Cheating: it’s the ultimate betrayal. The person you thought would protect you, defend you, and comfort you has now put you through the worst kind of pain – and you have to live with it. If you’re looking for an article that’s going to help you get over being cheated on while staying in the relationship – I would “exit” out of this article now. I am NOT going to spend the next few minutes convincing you to stay in a relationship that has caused this kind of pain. I think you deserve better. If you’re ready to move past it, then continue on. This is how to move on after being cheated on.
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This Isn’t About the Other Person
Before we dive into anything else – which we will – spend as much time as you need to release anger towards the other person in this debacle. No matter who he or she is – they are the wrong target for your anger.
And that sucks, because they are the EASIEST scapegoat. More than likely you don’t know them very well (and if you do – yikes – that’s even worse?) and aren’t familiar with the context of their situation. Which means it’s REALLY easy to fill in the gaps yourself and create a scenario where your significant other is the presumed “innocent” party, and the other party instigated the entire thing.
But that’s not going to help you in this situation. The longer you hold onto that anger, the longer it’s going to take to realize who the real offender is. You will agonize over the wrong issues, and extend your hurt unnecessarily over time. Because at some point, you’re going to realize that this person isn’t your business. They aren’t the reason you feel terrible right now. And their trajectory doesn’t really affect your life. They can go on and have karma eat them alive later on, or they can go on living a perfectly happy life. Neither scenario affects how you are going to move forward.
So instead, assume they are completely innocent in this situation. Assume they didn’t know your significant other was betraying you. Assume they thought this was fair game (because , and this is harsh, but that’s usually the case). That way you can focus on what really matters in order to properly heal in a reasonable amount of time.
Forgive Yourself Immediately
Once we have zeroed in on the true offender in this situation, it gets real gnarly real fast.
And for a lot of us, the next immediate response is to blame ourselves. Now, know that a lot of us are going to move through the different stages of grief out of order and for different lengths of time – but this note is so important that I want to cover it early.
You are not to blame for a significant other callously violating the terms of your relationship. It’s easy to reflect back on everything you did wrong (and I’m sure there are some greatest hits!), but cheating is never the correct answer to retaliate against bad behavior. You simply do not have the power to make someone with agency do something against their will. Therefore, you cannot be held responsible for their actions. No matter WHAT went down in the relationship, this act does not need to be forgiven.
If your significant other was thinking about your feelings, they would have summoned the maturity to break it off with you before embarrassing you in such a demeaning way. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been in this position many times before. I’ve wanted to walk away from a perfectly good relationship because I simply wasn’t feeling it like I should have anymore. And every time I probably (definitely) botched it. But at least I can hold my head up high and say that the second I realized I was not in love with my significant other(s) anymore (and maybe even felt a twinge for somebody else) – I called it off. And if my idiotic 17, 20, and 23 year old self can manage to pull that off – so can they.
And if you’re sitting here thinking “Well what does she know, she only DUMPED people before, not the other way around” LOLOLOL I wish girlfriend. My 21 and 24 year old self beg to differ.
Try To Be Sad Instead of Angry
This is a toughie.
While I’m all about getting angry (I am “pro” almost every emotion except for guilt and jealousy!) – I think sadness is going to do you a lot more favors.
Yes, you are pissed at how things went down. Yes, you are furious that a person you like/love did this to you. Of course, you are livid that the relationship can never go back to what it was, no matter how hard either of you try.
But in reality, you’re sad. You’re really, really, really, really, REALLY sad.
Getting dumped is bad enough, but you have to deal with the shame, embarrassment, and confusion of being cheated on. I know. It’s not fair. And it’s so easy to let yourself fall into anger because the situation is worthy of it. But instead, try to lean into the blue. Soak yourself in tears and mourn the relationship you wanted longingly to work. Processing your sadness is what will help you move forward. Anger will only keep you here for longer.
If you think about it – anger and excitement have almost identical physical sensations. Your heart rate excels, you get a tingly feeling, sometimes your stomach flutters, and your face gets hot. It’s easy for your body to actually *like* being in that state – and it’s probably a lot more comfortable than feeling sad. So you’ll stay there for awhile. You can function as an angry person. We see them every day! The people who scream at servers and cuss at the the weather and lose their shit when their team loses. They got angry about something and just…stayed that way.
Is that what you want?
