How Do Cheaters React When Accused? 13 Ways to Know You’ve Caught Them

by Lauren Cook-McKay | Last Updated: November 16, 2021

Responses When Confronted | FAQs

 

If someone has ever cheated on you, you know the heartbreak doesn’t end once you find the evidence of your cheater’s crimes. You’ve still have to confront them about what they’ve done, and that’s never easy. From manipulation and gaslighting to tears and guilt, not all cheaters follow the same script.

However, every cheater’s reaction may be a little different when you confront or accuse them. So here are thirteen different ways these confrontations typically play out.

picture of a woman confronting a cheating spouse

Ways a Cheating Partner Responds When Confronted

There are plenty of excuses in a cheater’s playbook, and we’ve listed some of the most common ones for you below.

They Typically Deny

When you first accuse them, it’s not unusual for cheaters to deny the entire incident (or incidents), even if you’ve got hard proof of their adultery.

They may tell you that other people are lying to you or that any pictures, videos, or screenshots are fake. A cheater doesn’t have any valid alibi, but they’ll try their hardest to turn you against anyone that’s told the truth.

This tactic is often employed when you’ve been told about the cheating by someone else, but even if you discovered it on your own, a cheater might still try and deny it.

They Will Gaslight You

Gaslighting is a word used to describe when someone tries to manipulate you into questioning your memory, perception, or reality. For example, if someone insults you and you confront them about it, a gaslighter may tell you:

While it can happen between friends and family, gaslighting can be especially apparent in relationships, especially with cheaters.

Once they’re desperate, cheaters will do anything to convince you things aren’t as they seem. Rather than deny what happened, they may tell you you’re ridiculous for even suggesting they’d cheat or that you don’t know what you saw or heard.

A cheater’s goal is to make you question the reality of the situation, but this is just a manipulation tactic, and it’s essential to stick to the truth.

They Will Turn the Tables

Similar to gaslighting, some cheaters may try and turn the tables and lay the blame on you. Instead of admitting to their own choices, they may argue that you pushed them into it, you haven’t been paying them enough attention, you’re too tied up with work, and that they had no choice but to look for attention elsewhere. They may even accuse you of cheating.

With this tactic, the cheater will do and say anything to make their mistake into yours. If they succeed, a cheater will have you begging their forgiveness. Not the other way around.

Read More: Husband Turning Everything Around On You?

picture of a woman thinking about her spouse cheating on her being her fault

They Will Make It About Them

When accusing a cheater, the confrontation should focus on their mistake, but some cheaters may try to make the situation about them.

Rather than express remorse, they’ll make excuses. They’ll tell you how stressed out they’ve been with work, how vulnerable they’ve been, and how unhappy they’ve been. They may even tell you how guilty they feel about what they did or how they just can’t get over it.

A cheater wants to avoid the confrontation, so they’ll try and redirect the conversation onto why they’ve been unhappy or stressed out. They’ll make it about their emotions and feelings, not yours.

If a cheater can successfully make it all about them, you may spend the entire conversation talking through their feelings or even comforting the cheater about their adultery.

READ MORE: OMG! 25 Cheating Wife Signs You Are Not Aware Of (Yet)

They Will Blame Alcohol and Drugs

One of a cheater’s favorite ways of redirecting fault is by blaming drugs or alcohol. If they cheated at a party, they might tell you they were too drunk or high to think clearly, and didn’t mean for the incident to happen.

Although your partner may not have been sober while it happened, you’ve still got to remember that they made a choice to drink or do drugs heavily. Plenty of adults participate in recreational alcohol and drugs, but not all cheat on their partners.

A cheater is still responsible for choosing to drink or do drugs, especially at an event or party where they may have the opportunity.

They Will Lie About How Many Times It Happened

Cheaters want to make themselves seem as innocent as possible, so they may also lie about details of their cheating, including how many times it happened. When you confront them, don’t be surprised if your partner tells you that it only happened once or was just one mistake.

