Look, there’s no good reason you’re reading this. It’s either you’ve been cheated on, you’re actively being cheated on, or you think you are being cheated on. And none of those options seem like a good time.
If you find yourself in any of the above situations, I have a list of things you can do to hopefully help you handle this mess.
I broke down the list into sections: A-B-C-C-D, as in Assess, Breathe, Confirm, Confront, and Decide. They feel like big words in this messy situation but I’m with you for each one, okay?
If you’re sitting on your bed and thinking to yourself “is my boyfriend cheating on me?” or you already have caught said boyfriend cheating on you, then you first need to assess the situation objectively.
It seems silly and a waste of time to do this when you’re already seething or heartbroken (or both), but this is a must. Often, when we receive information as big as this, we tend to panic, which is completely understandable.
So, let’s get our thinking caps on: Who, What, When, Where, and How? I’ll list the possible leading questions but you can add more for your specific situation.
And I want you to notice that I left out the Why, because that’s not relevant. Why he cheated is on him, don’t stress over this.
- Who are the people involved?
- Who is the other person? (Or persons if more than one.)
- Who else knew and didn’t tell you?
- Who told you?
- What exactly did you find out?
- If you’re only suspicious for now, what led you to believe that he’s cheating? Is there a pattern?
- When did it happen? How about the timeline? Map it out. Note down dates if they’re relevant.
- When did you find out?
- Where did it happen?
- I’m unofficially adding “Where did he get the audacity?” because honestly, where?
- How did you find out?
If it will help, write this all down. Definitely, there will be questions that will make more sense for your specific circumstance but these can start you off.
Remember to be objective when you write your facts, it will help you get a clearer picture of the web of lies.
Cheating is, and always will be, because of the cheater and not because of the person being cheated on. Cheating is a choice, not a mistake. Also, beware of being gaslighted into believing that the fault lies in you because it isn’t.
So, take a deep breath and say it with me: I am not to blame.
It will be easy to fall into a pit of self-blame, too: What if you did this or do that? What if you were more of this or less of that? What if you just gave in that one time? What if you didn’t expect too much?
I’ll stop you right there. You shouldn’t justify this in your head. Making space for his infidelity means taking it from the space you rightfully occupy.
You can’t exist along with these justifications. To make excuses for him is being your own enemy and I hope you choose to be on your side.
I’m adding these next two points here because you need to remember them even before you have your confirmation, like a preemptive warning so to speak:
Don’t act on anger.
I know I just said that I hope you choose to be on your side, but I hope you do that without impulsive anger.
This is not for his benefit, it’s for yours. Don’t do anything you will regret and that includes leveling the score by cheating, too. Getting even never goes well, regardless if you leave him or not.
You might say that “karma will reach him eventually but my hands are faster and it will be oh so satisfying,” but at what cost?
Don’t let fear control you either.
Even the most confident of people will face a dilemma in this situation, being cheated on is such a blow to your self-esteem. Let me tell you this though, you are worth more than this situation has led you to believe.
Your insecurities will show their ugliest selves, and you will feel unloved like you’re never going to find someone better or you’re never going to love anyone again. Trust that you will and that you deserve that.
It’s going to be a long, non-linear healing process and without sugarcoating it, it’s going to suck. So, breathe. Remember that you are wonderful and the betrayal will never be bigger than who you are.
Confirm, not just speculate. Then confirm again.
Even if your proof is ironclad, just confirm again to cross your t’s and dot your i’s. So many people out there will lie through their teeth even if you have a grocery list of evidence, so you better have receipts.
Now you’re seeing why assessing the situation is important, right? If you have your facts, it’s easier to differentiate between what is concrete and what is speculation or gossip.
Talk to someone you trust. Someone who can give you clarity on the situation.
This is the time to gather your squad—or just your nearest and dearest friends and family—you’re going to need them.
Remember that there’s no shame in asking for help.
Talk to someone you trust, someone who will not add fuel to the fire and can be objective despite the anger-inducing nature of this situation.
If you’re too embarrassed to open this conversation with your friends or family, consider going to a professional. Those could be relationship counselors or coaches, or maybe even therapists.
There’s this online site called Relationship Hero where a bunch of highly trained, understanding, and professional coaches will help you navigate your love woes.
In just a few minutes you can connect with a certified relationship coach and get tailor-made advice specific to your situation. Consider giving it a try if in-person coaching is too intimidating for you for now.
Confront the truth first, with yourself.
Once you have your confirmation, prepare yourself for The Talk.
This talk will not be easy, it sure isn’t a walk in the park, so you better prepare yourself (and your heart) for it. You will get answers to difficult relationship-breaking questions. There’s a big chance you will hear justifications first before apologies.
You will know things about yourself, your partner, and your relationship from within the lens of his betrayal. That’s going to be a lot to take in.
Another reality you need to confront (and there’s no delicate way to say this): If you and your partner are intimate, get yourself for STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections).
Evaluate your relationship for what it is.
Time to throw away the rose-colored glasses and see your relationship for what it is. It’s going to be difficult, I’m not going to lie to you.
It’s so difficult to be rational and make objective decisions in an emotional state but please try. List all the red flags and green flags in your relationship. See if it’s worth saving.
Is his offense something you can’t forgive? Consider that, too.
Confront your partner.
Confrontations are never easy, much less on the topic of infidelity.
A few considerations:
- Gather all your evidence.
- Remember to do it calmly, in a neutral space where you will both feel safe.
- Find the right time when you are both calm, preferably when you both are not stressed or exhausted.
- Allow him to explain himself but don’t be a pushover just in case he’s going to try to mislead or placate you. Remain calm and objective.
