Before You Cheat: 14 Things You Need to Know

Advice on the high price of infidelity, from a man who’s paid.

It seems that every 3 months or so we learn of another celebrity caught cheating on his or her spouse. To say adultery is an epidemic in our current culture is an understatement. And it doesn’t seem to be a respecter of position. Regardless of what we do for a living, (Politicians, Pastors, teachers, athletes, actors, musicians, etc) cheaters are in our midst. It seems to be so prevalent today that the question isn’t who is cheating but rather—who isn’t?

Too many treat their most important relationships casually and their commitments to them as optional. Our microwave society mentality (quick and easy) has infiltrated our most sacred institution, marriage. Many cheaters try to justify their reasons for infidelity. To a cheater, their reasons make sense. Perfect sense. To those who have never strayed they just don’t understand why.

Our thirst for affairs has become so accepted and normal in our culture that most shows on television mention an infidelity reference somewhere throughout the episode. Not to be outdone, we even have a reality show (called Cheaters) that is designed to reveal an indiscretion and exploit the humiliation on national television. Honestly, I’m not sure which is worse—the immoral action of the cheater or the people who produce the show. The fact that the series is in its 12th season is an indictment against us. I’m not sure which is more devastating—discovering your lover’s unfaithfulness or discovering the crushing news at the same time as the train-wreck watching public. We live in a very sad day and age.

I have seen first-hand the destruction of adultery. Cheating devastates relationships and shatters dreams. If you have entertained the idea of cheating on your spouse or significant other, let this serve as your official warning. Your handsome boss, cute office secretary or sultry neighbor down the street comes with a price tag that you cannot afford. Before you cheat here are 14 things you really need to know.

  1. You will become a liar. It’s bad enough to bear the title of “Cheater,” but if you cheat, you will also wear the hat of “Liar.” Cheating cannot occur without deceit on some level and normally the white lies in the beginning become full-fledged lies at the end. “I’m working late at the office tonight” may be a half-truth but you’ll need to redefine the word “working” to silence your compromised conscience. Cheating and lying go hand in hand. (For more about the lies that cheaters tell, click here.)
  2. You will get caught. It may not be today. It may not be tomorrow. But eventually, your affair will come to light. Your world will come crashing down on you. If you are fortunate, the story of your indiscretion may avoid the evening news or the front page of your local paper, but your circle of friends will know your deeds. And everyone likes to share juicy news. Your poor decision will become as public as a billboard. It’s not a matter of if but when. As Pastor Rick Warren tweeted recently, “If the Director of the CIA can’t hide and cover up an affair, no one can.” As the Chinese proverb goes, “If you don’t want anyone to know it, don’t do it.”
  3. You will disappoint everyone. Everyone. Your spouse. Your friends. Your co-workers. Your God. Your parents. Your nephew. Your children. Yourself. The disappointment you cause will be like the stench of skunks and it will take a long time to remove the smell.
  4. You will be a bad example. Everyone is either a good example or a bad example in all things that we do. Cheating is a not only a very bad example in relationships but brings with it a cloud of doubt that hovers over you in other areas of your life. If you cheated in one area, would you cheat in another? Cheating communicates to everyone that you took the easy road. It tells others that you were willing to cut corners in your most primary relationship. It reveals that you were not willing to do the hard work and get the help you needed. No one ever admires a cheater. No one looks up to an adulterer. Even if you did a lifetime of good, this one bad deed can erase it all.
  5. You will lose your moral authority. It’s hard to tell your children (or others) to do the right thing when they know you didn’t. Saying “Do as I say, not as I do” is the fastest way to lose the respect of others. Not only will you lose their respect, you’ll lose yours. Every moral judgment you make in the future will be weighed against your adulterous action of the past. It doesn’t mean you can’t speak the truth in the future, it just means that few will listen to you.
  6. You will create trust issues for your spouse. Forever. You will single-handedly damage the precious self-esteem of the one you promised to love. Every relationship they have after you will be one that they struggle to trust. If that were not enough, you will rock the world of children and cause them to question the stability of every meaningful relationship they have. For children, their parents relationship is their anchor and cheating cuts the line.
  7. You will lose your standard of living. Depending on what you do for a living, you may lose your job. Many lose their home. Most end up with enormous court fees since cheating is usually the precursor to divorce. Betrayed spouses have a way of making you pay and that payment is always expensive. Every check you write is a constant reminder of your foolishness.
  8. You will spend years trying to rebuild your life. Literally years. Even if you somehow weathered the storm financially, you will find it takes years for you to recover emotionally. It takes years for you to restore certain friendships, if you even do. It takes years for you to rebuild your character. It takes years to rebuild trust. It takes years to truly forgive yourself.
  9. You will lose relationships. You will lose a LOT of relationships. Lifelong friends will walk away. Close friends that you have helped countless times will not be around to help you. Even some family members who are supposed to love you no matter what will vanish. A cheater can end up living a very lonely life. It’s hard for many people who used to call you friend to get past that skunk smell of disappointment.
  10. You will increase your chances of getting an STD. Sexually transmitted diseases run rampant among promiscuous people. But your paramour is “clean,” right? After all, they told you so. And if there is one thing we all know—we can trust a cheater and their word. As the saying goes, “There is honor among thieves.” One helpful thought may be to assume that everyone but your spouse has an STD. That should curb your appetite for destruction.
  11. The grass is not greener on the other side. The “grass is greener” idea is a common misconception. Because we have never been on that grass, we assume it must be better than where we currently stand. It’s not. In fact, though it may look greener from a distance—once you get there and make yourself comfortable, something interesting happens—the grass changes color. This usually happens soon after you get caught. You will then see that patch of land differently. You will also have a strange desire for the green grass you left … except now it is burned and won’t let you back. The best way to enjoy green grass is to water your own yard.
  12. Would you want this done to you? Thieves like to steal wallets but hate when it’s done to them. If we all lived by the Golden Rule (“Treat others the way you want to be treated.”) most of life’s problems would be solved overnight. Think about this action as if it were being done to you. The problem is that it requires thought and thinking is often the last thing a cheater has on his/her mind.
  13. You will eventually regret this decision. In the heat of the moment, cheating appears to make sense. It feels good and sometimes even feels right. Feelings are deceitful. Soon afterward, your eyes will be opened and you will regret that you ever partook of the forbidden fruit. Don’t we all have enough regrets in our lives? Why add another one—particularly one that can only destroy everything you have worked so hard to build? Your home may not be perfect but it sure beats living in a tent.
  14. The pain outweighs the gain. No one ever says from their deathbed, I wish I would have had an affair. No one ever leaves their lawyer’s office with a smile on their face—grateful for the experience. No one loses dear friends and is glad they have one less Christmas card to receive this year. The loss is immeasurable. The pain can be unbearable. Entire kingdoms can be lost for a few minutes of pleasure. It is just not worth it.

