How Does Cheating Impact A Relationship, Both Short-Term and Long-Term?

Jun 24, 2023 | Relationships

If you find out you have been cheated on in your relationship, it can feel like a punch to the gut. It can cause immediate, short-term pain and long-term damage that can be difficult to repair. This article aims to explore the ways in which cheating impacts a relationship, both short-term and long-term, plus ways to heal from it, followed by some FAQs on cheating.


What is cheating?

Cheating is the act of being unfaithful to your partner in a romantic, monogamous relationship. It can take several forms, including emotional cheating, physical cheating, and online cheating.

Emotional Cheating

Emotional cheating involves forming a deep emotional connection with someone outside of your relationship. This can involve sharing intimate thoughts and feelings, seeking emotional support or validation, or engaging in activities that are typically done by couples, such as going on dates or talking on the phone for hours. Emotional cheating can be just as damaging as physical cheating, as it can lead to a breakdown of trust and communication in the relationship.


Physical Cheating

Physical cheating involves engaging in sexual activity with someone outside of your monogamous relationship. This can include one-night stands, ongoing affairs, or casual sexual encounters. Physical cheating can have serious consequences, not only for the relationship but also for the individual, like the risk of STDs or unexpected pregnancy, as well as the emotional pain and betrayal it can cause for the person who was cheated on.


Online Cheating

Online cheating involves engaging in emotional, sexual, or romantic activity with someone online. This can take many different forms, including sexting, online flirting, or engaging in virtual sexual encounters. While online cheating may not involve physical contact, it can still be emotionally damaging and a betrayal of trust.


Micro Cheating

Micro cheating is a relatively new term for cheating behaviors that are very small but, when done frequently, add up. Here are some examples of micro-cheating:

  • Secretly (or not secretly) keeping in touch with your ex
  • Creating a dating profile, even if you don’t use it 
  • Lying about your relationship status to someone
  • Obsessively viewing the profile of someone you like romantically or sexually
  • Talking badly about your partner to someone you like romantically or sexually

Ultimately, what constitutes cheating in a relationship is up to each individual and their partner to define. This is where communication about expectations and boundaries comes into play. By being clear about what is and is not acceptable in your relationship, you can prevent misunderstandings and build a healthy and sustainable partnership.


Why Do People Cheat?

Cheating can have a profound impact on a relationship, but why do people cheat in the first place? While every situation is different, there are some common reasons why people cheat.

Lack of Emotional Connection

One of the most common reasons why people cheat is a lack of emotional connection with their spouse or partner. They may feel unheard, unappreciated, or unloved and seek out attention from someone else. Emotional cheating can be just as damaging as physical cheating, as it can lead to a breakdown in trust.


Sexual Dissatisfaction

Sexual dissatisfaction is another common reason why people cheat. They may feel that their spouse or partner is not meeting their needs in the bedroom and/or may be seeking new experiences that their partner is not willing or able to provide. This is why it’s critically important to discuss your sexual needs with your partner to avoid any temptations for cheating.


The Desire for Novelty and Excitement

Some people cheat simply because they are bored or are adrenaline junkies. They may be in a long-term relationship that has lost its spark and seek out new experiences to recapture the thrill of the early days of the relationship. While this may provide a temporary boost, it can have long-term consequences for the original relationship.


Low Self-Esteem

Cheating can also be a result of low self-esteem. The cheater may feel insecure or unattractive and seek validation from someone else in addition to their partner. While cheating may provide a temporary boost to their ego, it can also lead to feelings of guilt and shame that may be difficult for the cheater to overcome in the relationship.


Unresolved Issues

Finally, cheating can be a result of unresolved issues in the relationship with the original partner. The cheater may be unhappy with their partner for a variety of reasons but may not feel comfortable discussing these issues openly. Instead, they may turn to someone else to fulfill their needs rather than work through their problems with their partner.


Unresolved Trauma

Sometimes trauma that has been untreated may result in seeking stimulation or distraction from the traumatic memories or feelings. Cheating can introduce a heightened element of arousal and excitement that can perfectly act as an unconscious barrier to the trauma. Seeking support from a licensed professional, particularly one specializing in trauma, can benefit you and your relationship.


Short-Term Effects of Cheating

Cheating can have immediate (short-term) effects on a relationship. These effects can be emotional, physical, and psychological.

Emotional Impact

The emotional impact of cheating can be devastating and cause a lot of damage to the person cheated on. The partner who has been cheated on will likely feel betrayed, angry, hurt, and confused. They will likely feel like they can no longer trust their partner and may experience a loss of self-esteem.


Physical Impact

Cheating can also have physical consequences. The act of finding out your loved one is cheating truly feels like a punch to the gut. It can quite literally cause physical symptoms like stomach aches, nausea, headaches, insomnia, and more (likely a result of the stress and anxiety the cheating news has caused). Not only that but if the cheating involved unprotected sex, the partner who was cheated on may be at risk for sexually transmitted infections.


