Confronting A Cheater: 4 Different Reactions You Could Get

confronting a cheater

By Jackie Pilossoph, Founder, Divorced Girl Smiling, the place to find trusted, vetted divorce professionals, a podcast, website and mobile app.

 Can you imagine how difficult it would be confronting a cheater? “Um, honey…(in that walking on eggshell tone), can I talk to you?” I’ve done it and let me tell you, it’s brutal. It makes me angry to think that the person confronting the cheater has to stress and worry about it, when it’s the other person who is doing the cheating!

But, if you want things to change in your relationship, and you’re not afraid to hear the truth (because they truth is better than living a lie in my opinion) then confronting the cheater is the only way.


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Here are 4 reactions you could get when confronting a cheater:

1. Denial

I want to start off by saying that the reason a cheater will deny it is this: when someone admits to cheating, the entire relationship instantly changes. All of the trust is wiped away at that moment in time. Even if the spouse knew about the cheating in their gut (before the cheater admitted it), the trust wasn’t really gone until it was confirmed.

People hold onto this little tiny piece of hope that somehow, there is some explanation that isn’t betrayal. So, the cheater who denies it doesn’t want that change to occur—the trust to be destroyed. He or she doesn’t want to change the status quo of the marriage. So, it’s easier to just keep lying.

To those who confronted a cheater and he or she denied it, here is my advice. Trust your gut.

If you think he or she is cheating, he or she is, even if they deny it.

I could be wrong, but that’s how I feel. Don’t let your spouse tell you that you are being paranoid, that you are crazy, that you are insecure. He or she is doing that because they are stalling for time. They will do or say anything not to get caught. They are desperate so they will make the spouse think it is THEM, that it’s THEIR issue. These kinds of cheaters are infuriating to me. Not only are they cheating, but they are making their spouse feel badly about themselves!!


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This happened to me personally. Several years ago, I was seeing someone for over a year and always suspected that he was cheating with his old girlfriend. When I confronted him about it, he would say, “Please don’t be that insecure girl. Don’t be paranoid.” Years later, when I found out that my suspicions were real, I was of course, furious, but I was also extremely relieved, happy, in fact. Why? Because I finally got confirmation that I wasn’t paranoid or crazy or insecure. He was the jerk.


I want to address something else. What if you confront a cheater and he/she denies it?  It’s like “now what?” when you are sure they are cheating. My advice for this scenario is go to therapy, don’t back down on your gut feeling, and start making life decisions that are in the best interest of you and your children. I’m not saying pack up and move out, but treat the situation as if you know he or she is cheating (even though they said they are not).

   2. The cheater has complete remorse and wants to work things out.

Countless couples have survived cheating and gone on to have happy marriages. How? With lots of hard work and dedication from both, given that they both want to stay married.

Usually in this scenario, the cheater who is confronted breaks down and feels remorse. He or she takes accountability for what they did and makes it clear to the other that they will stop and that they want to work things out. The couple then begins a 2.0 on the marriage, possibly goes to counseling, and oftentimes, the relationship is better than ever. Unfortunately, from what I’ve seen this isn’t the norm. It is possible, though.


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  3. The cheater wants a divorce but feels badly about it.

In this scenario, the cheater is almost relieved that he or she got caught, and now feels the time is right to say, “Listen, I haven’t been happy for a long time and I want a divorce.” and/or “I’m in love with someone else.”

The person then probably feels really guilty, which makes it a great time for the cheatee to settle the divorce quickly. Why? Because at this point, the cheater will give the cheatee anything he or she wants just to be done, and to appease their guilt a little bit.

However, often times, this is the hardest reaction for a cheatee to deal with. Why? Because the cheater is being kind. He or she is torn, and might even be crying.  It’s easier to walk away and accept that a marriage is over if the cheater is a jerk about it.


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4. The cheater shifts all blame to the cheatee, is angry and wants out of the marriage.

Of all the scenarios in confronting a cheater, this is the worst one of all. The cheater, in an attempt to rid himself of any wrongdoing or blame, turns it around and blames the cheatee! It’s infuriating when I hear about this scenario.

The cheater refuses to take accountability or accept responsibility for doing anything wrong. Instead, he or she will tell the spouse, “You were cold. You were distant. You were mean to me. You deserved this.”

