Cheating is up there as one of the worst things you can do to your significant other. And aside from cheating in general, being caught cheating can be particularly painful for both parties. Whilst we’re conditioned to vilify cheaters and have a very black and white view of cheating, the reality is much more grey.
What counts as cheating nowadays?
Cheating can mean a myriad of things in today’s world. Where it once was considered only as the act of having sex with someone else, now we’re more accustomed to the complexities of having connections of more than just the sexual kind with people outside of our romantic relationship.
The essence of cheating is betrayal, whatever form it comes in. It’s a direct violation of the trust you have built as a couple and the commitment you made to each other. In general, there are two ways that you can be caught cheating – physical cheating and emotional cheating. Let’s look at each one in a little more detail.
Physical cheating: being intimate with someone else
This is the type of cheating that we all know well from movies and books. It’s the act of being physical in some way with someone else, whether it’s just a kiss or sex. This kind of betrayal is particularly painful because it’s a well known and accepted fact that having sexual or physical relations with someone else is wrong – so there’s not much room for excuses.
For a lot of people, this kind of cheating is a deal breaker. Many couples don’t come back from acts of physical cheating (in fact, over half of couples break up immediately after infidelity).
Emotional cheating: developing feelings for someone else
Emotional cheating is a much more grey area, as each couple has different relationship boundaries. It’s also difficult to define as it’s extremely context-specific, plus the boundaries between friendship and emotional infidelity are dangerously blurred at times. But inappropriate intimacy with someone else other than your partner paired with personal problems or underlying issues in the relationship can take you from ‘just friends’ to emotionally cheating real quick.
When you’re being emotionally unfaithful, you’re having intimate experiences with someone who is not your partner, and seeking the things you usually seek from a partner in someone else.
It’s different for everyone
Ultimately, what counts as cheating will differ from person to person. Some people see a kiss or flirtatious relationship with someone else as harmless where others would class it as cheating. And emotional cheating is hotly debated too – some may argue that as long as you don’t act on your feelings, then there’s no harm done.
Some couples will have set parameters of things that they’re comfortable with their partner doing, such as having flirtatious friendships with other people. We all know it’s naive to think that just because we’re in a relationship that we’ll never have a connection with someone else. Acknowledging that and discussing boundaries is actually a pretty good idea so that you and your partner both know where the lines are.
Why do people cheat?
If you’ve been caught cheating, you can probably answer this question for yourself. More often than not, cheating is something people do for a number of reasons, but all of them boil down to negative behaviours or deep rooted issues in the end.
They have personal problems
This reason is probably the number one reason why people cheat, and it’s also the most broad. From mental health issues to personal problems, cheating is often a reflection of the cheater’s emotional or mental state rather than their partner or relationship. This is also the unseen side of cheating.
We’re taught that cheating is done by the fuckboys who enjoy messing with people’s emotions, but it’s also done by regular people who self-sabotage or make mistakes after being in a bad place mentally. The fact of the matter is that shit happens. Life gets tough and you can find yourself lost, and sometimes this leads to cheating.
If you’ve been caught cheating and you feel that you did it because you were confused about your feelings or because you’ve convinced yourself the relationship is doomed without any real evidence of that, then you might have just made a huge mistake. Poor mental health can wreak havoc on your life and relationships, but it doesn’t make you a bad person.
There are problems in the relationship
No relationship is perfect, and we all have issues that need to be worked on. And that’s the whole point of love, isn’t it? To choose your partner every day and build a life together, despite your differences, baggage and flaws. But many people aren’t prepared to put that work in, and when things get hard will want to call it quits. There’s no shame in letting go of a relationship, but there is in the way you do so.
Those who cheat just to get out of their current relationship are pretty cowardly and selfish if you ask me. Whether you’ve been together 4 months or 4 years, you at least owe your partner the courtesy of ending things if you aren’t happy. Cheating leaves damage that is sometimes irreversible, and in this context is completely avoidable.
They fall for someone else
This is the most innocent of all the reasons for cheating, albeit an extremely rare one. It’s the kind of cheating that we see in the movies, where someone is in a good enough relationship but one day meets their soulmate, and they’re so swept off their feet that they forget to break up with their current partner before something happens with the soulmate.
If you’ve been caught cheating because you genuinely fell in love with someone else, sure you’re an ass for not waiting until you’ve broken up with your current partner before moving on with the next, but you aren’t a manipulative person.