Psychological Impact

Cheating can also have psychological effects. The partner who was cheated on may experience depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They may also have difficulty trusting future partners and may have trouble with intimacy going forward.

How Does Cheating brave woman and man trying to talk Impact A Relationship, Both Short-Term and Long-Term?

Long-Term Effects of Cheating

The effects of cheating can extend far beyond the initial discovery of infidelity. They can continue to impact a relationship for years to come.

Trust Issues

One of the most common long-term effects of cheating is the erosion of trust in the relationship. The partner who was cheated on may find it difficult to trust their partner again, understandably so. This lack of trust can cause ongoing problems in the relationship, even if the cheating partner is truly remorseful.


Intimacy Issues

Cheating can also lead to problems with intimacy. The partner who was cheated on may have difficulty being intimate with their partner, both physically and emotionally. It may be difficult to let down their walls again to someone who has hurt them so deeply. Not only that, but the cheated-on partner may have trouble with sexual dysfunction or other issues related to their self-esteem.


Relationship Dissatisfaction

Cheating can also lead to long-term dissatisfaction in the relationship. The partner who was cheated on may feel like they are not getting their emotional or physical needs met. This can lead to ongoing resentment and frustration in the relationship. 


Effects on Close Friends and Family 

For longer-term relationships, it’s quite likely that the friends and family of the couple have also grown certain attachments to the couple. The news of the cheating may affect not only the partner but also the surrounding friends and family. It may be difficult for those around the couple to accept the new reality and the actions they’ve chosen. Some friends and family may even seek out therapy to learn how to cope with it.


How to Heal from Cheating

Healing from cheating is a difficult and ongoing process. It requires both partners to be committed to the relationship and to each other.


The first step in healing from cheating is open and honest communication. Both partners need to be willing to talk about their feelings and to listen to each other. They need to work together to identify the issues that led to cheating and to find solutions to address them.


Rebuilding Trust

Rebuilding trust is a key component of healing from cheating. The partner who was cheated on needs to see that their partner is committed to the relationship and to earning back their trust. This can be a slow and difficult process, but it is essential for the long-term health of the relationship.


Seeking Professional Help

Couples may also benefit from seeking professional help to heal from cheating. A therapist or counselor can help both partners to work through their emotions and to develop strategies for rebuilding their relationship.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Cheating in Relationships

Q: What “counts” as cheating?

A: Cheating can take many forms, from physical infidelity to emotional affairs to online interactions, and may even include micro-cheating. Ultimately, it is up to each couple to define what constitutes cheating in their relationship.


Q: Can a relationship survive infidelity?

A: While it is difficult, a relationship can survive infidelity with commitment, communication, and a willingness to work through the underlying issues that led to the cheating.


Q: Can cheating be forgiven?

A: Forgiveness is possible, but it takes time and effort on the part of both partners. The partner who was cheated on must be willing to work through their emotions and rebuild trust, while the cheating partner must be willing to take responsibility for their actions and make changes to prevent it from happening again.


Q: Is it possible to prevent cheating?

A: While it is impossible to guarantee that your partner will never cheat, taking steps to prioritize your relationship, foster open communication, and address issues early can minimize the risk of infidelity.


Q: How do I know if my partner is cheating?

A: There is no foolproof way to know if your partner is cheating, but some signs to look out for include changes in behavior, secretive or defensive behavior, and a lack of communication or intimacy. If you suspect that your partner is cheating, it is important to talk to them openly and honestly about your concerns.


Final Thoughts

Cheating can have a devastating impact on a relationship, both short-term and long-term. It can cause emotional, physical, and psychological pain that can be difficult to heal from. However, with open communication, a commitment to rebuilding trust, and the help of a professional, couples can work through the challenges of infidelity and build a stronger, more resilient relationship.


You are writing your life story. Get on the same page with a prenup. For love that lasts a lifetime, preparation is key. Safeguard your shared tomorrows, starting today.
All content provided on this website or blog is for informational purposes only on an “AS-IS” basis without warranty of any kind. HelloPrenup, Inc. (“HelloPrenup”) makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this website or blog or otherwise. HelloPrenup will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor any use of, reliance on, or availability of the website, blog or this information. These terms and conditions of use are subject to change at any time by HelloPrenup and without notice. HelloPrenup provides a platform for contract related self-help for informational purposes only, subject to these disclaimers. The information provided by HelloPrenup along with the content on our website related to legal matters, financial matters, and mental health matters (“Information”) is provided for your private use and consideration and does not constitute financial, medical, or legal advice. We do not review any information you (or others) provide us for financial, medical, or legal accuracy or sufficiency, draw legal, medical, or financial conclusions, provide opinions about your selection of forms, or apply the law to the facts of your situation. If you need financial, medical, or legal advice for a specific problem or issue, you should consult with a licensed attorney, healthcare provider, or financial expert. Neither HelloPrenup nor any information provided by HelloPrenup is a substitute for financial, medical, or legal advice from a qualified attorney, doctor, or financial expert licensed to practice in an appropriate jurisdiction.


Recent Posts

Ready to join the thousands of couples completing their prenup?