If you’ve cheated on your partner, it is natural to feel weighed down by the guilt. You broke the trust of your partner, and now you’re beating yourself up about it. How to get over cheating guilt, you ask yourself, even as you grapple with self-loathing, remorse and guilt.
You may have to live with the realization of having wronged your partner for the rest of your life. But accepting that what is done cannot be undone is the first step toward making a fresh start.
However, knowing how to get over cheating guilt is imperative if you want to have a chance at repairing and rebuilding your relationship with your partner (assuming they’re ready to give you a second chance).
To help you do that, let’s decipher what it takes to get rid of cheating guilt.
Do Cheaters Feel Guilty?
Cheating is a choice. It can be a conscious decision to taste the forbidden fruit and explore what lies beyond one’s committed relationship. Or it can be a forced decision when a person feels trapped in an unfulfilling relationship. So before delving into how to get over cheating guilt, it’s important to address the question of do cheaters feel guilty and why.
Counseling psychologist Kavita Panyam says that cheating guilt is not a universal feeling in the aftermath of a transgression.
“If you are in an okay relationship and still want to explore what is beyond, then that is a conscious choice where you’re crossing a line despite being fully aware of the potential consequences and choose to do it anyway. If you don’t suspect that your partner will come to know, then it takes time to get over the discomfort of the cheating coming to light.
“In such cases, the incident of cheating shines a light on the health of the relationship. If the relationship is not healthy, you have three choices – call it quits, work on mending the damage by getting into therapy or continue to stay in an unhealthy relationship,” Kavita says.
“In an unfulfilling or toxic relationship, the decision to cheat can be motivated by a desire to seek whatever is missing in your relationship – a strong emotional, physical, spiritual or intellectual connection – elsewhere despite being in a committed relationship,” she adds.
Regardless of these two types of cheating, the feeling of guilt depends largely on one’s outlook and state of mind.
“If the cheater doesn’t feel that they’ve betrayed their partner because of the circumstances of the relationship or a sense of being entitled to exploring outside a committed relationship and can justify their actions in their mind, then it becomes easy to forgive yourself for cheating and not telling you partner about the act of cheating itself,” Kavita says.
“On the other, if a person is stuck in a place where they are overcome with the ‘guilt of cheating is killing me’ feeling, they go through the five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Only when they ultimately arrive at the acceptance stage can the process of getting over the guilt of an affair begins,” she adds.
Related Reading: 15 Shocking Things Cheaters Say When Confronted
6 Tips On How To Get Over Cheating Guilt
Once the blow of infidelity has been dealt with, it is time to start working toward surviving the guilt of infidelity. Forgiving and getting over the guilt of an affair yourself for having cause anguish, pain and hurt to someone you love and care so deeply about can be quite a challenge.
While your partner struggles to come to terms with your infidelity, you too may be distraught and exhibiting the signs of cheater’s guilt. This often begs the question of why do cheaters feel guilty when the potential consequences of betraying a partner’s trust are well-known.
Kavita says the guilt seeps into your relationship when you feel that you have betrayed a partner or spouse you love and caused a dent in your connection. Or when you feel you’ve let yourself down.
“Perhaps, you were raised in a value system where breaching the lines of fidelity was considered a sin. As you grew up, your take on relationship boundaries changed. But somewhere, you’re still tethered to that value system. Being trapped between these two value systems is what leaves you feeling that the guilt of cheating is killing me,” Kavita explains.
“Similarly, societal constructs, having children and the thought of how your act of cheating can wreak havoc on their lives can also leave you riddled with feelings of guilt and remorse,” she adds.
The inability of getting over the guilt of an affair can further harm a relationship that is hanging by a thread. Getting rid of cheating guilt is the only way forward, especially if you want to make it work with your partner.
If you are struggling with how to get over cheating guilt, these 6 tips may come in handy:
1. Acceptance of cheating guilt
As Kavita points out, you can forgive yourself for cheating and not telling your partner about it only when your reach acceptance in the five stages of grief. You are riddled with guilt. On the inside, you’re screaming ‘cheating guilt is killing me’. So, stop trying to act like you’re unaffected.
Accept and embrace your current state of mind. Do not be defensive. Do not make excuses. And, definitely don’t blame your partner for your transgression. The guilt may have been eating away at you even when your partner was oblivious to the fact that you have broken their trust.
You have broken a commitment and that is bound to take a toll on you emotionally. Once the truth is out, take this chance to unburden your heart. Tell your partner everything. Not only about the act of infidelity but also your circumstances and emotional condition.
It is possible that your partner may not understand your point of view right away, but it will definitely give them some perspective on the situation and help them heal. At the same time, you’ll have taken the first step toward surviving the guilt of infidelity.
Related Reading: 11 Tips To Build A Successful Relationship After Cheating
2. Apologize and mean it
You can never apologize enough for cheating on someone, but feeling sorry for your actions is important to get rid of cheating guilt. When you do, make sure you mean it. An apology doesn’t just mean saying sorry over and over again.
The remorse your feel should reflect in your actions and your attitude. Don’t just apologize for cheating but also for disrespecting your partner, your relationship and breaking their trust. It is possible that your partner may have spotted signs of cheating but they brushed them aside because they trusted you completely.
Knowing that their worst fears have come true can be devastating. In just one instance, you have made them question their intelligence and their understanding of the truth. Apologize for it all.
Kavita says it is important to let a partner know that you are repentant and want to undo the damage. “When a cheater is truly remorseful of their actions, they are willing to the necessary work – be it individual counseling or couples’ therapy – to fix the cracks in the relationship and give it another shot.