What to do after being caught cheating
Whatever your reason for doing it, after you’ve been caught cheating it’s going to be a long way back, whether you stay together or not. And whilst no two situations are the same, there are some things that are pretty standard when it comes to dealing with cheating.
If your partner caught you cheating, whether they saw inappropriate messages on your phone or walked in on you with someone else, the first thing you have to do is own up to it. Be completely honest with yourself and them, and tell the truth about what happened. This is crucial for you both, as it allows your partner to have all the information they need to decide what comes next, and for you to commit to starting the healing process.
This will be the opportunity for you to explain what and how things happened to your partner, and for them to be able to ask you any questions.
Take responsibility for your actions
Whether your intention was to lie and betray your partner’s trust or not, after you’ve been caught cheating, you need to take responsibility for your actions. Admitting what you’ve done and acknowledging the damage you’ve done to your relationship is vital if you have any hopes of salvaging it.
Accept your partner’s wishes
Moving forward after being caught cheating is always going to be difficult, but your partner’s needs should be at the forefront of your mind. Cheating is a selfish act that goes against everything a healthy relationship stands for, and there will be consequences for it too. So whether your partner decides to stay with you or leave, you have to respect what they need.
Reflect on your actions
Most people don’t set out to cheat, but end up doing things they never thought they would as a result of personal issues snowballing into something much bigger. This can mean that when you’re caught cheating, it can be difficult to explain exactly why you did it. Take some time to reflect on your actions and the reasons behind them, because you’ll need to understand them if you want to address and grow from them.
Decide what you want to do moving forward
After taking responsibility for your actions and taking a hard look in the mirror, it’s time to decide what you want moving forward. If your partner has ended the relationship, then you may decide that you want to mend things between you and get them back. Alternatively, you might want to start afresh and take some time for yourself.
And this process won’t just be about the relationship. As we’ve already covered, cheating is most often to do with the cheater’s personal issues, so this is a really important time to think about who you want to be as a person going forwards too, not just as a partner.
How to move on after being caught cheating
There comes a point after you’ve been caught cheating that you have to stop looking back so much and start looking forwards. The bottom line is that we’re all flawed and we all f*ck up sometimes, but doing a bad thing doesn’t make you a bad person. The mistake doesn’t define who you are, how you react to it does.
So whether your partner takes you back or you find yourself single, moving on after being caught cheating is a pivotal time in your life and personal development journey.
If your partner takes you back
Staying together after cheating is no walk in the park, but experts say that couples who do make it through emerge stronger than ever. So if you’re both still committed to making your relationship work, then you can grow together from what happened.
Building trust back up will take time
Remember that building up trust again will take time, and you’ll find yourself having to be more attentive to your significant other than you may have been before you were caught cheating. Be patient and do what you can to reaffirm your partner and your relationship.
Healing is not linear – so be prepared
There will be bad days and there will be good days. Even when you feel like you’re making progress, you may hit a speed bump or a step back, but that’s normal. There’s no way to define how long it will take for things to get better, and you need to let your partner take the lead there, no matter how much you want things to get back to normal. You have to push through the bad times and stay positive.
Work on yourself and the relationship
Whilst there will be work to do on the relationship, you need to find time to work on yourself too, as this is most likely where the underlying problems, and the causes of the cheating, are. Making yourself better will make you a better partner, so it’s a win-win.
If you lose them
If your partner decides that they can’t move past the fact that they caught you cheating, then there are a few things to keep in mind.
Work on being a better you
Remember that if you’ve been caught cheating, the chances are that you’ve got some issues to deal with. And now you have the time to do so. This can be a good chance to get a little introspective and get to the bottom of your behaviours so that you can feel happier and understand yourself more.
Don’t jump into a new relationship
This is a big no-no after getting out of any relationship and is a clear sign that you are avoiding dealing with your emotions and actions. Staying single is the best choice you can make so that you can commit to your own personal development and happiness.
Correct your negative behaviour
No matter if you want to get your partner back or move on with someone else, neither of these things can happen unless you correct your negative behaviour. This may be in the form of therapy, self-reflection, or making changes in your life to commit to being your best self. Once you do this, you can look forward and move on, knowing that you won’t be carrying negative habits into your next relationship.
Remember, cheating doesn’t make you a bad person
Cheating is a horrible act that leaves a lot of damage in its wake, but it doesn’t mean you are a bad person because of it. If you’ve been caught cheating, then it’s your mistake and you have to own it, but it shouldn’t define who you are. We’re all always learning and evolving, it’s just that some mistakes are worse than others. But you can get back to a supportive, loving relationship and rectify your behaviour.