Is Revenge Cheating Ever Okay?


    6 Min Read


    Your partner cheated, and you're angry. More than angry. You feel hurt, betrayed, taken advantage of – the list of negative emotions goes on and on. In the heat of this emotional soup, you feel the need to do something to get back at them, and you begin to wonder if turnabout really is fair play. Perhaps a little revenge cheating is warranted to even the score.

    But is it?

    Will revenge cheating really make things better and reset your relationship?


    This is a common question asked by people whose partners have cheated. In fact, many consider it a valid option when they've been hurt so deeply by cheating. It follows the eye-for-an-eye logic.

    Unfortunately, too many times, an eye for an eye just leaves everyone blind.

    What Is Revenge Cheating?

    Before we examine whether cheating for revenge is justified, let's make sure we know what revenge cheating really is.

    It sounds simple enough, right?

    Revenge cheating is cheating on your partner to get back at them when they've cheated on you. True enough, but it actually goes a bit deeper than just that.

    When it comes to revenge cheating, the intended effect can sometimes be more than just "balancing the scales."

    Causing the partner who cheated first the same level of pain you’re feeling is certainly a big motivator, but it's not the only one.

    • Proving desirability"You're not the only one people find attractive."
    • Boosting self-esteem "Someone else still finds me desirable."
    • It's only fair "If they can do it, I can do it."
    • Unspoken permission"I've wanted to, and now I can."

    These are all psychological justifications that are used when engaging in revenge cheating.


    There are also different types of cheating to be considered, both in the original trespass and the revenge it may inspire.

    Revenge Cheating Isn't Always Sexual

    For most of us, the first thought that comes to mind when we hear "cheating" is a sexual encounter.

    Cheating, however, isn't always sexual in nature. Emotional affairs are very real and equally as damaging as physical ones.

    The type of cheating that occurs initially influences but doesn't determine the kind of revenge cheating that happens.

    • Emotional affairs are typically avenged by emotional revenge cheating.

    • Physical affairs may be reciprocated by physical revenge cheating, but emotional revenge is more likely.

    Because of the pain, loneliness, and feelings of abandonment caused when cheating happens, the partner cheated on is vulnerable, and the boundaries that may have once prevented cheating are broken.

    This can make them open to being consoled by someone outside the marriage and lead to an unacceptable level of closeness. In other words, emotional cheating.

    It becomes revenge cheating when that partner realizes things are going too far and effectively says,

    I don't care – they deserve it."


    A harder to pinpoint but still damaging form of cheating is micro-cheating.

    In this case it’s the small behaviors that seem to hover around being inappropriate but stop just short of being what most people classify as cheating.

    Things like,

    These are a small selection of behaviors that constitute micro-cheating.

    Although these behaviors exist in a grey area, when one partner does them the other may feel compelled to behave in the same way to get back at them and show them what it feels like. In other words, revenge.

    The result?

    Both partners wondering if they can trust one another and feeling betrayed by small, difficult to define cheating behaviors.

    Is Cheating Justified If It’s For Revenge?

    The idea of revenge in general is controversial. Some people feel compelled toward it when they've been wronged, assuming it allow them to regain their power. Others, not as much.

    From a psychological and emotional perspective, revenge isn't healthy. Although it may provide temporary satisfaction, it doesn't reverse the damage that's been done and can cause additional harm.

    However, knowing that doesn't always prevent a person from giving in to the impulse.

    A person considering revenge cheating should be aware that the intimate nature of this behavior can have damaging long-term, personal ramifications.


    Among them are:

    • Self-loathing and decreased self-respect. If you value your commitment to your partner and respect the boundaries of your relationship, revenge cheating can end up feeling like a double betrayal.

    First, you were betrayed by your partner, then you betrayed yourself by compromising your personal values.

    The result can be feelings of self-loathing and a loss of self-respect.

    • Isolation and loneliness. Cheating on your partner because they cheated on you doesn't bring you closer to anyone – not your partner, the person you’re cheating with, or friends and family.

    Even if you feel temporarily connected to someone new and bolstered by their attention, meaningful relationships don't start through affairs, especially impulsive affairs inspired by revenge.

