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If Your Partner Cheated, Should You Cheat Too?

The consequences of cheating for revenge and retaliation.

Discovering your partner has cheated (or still is) is a shocking and emotionally devastating event. It can turn your entire world upside down and elicit intense feelings of anger, betrayal, rejection, abandonment, and many others. You might want to get back at your partner by having a sexual fling of your own, but know this: Retaliation affairs can damage your relationship’s chances of recovery as well as your own emotional well-being.

The Motivation for Seeking Retaliation by Affair

The goal of most retaliation affairs or flings is to even the score with your partner, to do something that victimizes and hurts them just as their actions victimized and hurt you, to make them understand how you feel, and to teach them a lesson. However, the outcome of such actions is often the opposite of that which you intended.

1. You won’t even the score. Your partner’s affair broke the trust and ruptured the bond between you. Your affair will never have the same impact as you can’t break something that is already broken.

2. You are unlikely to make your partner feel victimized. In fact, you can easily make them feel justified in having their affair to begin with. Some might even use your actions as an excuse to continue their extra-marital/relationship romance.

3. You won’t make them "get" how you feel. Instead of feeling guilty for betraying and hurting you, your revenge affair might provide your partner the perfect excuse to dismiss your feelings entirely and minimize the consequences of their own actions.

4. You are unlikely to teach them a lesson. The only thing a retaliation affair will teach them is that you have a vindictive streak.

5. You will encourage them to cheat again. Your affair can easily make cheating seem more acceptable in their minds (after all, you both did it).

How Retaliation Affairs Sabotage Relationship Recovery

1. It will distract you from dealing with the real issues in the relationship that led to the affair in the first place.

2. The relationship is already vulnerable—a retaliation affair might complicate things so severely that it sabotages any chance the relationship has to recover.

3. A lack of engagement is often a precursor to affairs (read why engagement is an important sign here). Having a retaliation affair will cause you to disengage even further and create an even greater emotional gulf between you and your partner.

4. Adding further deception and betrayal to the relationship is hardly the best way to lay the groundwork for rebuilding trust.

5. Retaliation affairs often escalate animosity between the couple and can even lead to domestic violence.

How Retaliation Affairs Sabotage Your Individual Recovery

1. By having a retaliation affair, you’re using anger to shield yourself from dealing with the emotional pain you feel. Unless you deal with your pain, you won’t be able to heal (and neither will your relationship).

2. Making your partner feel worse will not make you feel better. You will still feel just as betrayed, hurt, and outraged afterward.

3. Resorting to childish coping mechanisms is never psychologically beneficial. Lashing out at someone by acting out and doing to them what they did to you is impulsive, immature, and unwise, and can leave you feeling significant guilt and regret of your own.

4. The outside person you’re using for retaliation purposes is a real person with their own needs and feelings who might feel used and manipulated by you. This is not a time for you to risk further emotional complications—you have enough to deal with in your own relationship.

5. There’s a reason you haven’t cheated before. If your loyalty, ethics, or morals have kept you from doing so, compromising them can cause later feelings of shame and regret that are damaging to your self-image and emotional well-being.

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Copyright 2013 by Guy Winch.