Discovering your partner has cheated on you is a disorienting experience, and knowing what to say or do can be confusing. It's helpful to know what to expect when you confront your significant other, especially since there are a number of common things cheaters say when they're caught. Knowing what to expect can help you make the best decision for yourself, and it can also help you look for any red flags when it comes to someone who might be lying or trying to manipulate you.
"The common excuses that cheaters give are intended to minimize the damage to themselves," relationship therapist Rhonda Milrad, LCSW tells Bustle. "Unfortunately, they aren’t initially motivated to minimize the pain to their partners. They chose to cheat to meet their own needs, and they were not concerned with the impact on their partner."
When cheaters are caught, there are a variety of different ways they may react to being confronted with their guilt. "Once they are caught, many don’t want to lose their primary relationship and so they minimize or deny the allegations," says Milrad. "Others are also motivated to manipulate their partner so that they can keep their relationship and continue to be with the other person."
Some partners may show remorse, and may truly want to be forgiven for their mistake. But initially, experts say many people tend to get defensive when it comes to their actions. Here are seven common things cheaters say when they get caught.
1. "It Didn't Mean Anything"
When caught cheating, someone may say the act didn't mean anything in an attempt to stop the inquisition in its tracks. "The cheater admits to the act, but minimizes it by reassuring their partner that they have no emotional connection to this person," says Milrad. "In essence, they hope that by suggesting that they are still devoted to their partner and are the only one they want, their partner will not feel badly and will no longer need to discuss the incident." Your partner may truly mean this, but it's important to discuss how to build trust if you and your partner decide it was a mistake that you can move forward from.
2. "I Only Did It Because We Don't Have Enough Sex"
This excuse is an attempt to deflect responsibility for their actions. "It tries to make the betrayed partner feel partly responsible for pushing them into this behavior," says Milrad. "This is particularly effective if the couple has been struggling with different sexual desires or having sex infrequently." But if your partner does this, do not believe the blame sits with you. Issues in relationships are a two-way street, and the way they chose to handle those issues is not your fault.
3. "Nothing Is Going On — You're Just Insecure"
Some people will gaslight, a manipulation tactic someone may use to make a person doubt their own knowledge, memory, or perception of reality so that they may have the upper-hand over that person. When someone is cheating, this may mean denying the act and laying blame solely on the betrayed partner. "The cheater makes the partner doubt themselves and what they have discovered or sense and causes them to feel bad about themselves," says Milrad. "This form of denial causes the most damage to the partner." Gaslighting can be a form of abuse, and if you begin to recognize it, this relationship may not be a healthy environment for you anymore.
4. "It Never Got Physical"
There are many types of affairs and not all of them are physical — affairs can be emotional. "What makes them affairs is the secrecy with which the relationship is conducted," Jim Seibold, PhD LMFT, tells Bustle. "If you are spending time with someone that your partner doesn't know about and you are lying about how you are spending your time, that is likely a form of emotional infidelity." Emphasizing that the relationship is not physical is just minimizing the fact that deception was involved.
5. "It Was Just Sex"
Even if your partner claims the affair was just physical, that doesn't mean it will minimize the pain. "People say this because they understand how hurtful an emotional connection with someone else is to their partner," says Seibold. "They are attempting to minimize their partner's hurt. The problem is that sex is important in a committed relationship. It is generally something that makes the committed relationship unique to other friendships we have. When people choose to have sex with someone else, it is a significant violation of boundaries and trust in the relationship."
6. "I Was Unhappy In The Relationship"
People say this as a way to assuage their own guilt. Although it may be true, cheating is not the solution. "For someone to cheat and blame it on a poor relationship is a bit disingenuous," says Seibold. "Work to fix it or end the relationship."
7. "It Will Never Happen Again"
This is an attempt by cheaters to get their partner to dismiss the current act of cheating as a one-time event, rather than a pattern. "The hope is that the partner will not think of the cheating as a character flaw, but just an unfortunate mistake," certified counselor Jonathan Bennett tells Bustle. "Of course, research shows that once a person cheats, it’s more likely to happen again." But there is also a chance your partner is being honest — people have so many different reasons for cheating, and it could be a lone mistake. Talk with your partner to see what caused them to cheat, and if you decide to forgive them, discuss how you can rebuild trust in your relationship.
Cheating doesn't always spell out the end for all couples, but if your partner acts selfishly when confronted with their mistake — either by minimizing their actions or laying the blame on you — it may be time to rethink if this situation is still a healthy relationship for you.