No. So instead, just be sad for a bit. It’s normal to have periods of sadness. However -if you are feeling genuine signs of depression (loss of appetite, disinterest in activities you found entertaining before, weight change, sleep change, feelings of hopelessness, fear of the future) for a sustained period of time, talk to a psychiatrist immediately. I do not want anyone confusing sadness (situational) with depression (chemical).
But good old fashion sadness is nothing to be ashamed of. Live in it for a bit until you’re ready to release it.
Focus on Empowerment
At some point, you’re going to get sick of feeling sorry for yourself.
The “woe is me, how could they do this, what a bastard” phase is going to get old. Your friends will fein concerned head-nods, you’ll run out of new phrases to describe the heartache, and while you might still continue to fixate on what happened – it’s not going to cause the same stomach-drop sensation it used to.
My strongest advice is to listen to your frustration. In fact, let it guide you to a new place of empowerment.
This is when things get fun. This is when you get to use your old friend anger and mesh her up with some feminism!
Here’s what cheating empowerment affirmations sounds like:
“I am better than this.”
“I deserve someone who will treat me with respect.”
“I am above this drama”
“This was just an obstacle on my way to better things.”
“I will find a love that will never cause me doubt again.”
“I do not need anyone to make me happy – I am in charge of my own happiness.”
“I am stronger than I believe.”
“This experience will help me relate to others in the future.”
“I am stronger because of this.”
“I am grateful they showed their true colors earlier rather than later.”
“I will attract more positivity now that I know what I want and what I do not want”
“This experience taught me so many lessons I will carry with me.”
“I lived through it once, and I never will have to live through it again.”
“Thank you, NEXT.”
And there are plenty more where they came from!
This is where you can reflect back on the hurt you endured and your decision to not let it stop you from finding a better life. You chose to look at this situation and say, “not for me.”
This isn’t to judge anyone who stays in a relationship where cheating occurred. Every situation is different and people have their reasons. There is strength in forgiveness just as there is strength in moving forward. This is just to say that you know yourself well enough to trust that cheating doesn’t fly with you. Find power in it.
Gratitude Will Help
I know, I know.
Don’t feel pressure to get to this point right at this exact moment – but maybe clock it for later. But I want to elaborate on this point real fast so you can use it to your advantage when you’re ready.
While you do not have to pull an Ariana Grande and be super thankful for your ex, you can at least be grateful that you are not going to spend the rest of your life with someone you cannot trust. You are so lucky (don’t hit me) that this person showed who they were at this point in time instead of later on. And whether your significant other cheated after five months of dating or five years of marriage – you are still better off for knowing now than finding out next week, next month, or next year.
Be grateful that they cheated on you during a time when you can handle it. Because you reading this article right now shows that you CAN handle it. You are brave enough to keep reading through the pain. You are courageous enough to research help during this shit time so you can move on. And you are smart enough to know that you are better off by yourself than with someone who could dare to cheat on you.
Reflect and Learn
Once you’ve moved past the anger, you’re on your way out of the sadness, and you’ve found some empowerment through this process – it’s time for some lesson-learning.
Ideally you’ve already released yourself from any blame or guilt. If you haven’t – please go back and spend some time focusing on this. In fact, it might be in your best interest to work with a professional coach through these issues. Guilt and blame simply do not have a place in the healing process and will impede your ability to clearly reflect and learn from this experience.
I find that learning something through every tough life experience expands my ability to feel grateful and proud of the obstacles I faced. Once I’m able to identify exactly what I would change and what I would keep the same – I’m able to release any fear that this will happen to me again.
The goal is to figure out exactly what went wrong, and prevent it from happening again in the future. These lessons will not only help you avoid mistakes again, but they will also steer you closer to a relationship or life experience that’s much healthier for you.
For example, if your significant other was jealous during the relationship – always suspicious of you and other men/women, requiring constant check-ins when you were apart, or always accusing you of being unfaithful – that’s something to note. Scratch that – that’s something to circle in red ink. You know now not to even touch relationships that are mired with jealousy. But maybe it was the opposite – perhaps you felt suspicious of your ex and someone else – and you turned out to be right. Now you know to trust your gut and to listen to yourself.
The more lessons you can extract that DO NOT place blame, the better. Again, it might be worth working with a coach on these issues because they can be complicated and hard to tease out.
All right, girl. I know you’re *in it* right now – but you’re going to pull through. If you need more help recovering from the breakup – look no further. We have plenty of breakup articles ready to assist you in your healing process. And if you need some extra, tailored help – you know where to find us.