“He cheated on you, why don’t you just cheat back on him?” said Riri’s friend to her. It sounded absurd to Riri at first, but she’d be lying if she said the thought hadn’t crossed her mind. “That’ll show him how much it hurts. It’ll knock some sense into him,” her friend added. Could revenge cheating be the perfect way to cope with the pain, Riri wondered.
The concept of cheating on her partner to take revenge seemed to come around every time she went out with her friends. It’s not an easy decision to make, especially when you’re not even sure if it’ll do more harm than good. The idea of getting even with a cheater by cheating doesn’t appeal to everyone, but to some, it can be a tempting proposition when consumed by anger, pain, and hurt.
So, does revenge cheating help? Is it a legitimate form of expressing your anger? Or will it send your already tarnished relationship into complete shambles? Let’s answer all your burning questions with the help of emotional wellness and mindfulness coach Pooja Priyamvada (certified in Psychological and Mental Health First Aid from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of Sydney), who specializes in counseling for extramarital affairs, breakups, separation, grief, and loss.
What Is Revenge Cheating?
Before we get into answering questions like does getting revenge on a cheating ex help you move on or is cheating back on a cheater justified, let’s make sure we’re on the same page about what exactly it means, with the example of what happened with Riri. Riri’s relationship of four years with her boyfriend, Jason, seemed rock-solid. Their trust was unwavering, and they were both extremely secure in the relationship.
The biggest fight they had was about who’s better at yoga, and no clear winners needed to come out of that one. A month after Jason had been on a business trip, Riri found a few concerning text messages popping up on Jason’s screen. A nasty confrontation later, she learned he had actually cheated on her with a coworker. The details that followed threw her in a daze of denial and anger, unsure of which overpowered which.
She confided in her best friend, who introduced her to the possibility of a revenge affair or fling. “He cheated on you, so you cheat back on him. Let him experience what he put you through and things will be even,” she said. As Riri’s blunt friend puts it, cheating for revenge is the act of ‘getting back’ at your partner after they have upset you in some way, typically through the act of infidelity.
When you’re struggling with the pain of being cheated on, indulging in an act of infidelity yourself may seem like just the medicine you need. But is it really that simple? How does revenge cheating psychology work? And are you a terrible person for even thinking about what is also called retaliatory infidelity?
The thought itself may have confused you, and the anger you feel from the damage your partner has done probably isn’t making things any better. Before you go looking for how to take revenge for cheating ideas and land on the most diabolical plans, let’s take a closer look at the psychology behind cheating for revenge and whether it works or not.
Related Reading: Expert Tips On How To Forgive Emotional Cheating
What is the psychology behind revenge cheating?
An incident of infidelity can put the cheated partner through utter humiliation and heartbreak. The fact that their partner chose another mate over them is bad enough to shatter their self-worth. The feeling of hurt, betrayal, embarrassment, and a slight sense of defeat – it all transforms into a big ball of rage. This bitterness can eventually lead people toward revenge cheating in marriage and relationships.
It stems from a desperate urge to take ‘nuclear revenge’ by hurting the person who caused them so much pain. The psychology behind nuclear revenge cheating lies in the basic idea of “I cheated because he cheated/she cheated” – a simple tit-for-tat behavior. According to a study, people who seek revenge in romantic relationships are motivated by different types of conflicts. Of which, 30.8% of men and 22.8% of women participants mentioned sexual infidelity by their partner as one of the major reasons behind these conflicts.
“Is it okay to cheat on a cheater?” wonders a person whose partner slept with someone else. Although cheating for revenge is more of an impulsive decision, a study mentions four important factors that might influence this decision to a great extent:
- Whether the act will cause them any further damage (from a social or emotional point of view) and whether it’s worth it considering how deeply a revenge affair will cut their partner
- How infuriated the cheated person feels and whether these emotions are lingering on or reducing with time
- Whether the idea of cheating for revenge aligns with their cultural and religious values regarding revenge
- Whether or not some external elements can equally affect the partner who had an affair with another person, bringing justice to the victimized partner
does revenge cheating work?
“How can I get revenge on my cheating partner?” – let me stop you right there before you get sucked in too deep in plotting revenge against your partner. Why stop, you may wonder. Isn’t it okay to cheat on a cheater? What’s wrong with giving them a taste of their own medicine? Well, there is probably one thing that you can accomplish from revenge cheating in marriage or romantic relationships and that is to torment the partner who made an emotional connection or physical contact with someone else.