While it’s possible you may have caught them the first time, it’s more likely that there’s been a pattern of cheating throughout your relationship. Keep in mind that most cheaters continue to cheat until they get caught, not just one or two times.

picture of a wife catching her husband cheating, again

They Will Say It Won’t Happen Again

While some cheaters may deny it from the start, others may be honest about it while promising never to let it happen again.

However, now that they’ve already broken your trust, it’s a lot harder for most people to believe that their partner will never cheat again. Most of the time, you’ve got two choices when you hear this statement:

Those trust issues can still linger if you decide that you’re willing to forgive them and continue the relationship. It’s important not to drive yourself crazy, wondering if they’ll do it again. Couples counseling may help.

READ MORE: 37 Warning Signs You Have a Toxic Marriage and How To Fix It

They Will Say the Other Person Came Onto Them

If they can’t blame it on drugs and alcohol or even you, a cheater may also try to deflect blame onto the other person. They may try to convince you that the other person came onto them or tricked them into getting physical.

If they can, a cheater will keep the conversation focused on the person they cheated with, usually by telling you how much of a homewrecker they are, how terrible they are, or how they took advantage of their cheater’s feelings or vulnerability.

Depending on how much the other person knows, they may deserve some blame. However, relationships are a two-way street, and the main person at fault should always be the cheater.

They Will Claim They Are Depressed

This reaction is another way cheaters will redirect the confrontation onto them rather than their actions. They may use poor mental health or depression as an excuse for their cheating. While grappling with depression has many challenges, it doesn’t excuse cheating.

Even if your partner has been struggling, depression isn’t an excuse for them to seek attention from someone else. There are plenty of healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with depression, but cheating and adultery aren’t one of them. You can be sympathetic about your partner’s depression, but that doesn’t mean you have to excuse their behavior.

picture of a depressed spouse after cheating

They Will Just Break Things Off

Not all cheaters will try to make up excuses or deny what happened. Some people may just decide that it’s easier to break things off than explain why they did it. This response can be shocking, and it can make you feel like the cheater is cold or callous, especially if you’ve been dating or married to them for a long time.

In some cases, they may even tell you that they don’t have any feelings for you anymore and they’re going to start a relationship with the person they cheated with. Breaking things off doesn’t mean that the cheater never cared about you, but it does reflect their cowardice.

You shouldn’t fight for a relationship they aren’t willing to keep. If they choose another partner over you, that doesn’t mean the other person is better than you. It just means they’re ready to put up with bad behavior that you won’t.

When this happens, it’s important to remind yourself that you deserve a partner who won’t cheat and has enough integrity to own up to their mistakes.

They Will Say “It’s Just Sex”

Some cheaters want to minimize the situation as much as they can. They may say things like:

Unfortunately, it’s never just sex  – regardless of what your partner might say, an affair is always more than physical intimacy. Your partner made a conscious decision to betray your trust, and it doesn’t matter if it happened one time, lasted one week, or even lasted a year.

The details of the affair don’t matter, but what does matter is your partner acknowledging how their actions hurt you  – whether it was “just sex” or something more.

They Try to Minimize the Seriousness

When it comes to cheating, there’s a lot of gray areas. While physical affairs may be the most obvious example of cheating, it could be something that falls in that gray area, too  – like constantly flirting with a coworker or participating in sexual activity but no actual sex.

Cheaters, especially those who’ve done things in that “gray area,” love to try and minimize the seriousness of the situation. If you find out they’ve been flirting with a co-worker for weeks, they may tell you that they’re just friends or having fun. Maybe you found out they kissed someone at a party, but they tell you it was just a one-time thing that didn’t mean anything.

Regardless of how your partner is cheating, don’t let them minimize the seriousness of the situation. Your anger and hurt are valid, and it’s not an overreaction to be upset that your partner betrayed your trust.

They Apologize and Act Remorseful

One of the most common reactions from a cheater is to act remorseful and beg forgiveness when you confront them. This reaction may happen if you have hard proof of the cheating that your partner can’t deny, and they feel like their only option is to admit everything.

