Revenge cheating is a retaliatory act of infidelity committed by someone who has been cheated on in a relationship, usually in hopes that this will teach their significant other how it feels to be cheated on. However, revenge cheating ultimately makes both parties feel worse, and can cause irreparable damage to the relationship.
What Is Revenge Cheating?
Revenge cheating is a type of infidelity committed in retaliation by a person who has been cheated on, in hopes to get revenge on the partner who cheated first. Being cheated on is very painful, so the urge to seek revenge and get justice can help people justify the act of cheating back to teach their partner a lesson.
As with all types of infidelity, revenge cheating can be a physical or emotional affair, and can happen in person or online. Revenge cheating in a person can include one-on-one meet-ups where there is physical contact or intense emotional intimacy that mimics a relationship, whereas online can include messaging an ex, sexting, flirting with others, or sharing explicit photos.
How Common is Revenge Cheating?
Revenge cheating is more common than you think. One in three people have admitted that they have revenge cheated on their partner, and 80% of those felt their actions were valid. Of those who have revenge cheated, half of them disclosed their act of revenge cheating to hurt their partner in the same way they were initially.1
What is the Psychology Behind Revenge Cheating?
Being cheated on can be very painful and humiliating, and often leaves the betrayed partner feeling devalued. The partner who was cheated on may experience betrayal trauma triggered by their partner picking someone else while committed. In the midst of all the emotions, one of the emotions people often feel is anger. From that anger often comes a need to seek revenge, which is where revenge cheating comes from. Revenge cheating is often a knee-jerk attempt to regain some kind of dignity, and can also fill a need for the cheated-on partner to feel desired.2
Some reasons people may revenge cheat include:
- Anger: The types of anger felt by the partner who was cheated on may vary, but can become so overwhelming that they drive the hurt individual to seek revenge to see the other person feel the same way. Anger can be blinding and alter the partner’s perception of what they should do.
- Cultural and religious values: Their values don’t preclude them cheating as long as it is in the context of revenge cheating. Infidelity can be normalized in their culture, or it could be that their culture or religion considers the relationship to be over once infidelity occurs.
- Cost perception: If revenge offers benefits that outweigh any perceived social and emotional cost on them, they are more likely to engage in infidelity.
- Different responses to emotional and sexual affairs from men and women: Men and women may respond differently to their partner cheating on them. Research suggests that women are slightly likelier to revenge cheat than men.
- Age: They may want to use someone of a certain age to revenge cheat with or to make themselves feel better about their age if their partner who cheated originally cheated with someone significantly older/younger.
- Fill a void: The cheated on partner may be looking for some kind of connection now that the partner who cheated eroded the trust in their relationship, thus cutting connection.
- Self-worth boost: People may also be looking for an emotional and ego boost after being cheated on so they seek out an opportunity to cheat back.
How to Forgive Your Partner Instead of Seeking Revenge
Choosing to forgive your partner instead of seeking revenge takes a great amount of courage and bravery. This decision can be influenced by a number of things, including the number of times the acts of infidelity occurred, the reasons for the infidelity, how remorseful the cheating partner is, and how they hold themselves accountable and their goals for repair of the relationship.
It’s important to understand why someone cheated to understand the motivation behind the behavior, however it is not acceptable behavior even if the cheated on partner understands the reason. Being able to forgive and work through infidelity also depends on the quality and health of the relationship before the infidelity
Some factors that can predict the likelihood of forgiveness include:
- Cognitive: The cheated-on partner should be able to look at the cheating from the cheater’s perspective, and vice versa. This takes a lot of emotional stability and intelligence to be able to consider this viewpoint, as it can be very painful to do when hurt.
- Behavioral: The cheated-on partner still treats their partner with respect and recognizes that revenge isn’t the answer. The partner who cheated should also be trying to make up for their indiscretion.
- Emotional: The cheated-on partner has to work through the pain and betrayal to be able to experience positive emotions again with their partner, while the partner who cheated should address the reasons why they cheated in order to avoid the situation in the future.
7 Reasons to Avoid Revenge Cheating
There are a number of reasons to avoid revenge cheating. Revenge cheating is often an emotional response based on temporary emotions, and oftentimes goes against the moral compass of most people. Revenge cheating can negatively impact your self-esteem and relationship, so it is best to avoid it whenever possible.
Here are seven reasons to avoid revenge cheating:
1. Anger Will Fade
Over time, the anger of the person cheated on will fade. When this happens, the revenge cheater can feel guilt and remorse for fighting fire with more fire. It’s important to learn to listen to anger without always acting on it. Learning how to control anger and deal with frustration is important work. It’s also possible that you have pent up anger and recognizing that your actions may be misdirected and be caused by pent-up anger is also possible.
