How Do Cheaters Feel About Their Cheating?

How Do Cheaters Feel About Their Cheating?


By Dr. Kurt Smith, LMFT, LPCC, AFC

When you discover you’ve been cheated on you feel a range of emotions,

  • Shock
  • Anger
  • Hurt

just to name a few. And often you feel these in their extremes.

At some point everyone shifts from feeling to thinking and wants to know,

How do cheaters feel about their cheating?”

How could he/she hurt me this way?

Is he (or she) feeling pain like I am?”

If you’re a partner who’s been cheated on, you’re going to have a lot of questions. One type of question is going to be the ‘how’ of it all.

  • How do cheaters do it?
  • How do cheaters feel?
  • How do cheaters live with themselves?

As a counselor who specializes in working with men, I’ve counseled a lot of men who’ve cheated.

But it’s important to note that it’s not always men who cheat, and so I’ve also helped many men who’ve been cheated on, too.

Regardless of who cheated, my work has given me insight into learning what many cheaters feel – and, yes, they do have feelings about their cheating.

Does A Cheater Regret Cheating?

Before I explain if cheaters have any regrets, let’s look at something that has a big impact on how they feel – promises.

Below is a social media post I wrote about keeping promises.

Read the full post and then I’ll share how it’s connected to cheaters and their feelings.


So, how do cheaters feel?

The way people feel about cheating on a spouse or partner can vary.

Some feel really bad and truly regret it, others not as much.

But no matter how much guilt or remorse a cheating person expresses outwardly, they all feel it inwardly to some extent.

Cheaters are often able to separate themselves from their feelings and conscience. They may compartmentalize their behavior, telling themselves,

This has nothing to do with my marriage – it doesn’t change how I feel about my spouse.”

Or, they may justify things in order to continue to act in a way they know is wrong.

Cheaters lie to themselves with thoughts like,

  • “She deserves it.”
  • He doesn’t love me anymore anyway.”
  • I deserve to be happy” (true, but not in this way).

All of us have ways our minds can justify wrong behavior. In order to cheat you need to get pretty good at doing this.

These are the cognitive tricks cheaters use, and we’ve all probably used them too.

Why Does Cheating Happen?

There are a variety of reasons people cheat on those they love.

Often, however, cheating is a symptom of other problems in a relationship. Whether they’re,

Those who cheat are generally looking to fill what they perceive as an unmet need. Rather than looking for solutions by talking with their partner or seeking counseling, they attempt to fulfill these needs through other people.

That certainly doesn’t make cheating the right solution, but emotionally empty people often make poor decisions.

Cheating, in fact, will make any problem you’re currently facing worse, so I often find that a cheater’s remorse is compounded by the weight of the other problems they were trying to escape or fix.

The acceptance of broken promises seems to be a developing trend in our society today, and that change is making it much easier to cheat.

Promises just don’t seem to have the same importance any longer for many. The shame and consequences associated with breaking promises is often nonexistent. As our society makes it more and more acceptable to break a promise, it makes it easier and easier for anyone to cheat with very little or no guilt or remorse.

I’ve found that most cheaters really do have a conscience.

Many people who cheat didn’t set out to do so. A lot of time cheating just develops out of one bad decision followed by another bad decision. And before the person knows it, they’re cheating.

Once they’ve crossed that line, it’s easier to justify it, continue cheating, and enjoy the ride while it lasts.

That’s far more fun than it is to face the mistakes that led you to this point in the first place.

Repeated Cheating And Cheaters’ Remorse

But what about repeat cheaters? Why do some people cheat over and over again?”

I’ve worked with many couples that have experienced repeated cheating.

When it happens once it can be easier to believe the cheater feels remorseful, and that makes it easier to forgive them as well.

But when it happens more than once it’s far more difficult to be understanding. And it becomes increasingly difficult to believe they have any regrets or negative feelings about their behavior at all.

Most often, however, even serial cheaters have regrets. In fact, their cheating likely has more to do with poor self-esteem and a need to find validation wherever they ca, than problems in their relationship.

Does this make it okay?


Should you just forgive and move on?


Should you seek help if you want to change behavior and salvage your relationship?

Yes – absolutely.

And the biggest question that gets asked with repeated cheating,

Can a repeat cheater change?

Yes. But it takes work.

What To Take Away

If you’ve been cheated on you’re likely angry, hurt, and feeling incredibly betrayed. Those feelings are normal and understandable.

It’s important to recognize, however, that although your feelings may be different than your cheating partner’s, it doesn’t mean your partner doesn’t have negative feelings about cheating – they usually won’t show them in the same way.


  • Burying feelings or explaining away their behavior is how cheaters live with themselves.
  • The majority of men, and women, who cheat aren’t bad people. They’ve just made a series of bad decisions.

If you’ve been cheated on you may think I’m being too kind here. But the truth is that the majority of cheaters do feel bad about cheating. If you’ve been cheated on, however, you now have to think about one of the toughest questions in a relationship – Do you leave after an affair, or do you find a way to work through it?


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