NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Sunday, March 19, 2023

How to Stop Cheating and Repair Your Relationship

In my previous article, What Are the Telltale Signs of Serial Cheaters?, I focused on the signs that identify people who cheat over and over again.  The prior article was intended mostly for people who are in a relationship with someone who has a pattern of cheating.

The current article is intended for people who are cheating on their partners and who want to stop (see my articles: Coping With Infidelity).

What is Cheating?
Cheating, which is also known as infidelity, is a form of betrayal.  

How to Stop Cheating and Repair Your Relationship

Cheating occurs when someone in a monogamous relationship has an emotional affair and/or a sexual affair with someone else without their partner's consent.

Unfortunately, cheating is common.  Research surveys have identified approximately 1 in 5 people who admit cheating--and those are only the people who admit to cheating, so that number might actually be much higher.

The definition of cheating is highly subjective.  Two people in a relationship might have completely different ideas about what cheating would be, and people often don't find out until one of them calls the other out for cheating.  

The list below includes activities that individuals in relationships in my private practice over the years have defined as cheating (Note: All of the items on the list aren't necessarily my definition of cheating). 

This list shows how subjective the definition of cheating is for many people:
  • Watching pornography secretly without the other partner's knowledge
  • Flirting with other people
  • Maintaining a codependent relationship with an ex that interferes with the current relationship
  • Having a separate close friendship without including the other partner
  • Having an emotional affair
  • Having secret sexual fantasies that aren't revealed to the other partner
  • Sexting with other people without the other partner's knowledge or consent
  • Refusing to allow a partner to see email, texts or phone messages due to secret affairs
  • Having secret phone numbers or email accounts with the goal of having affairs
  • Having secret social media accounts with the goal of having affairs
  • Having secret bank accounts or credit cards for the purpose of affairs (also known as financial infidelity)
  • Engaging in secret cyber affairs
  • Having secret in person sexual affairs 
I'm sure you could probably come up with other forms of cheating, but these are the most common ones I hear about in my New York City private practice.

Why Do People in Relationships Cheat?
The reasons why people cheat vary from individual to individual, including: 
I discussed some of the reasons why people cheat in prior articles, and there are many more reasons:       

How to Stop Cheating on Your Partner
  • Reassess Your Behavior and Your Long Term Goals: Cheating can occur without much thought. Often it's a matter of giving into an impulse or an attraction without much reflection on how it would affect your life. By reassessing your personal and relationship goals, you can think about how cheating will affect those goals.  For instance, if one of your goals is to be an honest person who has integrity, then cheating doesn't fit in with that goal.  Or, if you want to have children with your partner, bringing a child into an unstable relationship due to your infidelity doesn't fit in with that goal.  Stop and think about the impact cheating can have on who you want to be as an individual and what you want in your relationship and in your life.
Reassess Your Behavior and Your Goals: What About Integrity?
    • Ask Yourself the following questions and consider your answers:
      • How do you feel about your partner and your relationship?
      • How do you feel about being in a monogamous relationship?
      • If you're unhappy with monogamy, are you interested in a consensual nonmonogamy and is this something you can discuss with your partner?
      • Are you so unhappy in your relationship that you want to end it. Although it can be difficult, it's better to be honest with your partner than to cheat.
  • Identify the Reasons You Cheat: There is never a good reason for cheating, but there might be conscious and unconscious factors that contribute to your infidelity, including:
    • You're avoiding problems in your relationship.
    • You're unhappy in your relationship and you're hoping your affair will end it so you don't have to be proactive about breaking up.
    • You want to punish your partner.
    • You like the excitement you feel and how you feel about yourself when you have an affair with new people.
    • You have problems with impulse control so that you get involved with people outside your relationship without much or any thought beforehand.
  • End An Affair: Whether it's an emotional, romantic or sexual affair, take steps to end the affair in a way where you make amends and have closure with your partner(s).  
    • Don't ghost them or cut them off.  
    • Talk to them about what you appreciated about them and tell them you want to focus on your relationship now.
    • Make amends if you were stringing them along with the promise of developing an exclusive relationship with them.  
    • After there is closure, which shouldn't be dragged out, end contact.  If you maintain contact, you're likely to go back to them.
  • Stop Any Other Behavior That Leads to Cheating: Whether it's flirting, sexting or any other behavior you have identified as leading to infidelity, stop engaging in that behavior.  
  • If You Have Decided to Remain With Your Partner (assuming your partner wants to remain with you): 
    • Take steps to repair the hurt and pain you caused to your partner by asking your partner what they need from you to heal.  This might involve a period of time when your partner needs to be on their own (without you) to think about what they want to do.  Respect that.  
    • Make a commitment to be transparent with your partner, which includes allowing your partner to have full access to your phone, computer and other technology.
    • Know that it will take a long time, if ever, to fully regain your partner's trust.
    • Get into individual therapy to help you during this challenging time and also to understand and overcome underlying reasons for your infidelity. This can help you to make lasting changes so you don't cheat again. 
    • Get into couples therapy with your partner to work on repairing the relationship.
  • If You Have Decided to Leave Your PartnerIf you realize that part of the reason for your infidelity was that you weren't admitting to yourself or your partner that you're unhappy with the relationship and you want to leave:
    • Communicate empathetically with your partner face-to-face (no email, no texts or voicemail).
    • Take responsibility for your part in the deterioration of the relationship.
    • Be emotionally attuned to your partner and be willing to listen to their expressions of hurt and pain (this is part of your taking responsibility).
    • Consider couples therapy to end the relationship amicably, especially if you have children.

Get Help From a Licensed Mental Health Professional
As mentioned above, there are often conscious and unconscious reasons why people cheat. 

If you've been unable to stop cheating or you stopped and you don't want to backslide, get professional help.

Get Help in Therapy

You could benefit from working in individual therapy with a skilled psychotherapist who has experience in helping people who want to stop cheating.

You and your partner can also benefit from attending couples therapy to repair your relationship and rebuild trust or to end the relationship amicably.

Instead of remaining stuck, get help so you can live a more meaningful life with a sense of integrity.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples and I have helped many clients to overcome problems with cheating.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.