    Eventually, you’ll feel estranged from both whomever you used to exact revenge and your partner.

    Cheating doesn't have to mean the end of your relationship. But if you engage in revenge cheating, that may not be the case. Now you've double-downed on pain and broken trust.

    • Pain to people you care about. You know firsthand how painful it is if you've been cheated on. By weaponizing cheating to get revenge you're now the one causing pain, and not just to the partner who hurt you.

    Revenge cheating means you’re using someone else and unfairly manipulating their feelings. Add to that the impact your actions will have on friends, family members, and children as they become collateral damage.

    • Regret. Regrets are part of life, but willingly making a choice that you know will hurt yourself and others can cause regrets that are hard to overcome.

    And the most significant reason revenge cheating doesn't work,

    • It won't take away your pain. Cheating doesn't lend itself to a tit-for-tat exchange. Not only can you cause yourself additional mental anguish by lashing out through revenge cheating, but you also won't make a dent in the pain that your partner caused you. It's a no-win-no-win situation.

    So, does revenge cheating work?

    In a word – no.

    Although this question is sometimes asked after the fact because the desire to strike back after being hurt can blind rational thought and lead to impulsive behavior.


    One More Consideration Before You Cheat To Get Revenge

    There's another consideration that should be made when it comes to revenge cheating – it's malicious.

    There's no justification for cheating in any form. But there is an important distinction between the initial cheating and revenge cheating:

    One has thoughtless, but unintended consequences, and the other has very intentional consequences.

    Revenge by nature is intended to hurt someone.

    It's not,

    • Romantic

    • Accidental

    • Thoughtless

    It is,

    • Calculated

    • Deliberate

    • Cruel

    Nothing productive or positive comes from deliberately calculated and cruel behavior.

    And it’s messy.


    Dr. Kurt routinely works with couples who’re dealing with cheating in their relationship. Often revenge cheating is brought up, sometimes before it happens and sometimes after.

    In his experience,

    I've counseled a number of partners who've cheated out of revenge. In one instance, the cheating was actually with the husband of the other woman her husband had cheated with (the other cheated on partner). What a mess that one was. The thinking (irrational as it is) typically is what a woman told me yesterday, 'I'm going to hurt him the way he hurt me.' But it can also be, 'He got his, so I'm going to get mine.' Most of us, when we're clear headed, would shake our heads at this rationale, but when you're overwhelmed with the intensity of emotions that comes with the betrayal of cheating, it's possible to convince yourself that revenge cheating actually makes sense.

    How Should I Get Back At My Cheating Partner?

    If you've been cheated on and are struggling with the impulse to cheat back, the best thing you can do is create some space between you and your partner.

    This doesn't necessarily mean cutting them out of your life, something that might not be possible anyway. It simply means getting away from the obvious trigger of your desire to take revenge.

    Some distance and time can allow you to rethink how you'd like to proceed. You'll need to determine,

    • Why the cheating happened in the first place.

    • If the relationship is worth saving.

    • What you need to do to move forward.

    • How you want to begin healing.

    Most of the time, with a little perspective and the chance to refocus, the desire to get revenge by cheating will fade.

    The next steps will depend on your relationship with your partner and whether you each want to fix what's broken. Very often, this will require the assistance of a professional counselor to sort through these difficult questions and decisions.

    What To Take Away

    The betrayal of being cheated on can feel unbearable.

    It cuts to the quick, leaving us feeling –

    • Unworthy

    • Not good enough

    • Thrown away

    The desire to take revenge and cheat back when cheated on is normal and understandable. That level of hurt can reduce nearly everyone to their most primal instincts –

    You've hurt me, so I'll hurt you back."


    But revenge cheating isn't the answer.


    • Won't fix things.

    • Won't take away your pain.

    • Can damage your self-esteem.

    • Can permanently damage a relationship that may be worth saving.

    • Hurt people who had nothing to do with the problems in your relationship.

    Ultimately, revenge cheating will cause you to lose more than you'll gain, leaving you with new pain and complications compounding the original pain and complications.


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