Unfaithfulness in marriage has become quite rampant in today’s day and age. According to the General Social Survey, the number of men cheating is still higher than women. However, women have also confessed to adultery.
About 20% of men have confessed to cheating, and 13% of women have done so as well while still married to their partner. However, it could also be considered cheating if you are in a serious and committed relationship with your partner and you get physically intimate with someone else.
Moreover, even if you are not getting physically intimate, being emotionally attracted to someone other than your spouse is also considered cheating in some ways.
The fact that you want to be with someone else or find them attractive is also a form of cheating. Even though your relationship is platonic, you are finding companionship outside of marriage, and this could be considered an extra-marital affair.
However, what makes it worse is when you have no way but to keep the entire episode to yourself. Over time, guilt takes over, and although all seems well from the outside, it puts a strain on your marriage.
But does it mean your marriage is over once you have cheated? Is there any way to confess and keep your union going? Can you forgive yourself after what you have done? Let us find out.
Analyzing the Reasons Behind Cheating: Is There Ever a Valid Reason?
When people hear about the word cheating or extra-marital affair, they immediately form a negative impression in their minds about the person. And that would be the general reaction because every culture in the world believes in the sanctity of marriage.
Marriage means that you stay by your partner in good times and bad, in sickness and in health, and till death part you two. It is not to be entered lightly, and by cheating, you betray the very foundations of your value system. It can disrupt the entire family once everyone finds out about it.
And yet, what is it that propels people to cheat?
The most common reasons are emotional fulfillment and sexual attraction. Let us look into them.
Being married to someone who is emotionally unavailable can be pretty challenging. It does not matter whether you were forced to marry because of your family or you chose your partner yourself.
During the dating phase, many people do not understand their partner on a deeper level, and that brings out the incompatibility when you are married. Even if you have dated someone for years, it is possible that you could start feeling dissatisfied with the person after living with them under the same roof.
Your values may not match, you may have different attitudes about spending money, and all the stress in your marriage could make you less attracted to your partner. In addition, if your partner does not appreciate you or starts taking you for granted, you are bound to feel less attracted to them as well.
So when you suddenly meet someone more aligned with your value system, you are bound to feel attracted to the person. If you feel seen and heard by this new person and feel emotionally fulfilled, you are bound to feel attracted to them.
Being sexually attracted to someone outside of marriage is considered a bad thing. Yet, it is more common than someone might imagine. However, it is one thing to check out someone else, but the problem happens when you choose to act on it.
Sexual attraction can happen at any point. You may suddenly see someone on the road who matches your idea of a dream man or a dream woman. Or, you could spend time with them in a particular social circle and slowly get to know them and feel attracted towards them.
Suppose they feel the same way about you. In that case, it is possible that you could engage in physical intimacy, leading to infidelity in your marriage. The thing is, the act of sex is the easiest thing to indulge in. Sometimes, it can only take minutes.
However, the long-term repercussions are immense, and it is only later that you realize the magnitude of your actions. And when it hits you, you should be ready to deal with it.
How to Handle Guilt and Shame After Cheating?
So, now that you have cheated on your spouse, the guilt is going to set in sooner or later. This will be inevitable if you are indeed in a loving and satisfying marriage. Yet, you decide to cheat as you are unable to control your urges.
Keeping the guilt and shame locked up inside you is sure to take its toll. Even if you do not confess, you should be processing this guilt and learn to forgive yourself if you are to keep your marriage alive. Here is how you do it.
Ask Yourself Questions
So, the first thing you need to do is ask yourself why you cheated on your spouse. What was it about this new person that made you cheat? Was it something that happened in the spur of the moment, or have you been attracted to this person for a long time? Were you too drunk, or did you make a conscious choice?
Were you away on a business trip or a bachelor party and just decided to have some fun without thinking much? Analyzing the reasons will help you figure out the reasons behind cheating. It will pave the way to reconcile with yourself.
Acknowledge Your Actions
You should acknowledge your actions and hold yourself accountable for what you have done. Not doing so will only increase the guilt and shame that you feel within yourself.
Even if you were drunk and you did it in the spur of the moment, it was still your responsibility because you let yourself be carried away. If it was a conscious decision, you should hold yourself accountable for what you did to the marriage rather than justifying your actions.
Make Peace with Yourself
We are often our harshest critics, and if you are indeed in love with your spouse, it could be challenging to come to terms with what you have done. However, making peace with yourself is the best thing you can do at this point.
Let go of the guilt and shame. Process your emotions by practicing meditation. It will probably take some time, but it will give you the time to heal. Suppose you have not told your partner or anybody else about what you have done. In that case, you will carry the burden alone, so it is essential to make peace with yourself.
Cut Ties with Person
You need to cut all ties with the person you cheated with if you are to forgive yourself. It does not matter whether you have done it once or multiple times. You just need to cut all ties the moment you understand the implications of your action.
Block this person from your contacts and all social media platforms. Physical distancing is very important for emotional distancing, and you must start it immediately.
Love your Partner Anew
You might not be able to tell your partner about what you have done, but you can still make up and start loving them anew. Remind yourself of all the reasons why you married them and go back to them.
They may be surprised at why you are suddenly bringing them flowers or planning dates, but this will help you revive the spark in your marriage- the loss of which was the very reason you were tempted to cheat.
How can Counseling Help You Handle the Guilt of Cheating?
If you are trying to forgive yourself after cheating, then going for therapy can help you with it. Even if you have not confessed to your partner or spoken to anyone else, you can always talk to a therapist who will help you overcome this guilt of cheating.
They will also help you figure out the underlying causes of cheating, which will prevent you from doing something like this again. If, for some reason, you feel lost in your marriage, feel unattracted to your partner, or simply have problems too big to handle yourself, you can also attend therapy sessions as a couple.
You don’t have to tell your partner about cheating, but you can still find the guidance to make your marriage work again.
Infidelity in marriage is a big issue. You may not think much about when you are in the act of cheating, but it can have long-term repercussions later. You should be mindful of your actions if you forgive yourself and avoid something like this in the future.
Cheating and extra-marital affairs do not just affect you and your partner. It can disrupt the entire family, especially if you have children. Hence, dealing with the guilt and forgiving yourself is essential if you are carrying on with your marriage.
She is an experienced Clinical Psychologist and Mental Health Writer with a decade of expertise in psychology. Skilled in assessment, therapy, and patient care. Committed to helping individuals through clinical practice and mental health writing at Therapyjourney.co. Passionate about promoting mental well-being and awareness. Open to aligned opportunities.