In November 2008, I looked in the mirror and did not like what I saw. I did not like who I had become. I was finally at the point where I was willing to admit the dark side of my soul. The Dark Knight within me had risen indeed. Days later, I confessed to my wife, children and church that I had been unfaithful during my marriage. Needless to say, it was the most difficult series of conversations I have ever had in my life. There is no pain like watching people you love sob in tears because of your selfish actions. Within one year, I had lost everything dear and precious to me.

The 14 points above come from an extremely painful personal experience. I know what it’s like to fall and not be able to get up. Over the last four years, I have had to learn how to tear down my emotional walls—walls that assisted me in getting in trouble in the first place. I have come to understand the problem with pedestals, especially in the church, and have wrestled with the mechanics of forgiveness, even forgiving me. As difficult as it is, I now embrace my past and appreciate the many regrets. They have become precious to me. As a result of my actions, I have accumulated many scars and now try to learn from each and everyone of them. I have hit “rock bottom” and realized something amazing in the process. God is still here, even if others are not.

That’s my story. Chapters are still being written. It’s not easy to share but it’s mine nonetheless and I finally accept it as part of HIStory. As I read the Bible with a humble set of eyes these days, I see that the Book is filled with great men and women who have fallen in some pretty huge ways. God picks them up and uses them in spite of their past. I’ve come to learn that we all fall, just in different ways.

If I can help any of you get up from a fall, let me know. I’m merely one beggar telling other beggars where to find Bread.


This was previously published on The Official Blog of Rod Arters.

Read more on Infidelity on The Good Life.

Image credit: TheDarkThing/Flickr

About Rod Arters

Rod currently resides in Columbia, SC with his three children (14b, 12g and 7b).

He has been published in both local and national publications and is currently working on a few book ideas. New to the blogging community, Rod’s blog has already been read in over 150 countries. As a result, he now considers himself to be an international blogger.

You can follow him on Facebook at “Rod Arters, Writer” or on Twitter at: @rodarters.

He also enjoys writing about himself in the third person as it makes him seem more important.


