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

What Cheaters Do When They Get Caught

What cheaters do when they get caught. What they think, feel, and what happens subconsciously. This part might be particularly interesting to you, considering we delve into the subconscious mechanisms that drive us to cheat and are often satisfied when caught.

*It’s such a controversy.

Couple in fight

In short: People who cheat begin to lie and deny, shift the blame to their partner, emotionally manipulate, refuse to admit guilt and then promise and beg that their partner will not leave them.
However, they can think differently and feel different things, not to mention that they can unconsciously enjoy being caught. We talk more about this in the text.


I once had a client who only talked to me about cheating on her partner. Her remorse was notably different from that of other clients who also cheated but came to speak for advice on keeping their lover, dealing with jealousy, etc.

My client stood out because she felt immense remorse yet couldn’t resist sleeping with a particular man. No, she had no disorder. She was just obsessed with him (and no, I don’t justify her actions, just recounting our conversations).

With this brief introduction, I want to say that there are significant differences in how people feel and behave after cheating. Some genuinely feel remorse, some find every possible justification, and some don’t even give it much thought.

Worth reading: Do Cheater Feel Guilty or Remorseful

In this text, we’ll try to address both sides of every form of behavior after cheating:

  • What they think and feel when cheating.
  • When remorse is sincere.
  • When it’s just to deceive you.

I will also give you some suggestions on what to do in each of these situations.

Let’s first explore:

What people think and feel when they are caught cheating.

Man and woman. Obsession after rejection

1. Fear of consequences

This fear stems from:

  • Losing the partner: fear of the practical aspects of the relationship. What will they lose if they lose their partner?
  • Loss of social status: fear of ego injury, as maintaining a good self-image is crucial.
  • Facing judgment: fear of emotional narcissistic injury, feeling shame, sadness, guilt.

At this moment, people wonder what others will think when they find out they cheated.

  • My recommendation is that you don’t take dirty laundry out of your house (don’t involve other people in it), but that you give your partner a very clear feeling of guilt. Make sure your partner knows what you think of them and that they have no choice about it. They cannot justify themselves.
    This is not done out of sadistic and vengeful urges, but it is necessary for the partner to feel discomfort so that they will never do it again.
  • You don’t need an audience, observers, or comrades. You don’t know how things will end between you and your partner, but you know that people will mostly have fun in your misery.
Person feels remorse and guilt

2. Regret, but not for cheating

Since humans are inherently selfish—not in a negative way, just by nature—whenever they gain something extra, they’re happy. Thus, they’re happy if someone manages to have another partner or gain extra affection, love, and admiration. Happiness and regret aren’t complementary feelings.

However, potential loss triggers regret. When caught, they face the possible loss of a partner, reputation, or the person they were involved with.

Hence the thought: “Why was I so careless and stupid? I should have been more careful.”

  • Maybe it’s not a bad idea for your partner to get the feeling that they are lost you, at least for a while.

Can Someone Who Love You Cheat on You

3. Anger and Frustration

These stem from being caught rather than from cheating. I’ve heard statements like, “I’m so mad at myself for cheating!” Eventually, they’re more upset about being caught than the act itself.

The thought is something like: “This is extremely frustrating. How do I get out of this?”

  • Frustration is a good thing in this case. People grow and change out of frustration. Unfortunately, frustration means that a person will necessarily change, but it is the reason why people choose to grow.

4. Guilt and Shame

Two woman talking

This is due to betraying and hurting their partner. However, similar to the topic of altruism (does altruism exist if we feel good for doing something for someone?), we can ask: do people feel guilty for their partner or themselves for betraying someone good to them?

Whatever the reason, this feeling is positive and should satisfy the partner.

The underlying thought is: “How could I do this to the person I love? How do I make this right?”

  • As with frustration and guilt, the feeling of shame is good in this case. The feeling of shame serves to stop us from doing something. If we don’t feel shame, we won’t stop doing it. It’s good if you manage to embarrass your partner.

5. Justifying their behavior

This doesn’t necessarily aim to end the relationship, but to alleviate the ego injury experienced.

Our ego constantly strives for us to be better people than others think of us. To achieve this, we often distort reality. For example, if someone steals something, they might say: “I stole from him because he got it dishonestly” or “because he has too much.” The idea is to calm the ego and find justification for oneself.

