How to Understand a Cheating Girlfriend

Three Parts:Finding Answers in Your RelationshipInvestigating Her MotivesMoving Forward with Your Relationship

When you've been hit with the news that your girlfriend has cheated on you, it can be hard to handle. Nothing rocks your sense of trust and honesty like finding out about infidelity. You may be struggling to understand what went wrong and why she did what she did. Before you jump to reacting or making any decisions, carefully consider and gather information to help inform your decisions.

Part 1
Finding Answers in Your Relationship

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    Consider relationship factors. For some people, cheating occurs due to an unsatisfactory relationship, not because they are perpetual cheaters. The more unlike partners are, the more likely the relationship may experience infidelity. Factors such as education level, personality, and lifestyle can influence the fidelity of the relationship.[1]
    • Reflect on your relationship and what factors may have come between you that you have ignored. Sometimes you may really love someone, but cannot manage to meaningfully connect.
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    Assess whether she felt underappreciated or neglected. Some women feel like the role of “mother” or “provider” or “activity partner” take over, when they want to be “girlfriend” or “wife” or “lover”. If she feels like she is acting out a practical role and not an intimate connection, she may feel unfulfilled.[2]
    • It’s easy to get in the swing of things and let the intimate connection go. Ask yourself if you’ve been treating your girlfriend in a certain role. Have you shown your appreciation for her in what she does for you and the relationship? Do you tell her and show her your attraction? Have you told her you love her?
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    Discuss the cheating. You may find out about the cheating from your girlfriend or from a friend. If she confronts you honestly, then listen to her. If you found out through someone else, consider this person’s credibility before confronting your girlfriend. If you think you have the truth, confront your girlfriend, no matter how painful it may feel. It is best to know the truth.[3]
    • If you’re the one bringing up the topic, decide how you want to approach your girlfriend. Set aside some time with her and try and approach the discussion calmly. Come prepared and write questions you have for your girlfriend. Tell her you are concerned and want to truthfully know what’s happened. Ask about what happened, how the situation occurred, how long it’s been happening, how much time has elapsed since it stopped, and if anything is wrong with the relationship. Encourage honesty and openness, even if it hurts.[4]
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    Express your feelings. Perhaps you may want to express your anger and rage prior to discussing the cheating with your girlfriend. Write down all the anger, hurt and frustration you feel-- without fearing judgment from yourself or someone else-- then burn it. When you are ready to discuss the cheating with your girlfriend, don’t directly accuse her. Use “I” statements as much as possible.This is a time for you to express your feelings, not place blame.[5]
    • Instead of making her responsible for your feelings by saying, “I can’t believe you would hurt me like this” say, “I feel really hurt by your actions.”

Part 2
Investigating Her Motives

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    Examine her personality traits. Some people are more prone to cheat than others. We’ve all heard the phrase “once a cheater, always a cheater”, which reflects traits associated with one person. Individual factors can include personal values, moral compass, empathy, and impulsivity.[6]
    • Recognize if you knew that your girlfriend has cheated before or has a reputation of cheating. She may be a “serial cheater”.
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    Question whether the cheating was done to hurt you. If she is angry at you for something in the relationship, she may use sex or cheating to get revenge.[7] Your girlfriend may cheat on you to get back at you for something, or to intentionally cause you pain.
    • Ask your girlfriend whether the cheating was used for revenge or to make a point.
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    Ask about situational factors. Sometimes people who would normally not cheat end up cheating. This can be due to environmental factors such as being around many attractive people, or having a job that involves touching or one-on-one discussions with people. A partner can be very happy in a relationship, yet get caught up in a situation against better judgment.[8]
    • Ask your girlfriend what happened. She may be willing to say she got caught up in a situation. This can be especially true if you believe the relationship to be happy and she does too. Remember that people do make mistakes, this just happens to be a very large one.
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    Question whether cheating was an escape. Some people use alcohol to escape their problems. For others, it may be too painful to confront problems (either individual or relationship problems) and may instead escape through other methods, like cheating. Instead of facing problems, she may use the thrill of cheating to feel better, while not fully considering the consequences.[9]
    • Ask about the problems your partner is facing, and if the problems can be worked through together. Ask her if there are things she wants to say or express that she feels shame or embarrassment in bringing up.
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    Inquire whether the cheating was a way to let go of the relationship. Some people stay with a partner to feel supported or loved, yet have difficulty letting go when they realize they are not in love. Your girlfriend may have realized that she was not in love, but stayed to get certain needs met. Or, her needs may have changed but she was scared to let go of the relationship.[10]
    • Have a serious discussion about what is best and if the relationship needs to end. Ask if there’s a part of her that doesn’t want to be in the relationship.

Part 3
Moving Forward with Your Relationship

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    Decide whether to break up. If you feel like the damage is irreparable, or that you cannot ever trust your girlfriend again, break up. Know that moving forward as a couple will be painful, and you may have constant reminders or triggers of the infidelity come up for you. Consider whether you can move forward with her, or if you will be better off breaking it off. Both are painful choices.[11]
    • It’s not fair to your partner to lock down her life, to go through all of her private life (texts, emails, phone calls, etc) if you know you can never trust her again; it will be punishing both of you.
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    Build a new foundation. If you decide to stay together, find ways to reconnect in new, meaningful ways. Perhaps you still love and care for each other but struggled to express it to each other. It is possible that other factors of life began to take importance over your relationship. Together, determine to contribute to the relationship in meaningful ways. Realize that it’s not just the job of your girlfriend to make things new; you will need to contribute to creating a new foundation as well.[12]
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    Forgive. Especially if you continue the relationship, learn to forgive your girlfriend. Forgiving your partner does not mean she gets a free pass, or that her behavior was okay. Forgiveness takes the focus away from the offense and acts to free yourself from the pain of the situation. You may feel like a victim or powerless after hearing the news of cheating; forgiveness allows you to reclaim power over your own emotions. Forgive your partner in a way that allows you to feel free from the powerlessness, to validate your own emotions, and then let them go.[13]
    • Even if you decide to break up with your girlfriend, holding onto pain and hurt will not serve you. Let it go.
    • For more information, check out How to Forgive a Cheater.
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    Consider relationship boundaries. Talk to your partner about what constitutes infidelity and create clear boundaries. While most people agree that sex is considered cheating, others may consider flirting, touching, kissing or intimate conversations cheating. Be clear on discussing boundaries with your partner.[14]
    • Some people choose to be in open relationships, which means that intimacy can be shared outside of the relationship. If you and your partner choose to have an open relationship, be clear on the boundaries of that as well. Cheating can still happen within open relationships, and trust is important.
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    Reach out for therapy. If you agree that the relationship needs work and that you want to stick with it but don’t know where to start, seek counseling. You can attend couples counseling to help you ways to rebuild trust, find ways to cope with the betrayal, and build a new relationship together.[15]


  • Alcohol during the act of cheating should not be used as an excuse, but you should also consider that your girlfriend may not have been thinking clearly.
  • Consider whether you can actually continue in the relationship regardless of whether she will do it again or not.
  • Consider whether you have anything to work on in the relationship that may have led to her cheating.
  • Don't call her a "slut", "whore", "tramp", or anything derogatory just because she cheated on you; it doesn't necessarily mean she is any of those things. Calling names won't help you and will only hurt her as well.
  • Don't tell her what to wear, who to talk to, where she should go, and how she should behave.
  • Consider getting tested for STIs.

Article Info

Categories: Cheating in Relationships