We all make mistakes. If you’ve found yourself in the sticky situation of having cheated on your partner, you’re a card-carrying member of the mistake-making club. Just kidding… there is no such club, or if there is, it’s just called “humanity.” Unfortunately, though, just because we all make mistakes doesn’t mean that your mistakes don’t matter or that they won’t have devastating consequences. Cheating, in any form and at any stage in a relationship, can have some deeply hurtful repercussions for everyone involved.
This article isn’t about how to recover if you’ve been cheated on, and it’s not about how to save your relationship with the person you cheated on. We do have articles on those topics, but today we’re speaking directly to you, the cheater, about how you can stop the dishonest behaviors you see in yourself and learn to build healthy relationships based on respect. Keep reading if you’ve been wondering:
- “What’s wrong with me?”
- “How do I stop cheating?”
- “Why am I hurting people I care about?”
- “Am I broken?”
8 Ways to Stop Cheating
1. First and foremost: stop cheating. Sure, there are more things to think about, and we’ll get to those next. But if you are wondering how to stop cheating while actively involved in a cheating situation, something’s out of alignment. Do you really want to learn how to stop cheating? If yes, then get in touch with the parties involved, and break things off. Inform the person (or people) you’ve been seeing or talking to in secret that it’s over. Inform your partner(s) that you need some time, and yes, that should include coming clean about your infidelity. You can’t stop cheating while you’re still cheating. Plain and simple.
2. Acknowledge that you’ve hurt people. You need to admit to yourself that what you’ve done has caused pain for the person you’ve cheated on, but it’s also caused pain to you and possibly close friends and family members as well. Cheating, even if it is a secret, is not a victimless crime. You underestimate the damage you’re doing to yourself with every lie if you think you’re getting away without hurting yourself.
3. Figure out why you started cheating in the first place. There are several reasons why people cheat, and determining the root cause of your behavior is key to learning where you need to grow. Consider talking to a counselor or therapist about what fears, insecurities, or motivations are behind the choices you’ve made.
4. Look at your personal relationship with the truth. It’s pretty much impossible to cheat without lying, and if you think you never lied while you were cheating, you’re probably lying to yourself. Furthermore, if you’ve been lying about something this big, chances are you learned to lie a long time ago, have gotten pretty good at it, and do it in a lot of areas of your life. Are you afraid of the truth? Do you simply prefer the narrative you’ve created with lies to the reality of your life? What would happen if you suddenly started being honest with yourself and those around you?
5. Process any shame or guilt you may be feeling. Once you’ve acknowledged that you’ve done something wrong, feelings of regret, guilt, and shame are likely to set in. It’s important to learn how to respond to those feelings without plummeting into despair and self-hate. This is another time it might be a good idea to seek counsel from a therapist.
6. Forgive yourself. Even if the people you’ve hurt can’t forgive you for what you’ve done, in order to move on, you will need to forgive yourself eventually. Forgiving yourself doesn’t mean that you are ignoring the pain you’ve caused, and it doesn’t mean you’re dismissing the wrong that has been done. It simply means that you believe you are more than your mistakes, and you’re willing to believe that you’re worthy of a better future.
7. Rebuild trust. This begins with yourself. If you’re used to lying to everyone, including yourself, you need to teach yourself that you are trustworthy by being trustworthy. Start practicing honesty with yourself, your friends, your family members, and eventually with romantic interests. Honesty requires vulnerability, which makes it scary, but it’s a cornerstone of building healthy relationships moving forward.
8. Set yourself up for success. There are a number of ways you can protect yourself from falling into this trap again. Start with your answer to #3. Go to the core reason behind your cheating, and think of some ways you can find accountability and remove temptation from your daily life. This could look like talking with a therapist or relationship counselor regularly. It could also look like giving up alcohol, drugs, or social media…any of those things that open doors that you would prefer to keep closed. Some couples go so far as to have an “open phone policy,” where you know each other’s passcodes and are comfortable knowing that their partner may see what’s on their phone at any time. Only you know the things that may tempt you or make it easier to cheat again, so take time to decide what you need to do moving forward to make sustainable behavior change.
Building a Future Full of Healthy Relationships
Whether your relationship with the person you’ve cheated on recovers or not, the point of learning how to stop cheating is to be able to form healthy relationships in the future. All healthy relationships are based on a foundation of trust and respect. Until you address your mistakes, forgive yourself, and rebuild trust in yourself, you may struggle to build the kind of relationships that are both lasting and fulfilling. You may lose some people who have been important to you in the process of rebuilding how you act in relationships, and that is always difficult. Ultimately, though, building a future rooted in honesty will be worth it. Whatever you’ve done in the past, you can and will be loved for who you are because you are already loved, fully and completely.
If you’re not sure how to proceed from here, or if you want to find out more about the abiding, unconditional love of God, reach out to a Hope Coach today or check out our free ebook called Understanding Cheating. There is always hope, and you don’t have to do this alone.