The same goes for cheating.

To avoid feeling bad, a person will start seeking excuses: “I’m not happy in this relationship anyway. My partner isn’t always fair to me. Maybe this was a wake-up call to reevaluate what I want.”

  • Feel free to stick to reality and keep that person in reality. Tell them everything they have with you and what they risk with this cheating. Do not allow a person to distort reality because no ego defense can fight against truth and reality. You don’t give up on this, even if they aggressively convince you otherwise. Because here they go, according to your words. Don’t play on their side.

How Cheating Starts and What Happens Before Cheating

What happens beneath the surface when caught cheating?

A beautiful woman sitting

Never forget that people are driven by their subconscious inner world, which desires something.

To understand this well, consider someone who watched their parents argue constantly and recorded this as their first love model. This person has an unconscious need to recreate these past models in order to feel loved. Thus, they may subconsciously seek reasons to argue with their partner in order to feel loved.

We intensely recreated the models we experienced with our parents.

1. Cheater might enjoy or feel excited when caught

Cheaters might interpret their partner’s despair, arguments, and sadness as expressions of love and affection. They can intensely enjoy the attention received through this.

  • Precaution: If you constantly accuse your partner of cheating, they might remember this as the ultimate source of your attention and start cheating (or insinuating cheating) just to get your attention or emotion from you.

The unconscious thought behind this is: My partner wants me. They still love me and find me desirable.

If you realize that your cheating partner received some inner benefit when caught, it will be extremely difficult to change. As mentioned, these are patterns from childhood that are deeply rooted in us.

This can potentially change through many years of psychotherapy or through the methods discussed in the text Why Do People Cheat?

2. A cheater might think they are unchangeable

Shy woman

Consider how hard it is to change even a tiny habit, like drinking your morning coffee. Then, think about how challenging it is to change lifelong habits tied to our emotional and psychological world (not to say someone cheats their whole life, but they have built a habit of cheating and feeling good about it or facing no consequences because they are unique to someone).

If changing a small habit is problematic, changing one’s inner world and habits as a result is even more challenging. People who cheat might think they are unchangeable.

If your partner believes they cannot change, psychotherapy can help them believe change is possible. Change requires a decision, willpower, persistence, and repetition of correct patterns. It also involves learning new techniques. This might sound overwhelming, but it’s not as burdensome if someone decides to pursue it.

3. A cheater may not want to change

You’ve heard it a million times: Your partner should accept you as you are. Many immature people hold this belief; if this mindset is the norm, there’s no room for change and growth.

Black man

If a partner has reasons for cheating (coming from such a family, believing that polygamy is okay, for example), they might think that you need to change (become more open to new ideas, for instance). The reasons a partner wants to stay the same can vary. From their beliefs to their inability to admit they are wrong to the fact that change would mean they have to deny everything they’ve done in the past.

This underlying thought might be: “This is who I am. If my partner can’t accept that, maybe I’m not with the right person.”

This is clearly unchangeable, and don’t be fooled by periods of peace with your partner. People always do what they believe is right and what they think they have a right to do.

If your partner believes that cheating is okay, they will eventually cheat on you again. It’s up to you to decide whether you can live with that or if it’s not an option.

Partner Falls In Love With Someone Else – What To Do

4. Cheaters sometimes use situations to manipulate their partner

Cheating is a threat, a sword hanging over the relationship, and if they have a weak partner in front of them, cheaters can constantly threaten to leave if the partner doesn’t do what they want.

It’s like pitting two people against each other, competing for their affection.

Man and woman in toxic relationship

Another form of manipulation would be humiliating the partner and keeping them in a bad place. Sometimes, you deal with a psychopath, narcissist, or sadist who enjoys tormenting another person. Choosing another person may have only one purpose: to make the partner suffer.

This is also almost unchangeable because it involves manipulation, from which the person obviously gets something. Whether it’s benefits or some emotional satisfaction, why would people change something if they benefit from it?

Finally:

What Cheaters Do When Caught

Of course, it all starts with:

1. Denial and lying

No matter how aware the person is that they are lying, this mechanism can be used very sincerely. What a paradox 🙂. They are sincerely lying 🙄. Of course, most people use this only by very consciously lying, focused on getting away with it in some way, not on what they are doing.

