Healthy lives for young people
Relationships

I’ve cheated

Cheating is a hurtful thing to do to someone you care about. But the reasons why it happens can be complicated, just like relationships.

What counts as cheating varies from couple to couple but chances are, you know what counts as cheating for you and your partner. There are many reasons for breaking the rules of a relationship. These include:

  • Feeling bored in your relationship or with your partner
  • Wanting to end it but being unsure how to
  • Feeling insecure and wanting attention
  • Not thinking about the consequences and getting lost in the moment
  • Wanting to cheat and not caring about the consequences
  • Getting a kick out of taking risks

The first two reasons mean that perhaps you and your partner need to communicate better about what’s going on in your relationship. Perhaps you’ve been feeling taken for granted or ignored and cheating is your way of ‘showing’ this. But cheating means being underhand or dishonest. And lasting relationships need trust and honesty to flourish and survive.

Are you scared that your partner may cheat on you? If so, this can make you feel insecure. You may decide that you may as well get in there first. Of course, this can also happen if your partner doesn’t trust you or is jealous of your friends or even you!

How you react is probably a good indicator of the state of your relationship. If you feel shame, guilt – and panic at being found out, then chances are you do care for your partner. Then you have to decide whether – and how – you tell them. 

If you don’t, then chances are you shouldn’t be together and it’s time to think about breaking up.

Do you tell them you’ve cheated?

There’s no right answer to this question and not even relationship counsellors agree. Some say honesty is crucial and it’s always best to tell the truth. How much worse would it be if your partner found out from someone else?

Other counsellors believe it’s important to ask yourself why you are telling them you’ve cheated. Is it because you want to be forgiven? Or do you just want to stop feeling guilty about it. How would you feel if your partner cheated on you – would you want to know?

Most experts agree, though, that if you do feel guilty about what you’ve done, that is a good sign because you do feel remorse and regret. 

If you do decide to tell your partner, be prepared for lots of questions. Whether your relationship can survive depends on the type of cheating and whether your partner feels they can trust you again. 

It takes time to build up trust again and to forgive. Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting the cheating, but if you want the relationship to continue, hang on in there.  

However, if your cheating is a sign that the relationship is nearing its end, then perhaps it’s time to move on.

Rebuilding trust

Trust is a key element of any close relationship and helps us feel secure. It takes time to build up trust again and to forgive. Your partner forgiving you doesn’t mean they will forget the cheating, but if you want the relationship to continue, hang on in there. 

If your partner has struggled to trust you anyway, it can be easy to say ‘it’s their fault they don’t trust me’. Bu think carefully about why this might be. Could it be due to a bad experience they’ve had in the past? If not, are you sure you’re doing all you can to reassure them? In either case, demonstrating that you’re not going to let the other person down again is an important part of building trust and strengthening a relationship. If it’s a problem, communicating how you feel is key.

To build trust in a relationship, it helps to:

  • Be truthful
  • Be reliable
  • Agree what’s okay and what isn’t in your relationship
  • Believe in each other
  • Not make promises you can’t keep
  • Not blame the other person for feelings that date back to your own previous experiences or relationships

Rebuilding trust requires the same steps. As you have cheated, your partner may be overly anxious about you doing it again. So reassure them with these steps every day and see how things go over the next few weeks.

Your partner may have lots of questions they want to ask and may want to return to these every day. This is totally normal. However, set a daily limit of, say, 30 minutes, and answer the questions honestly to prevent the trust being broken again. You may have to keep doing this until your partner no longer feels the need to ask you about the cheating.

If you both communicate openly and honestly, and are committed to making the relationship work, you can succeed. Read more about trust and jealousy.

Are you a serial cheater?

Wanting to cheat and getting a kick out of the risks involved could mean that your past experiences have led you to have issues with trust. Did a previous partner cheat on you? Or perhaps you’ve been let you down by someone else?

Or perhaps you’re just not ready to settle for one partner? Research shows that while many young people do not report having more sexual partners than their parents’ generation, they are revealing a more informal approach.

Maybe you’d be happier being ‘friends with benefits’. This is when two friends agree to have casual sex with no strings attached. They define their status as ‘friends’ rather than a ‘couple’. 

Of course, this requires agreement between partners. Good communication is vital and it’s important that both of you are okay with this kind of relationship status.

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