Psychological insights on relationships: rejections, breakups, making relationships happy, unhealthy dynamics, and general psychology.

Do Cheaters Feel Guilty or Remorseful?

If cheaters feel remorse, why don’t they show it? And how to make sure they feel remorse.

Black woman feeling remorse

In short: People who live by the principles of the Superego feel remorse. Those who live by the principles of the Id do not (at least not much). Both groups will use ego defense mechanisms to justify themselves and avoid guilt. The former will use these mechanisms less effectively, while the latter will use them extensively.

This leads to an interesting observation. People reading this are likely not getting confirmation from their partner that they feel guilty. This could mean the partner either feels guilty but doesn’t want or know how to show it or doesn’t feel guilty at all.

So, we have two intertwined themes here: whether the partner feels remorse and whether they express it. We’ll explore both topics and add another interesting one: how to make someone genuinely remorseful for what they’ve done.

Do Cheaters Feel Remorse?

One group of people feels remorse, and another does not. Use this text to determine which category your partner falls into.

People who feel remorse are those who live more by the principles of the superego than the id. I often mention these three entities in my texts: id, ego, and superego.

People who live by the principles of the superego adhere to ethics, morality, conscience, responsibility, duty, and righteousness.

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Now, you might be wondering: If they live like this, how did they end up cheating on their partner? The answer is that everyone has another side of themselves, the id, which operates on the principles of aggression and pleasure. Aggression is not relevant here, but pleasure is. You can tell when a person is acting out of their id because they are actively seeking pleasure in life.

Now is a good time to consider your partner’s general lifestyle, apart from this cheating incident. If you realize that they are usually conscientious and strive to do the right thing, it could be that their identity momentarily took over, causing them to make a mistake. However, they will soon return to their core (conscience) and start feeling remorse quickly.

Interestingly, such people feel intense remorse because they strive hard to follow the right path. In a way, by cheating, they have betrayed both themselves and all their efforts.

On the other hand, people who are oriented towards pleasure in life can also be recognized. For them, cheating is just another way to experience joy, so they won’t feel much remorse.

They won’t be happy that their partner found out about the cheating, and they might not be proud of themselves, but they are always capable of dealing with the unpleasant things they have caused.

To achieve this, they use ego defense mechanisms. There are over 40 mechanisms available for this purpose.

For those unfamiliar, ego defense mechanisms are used to justify or soften our actions. The idea is to calm ourselves and protect our self-image.

Common mechanisms that are used for this purpose are:

  • Rationalization: The person tries to rationalize why they did it, seeking logical reasons. “I had to do it. That person seduced me/we were drunk/my partner wasn’t showing me enough love at the time.”
  • Denial: The person completely denies the importance of cheating. “This is nothing serious, just a bit of fun on the side.”
  • Projection: The person projects their feelings or behavior onto their partner. They might accuse their partner of flirting or cheating, even though they do it.
  • Minimization: The person minimizes the significance of their actions or the consequences of the cheating. “It was just a kiss, nothing more,” or “It’s just sex without emotions; it means nothing.”

This can escalate into more severe mechanisms, such as:

  • Dissociation: The person mentally separates their behavior from their identity or moral values. “That wasn’t me; it just happened,” or “It was just a moment of weakness.”
  • Repression: The person tries to suppress or forget the guilt and shame associated with cheating. They avoid thinking about it or facing their feelings.

It’s important to note that the mechanisms we use and to what extent depend on our character, specifically our maturity and immaturity.

Person feels remorse and guilt

Now that we know this, we can say that the combination of these factors determines how much remorse a person feels.

If driven mainly by the id (constantly choosing pleasure), they are likely very skilled at using robust ego defense mechanisms to justify what they do.

Therefore, there is less remorse; when it does appear, the person uses their mechanisms again to justify themselves.

The only time such a person might feel genuine remorse is when they lack the energy to use their mechanisms—at night, before sleep, when they have expended their energy on other things, when dealing with different struggles, etc. For example, when things go wrong, they may re-evaluate everything they’ve ever done.

What this means: If the id drives your partner and follows the path of pleasure, they rarely feel remorse, but there are moments when it does happen.

Also, it doesn’t mean they won’t feel remorse later in life because, as I said, the ability to use defense mechanisms depends on energy and maturity.

If your partner follows the path of the superego, it means they have little justification for themselves, so they naturally feel remorse.

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Interestingly, they don’t feel remorse for what they did to you, but for how they disappointed themselves.

People who are typically very empathetic can feel remorse for you, those who can step into your shoes and feel what you are feeling.

Another reason you might be reading this article is that, regardless of what your partner feels,

They might not show remorse.

They do this for several reasons:

The person doesn’t want to show too much remorse.

Reasons for this can vary. They might fear you will hold it over their heads or that your punishment will be severe, so they don’t want to participate and give you the right to punish them. They might hope that they will downplay the problem in your eyes by not showing too much remorse.

The person doesn’t know how to show remorse.

This is tricky because what you consider sufficient remorse might vary. Should they kneel, cry, and beg or punish themselves somehow? Or is it enough to talk with you? The point is that your partner might not know how to express remorse or to what extent.

The person is unable to show remorse.

The reasons here vary from never learning to show it to using robust mechanisms to avoid it. Some people have a shallow range of emotions. If your partner has a shallow and narrow range of emotions, they won’t be able to show them. If this surprises you, consider that you might already know if you have such a partner.

Considering the previous section (Do Cheaters Feel Remorse?), we can say that even people who strive to choose the right things (live by the principles of the superego) may not admit to feeling remorse but can feel it deeply and intensely.

How to Make Someone Feel Remorse

Two woman talking

This part is not for very moral people, as it involves some forms of manipulation. However, I must address this because sometimes, partners of cheaters need to see remorse to continue living with what has been done.

It’s unusual how many people need just this to move on.

So, this segment is not meant for cruelty or manipulation but to draw out remorse from the partner, which can lead to continued cohabitation.

Here’s what you can do to make the person show or perhaps even start to feel remorse:

  • Talk about how you feel. Be descriptive and detailed. Discuss this for as long as necessary.
  • Project the feeling that you think they should have. Repeat the phrase: “You should feel remorse for this.” Many people are prone to adopting what is projected onto them.
  • Ask your partner to talk about how you feel. Let them be detailed in their descriptions, and try to empathize with your current emotions. Avoid imposing what they should say; the idea is for them to identify and recognize the emotion, which might trigger remorse.
  • Discuss what happened and insist on a deep conversation. Here, the goal is for your partner to conclude that they didn’t have to or shouldn’t have done it. Whatever they were trying to achieve, they should realize there was a better way that didn’t involve hurting you.
  • Show empathy and understanding to remind them of your goodness.
  • Encourage introspection: Help the person reflect on their actions. Ask how they felt, what they were thinking then, what they think now, and how they feel now.
  • Give examples by apologizing for things you have done (manipulatively). This is done to make the person feel shame and remorse for hurting someone like you.
  • Suggest they seek professional help: Professionals can provide tools and techniques for self-reflection and remorse or even handle the entire process for you.
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Once again, the goal of this is not to torture your partner but to get what you may need: repentance.
And that’s why I emphasize: When you get it, to the extent you want, avoid emitting guilt towards your partner or keeping the upper hand over him. Because that already turns into light sadism.
Your goal should be to repair the relationship, not to bully.

If you are interested in how to improve this relationship, you may find it useful to read this article: Specific Things To Do When Partner Falls In Love With Someone Else 1. and continuation What To Do When Partner Falls In Love With Someone Else 2

I hope this text helps you better understand the remorse of people who cheat. Dee

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