However, we return here to ego-defense mechanisms that serve to make the person feel better when what they are doesn’t match what people see of them.

This can go very far, and the person may fall into psychosis. For example, they start lying so much that they begin believing what they say is true.

The same goes for denial. There is even an ego-defense mechanism called denial.

Denial in this case might sound like: “It wasn’t anything serious. Just one-time sex/texting.”

Handsome man wants his ex back

If you are the cheated partner and you’ve really caught your partner cheating, don’t allow denial, not just for yourself but also because the partner will fall into psychosis. Or they will learn something terrible (to get away with lying and denying). This is not good for you or your partner.

Our job is to correct our partners and keep them grounded, even when we are angry with them.

Your role is to keep bringing the conversation back: “No. I won’t accept this. You cheated on me, and until we start talking about it, we won’t continue this conversation.”

2. Blaming the partner

This is a logical sequence: to find blame in external factors, not in oneself – because, after all, we must remain unblemished. We never do things because we are weak, stupid, bad, naive, impulsive, thoughtless, etc., but we are always great, and circumstances and other people force us to do some things.

Therefore, the partner is blamed for something we did. For example: Our sex is not satisfying. You don’t respect me. We’ve been distant lately. Reasons can always be found.

I once had a client who cheated on her husband because he never wiped the water in the bathroom after himself. Of course, we can go deeper with this because there are deeper reasons, but her justification for herself sounded like this. So the underlying thought is: “If I were happy with my partner, I wouldn’t cheat. I wouldn’t seek attention elsewhere.”

If you are the cheated and blamed partner, you must bring the conversation back to the facts.

One topic is cheating, and another topic is what I don’t do for you or the reason why I drove you to cheat. We will talk about these two topics separately.

Why You Feel Guilty About the Breakup

3. Emotional manipulation

Man and woman in relationship

This is interesting, changes the focus and diverts attention from cheating. And this isn’t hard to do. You just need to divert the partner’s attention to an important or painful topic for them.

For example: “I cheated on you, but I did it because you don’t give me enough attention.”

This completely shifts the topic to the partner who doesn’t have time or doesn’t give attention in an adequate way. The partner begins to justify themselves, and the conversation goes in a direction that suits the cheater. The cheater, having managed to emotionally manipulate the partner, doesn’t allow the conversation to return to the original topic—their cheating.

Emotional manipulation also includes crying, playing the victim, or claiming that they are also hurt.

While you can easily fall for their tears, I suggest separating these things. Even if you feel guilty.

  • Your cheating. I want to talk about it now. This is the priority topic, and now is the time for it.
  • Ok. I will write down all my mistakes toward you. We can talk about that tomorrow or later.

Should You stay In your Relationship?

4. Rejecting Responsibility

Man in toxic relationship

The cheater claims that the cheating happened accidentally and that they were not in control. They could have been under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or emotional stress and were not aware of their actions.

Although this is a lie, there are mitigating circumstances:

  • If the partner was indeed under the influence of some intoxicants or alcohol, we know that they lower inhibitions.

However, the partner could have known how they behaved under the influence of intoxicants and not put themselves under their influence.

  • If the partner was under emotional stress and therefore cheated, the mitigating circumstance is that cheating helps the ego. The person feels more valuable and better when someone accepts and wants them.

However, they could have felt valuable to their partner.

There will be no change if the partner does not accept their responsibility. And if there is no change, it means you will be cheated on again.

People find it hard to change even when they know where they are wrong, and they don’t change at all if they reject their responsibility and think (or pretend) that they did nothing wrong. In that case, we don’t have a starting point for changes. Because why would we change something we are doing right or well?

Finally Comes:

5. Apologies and Promises

Couple breaking up

And it can be sincere, but it’s good to read this text, Do Cheaters Ever Change, to see if it will be kept.

As we said at the beginning, people don’t like to lose things, so they usually do everything to avoid losing their partner. Apologies and promises include sacrifices, gifts, self-punishment, threats, etc.

Personally, I’m not a big fan of promises, but I am a big fan of someone learning what they can and cannot do. We learn best when we experience personal discomfort. It’s much better than when someone warns us. Like a child who reaches out to a hot iron (a silly example, but it describes well). They will remember much better, faster, and more clearly what a hot iron is if they get burned than if their parent warns them not to touch it.

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