The two sides to cheating in a relationship: ‘I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want to hurt you’

design: Carissa Long and Brooke Farren

A dramatic gasp is followed by the thud of a dropped surprise gift as someone witnesses their partner in the arms of another person. Actions speak louder than words, and in this case, this betrayal speaks volumes. The silence is uncomfortable, but is soon broken by phrases from the guilty party such as “I can explain!” and “It’s not what it looks like!”

One of the most emotionally damaging actions that can happen in a relationship, cheating still happens relatively often in high schools and on the world stage. Cheating, classified as being unfaithful with a partner in a closed relationship, can be motivated by several factors and is present throughout society including with some high profile couples and relationships close to home within the halls of the high school.


Cheating is a touchy subject with how much it can hurt people in a relationship, but it is nonetheless constantly in the news involving celebrities and public figures that have become victims of the action.

It happens often among famous people for many reasons, but it always seems to come out to the public due to their wide platform and number of followers.

It’s hard for them to live secluded lives and maintain a scandalous relationship on the side. However, ironically many celebrities have cheated despite having their private lives made public.

Celebrity cheating can influence high schoolers when they see famous people doing it, so it’s important to break down famous instances to understand stories within schools.

One such public occurrence was a infamous scandal involving Arnold Schwarzenegger. Schwarzenegger had an affair with his housemaid all while his wife was pregnant with their son, Christopher. The housemaid ended up having a child one month younger than Christopher.

To make the scandal worse, Arnold didn’t know about his son until Joseph, the son, was 8 and began to look like him. Therefore, his wife Maria brought it up in a therapy session according to The Sun magazine.

While the Schwarzenegger scandal is extremely complex, scandals like Tristen Thompson cheating on Khloe Kardashian wasn’t all that hidden. Thompson made out with three other women during their time together, including a friend of the family. The news all managed to surface on the web within hours putting nine months pregnant Khloe Kardashian in an overnight scandal.

The unfortunate part is Khloe and Tristen had months of overcoming this, but with a relationship so public, everyone feels they have a right to their opinion according to Insider magazine.

Celebrities have to be completely vulnerable to the world at all times and are constantly criticized for it. Another member of the Kardashian family, Kourtney, has actually come out many times, about how consuming and exhausting celebrity vulnerability can become.

She has almost left the show numerous times because she feels her kids are being exploited, along with her love life, according to Showbiz Cheat Sheet magazine.

Celebrities are often exposed in cheating scandals, but it happens in high school, too. Although there are different reasons and consequences with average students, the same pain and lasting effects can be seen.


Cheating in high school can look a little different than with celebrities on the world stage. Especially with teenagers, acts of cheating can cause relationship damages, trust issues and a damaged sense of self-worth.

Senior McKenna McConnell was cheated on several years ago and found out through the grapevine this earth-shattering news.

“It made me almost hate him. I lost all trust in him and felt like I had to backtrack on our whole relationship. I felt like everything he ever told me was a lie,” McConnell said.

The mindset of a cheater sounds much different than someone who has been cheated on. Ryan Kannenwischer, a recent Westerville Central graduate, admitted to cheating once in a relationship.

“I don’t really have a reason for cheating,” Kannenwischer said, “My relationship was healthy. I feel like it was an in-the-moment thing, and I just went with it.”

Ben Emery, another recent graduate of Westerville Central, also admitted to cheating but had more behind his reasoning.

“What led me to cheat was the fact that they had cheated on me multiple times, and I felt like I needed some form of revenge on that person. Also, someone else was treating me better, and they seemed to actually care about me,” Emery said.

According to psychology teacher Rebecca Whitney, cheating is often fueled by feelings, some of them contributing to a low self-esteem.

“A lack of self-esteem can impact a person’s willingness to stray from a relationship due to the flattery and attention they are receiving,” Whitney said, “People appear to cheat for a variety of reasons, with dissatisfaction with the relationship being fairly common. We have not just biological drives but also an emotional need for attachment that may not be fulfilled,” Whitney said.

These emotions may also trigger someone to crave variety in a relationship–something new and thrilling. Some may consider a steady relationship boring, even when they’re involved in one. According to Insider, bad manners and disregarding other people’s feelings is a factor that triggers cheating out of boredom.

Psychology Today states that “sometimes (but not always) a deficit in an existing relationship leads people to have extradyadic affairs.” In other words, even falling out of love can cause people to cheat. It is unfortunate, but losing feelings for someone can lead to infidelity.

While cheating often ends in an immediate break up, some couples try to look past it and patch up their past.

