How to Handle a Cheater

Finding out someone you’re in a committed relationship with is being unfaithful can be devastating. You’re caught up in a whirlwind of fears and emotions. How should you handle this situation? As usual, I have a rather unorthodox approach.

Have you ever seen the show “Cheaters”? I used to consider it a guilty pleasure until I realized it contained a wealth of knowledge for someone like me. “Cheaters” follows a “suspect” when their partner thinks they may be cheating. After gathering enough videotaped evidence, the suspecting partner (cheatee), the host, a tv crew consisting of several cameras and a lot of security confront the cheater in the act. This can be at a bar, nightclub, restaurant, hotel room, parked car, etc.

After watching the show for many months, I began to notice a pattern. During the confrontation, one of three scenarios will usually take place. About 80% of the time, the cheater has the opposite reaction to that of their partner. This means, if the cheatee is upset and emotional, making comments such as, “How could you?” “I gave you everything you wanted”, the cheater has an attitude, often gets angry and sometimes runs away. The person they’ve been cheating with usually had no idea they were involved in a triangle. It also works in reverse, in that if the cheatee says, “That’s it. It’s over. I’m done” the cheater usually responds with, “I’m sorry. I love you. Let’s work it out.” The remaining 20% of the time, both parties agree – they either both want to stay together or they both say they’re done.

From this pattern, I think it’s easy to see that when confronting an unfaithful partner, you should remain as calm as possible. This is a lot easier to do if you don’t actually catch them in the act, but find out when they’re not around. Resist the urge to immediately call them up and demand an explanation. Do not contact them until you have calmed down and have decided exactly what you’re going to do. This can range from a day (wait a minimum of 24 hours) to a week or more.

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I once found out through a third party that a guy I was seeing was cheating. This was the second time I had caught him, so while the emotional side of me didn’t want to let go, intellectually, I knew it had to be over for good. We had had a disagreement the day before I found out, so we did not speak to each other for about 10 days. In that time, I walked around like a zombie, feeling very weak, not wanting to eat. I was grieving the loss of the relationship.

When he finally showed up at my door, I was done. He tried to claim the person was a friend, but I didn’t buy it. I was very calm and went about my business in the kitchen, while he stood there trying to lie his way out of it. After a few minutes I waved my hand and said, “Go away. I’m busy.” His response, “I’ll see you later.” Me: No you won’t. Him: So it’s over? Me: Yes!

What if you catch your partner in the act? My suggestion is that you say and do nothing. Simply look them in the eye, with no expression, then turn and walk away. I know 99% of you reading this are not going to be able to do it, but if you really want to know the truth, you need to let them show you what it is, either through their actions or non-actions. Losing control by yelling and causing a scene is never attractive, even if you feel justified. Put yourself in their shoes. If you were the one caught cheating, which reaction would shake you up more? Which reaction would you respect more?

When you freak out, you’re actually trying to bully and manipulate your partner into reacting to you in a way that will assure you that they still care for you. You’re like a child having a temper tantrum in order to get the attention you don’t feel you’re getting. You’re also giving their ego a big boost. Your actions are saying: You are so important to me that I am willing to lose control and act temporarily insane. You have that much power over me. Is that really the message you want to send?

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That’s why saying nothing and walking away is a better reaction. As we learned from “Cheaters”, they are more likely to be apologetic and want to work things out (if that’s what you want) if you remain calm. By not having to defend themselves against your tirade, you give them the space to get in touch with their true feelings for you and your relationship. Not to mention the fact that their respect for you will rise immensely, since it takes strength to just walk away. We all want to be with someone that is emotionally strong.

Even if they’ve run after you and pleaded to talk to you, that is not the time to talk. You need to get over the shock of your discovery and they need to think about what they’ve done. You now need to be “incommunicado”. The reason for this is because when people think they’ve lost someone that was important to them, their true feelings come out. It’s the old, “Don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”. If they care, they will do whatever they have to, to get you back. If they don’t, they won’t and you’re better off without them. Don’t take their calls or answer the door until you’re convinced that they’re ready to be honest. Leave them wondering for at least a week or two.

If it does turn out that your partner had already moved on, but neglected to tell you, at least you walk away with your dignity, if you don’t freak out. Why give them proof that their decision to leave was right, by acting like a psycho? If you cause a scene, you will forever be in their relationship hall of shame. If you walk away with your head held high, you will forever be in their relationship hall of fame.


by Lucia Demasi