But I can give you at least five different reasons why cheating for revenge doesn’t work and can leave long-term scars on your personal life and your personal relationships:
- First of all, you feel bad and you are doing this only out of spite; this is not who you are. Naturally, going against your conscience will make you suffer and feel guilty
- Hurting your partner will not take your pain away
- Your mental health would be doubly affected now that you are dealing with a broken heart, self-condemnation, and eventually poor self-esteem
- Plus, you gave your partner ammunition to defend their actions and it will be super difficult for both of you to rebuild trust in the relationship
- And the worst of all, the damage it does to your relationship might be beyond any fixing
Speaking on this matter, internationally certified relationship and intimacy coach Shivanya Yogmaya previously told Bonobology, “The fact is, retaliation can lead you to do something very grave. It can backfire. It’s important to retreat rather than retaliate. Follow the no-contact rule if you need that. The other person might try to intrude into your pain recovery process. So, it’s better not to go through a push-pull behavior with your partner.”
How Common Is Revenge Cheating?
“I’ve come across a few clients who have indulged in cheating as revenge on their partners. However, it is not a widespread phenomenon. Of course, it is human to think that if a partner has wronged you in some way, you must pay them back in the same currency. However, in most cases, this is just a momentary outrage. In my experience, most people don’t go out to have flings to settle scores with their partner,” says Pooja.
While the statistics on infidelity (both emotional cheating and physical cheating) are well-documented (30-40% of unmarried relationships and 18-20% of marriages experience infidelity), statistics about revenge cheating are pretty hard to come by. One survey of 1,000 people (by a website that encourages affairs) noted that among the respondents, 37% of women and 31% of men admitted to retaliatory infidelity.
Getting revenge on an ex or your partner isn’t something people talk about, and it’s not widely reported. Even so, the vengeful urge to seek revenge by wanting to hurt your partner in the same way they hurt you is pretty normal. Upon discovering a betrayal as debilitating as infidelity, rational thinking is bound to be impaired, albeit momentarily. It’s an obvious revenge psychology.
What it hinges on, however, is whether a person chooses to act on this impulse or not. Taking revenge on a cheating husband/wife/partner may seem like the best way to ease the pain in the moment. To make sure your decision is not made in haste, let’s take a look at things you should know about cheating on a cheater and what it says about you.
7 Things To Know About Revenge Cheating
The impulsive stunt of cheating on a spouse/partner who cheated on you (physical or emotional cheating) can have awful repercussions for your future together. You might come to regret this decision made in anger. Though every fiber of your being may want to inflict harm on your partner who has betrayed you, anger usually doesn’t lead to the best decisions.
Before you give someone a taste of their own medicine, try to remember what an eye for an eye accomplishes. “I cheated on my husband and now he wants to cheat” or “My partner is having an affair to get back at me for cheating” – thoughts like these will only cause the chasm between you and your partner to grow wider. If you’re considering cheating on a cheater or think it’s going to solve the hurt that you are feeling, let’s make sure you know what you’re getting into.
1. You’re not a bad person for wanting it
“The urge to cheat when seeking revenge, to think “I cheated because he cheated/she cheated” is natural. You are engulfed in negative emotions. You are not a bad person; just human. But if you actually act on your revenge cheating plans, it will make you more bitter and angry. And that’s not your partner’s loss, but yours. It is an obvious and rapid reaction, but it needs to be managed with logical and reasonable thinking,” says Pooja.
Revenge cheating psychology revolves around the feelings of being undone and wronged. Forgiving a cheating spouse isn’t the first thought in your mind when you uncover such a betrayal. You feel hurt, and you want them to feel the pain they have caused you. The part where you feel these emotions is natural and something we all do. However, the part where you execute it may not be.
2. In most cases, it may worsen things
“There are much healthier ways of coping with shock or hurt in the first place. You don’t need this one! Adopting a partner’s unhealthy behaviors can never do you any good. Before your act of revenge cheating affects your partner — which it may or may not — it will affect you. In my opinion, taking revenge on cheating husband/wife/partner is not advisable, it is a way of emotional self-harm. This will seem to be good for a while due to the adrenaline rush. But in the long run, it’ll do more harm than good,” says Pooja.
Is revenge cheating worth it? In most cases, it may just make your dynamic with your partner a lot worse. Chances are, neither will forgive the other for this act of infidelity, and you’ll end up in a loop of bringing it up, fighting about it, and playing the blame game. Figuring out how you can heal and move on and get to a good place is your best choice.
Related Reading: 9 Psychological Facts About Cheating – Busting The Myths
3. If you do revenge cheat, you’ll delay healing
“Is revenge cheating justified? In my opinion, no. Instead of investing time and energy in one’s recovery from a partner’s infidelity, crucial energy, time and attention will now be diverted toward ‘getting even’ with them. This will eventually deplete the person of their emotional energy,” says Pooja.