  1. Enough is enough! All of these types of articles stereotype the experience people have when monogamy breaks down. There are issues in the relationship or the trust wouldn’t have been broken in the first place. Relationships end and til death do us part has been ineffective since the Roman Catholic Church declared marriage to be “forever” way back in the middle ages. Relationships end and people generally find others before they make a move out of a familiar places. It may not be an actual physical act, but the dissatisfied partner has someone waiting in the wings. Traditionally, an affair is the way a man pulls the trigger on his marriage, so let’s not forget it. Many folks do find the grass greener and are delighted to be out of an unhappy marriage or relationship. Sorry, but ending a relationship, while painful, is not the end of the world.

  2. Wow this is hard for me .. I was raised with great morals and a marriage was with the white picket fence children etc. at 21 I was married and he was with another woman I was divorced by 26 . At 30 I met my second husband we had 2 kids only to find out he was gay we were married for 12 years . I had an affair then but it was the sex and attention I was after since I wasn’t getting it from him. we divorced I married a third time only to find that the job he took kept him out of the house for 12 hours a day 5 days a week for 300 days years I did well for the first few yrs but the last few I found my self getting lonely doing things alone and yes I met a man it started slow but to make a long story short it lasted 3 years he told his wife and we were done. no telling me or worrying about my feelings just done over! He was selfish all he wanted was good for himself. I have NEVER felt this much pain in my life I hurt because I cheated on a good man I hurt because I was dumped I hurt because I cant cope with much anymore the pain is devastating ..the points you make are so true I lost my friends, my family they say they understand but I know deep down they don’t. I hate who I have become I hate me and I hate how my life has gone and I really dont know how to forgive my past and move on. I sit here in limbo with a lot of REGRET! .

  3. OirishM says:

    Realise this is an old article – one I’d read with interest a few times before, but this line really stood out to me this time around:

    The best way to enjoy green grass is to water your own yard.

    Really neat turn of phrase, and so true. Very helpful. 🙂

  4. I justify; I am in a polyandrous relationship the agency of which my wife has yet to self-express.

  5. Hank Vandenburgh says:

    I do agree that it’s best (but not always possible) to avoid physical affairs. There are times when you will make emotional connections with people outside, and that’s inevitable. Monogamous relationships can’t carry all the weight that’s been dumped on them in our more socially atomized type of modernity. Men and women used to have same-sex social groups that were a great source of advice and comfort. Not so much now.

  6. do you really have a God that will think less about you? Do you? Which one is that, I’ll try to avoid him.

  7. Thank you Rod, for being so brave to share your experience and how these moments of pleasure, how one small decision can alter your life forever. This should be taught in school: the art of relationships and loving. Being someone who has been cheated on, it’s hard to understand why, especially when you are looked at the one who has everything.

  8. I have been married for 22 years and he cheated for 8 out of 11 years the first time around. I found out and he confessed to a lot of times doing this. He acted like he was sorry and said all the right stuff so I gave him a chance. Then for the past 12 years he tried with our daughters best friends mother, who turned him down and he had offers for a few others that just didn’t work out. Last April he was at his friends and a girl that rides his friend all the time was there and gave him her #. So he started calling her and they finally hooked up in June. She changed her # and he made a trip to her house to get her new # and called her a few more times. Then I found out about it. My question is what kind of hope is there for this marriage?

  9. Jasmine, it is in no way petty to feel morally superior in this case. No way dear. You make a commitment, stick to it, and it also applied to your ex. So don’t beat yourself up for being committed to your promise, you’re a heroine for that.

    I have been chronically cheated on, and yes I can affirm that building trust is the most difficult thing. I have forgiven, but I simply cannot forget. I even remember ALL their names and the intricate details-the places, the time, the alibi-I remember everything. So even now, whenever I leave for the day, or he leaves, I still feel he is out tripping, even when he isn’t. He’s tried everything to make me comfortable, but it’s just not working. There’s a part of me which died. It was a bright, energetic flame which had so much hope and faith for the future. It was so warm and welcoming, but one day it was snuffed out, and I don’t think that anybody, not even me, will ever be able to light it again.

    Which brings me to point #15: You will LOSE your spouse. Your cheating will most probably lead to a divorce or a separation from your spouse. Most probably you may never be able to work things out, forgive and start afresh. But even if you do work things out and start again, you will have lost your partner completely. Yes they will love you, support you, be there for you. But there’s something that will never ever be redeemed. And it’s not just trust. It’s the soul. Get it from me.

    • Thank you for that, Joy. And I am so sorry that you went through that as well. I know exactly what you mean about the difficulty in rebuilding trust – I was so devastated by my ex’s infidelity not because of the act, but because I had trusted him implicitly, and so in a moment he shattered not only my future plans and dreams, but my faith in trust. I’ve been single less than a year, and there are moments where I feel bitter that he is happy with his mistress (they’re engaged now, and just gave birth to a baby girl) while I struggle to make connections because I am wary and hesitant and largely mistrustful. It seems unfair to me that I sometimes bear the brunt of the burden of somebody else’s poor choices. But I am happy in the current trajectory of my life, I am fulfilled, so it balances out when I have those low moments.