“Being cheated on affected my relationship with that person in so many different ways. We tried to make it work after he cheated, and we stayed together for a while. But, honestly the trust never came back,” senior Caroline Dayhuff said.

Dayhuff was cheated on numerous times over the span of a four-year relationship.

Many of the people who cheat feel great in the act without thinking about consequences. Kannenwischer explained how he felt while he was cheating.

“I was kind of excited. Like when you do something you shouldn’t you get a little rush knowing you got away with it, but I regretted it soon after because I realized what I had done basically,” Kannenwischer said.

Emery also felt good, since it was, in part, getting back at his girlfriend in their toxic relationship.

“At the time, I did not instantly regret it because it was satisfaction for myself to know that I was now not the only person in my relationship being hurt and playing dirty.

But even without any issues in a relationship, people may cheat because they are able to find common ground with others.

“We are often attracted to and find ourselves growing closer with the people that we share common interests or traits with–such as coworkers or someone we sit near in a class–this is a concept called the Mere Exposure Effect and could help explain why some people make connections with someone else outside of their relationship that ends with infidelity,” Whitney said.

As a result of cheating, many individuals tend to have problems with trust. Not only does it affect them in their day-to-day lives, but it will most likely also affect any and every future relationship they may have.

“I haven’t been in a relationship since, but I have lasting effects with trust and people’s intentions and honesty,” 2020 graduate Regan Gadrim said.

These effects may even prevent someone from relationships altogether as they have lingering fear.

“I have a wall up because I’m scared someone can’t fully commit to me and is going to do the same thing,” 2020 Worthington Christian graduate Callie Long said.

A large lesson learned from these experiences is to have caution from then on.

“Being cheated on made me realize that I can’t let my guard down as easily as I did during that time,” McConnell said.

So what happens after this obstacle in a relationship? Though there may be hurt feelings, it is often unintentional.

According to Healthline, “Many people who cheat love their partners and don’t have any desire to hurt them. This is partly why some people will go to great lengths to keep their infidelity from their partner. Still, it can cause significant damage to a relationship.”

First and foremost, an open and honest conversation is needed to determine whether the couple should stay together. If the partners decide not to continue their relationship, that’s alright. But if they choose to maintain it, then there are steps that must be taken towards recovery.

It takes two people to be in a committed relationship. In order to move on, NBC recommends that the person who cheated should remove the person who was involved in the affair from their life.

“If the affair is really, truly over, taking the physical steps to cut off contact with the person and set up boundaries is crucial to your partner’s healing process.”

Kannenwischer did end up getting back with his girlfriend, although the relationship didn’t originally end because of the cheating.

“My girlfriend found out about it, but we weren’t together at the time so I don’t exactly know how she reacted. But we had multiple conversations about it afterwards,” he said. “Since then, though, my significant other and I have gotten back together, and I think we are better than ever.”

Emery and his partner decided not to get back together, and he stresses the importance of knowing when to stop seeing someone.

“I would never do it again because I do everything I can to stay in healthy relationships where revenge doesn’t even have to happen. But I also would rather just break up and leave if I had thoughts of cheating because it’d cause less social drama which would cause less stress on everyone,” Emery said, “My advice for anyone in a toxic relationship would be to simply leave and distance yourself from the other person so that things like this don’t happen.”

Another piece of advice for couples is to focus on communication. If concerns aren’t brought up in conversation, then there will be issues.

According to Insider, “Being open about the good and bad things in a relationship can help foster a strong connection, which can help you through any unforeseen rough patches, and let’s be honest, every couple has them. And, don’t forget, communication takes two people.”

Cheating has lasting effects in relationships with everyone involved. And it doesn’t only affect romantic relationships, but it can affect relationships with anyone.

“In all of my relationships, romantic or friendly, carrying around a feeling of worthlessness has made it hard on me to connect with new people,” McConnell said.

While being cheated on affects one’s relationships with others, it also affects one’s relationship with themself.

“It truly rocks your world, you feel like you don’t know the person at all, and you begin to question the intentions with you and everyone else around you. It makes you question your worth,” Gadrim said.

When an act such as cheating is done without explanation, many play the blame game and instead of pointing a finger at the true villain, they decide on the victim.

“He cheating on me at that point made me feel less worthy to everyone, and I also felt like I couldn’t trust the people I was trying to be with because I had to question their every move; I felt like everyone was going to cheat on me and that it was MY fault,” McConnell said.

Cheating can put lasting effects on people that can hurt them for a long time. Everyone that had cheated agreed it was never worth it, and shouldn’t happen again, and those that were cheated on are still stunned and hurt. So no matter what goes on in a relationship, cheating doesn’t seem to be the answer.