night. Let your partner see that you’re changing and you’re not the same person anymore.
9. Give your partner all the space they need
Even after the apologies are accepted and you’ve decided to work on the relationship, your partner might still hold a grudge against you. Every so often, they might curse you under their breath or push you away while you’re trying to hug them.
Give your partner personal space in a relationship. Try not to suffocate them by demanding forgiveness. When they act irrationally, their spiraling emotions and thoughts keep beating out the words – “how can you cheat on someone you love?” in their mind. A betrayal of such proportions isn’t easy to forgive, give them all the time they need.
10. But continue to work as a team
Granted, one half of the relationship got you both in this mess, but only the both of you can get yourselves out of this sinkhole. Recalling the example of the couple who managed to reconcile post-infidelity, Nandita says, “The husband could have walked away if he wanted to, and he even did live apart for a while.
“What made it work was his willingness to forgive and work on the relationship. Of course, the wife did all she could, but without the husband forgiving her, it would’ve all counted for naught.”
11. What to do when you cheat on someone you love: commit to growth, together
“No matter what kind of a dynamic you have, one thing is for certain, your relationship with your partner will change. It may change for the worse in some cases, while in others it may evolve into a much more meaningful relationship. Change is inevitable,” says Nandita, about the side effects of a couple recovering from infidelity.
As a couple, you must both commit to finding the new normal and growing together. Through healthy practices like trust, improving communication and mutual respect, you now need to find out how strong your relationship can be.
Related Reading: How To Get Over Cheating – 15 Sensible Ways To Close The Chapter
12. Individual and/or couples therapy can help you
If at the end of the day, you’re struggling to figure out what to do when you cheat on someone you love, therapy will be able to help you cope. The cheater’s guilt may end up weighing down on you, making it seem difficult to accomplish even the simplest of tasks throughout the day.
Talking to a professional will help you navigate the difficult emotions you may be going through. If you and your partner have decided to work together toward a stronger relationship, relationship counseling will help you know exactly what you need to work on and provide the tools for dealing with all the intense emotions as well.
If the pain of being cheated on is too much for your partner to bear, you’ve got no option but to accept their answer and move on. But if they believe that you’re not the person you were the night you cheated, there’s nothing that can stop your relationship from healing, except yourselves.
Humans aren’t perfect, and neither is love. “What to do when you cheat on someone you love” is probably a question you thought you’d never have to answer, but if you do now and that’s why you’re here, we hope you have a good idea of what to do.