      There is something lost when you cross those boundaries in a relationship. Most days I don’t allow what my ex did to affect my future with somebody else, but her certainly crushed a naive willingness to trust that I rather miss, at times. Thank you for sharing. I wish you the very best and hopefully you can revive some of that which was lost, someday in the future!

    • Joy, thank you for reading and commenting. Though your reflections are hard to read (for me), it is important for me to realize the devastation I caused b/c of my selfishness. I hate that I have done that to someone, particularly someone who was once precious to me. I trust you, Jasmine, even my ex, can somehow move on and trust – in spite of the horrific treatment you have received. It’s a quiet hell, living with that level of regret, every day and nothing you can do can change it.

      • I admire your, Rod, for speaking so candidly about something that is considered so taboo, and which clearly causes a great deal of inner turmoil.

        I often wonder about their frame of mind – my ex and his mistress (as she, too, was married when they embarked upon their affair). They’ve done a really good job of justifying it to themselves and the external world. Nobody seems to have held them culpable (their families both call it ‘fate’ that they came together, saying that they’re soul mates, corroborating that they were justified because there had been problems in our relationship), and they have shared these same sentiments. I wonder if deep down perhaps they have some guilt? Or if they live guilt-free? It puzzles me, I suppose, mainly because they so publicly reveled in a relationship that was so destructive to those on the periphery (myself, and his mistress’ ex husband). I don’t wish for them to feel guilty, because I know that it’s a terrible feeling to have to live with. I guess I just cannot fathom how someone could do that to another person and not feel some remorse.

        I think the very fact that you feel what you do shows that you are a decent human being. People are bound to make mistakes. Some take culpability for their actions; others justify and place blame. Ah, life. What a messy, messy thing it is, sometimes! I hope you have and do find peace! 🙂

        • Jasmine – I have a very similar situation where my ex-husband cheated on me for two years before he got his guts up and divorced me. He cheated with his best friend (who happened to be his other best friend’s fiancee’). They’re playing the game now that they never slept together while we were married (when the first incident was over 6 years ago!) and that they were ‘meant to be’ and ‘fated’. His family is much happier with her, since she’s a conformist, and they’re glad to have me gone. A lot of our friends have bought into his lies and I’ve left them be. It really hurts me to feel so disposable.

          I also don’t understand it – but I have to move on and just find my peace, like you’ve said! I’m getting there. 😀

  10. I really appreciate this list. I know the negative impact cheating has firsthand (from both ends of the stick). When I was young, and adolescent, I cheated on my long term partner repeatedly. Granted, I was young, selfish, and he’d set the precedent by doing it to me very early in the relationship (see, justification; it’s something we tend to do). But really, I’m not justifying my actions. I felt guilty every single time I did it. I wondered if it were true “once a cheater, always a cheater”. I thought I would never have a healthy, happy relationship.

    Fast forward a few years. I met a man, and we were in a relationship for six and a half years. Owned a home and a car together. We had a life together. I moved away for school and shortly after he started sleeping with his boss. While going through the pain of the dissolution of a relationship that had lasted nearly a quarter of my life (I was crushed, or thought I was), somehow the blame was placed on me. My ex and his mistress told me it wouldn’t have happened if I’d known how to keep a man happy, that it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been such a selfish, feminist bitch. Guilt is really insidious, and it is so much easier to justify and put the blame elsewhere than to look inside ourselves and say “I messed up. I hurt these people. These tears are my fault”.

    The thing that I took away, though, is that, though I had myriad opportunities and was tempted a number of times (especially when I was feeling unfulfilled in my relationship), it feels really good to be able to walk away from this relationship having not once been dishonest, not once having stepped out. Maybe it’s petty to feel morally superior, or maybe it’s just that it is really rewarding to know that as bad as it got sometimes, I maintained a commitment that I had made. Either way, I’ve learned tremendous amounts both from cheating and being a cheater. Thank you for sharing what must be a painful story for you!

    • wow beautifully said

    • Thank you for this insight, Jasmine! you have a very unique perspective from both sides of the track. Good for you for dispelling the myth that “once a cheater, always a cheater.” Though I do think it COULD be true for some, I believe a lot of people who have been hurt say that because it’s easier for them to not have to do the hard work of forgiving that way.