Revenge cheating on a husband/wife/partner will not only divert important time and energy but also result in you running away from bigger problems in your relationship. One of the clearest revenge cheating signs is that you will feel worse after it than you did before. It can make you feel like you’re getting sucked deeper into the agony and anguish of betrayal rather than forward toward resolution and healing.
4. Be ready for a plethora of trust issues
“Taking revenge on cheating husband/wife/partner is never right for a relationship or a person. Two wrongs can never make a right. You’re already struggling to come to terms with being cheated on, and now you’d have twice as many issues and concerns to address. How is that going to not be a hurdle or an additional burden?
“Trust is, of course, the first casualty when cheating happens. And when both partners cheat, these trust issues and deeply hurt feelings can amplify manifold and the cracks in your bond may become too wide to repair. If you choose to reconcile, you and your partner will now have to start from scratch, which often isn’t easy,” says Pooja.
So, is revenge cheating worth it? Yes, if you’re looking for a catalyst for your imminent breakup. Otherwise, pondering over, “How can I get revenge on my cheating partner?”, is probably not your best move. If you do decide to go down this path, it’s important to know that you might just be worsening things in the long run.
5. It might make you feel worse about yourself
If you’re stuck in a “My partner/wife/husband cheated, now I want to cheat!” situation, hold on, step back, and think! One of the most prominent revenge cheating signs is that you will feel bad about yourself when it’s done, causing harm to your self-identity and self-esteem.
As Pooja points out, “It’s an expression of negative emotions such as anger, frustration, helplessness, and powerlessness. There can be better and more creative ways to express these emotions.” So if you’re trying to figure out how to treat an ex that cheated on you, perhaps you don’t need to treat them anyway. In our opinion, the best thing to do is to use the no-contact rule.
6. Communication shall set you free
Psychologists often get to hear a narrative from their clients: “I cheated on my husband and now he wants to cheat back” or “I cheated because my partner cheated on me”, and that, according to them, is the root of further complications. The retaliating mentality is poison for a predicament that can be addressed by clear communication between the partners.
Even if you really want to get back at him/her, there are other ways. Instead of doing exactly what they did, make sure you have an honest conversation about it. Though it’ll be hard, try to not raise your voice and hold the judgment. Approach the conversation with a respectful attitude and be focused on coming to a solution, or at least figuring out what you can do going forward.
Related Reading: An Expert Tells Us What Goes In The Mind Of A Cheating Man
7. It’s possible to forgive them without cheating back
Before drawing up a list of how to take revenge for cheating ideas, take a moment to consider that perhaps you don’t even need to take revenge. Though it may look like the end of the world, infidelity is still something that two people can work through, especially with the help of therapy. If it’s professional help you’re looking for, Bonobology’s panel of experienced counselors is here to guide you through this difficult period in your relationship.
“Relationship counseling and couples therapy are the best way to recover from any kind of cheating or infidelity, be it just emotional or physical. If both the partners realize and agree that monogamy is the way ahead for them and decide to reconcile, they can seek professional help from a trained counselor, who can help them process the complex emotions arising out of cheating and its aftermath,” says Pooja.
- If you seek revenge after finding that your partner cheated on you, it doesn’t necessarily make you a bad human being
- The act of taking revenge on cheating ex can invite further complications in your relationship
- It will hamper your healing process and cause severe trust issues
- It will put you through guilt and shame because you are acting against your conscience
- Clear communication and forgiving your partner (if possible) might help you deal with the situation better
Whether you’re trying to figure out how to treat an ex that cheated on you or how to get back at someone for cheating, or if cheating out of spite is right up your alley, let some time pass and think about it in a calm state of mind. Is it worth it? Is revenge ever justified? Once the anger subsides, your thought process is probably going to change a little. Hopefully, you now have a better idea of what to do going forward.
This article has been updated in June 2023.
Cheating for revenge is a bad idea! Taking the ultimate revenge on a partner who cheated on you by engaging in nuclear revenge cheating may not be the best strategy for conflict resolution. You may just end up worsening the trust issues, you may even feel worse about yourself and things may become irreparable. Instead, try to seek the help of a professional therapist to understand why the infidelity took place.
After tallying the benefits and the adverse effects of cheating as revenge, it can be safely said that this move is not worth your time or energy. If you are wondering, “Is revenge cheating okay?”, it’s not! After the action is taken, you can lose everything and gain nothing. And there is no going back to wipe it off. It can badly affect your mental health, put you through guilt and shame, and ruin your chances of rebuilding the relationship. This is not a good idea, for sure!