If you’re reading this, you’re probably looking for comfort and healing. You think you found your person and then you discover that they have betrayed you. Being cheated on can make it feel like the world as you know it has ended, bringing with it a torrential downpour of emotions. It shakes you to your core.
In a time of turmoil, when things feel scary and overwhelming and out of control, having tangible steps for healing can be immensely helpful. In this article, you’ll receive compassionate advice paired with productive steps to deal with this painful experience. You’ll find out that healing after cheating is possible and that you can emerge a more authentic, empowered, and self-aware individual.
Let’s learn how to start the recovery process after an act of infidelity.
Ask for Space
When you find out the news that your partner has cheated on you, a flood of emotions overwhelms you. But as much as you’d like to make a revenge move, doing so might hurt the relationship even more and bring you future regret.
Instead, take some time apart. Sleep over at a friend or family member’s house (or ask your partner to), or, if you have the means to do so, book a few nights in a hotel. Having time to yourself allows you to come down from the initial shock and gives you the space and freedom to think about your next steps without your partner being in the next room.
Reach Out to People Who Make You Feel Safe
While you don’t need someone to tell you what to do, you do need someone to lean on during a difficult time. Having a friend’s or family member’s shoulder to cry on can bring you comfort, while seeking unbiased advice from a trained professional can work wonders for healing after cheating. Therapists can be a listening ear and help you work through your thoughts and feelings to create a healthy approach to moving forward.
Know that All of Your Feelings Are Valid
When you’re blindsided by infidelity, so many emotions can occur. Anger, fear, sadness, shock, shame, embarrassment—all of these emotions might come flooding in when you find out you’re being cheated on. Remember: This is normal, so don’t beat yourself up for feeling them. Never apologize for feeling big emotions.
But recognizing them is the first step to beginning to move forward. Check in with yourself when you feel an emotion bubbling up. Say the following statement: “I feel [this] right now because . . .” Then, identify the thoughts about yourself that come along with the feeling. This especially can help you recognize negative self-talk (with feelings like shame or guilt, for example) and quickly let go of those harmful internal conversations.
You might even consider putting your emotions on paper by writing these statements down.
Don’t Blame Yourself
You’re not responsible for other people’s actions—your partner’s included. So don’t hop on the self-blame train. Even if your relationship had some issues prior to the infidelity, you didn’t make their choice for them.
With that being said, self-reflection about each of your roles in the relationship isn’t a bad thing. No one is perfect, and both people need to put in effort to make a relationship successful. If you do want to self-reflect, keep reminding yourself that your partner’s choice was theirs alone.
Talk It through with Your Partner
Once you feel ready to face your loved one after being cheated on, it’s time to talk things through. It’s completely normal to want to approach the first conversation with all the anger you can summon. But remember that they’re a person, too, and someone you love. Keep this in mind as you speak to them.
Here are some helpful tips for your conversation:
- Express yourself. Let them know how their actions affected you and the questions, thoughts, and fears that you have.
- Ask them questions. You deserve answers. If you need more information before deciding whether to reconcile or move on, this is a great time to ask.
- Be receptive. Your partner is worthy of being listened to.
- Talk about the future. What do you want? What do they want? Can you see a path forward together, and what might that look like? If not, what does that scenario look like?
- Reflect on the relationship. Discuss what each of your relationship values are. Is there an underlying issue that’s causing unhappiness for either of you? What do you want out of this relationship?
Keep in mind that you don’t need to have one long, sit-down convo to hash out every detail. If you sense that you or your partner are becoming emotionally unavailable, put a pin in the discussion and come back later when you’re both feeling ready to talk.
Take Care of Yourself
Throughout your process of healing after cheating, remember to give your body, mind, and heart what they need. While there are, of course, psychological effects of being cheated on, relationship trauma can also affect you physically. Anxiety and stress can physically manifest themselves in so many ways, becoming all-consuming if you don’t keep them in check. It might sound basic, but make sure you sleep, eat healthy meals, drink lots of water, and feel the sun shine on your face. In moments of distress, sometimes you need to be reminded to keep doing the everyday basics.
To take care of yourself mentally and emotionally, simply do the things that make you feel better. Maybe that’s exercising or painting or reading or watching reruns of your favorite show. Perhaps it’s journaling or screaming into your pillow or taking your dog for a walk. Whatever you need to do to fill your own cup and release pent-up feelings in a healthy way—that’s what you should focus on.
Choose the Best Path Forward
We can’t tell you whether to stay with your partner or break up after they’ve cheated on you. Every relationship and situation is different, and every person is unique. But what we can say is to ensure that you’re making a decision based on what is best for you.
After being cheated on, it can seem like there is no happy ending. A reconciliation path will be hard work, and a separation path might be lonely and heartbreaking. But remember that happy endings take various forms. Perhaps your happy ending is with your partner, rebuilding trust after infidelity, working through underlying issues, and renewing your love and respect for each other over time.
Or maybe your happy ending is realizing that you can do better, that you don’t need someone else to fulfill you, that you can gift yourself the space for self-discovery. If you decide that it’s time to break up, get helpful, empathetic advice on how to break up with someone and how to find closure after a breakup.
Whatever your decision is, know that the emotional wound will eventually heal. Being cheated on will diminish your ability to trust, but that, too, can be rebuilt over time. Embrace your inner resiliency and renew your hope for the future. You can come out of this stronger than ever before.