  11. Sin is pleasurable for a season, but it seems to me no amount of pleasure is worth this much misery and heartache. I think cheating is about the stupidest thing anyone can do, and the aftermath is worse than a tornado, it just doesn’t seem worth it.

    • wellokaythen says:

      In the vast majority of cases, no, not it’s not worth it, certainly not in the short term. However, there’s something to be said for dumping someone who’s cheated on you, because now you’re better off without him in your life. An affair may be the thing that ended a lousy relationship, and the end of that bad relationship very often turns out to be a good thing for both people. That’s not a rationalization, just finding a bit of a silver lining.

      I had three long-term boyfriend/girlfriend relationships in my life before I got married. In each case, during our relationship, my girlfriend met the man of her dreams (not me) while we were dating. All three of them were already moving in that direction when our relationship ended. In at least one case, they started their epic love affair before she broke up with me. Her cheating was an unethical activity driven by what turned out to be true love. In each case they are still happily married, and all of us are much better off today.

      The good news/bad news of the matter is that over the long term cheating can actually work out sometimes. If we just say absolutely that it never works out, then we’re burying our heads in the sand about some of the realities of life.

  12. Hank Vandenburgh says:

    Don’t do it unless you just – can’t – help – yourself…

  13. Tony Sand says:

    All these advices are true.
    I cheated on my wife a year ago, and I’m still paying the price. It’s been a hard and painful process for everyone, and I believe that the most difficult part is to build trust again. But at the same time I’m learning that love (true, authentic love) can help you to solve any problem and give you relief.
    Thanks for sharing your advices and personal experience.

  14. All good advice. i think its also important to remember two other things:
    1) Beating yourself up will not help. There will likely be many reasons that led to the cheating, and i would wager for most men, most of those reasons (eg falling in love with someone else) are ones you didnt deliberately create. Be realistic about the causes and dont blame yourself where it isnt necessary. Sometimes, it’s life. But that’s not to say you haven’t been a sh*itty person too.

    2) The important thing is to move on, learn, grow and make sure you dont; cause any more unnecessary pain, to yourself or others. The best way to do this will vary depending on the extent of the other relationship, and the state of your primary relationship. But if you think telling your partner you cheated will make things less painful for you, you are wrong. It will just make it more painful for them. Consider why you want to confess – will it help? If you trust yourself to stop the affair, deal with it, take the pain yourself and move on, then think about whether it is really necessary to confess. Confessing won;t undo what you did, and two wrongs don’t always make a right. Above all, make the decision whether to tell or not with reference to those it will impact, as well as yourself.

    I know some people will say that not confessing is just as bad at cheating. But I disagree. Married or not, we are all individuals too, we are entitled to make our own decisions about our lives and our secrets. I’m not advocating secrecy for the sake of secrecy as that would be unhealthy, but so long as you can learn the lessons, become a better person, and return to your spouse fully, as a better partner, secrecy might prevent further pain.

    • wellokaythen says:

      The main reason to confess would be so that your partner hears the horrible news from you first instead of from someone else, which adds extra humiliation. Keeping it a secret would only be best if the affair was over and in the past and it’s not likely at all that your primary partner would ever find out. You have to consider the likelihood of your partner being hurt more if you don’t tell her yourself.

      There is one more possible reason to confess to your partner. It’s awful, and it puts your partner in a totally unfair position, but you’ve already put your partner in an unfair position anyway — you may confess as a way to end the affair itself. You may not feel able to end the affair without the finality of confessing to your partner. Once you confess, it’s much harder to backslide back into the affair. That’s just one more crap thing to do to your partner, but it’s a reason some people confess.

  15. The above could also apply to emotional affairs too , anytime you turn away from instead of towards your partner to meet emotional needs, physical needs, needs that are appropriate to a committed, intimate relationship, that’s a betrayal. So you have these needs, and you’re turning away from your partner to meet those needs? it is a rotten thing to do and it rots the very core of trust in a relationship.

  16. All good points. I cheated myself and regretted it.

    I’d add one more, however. It’s not something that happens every time, but I’m sure it’s common:

    15. Ending the affair can be a heartbreaking moment in your life. A lot of people assume that men have affairs that are emotionally meaningless to them, but that’s not always the case. You will not only break your partner’s heart, you will possibly break the heart of the other woman as well, and maybe even your own while you’re at it. I felt crushing guilt over hurting both my wife and the other woman. You could be moralistic and say the other woman doesn’t deserve any sympathy, but you may feel horrible about that nonetheless.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Steve. I’m sorry you and your family went through the same pain. I agree about your point #15.. there is heartache there too, even if you’re not allowed to really mourn the death of that relationship. Good insight.

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