14 Effective Ways To Deal With The Guilt Of Cheating

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Infidelity is horrible for everyone involved. If you’re the person who’s been cheated on, it can make it hard for you to trust again.

But if you’re the one who’s done the cheating, then you don’t get off that lightly either…

The guilt of what you’ve done can really weigh you down and take its toll on your future.

This is a difficult one to process. After all, it is something you should feel a certain amount of guilt about. You betrayed someone you loved, and that’s something you need to come to terms with.

But whilst you shouldn’t sweep it entirely under the rug, you also shouldn’t punish yourself for it.

What’s in the past is in the past. You definitely shouldn’t forget, but you need to move on, forgive yourself, learn the lesson, and vow to do better in future.

Keep reading for a reflection on the guilt you’re feeling, and some advice on how to process it and put it behind you, whether you’re still in a relationship with the partner you cheated on, or are newly single and want to make better choices in future.

Feeling guilty is a good thing.

First off, it’s important to say that it’s a positive thing that you’re here.

If you’re reading this, then you’re feeling guilty about something you did to hurt someone who was or still is really important to you.

And that means you’re a good person, who just did a bad thing. It would only be if you weren’t feeling guilty at all that you’d really have to start worrying.  

It’s only natural to feel a certain amount of guilt in situations like these, because you’ve betrayed the trust of someone important to you and caused them pain.

Feeling this way means you’ve accepted responsibility for what you did, which is the first step to moving forwards.

The guilt you’re feeling is also somewhat of a guarantee that you won’t be cheating again in a hurry.

You’ve learned from this experience that no matter how tempted you might be, the guilt, remorse, and pain that came after cheating just aren’t worth it. 

But there’s no point wallowing in it.

So, your guilt is a positive, in a lot of ways, as it means you’ll come out of this as a better person, having learned a hard lesson.

But it’s important not to let that guilt overshadow your future. What’s done is done.

You’ve been honest with your partner (yes, you should tell them that you cheated). Maybe you’re working things out, or maybe it’s over.

Either way, it’s time to focus on all the good things still to come, rather than dwelling on the bad things in the past. 

If you’re still with your partner…

You and your partner have decided to stick together.

You came clean with them about what you did, and you’ve mutually decided that you still love each other and what you have is worth fighting for.

You might have convinced yourself when the two of you made that decision that you’d just be able to put it behind you and move on.

But there’s still plenty of work to be done. Your feelings of guilt are still cropping up, so how can you deal with them?

Here are a few things you might find helpful.

1. Forgive yourself.

They say that if you want someone else to love you, you need to love yourself. The same is true of forgiveness.

The first step toward moving on is totally forgiving yourself for what you did. You’ll have to accept it, face up to it, and put it behind you.

After all, if you’re still berating yourself for what you did, it won’t matter whether or not your partner has totally forgiven you.

2. Confide in someone you trust.

The last person you should be talking to about your feelings of guilt is your partner. They don’t need you putting that on them. It’s not their job to make you feel better right now.

But you do need to discuss your feelings with someone to be able to work through them, and figure out why you did what you did, and exactly where your guilt is springing from.

Turn to a friend that you know won’t judge you, and preferably one that doesn’t have loyalties to your partner.

Or, speak to a relationship counselor. They can help you work through your guilt. We highly recommend the online service from Relationship Hero – chat with someone now

3. Put the effort in to prove you’re committed.

If you’ve cheated on a partner but want the relationship to continue, you need to be prepared to put some hard work in to make it right.

Be willing to go the extra mile to show them how important the relationship is to you. Doing so will also help you to feel better about yourself and overcome the guilt you feel in the process.

4. Ask them what you can do to show them your love.

If you’re struggling to find ways to show them how important they are to you, maybe it’s time to ask them.

Ask them what they need from you to reassure them that you are 100% committed to making things work.

Doing positive things for your relationship will really help to assuage your guilt.

5. Don’t allow them to treat you badly.

Just because you’ve cheated on them, it doesn’t give them an excuse to treat you badly in any way. They shouldn’t be trying to make you pay, or make you suffer.

You’ve made a mistake, but you still deserve their love and respect.

6. Go to counselling together.

If the two of you are struggling to move on, it might be time to turn to a professional for help.

Again, we highly recommend the online counselling service from Relationship Hero. You can connect to someone through chat or video and talk things through.

If you’re newly single…

So, things didn’t work out. Maybe cheating was what ultimately made the relationship implode, or perhaps there were lots of other underlying factors in the mix.

Either way, you’re concerned that your infidelity will cast a shadow over the relationships to come.

1. Accept the situation.

If you’ve found yourself in a situation like this, the first thing you need to do is accept it. Otherwise, you’ll never be able to move on.

If you try to deny what you did, or its consequences, then you’ll never be able to work past it and learn the lessons you need to learn.

2. Speak to a trusted friend.

When you’re going through a tough time emotionally, voicing your feelings to a trusted friend who will listen but not judge is incredibly important.

It’ll help you to figure out why you’re feeling so torn up about it and think about the changes you’re going to make going forwards. 

3. Know that one bad thing doesn’t make you a bad person.

In this modern world, we have this strange idea that people are either inherently good, or inherently bad. That you can’t be both.

The truth is, no human being is 100% good, or 100% bad, 100% of the time.

Having done one bad thing doesn’t make you evil, and you need to remember that, as deciding that you’re a bad person won’t help you or anyone around you. 

4. Remember, no one expects you to be perfect.

Do you expect perfection from the people you love? From your friends and family?

Of course you don’t. The only person in this world who expects you to be perfect is you.

Sure, you made a big mistake, but we all make mistakes of one sort or another, sooner or later.

Perfection is not realistic, and setting such a high bar for yourself only makes it more likely that you’ll fall short.  

5. Don’t brand yourself as a “cheater.”

There’s a popular idea that someone who cheats once will always do it again, sooner rather than later.

And that’s just not true.

Having made a mistake doesn’t mean that you’re branded as a cheater for life, and you need to remind yourself of that.

Otherwise, your self-loathing might mean you end up cheating again in future, just because you’ve decided that it’s something you’ll always inevitably do.

The power of the mind, and the power of labels, is something you should never underestimate. 

6. Don’t lower your standards.

Having cheated in a relationship doesn’t make you any less worthy of love. Be careful about not lowering your standards or settling.

It’s so easy for someone who’s cheated to allow future partners to cheat on them or treat them badly because they think that’s what they deserve.

Whatever you do, don’t let that become your mindset.

7. Focus on the lessons you learned.

Sure, a lot of bad came out of what you did. But I’m sure some kind of positive has come out of it too.

Maybe your ex is now in a relationship with someone who’s really good for them.

Maybe you realized that your cheating was a result of a particular problem in your relationship, like bad communication.

You need to learn that lesson and carry it forwards into future relationships.

8. Consider professional help.

If you’re really struggling to overcome the guilt of your cheating, then you might benefit from speaking to a professional, who can help you learn from what you did and look toward the future.

Once again, we recommend Relationship Hero for this. Click here to start speaking to someone right now.

Remember, cheating doesn’t define you, and there’s so much love waiting in your future, if you’re only willing to open your heart to it.

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About Author

Katie is a writer and translator with a focus on travel, self-care and sustainability. She's based between a cave house in Granada, Spain, and the coast of beautiful Cornwall, England. She spends her free time hiking, exploring, eating vegan tapas and volunteering for a local dog shelter.