- Evaluate his defense and then decide.
Decide where you go from here. Depending on his explanation, your initial reaction might have changed and that’s okay.
So now that you have most of the facts necessary, evaluate the path forward: break up or fix it?
Do I stay with him?
Honestly, that depends. Some couples can work through cheating and some couples cannot.
There will probably be unique considerations in every relationship (infidelity in a marriage is an even more intense ballgame) and you have to take these into account as well.
Like, is there a pattern? Especially for repeat offenders, can you see this not happening again? If it does, where do you go from that?
Are they sorry? Can you see yourself being with this person despite everything? Do you see yourself being able to work through it?
BUT WAIT, THIS IS IMPORTANT: It doesn’t make you less of a person whatever you decide, okay? It’s your choice. Many people will tell you to either leave or stay, but no one can choose for you, but you.
After all this, I want you to know that you deserve a love that will be true to you. You deserve loyalty. You deserve honesty.
You deserve a healthy relationship where you can thrive, where you are cared for, and loved the way you wish to be loved.
If these are things you think you can find outside of this relationship or in it, then that’s for you to decide.
And if you’re staying with him…
At the end of the day, it still is and always will be your decision, so I have no grounds to cast judgment.
Know that staying with someone who betrayed you will be a tough and vulnerable journey but it certainly is possible to survive it. As long as you and your partner both willingly and persistently work for and on it.
Few things to remember:
- Accept that it happened.
Don’t ignore the fact that the betrayal happened either. Skirting around the issue can breed resentment and could lead you to overthink.
Look, I’m not saying you talk about him cheating like it’s the day’s weather or bring it up at a party like a conversation starter, what I’m saying is to not ignore the conversation if it comes up.
So be open with how it hurts you, and address the issues it created and still creates. If you identify the problems, then you can find the solutions together.
- Make sure there is action with his apology.
First of all, he should give you apologies, not excuses. It’s also a given that any and all cheating has to stop.
And if he apologizes but there are no changed behaviors, then the apology is not as sincere as you were made to believe.
An apology without remorse and atonement are just empty words.
- If you choose to forgive him, forgive him sincerely.
Forgiveness on both sides shouldn’t just be at face value. If you choose to forgive, genuinely work towards rebuilding trust.
That includes not bringing up his infidelity to win arguments in the future unless it’s actually connected or using it to justify your own bad behavior.
- Know that you WILL continue to find out more things about the affair.
There is always more to know but knowing these is part of the rebuilding process. Being transparent and vulnerable will be difficult–I can’t stress this enough–but it’s necessary if you want to rebuild trust.
- Accept that you can’t go back to what and how you were before.
Your old relationship is over and done with. Please allow me to use a metaphor: You can’t make a new house only with just those ruins.
Your relationship moving forward will be new and probably Frankenstein-ed with the old parts that worked and new parts that you will have to work on in the future. It’s not gonna be pretty and it will look different for everyone.
What’s important is you are both committed to moving forward, baggage and all.
- Consider counseling.
I already mentioned professional help up top but it begs repeating, for both of you this time, consider counseling.
Sometimes good intentions aren’t good enough, you would need guidance in such an overwhelming situation, especially coming from someone with experience handling such cases.
They can help you set healthy boundaries or identify triggers brought about by the infidelity. They can help you plan your next moves.
If you’re NOT staying with him…
There’s no easy decision in these kinds of circumstances, whether you stay with him or not, you will be working to rebuild yourself.
You can’t leave a relationship that betrayed you without a few new traumas, after all.
Still, congratulations. You’re choosing your freedom from the situation. But now, what?
A few things:
- Constant and consistent self-care.
And I’m not just talking about aromatherapy baths, massages, and chocolates (although those are good, too. 10/10 recommend.) Remember that self-care is more than just physical self-indulgence; it includes emotional, mental, and spiritual wellness, too.
I’m talking about speaking to yourself kindly, being mindful not to drown in his betrayal. It’s going to include mindfully not seeking things that will hurt you (example: his social media accounts).
Get enough sleep, take walks, meet your friends, and focus on what will make you truly happy.
- Accept that it happened.
Yup, I’m including this here as well.
Just because you’re not looking at his existence (online or offline), doesn’t mean you must ignore what happened. Accept that it happened to you, and accept the changes that that will bring about.
Accept that you can grow as a person despite the pain it caused.
- Remember that you are not alone.
Sure, I could just add this to self-care, but it deserves an entire point by itself.
There is strength in knowing other people feel or have felt our pain before and that they have survived it. Reach out to people, read other people’s success stories, and join Facebook support groups (honestly, there’s a Facebook group for everything these days.)
Be comforted by the idea that you are not alone in your pain. Pain is easier to carry when shared.
By this point, I hope you have gained a little bit of clarity in this sticky situation. I hate that at the other end of this article, you are potentially reading this with a heart that’s broken and betrayed.
But if you’re here and reading this, I hope you found words that both comforted and empowered you. I hope the coming days will be kinder to you, too. You deserve that.
Can a relationship coach help you too?
If you want specific advice on your situation, it can be very helpful to speak to a relationship coach.
I know this from personal experience…
A few months ago, I reached out to Relationship Hero when I was going through a tough patch in my relationship. After being lost in my thoughts for so long, they gave me a unique insight into the dynamics of my relationship and how to get it back on track.
If you haven’t heard of Relationship Hero before, it’s a site where highly trained relationship coaches help people through complicated and difficult love situations.
In just a few minutes you can connect with a certified relationship coach and get tailor-made advice for your situation.
I was blown away by how kind, empathetic, and genuinely helpful my coach was.
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