No one plans to cheat on their partner, but it can happen. After the initial shock and disbelief wear off, you may feel guilty about your actions. The stages of guilt after cheating can be intense, but there are ways to move through them and hopefully repair your relationship.
Stages of Guilt After Cheating
The First Stage: Shock and Denial
Cheating can cause a lot of damage to a relationship. Not only is there the initial betrayal, but there is also the pain of dealing with the aftermath. Shock and denial are the first stages of guilt people experience after cheating. In some cases, the cheater may completely deny what they have done. They may try to rationalize their behavior or blame their partner for infidelity.
In other cases, the cheater may be fully aware of the pain that they have caused but still be in disbelief that they could do something so hurtful. Either way, shock and denial are common reactions to cheating and can make it difficult to move on from experience.
The Second Stage: Bargaining
After someone has cheated, they often go through a period of guilt. This guilt can manifest itself in various ways, but one of the most common is bargaining. In this stage, the cheater may try to rationalize their actions by saying that they didn’t mean to hurt anyone or that they will never do it again. They may also try to make promises to themselves or the person they cheated on, such as promising to be more faithful in the future.
While these promises may be genuine, they are often just a way for the cheater to ease their guilt. Ultimately, bargaining is a way for someone to avoid taking responsibility for their actions. It may even delay the healing process for the cheater and the person they cheated on.
The Third Stage: Guilt
After you cheat, the first stage is usually denial. You try to convince yourself that it wasn’t cheating, that you didn’t mean to do it, or that it wasn’t a big deal. But eventually, the truth starts to set in, and you begin to feel guilty. This guilt can be overwhelming, and it can lead to all sorts of negative emotions like sadness, anxiety, and shame. You might start to feel like you’re not good enough or that you don’t deserve the love and trust of your partner. You might even start to doubt your self-worth.
But if you can get through this guilt stage, there is still hope for your relationship. By admitting what you did and taking responsibility for your actions, you can rebuild trust and repair the damage done.
The Fourth Stage: Anger
Anger is a common emotion that people experience after they have cheated. It is often the fourth stage of guilt, after denial, bargaining, and depression. Anger can be directed at yourself, the person you cheated with, or the person you cheated on. It is a powerful emotion that can lead to negative consequences if it isn’t managed correctly.
One way to manage your anger is to express it healthily. This could mean talking to a therapist or counselor about your feelings, writing about your anger in a journal, or talking to a trusted friend or family member. It’s also important to find constructive ways to release your anger, such as exercising, painting, or spending time outdoors. If you can find healthy outlets for your anger, you’ll be more likely to cope positively.
The Fifth Stage: Depression
Depression is the fifth stage of guilt after cheating. It can be described as profound sadness, despair, and emptiness. This stage is characterized by feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, and loneliness. People in this stage may have difficulty performing everyday tasks, sleeping, and eating. They may also experience increased anxiety and irritability. In severe cases, people may even have thoughts of suicide.
Although avoiding this stage is not always possible, some things can be done to ease the symptoms. These include seeking professional help, talking to trusted friends or family members, and participating in activities that bring joy. By taking these steps, people can feel better and start moving on from the pain of cheating.
The Sixth Stage: Acceptance
After cheating, many people feel a range of emotions, including denial, anger, and depression. However, ultimately, acceptance is the key to moving on. This does not mean that what you did was okay, but it does mean that you are ready to take responsibility for your actions and move forward. In the acceptance stage, you will likely feel more than just guilt; you may also feel shame and remorse.
However, these feelings are normal and healthy. They show that you are taking ownership of your actions and are committed to making things right. If you can reach the acceptance stage, you will be one step closer to putting the past behind you and moving on with your life.
No one feels good after cheating, but there are different ways that people process guilt. For some, the guilt is so overwhelming that they can’t function. Others may try to rationalize their behavior or downplay their actions’ seriousness. And still, others may find themselves stuck in a cycle of remorse and self-loathing. If you’re struggling to deal with your guilt after cheating, know that you’re not alone. Many people have been in your shoes and have found a way to move on. Reach out for help if needed, and take comfort in knowing that time heals all wounds.