Cheaters can be convincing when they’re trying to win your favor. Your partner might tell you that it will never happen again, they’ll do anything to win your trust back, and they won’t give up until you love them again. Don’t be surprised if they suddenly become romantic again or surprise you with big gestures of their love.

Even if you’re angry and hurt, this kind of devotion can feel flattering, and after a while, it can be tempting to take your partner back. Only you can decide whether or not they’re worthy of forgiveness, but you should be careful. Once you’ve taken them back and your partner feels comfortable enough, their pattern of cheating may reoccur.

picture of a spouse apologizing with flowers

FAQs

Still have questions about how a cheater will act when you accuse them? Here are some of the most frequently asked questions that people have about confronting cheaters.

Do cheaters feel guilty?

While statistics show that around 68% of men feel guilty, the answer to this question often depends on the specific cheater. Not all cheaters may feel guilty after an affair or adultery, but many of them do.

Whatever their reasons may be for cheating, your partner may still feel guilty afterward for betraying your trust or hurting your feelings. Keep in mind that feeling guilty isn’t enough of an apology.

Even if they feel bad about what they’ve done, the only way to save the relationship is if the cheater is committed to understanding how hurtful their actions were, doesn’t offer excuses, and works towards regaining your trust. Remember that this might take a long time, and you may have to go to couples counseling.

How should I confront my partner about cheating?

We’ve covered how your partner may react to a confrontation above, but how do you go about having that conversation, to begin with? While it can depend on the specific situation, there’s a couple of critical steps you can follow for a more successful confrontation.

Don’t make any rash decisions

When you first find out they’ve been cheating, your instinct may be to confront your partner and get to the bottom of things, but this isn’t always the best approach.

Reacting out of anger and hurt can escalate the situation or make it hard to view things clearly. Try taking a few deep breaths, calm down for an hour, or even vent to an unbiased third party before you do anything.

Evaluate the information you have

If you’ve been cheated on previously, those trust issues can linger in a new relationship. Every time your partner comes home from work a little late or gains a new friend, alarm bells may be going off in your brain. Even if there’s no infidelity happening.

Make sure you evaluate the information and proof you do have of their cheating. If your partner has never given you a reason to mistrust them and you’re just relying on a hunch, an angry confrontation could do more harm than good. If you do have hard proof they’ve cheated, you can use that in your argument.

Figure out what you’d like from the conversation

Come into the conversation with a purpose. Do you want to restore the relationship and forgive them, or do you want to cut ties and break up?

Sometimes, the answer to this can depend on how your partner reacts to the accusation, but it’s still good to have a general idea of what you want.

Pick a time and place

Set up a time for you and your partner to talk where you’ll be free of distractions like friends or kids. Don’t add any alcohol or drugs into the mix, and make sure you’ve calmed down enough to have a civil discussion.

Listen and then make a plan

Bring up the facts to your partner and listen to what they have to say. Make a plan on where to go from there. If they try to manipulate or gaslight you, you may want to cut ties immediately. If they apologize and repent for what they’ve done, you can then decide on whether or not you want to trust them again.

How should I ask my partner if they are cheating?

When you’re accusing your partner of cheating, pointing fingers and yelling can escalate the situation  – but it can also make it easier for the cheater to manipulate the situation and twist the truth too.

During the confrontation, you can raise your concerns without direct accusations. Maybe you tell them that you’ve noticed they’re deleting text messages or being secretive about their phone, and you’re concerned. If you have direct proof that they’ve cheated, bring up the facts or show the evidence, and then ask for an explanation.

How do guilty cheaters act?

While these signs don’t always mean they’re cheating, the behavior we’ve listed below can point towards a guilty cheater:

 
Lauren Cook-McKay is the Vice President of Marketing at DivorceAnswers.com. She holds a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) from the University of San Diego and applies her training in private practice to helping couples struggling in their marriage. She strongly believes there is hope in all marriages and strives to provide therapy to couples that will lead them back towards a loving marriage, or an amicable divorce that brings peace and closure. Connect with Lauren on LinkedIn here.