Your partner who cheated on you may resent you for doing the same thing back to them out of spite. Not to say that their reasons for why were justified, but your partner knowing you are doing things out of spite creates further division in the relationship and make things a lot worse. If you want your relationship to work, or if you are making a decision purely from a place of anger, it might be best to avoid revenge cheating to prevent resentment in marriage or relationships.
3. It Won’t Help
You may think that revenge cheating will give the cheating partner a taste of their own medicine, but it’s likely you will feel worse and complicate your own healing. Having the thought to revenge cheat is understandable, however acting on it can stop you from healing and recovering from being cheated on.
4. It Could Lead to Violence
Revenge cheating can trigger the other partner and lead them to act out violently. Even if your partner has never had anger in any extreme way expressed in the relationship, it is possible that they could react. If that may be the case, you should work on making a safety plan. Knowing that things could get a lot worse is a good reason to avoid revenge cheating and consider ending the relationship if you are fearful of violence.
5. It Creates More Trust Issues
Revenge cheating will create trust issues in a relationship and make pre-existing dynamics much more unhealthy and complicated. Working through one partner’s infidelity is work enough, but by adding two people’s work in the relationship, you add to the emotional load and toll on the relationship.
6. It Can Impact Your Self-Esteem
Being cheated on can make you feel naive and worthless, which can sometimes lead to revenge cheating. You know it may be out of character for you to go this route, but in the moment, it may be impossible to see the negative impacts this will have on you. However you may end up feeling worse about yourself once you work through the emotions around feeling betrayed, which can lead to low self-esteem.
7. Communication Becomes Unclear
Revenge cheating can lead to even worse lack of communication in a relationship. Also, withholding communication about your plans and your hurt feelings doesn’t allow either partner to grow through the experience, work together, or even offer compassion for any of your pain. It will prevent you from being able to have healthy conversations in the future if this situation isn’t communicated with care.
How to Heal Your Relationship After Revenge Cheating
If you have revenge cheated, please understand you are not a bad person. Your pain is real and valid and healing is possible. It’s important to give yourself and your partner some grace as you both grapple with the double dose of infidelity and try to find ways to communicate your experiences and hopes for the relationship. It’s important to consider how both people feel–if both are committed to working through this, consider couples counseling to supplement your relationship progress at home.
There are several ways to heal after revenge cheating, including:
- Develop healthy communication in your relationship
- Find out why your partner cheated
- Set healthy boundaries in your relationship
- Develop fair-fighting rules
- Forgive each other
- Focus on self-care
- Create new rituals of connection, such as daily check-ins or weekly dates
- Own your part in the situation
When It Could Be Best to Break Up
If you have tried to work through the pain and betrayal of infidelity, including revenge cheating, and things are not improving, it may be time to break up. If you continue having the same arguments and couples therapy isn’t helping you move forward, it’s possible that you aren’t on the same page about the relationship. One of you may have feelings of anger, guilt, or shame. Remember that it’s okay to process in your own time and let go of the relationship right now. It can be hard to rebuild trust in a relationship immediately after a betrayal. Taking space from each other, a break from the relationship, or breaking up may help with your healing.
Can Couples Counseling Help With Infidelity?
Marriage & couples counseling can make a positive impact when dealing with issues such as infidelity. Marriage counseling can help after infidelity, as it can help figure out how to forgive your partner & work through the issues leading up to the infidelity and the aftermath of managing this kind of conflict. It can help partners feel heard and understood, which is important as the trust and self-esteem of one or both partners can be shattered after an affair.
Individual therapy is a good option if you are struggling with issues or specific trauma related to this from the past or if something else is coming up. Individual therapy can be very empowering and leave you with new tools of how to cope. It can be challenging to find the right marriage or couples counselor, but an online therapist directory will have many qualified therapists to filter through by specialty, insurance, and other requirements you may have.
Revenge cheating can seem like a good idea when consumed with anger, but people who engage in revenge cheating can often create more damage to themselves and the relationships than they bargain for. If you are suffering or recovering from revenge cheating, know that you are not alone in your feelings of hurt and betrayal. It takes time, work, and patience from both you and your partner, but moving forward together–or individually–is always a possibility.
For Further Reading
- How to Save a Marriage After an Affair
- Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy: How It Works & Who It Can Help
- The 5 Best Online Marriage Counseling Services
- 10 Best Couples Therapy Podcasts
- 15 Best Self-Help Podcasts
- Best Books About Separation & Divorce
- Best Books on Communication
- 10 Best Books to Read After a Breakup