This way, the cheater lets himself off the hook and justifies the cheating. Usually in these cases, the cheater becomes really mean and vindictive, divorces are horrible in these kinds of cases, it’s an all out war, and the cheater HATES his or her ex with a vengeance. Why? Because sadly enough, he or she hates him or herself and has displaced this hate to the spouse. It is a coping mechanism. It is a disgusting and horrible coping mechanism.


In closing, cheating is never good, and neither is confronting a cheater and hearing what they have to say. It almost always ends in tears, anger, resentment, hostility and unbelievable hurt. However, there IS good news for each confronting a cheater reaction.

For #2, your marriage might end up working out. For #3, you might end up with a great divorce settlement and an amicable divorce. And I even found a positive for #4, which is that the story isn’t over yet. I guarantee the cheater in this case will not be happy. He or she deep down knows they are a piece of garbage, not just for the cheating, but for the way they handled it. So, how can you be happy in life knowing you are a piece of garbage? You can’t. A relationship won’t make you happy. Money won’t make you happy. And being away from the spouse you think you hate won’t make you happy.


What might give a cheater some peace is coming clean with your ex no matter how long it has been. Saying, “I am very sorry I cheated. I know we had problems and that we both are responsible for the demise of the marriage. But for the cheating and lies and deceit, I am truly sorry for hurting you.” But in most cases I’ve seen, this kind of cheater lacks self-awareness so much, that they are blind and will probably never see it. The good news for the cheatee is, a person like this is usually easy to get over, because isn’t it worse if they are nice about it (like scenario #3)? So, the cheatee ends up in a better place, even though it might take time.

Confronting a cheater is never an easy thing to do, but something that has to be done usually. The key in staying calm and getting through it is having hope and knowing that someday, the picture will look a lot different, and the cheating will hopefully be a distant memory.

Like this post? Check out my article, 9 Signs of a Healthy Romantic Relationship

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    Editor-in-chief: Jackie Pilossoph

    Jackie Pilossoph is the Founder of Divorced Girl Smiling, the media company that connects people facing with divorce to trusted, vetted divorce professionals. Pilossoph is a former NBC affiliate television journalist and Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press features reporter. Her syndicated column, Love Essentially was published in the Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press and Tribune owned publications for 7 1/2 years. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism from Boston University. Learn more at:

    4 Responses to “Confronting A Cheater: 4 Different Reactions You Could Get”

    1. Stephanie C.

      My husband cheated on me and I was completely in the dark until his girlfriend texted me while we were in a movie theater together. He admitted it right away, but blamed me for the cheating. it was incredibly painful, but I am now almost divorced and looking forward to a future with a man that treats me better. The funny thing is that after he cheated, then eventually moved out, I reached out to the woman he was dating on the side. He treated both of us terribly and honestly, I felt badly for her. He was using her and lying to her as well. I can’t say she and I are friends, but it was good to have a conversation and close that door once and for all.

    2. Kit

      I was in the confronting a cheater and he denied it group. 6 months later he’s moving in with her. I’m very angry about the lack of honesty . I knew in my gut I would literally feel sick when I saw them together – family friend / his work colleague. He still hasn’t had the decency to talk to me, I found out via my children. I’m struggling to deal with it, but deep down I knew!

      • Jackie Pilossoph

        I’m so sorry. What a coward. I hope you realize that him not talking to you is all about his fear of confrontation. He knows what he did. Let him live with it. Trust me, he thinks low of himself. IN regards to your comment, “deep down, I knew” I say of course you did! The gut is never wrong. I know this sounds a little crazy but aren’t you kind of relieved that it wasn’t in your head? That you weren’t paranoid, insecure, etc. Look, i feel for you, but I promise, things for your will get better and better. As for your husband, I can’t say the same.

    3. Sarah A. Taylor

      I am in the cheater blames me for him cheating. I knew were having problems but never thought he was cheating on me. Being religious and counseling other couples his cheating blindsided me. He still thinks he did nothing wrong. He tells me he wants a divorce but has yet served me with divorce papers. I am hurt but I want a divorce because the trust is gone. Plus, I deserve better.


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