In such cases, honesty becomes an important element of the relationship. Give yourself to the relationship 100%. You may get tempted to cheat again, but if you are truly repentant about your past actions, you will confide in your partner or spouse about it rather than act on that temptation.”
3. Seek guidance from family
A committed long-term relationship is never just between two people but also between two families. When something like infidelity gets in the way, it threatens to break many a bond. If you can’t seem to figure out how to get over cheating guilt, reach out to your family for help.
Elders know a thing or two about the intricacies of life that the young and vivacious have yet to learn. No matter how difficult it seems, let them in and talk to them about this crisis. We all have that one elder we turn to for counsel in times of distress.
This is a situation that warrants that counsel. Their life experience and understanding will guide you through this hardship. Don’t worry about being judged. Right now, your focus should be on shaking off this feeling that ‘cheating guilt is killing me’.
Kavita says working on your value system and committing to upholding the tenets of faithfulness is a crucial part of the how to get over cheating guilt process. Reaching out to your family can be that anchor that helps your reconnect with the values you were raised with.
You need a sounding board to get through this difficult time, and your family can well be it.
Related reading: Does an emotional affair count as ‘cheating’?
4. Seek professional help
Are you a serial infidel? Someone who cannot stop themselves from having external affairs? Or someone who is never satisfied with one partner? Someone who yearns to be appreciated in newer relationships? Then, you have a bigger problem at hand than just ascertaining does the guilt of cheating ever go away.
In such a situation, you should consider seeking professional help to break away from the patterns of lying and cheating and reform your outlook toward a committed relationship.
Kavita says, “The answer to how to get over cheating guilt lies in taking corrective steps promptly. In the wake of cheating, you may be repentant of your actions. You may even promise to yourself and your partner that you will never go down that road again. But when temptation strikes again, you may not be able to uphold that promise. Then, you will stay stuck in a bad pattern of cheating and feeling guilty about it.”
Professional counseling can help you get in touch with and resolve underlying issues that may be triggering these cheating tendencies. If you’re unsure about meeting a counselor face-to-face, know that in today’s time help is only a click away.
5. Engage yourself constructively
One of the underrated yet extremely effective approaches to how to to get over cheating guilt is occupying yourself with creative or physical activities. Kavita recommends channelizing your energies the right way. For that, you can rely on physical activities such as playing a sport, running, swimming, or creative activities such as gardening, writing, painting, drawing.
In addition to this, meditation, mindfulness, journaling can also help you stay in control of your actions and not fall prey to your impulses. Exploring the path of spirituality can help you heal in the aftermath of cheating. It can be a guiding light that helps you steer your life away from darkness.
Working with a spiritual guide can help you tame your inner demons and calm your anguish. It can prove to be the guidance and emotional triangulation you need to get rid of cheating guilt.
A spiritual guide can give you an unbiased and pragmatic perspective of your situation. They will help you locate your crisis in the larger framework of life and then you might start to feel that maybe your crisis is not the overarching monster that you fear it is.
Related reading: 6 people on what they learnt about themselves after they cheated
6. Forgive yourself
Does the guilt of cheating ever go away? Well, certainly not until you learn to forgive yourself. All the work you have done so far to get rid of cheating guilt is just a build-up to forgiving yourself.
When you see the pain and anguish you have inflicted upon your partner and other loved ones, it is only natural to beat yourself up about it. But there is a time to do that and a time to forgive and move on. If you don’t, the guilt will suck the life out of you. Leaving a hollow shell of a person you once used to be.
Such a person cannot bring peace and happiness either to themselves or those around them.
Does The Guilt Of Cheating Ever Go Away?
Things may seem hopeless when you’re continually battling the feeling ‘cheating guilt is killing me’. If you’re willing to work on yourself and your relationship, it gets better with time. For that, you have to accept, process and let go of your guilt.
Kavita says that the guilt of cheating can destroy relationships as it brings up issues of trust. If you’re caught in the trap of cheating and then committing to making your relationship work and then cheating again, this toxic cycle can instill self-doubt. You cannot trust your own instincts and actions, since you want to stay faithful to your spouse or partner but go ahead and cheat anyway.
To forgive yourself for cheating and not telling your partner, you need to cultivate integrity to counter guilt. At the same time, it is crucial to explore your compatibility as a couple.
Have you been cheating over and over again because you feel that your current partner is not a good fit? In that case, it is best to call it quits, move on. Work on yourself to get over a breakup when you cheated and start afresh. It may sting in the moment. In the long run, it will save you and your partner from being trapped in a toxic cycle of cheating, lies, and trust issues.
How cheaters feel about themselves depends largely on one’s outlook and state of mind. If the cheater doesn’t feel that they’ve betrayed their partner because of the circumstances of the relationship or a sense of being entitled to exploring outside a committed relationship and can justify their actions in their mind, then it becomes easy to forgive yourself for cheating and not telling you partner about the act of cheating itself. On the other hand, if the person feels that they’ve hurt a partner they love and caused a dent in their relationship, they may be overcome by feelings of immense guilt.
No, it is never okay to cheat. Even if you’ve been cheated upon by your partner. In such cases, the best approach is to assess your relationship and identify any underlying issues that may have led to cracks in your bond and created space for a third person. The decision to heal and stay together or move on also rests solely with you. But to cheat to get back at your partner is not a healthy approach to handling this complex, crushing situation.
If you’ve cheated on your girlfriend, the first step should be to come clean about your transgression and convey to her the circumstances that led to you straying but without placing blame on her. You must also be willing to do the work to repair your relationship in order to heal from this setback and make sure you don’t go down that path again. That is if she wants to forgive you and give the relationship another chance.
Showing that you’re repentant is the only way to make her feel better. In such cases, honesty becomes an important element of the relationship. Give yourself to the relationship 100%.