Finding out your partner is cheating on you is one of the most heartbreaking things that can happen to anyone.
In a perfect world, nobody would ever be unfaithful. But the reality is that a whopping 70% of married Americans have cheated at least once in their lives.
So, if you’ve found yourself in this situation, how do you deal with a cheating partner? Here are some valuable tips on how to cope with infidelity.
1) Stay calm and take time for yourself
The discovery of an affair can feel like you’ve been crushed under a ton of bricks.
Crying, lashing out, screaming–it’s all too easy (and totally normal) to fall into all sorts of negative emotions and go into dramatic displays of rage.
But there are better ways to go. The first step is to keep your composure and allow yourself some space to breathe.
Give yourself some time to decompress and collect your thoughts. Knowing your partner has been unfaithful is going to feel like a loss, and you need to allow yourself to grieve.
Right now, the most important person is YOU. You’ve just had a tremendous shock, and you need to focus on taking care of yourself.
Some ways you can practice self-care are:
- Go for a walk
- Treat yourself to a spa
- Eat your favorite foods
- Watch your favorite movies
- Spend time on your favorite hobbies
- Write down your feelings in a journal
- Sleep regular hours
These won’t exactly solve your problems, but they’ll help calm you down so you can manage the stress.
2) Talk to your partner only when you’re ready
It can be tempting to dive headlong into a confrontation with your partner. After all, you’re emotionally distressed and desperate to understand why it all happened.
But for some people, the pain can be too much, and they can’t bear to talk to their partner right away.
If this is you, don’t feel pressured into a discussion with your partner. Sometimes, it helps to take a deep breath, step back, and process the situation first.
Tell your partner you need time and space to deal with the pain. Then, let them know when you’re ready to talk.
3) Acknowledge and accept your feelings
You’ve been through a terrible shock and are feeling all sorts of emotions, from anger to sadness to confusion to depression.
Sometimes, the pain can even manifest itself physically. Stress can take a toll on your body and may lead to symptoms like episodes of nausea, upset stomach, headaches, loss of appetite, and more.
It takes time to get over the pain of betrayal. Accept that you’ll feel crappy for a while—this is natural. Allow yourself to have these feelings (but don’t wallow!) and don’t feel pressured to pretend like everything’s okay.
4) Have yourself tested for STDs
Cheating doesn’t just have an emotional impact. It also poses a health risk.
No one wants to think about this, but if your partner has been with another person, the risk of sexually transmitted diseases is entirely possible.
That’s why it’s crucial to get tested for STDs—better safe than sorry.
5) Understand that it’s not your fault
When my friend Lisa found out that her husband Mark was having an affair with his co-worker, she was devastated.
The one question she asked herself over and over—what did I do to make him cheat?
Of course, it wasn’t her fault; it was his decision to cheat. Sadly, many women fall into this trap and get stuck in a cycle of blaming themselves.
Your partner may have cheated for a number of reasons, some of which may indeed be related to issues in your relationship.
But ultimately, it all comes down to the fact that he chose to cheat instead of communicating what he needed and resolving the issues in a healthy manner.
6) Surround yourself with your best support system
If you’re thinking about shutting out the world and spending your days crying in bed, don’t.
At a difficult time like this, you need to be around people who love you and can provide the comfort you need.
Tell your family or closest friends what happened and lean on them for support and advice.
7) Find out why it happened
There are many reasons why people cheat.
They might be longing for an emotional connection or an escape from stress or boredom.
Sometimes they might be trying to deal with a loss or problem. Or, it may simply be a case of poor impulse control and decision-making.
While these are definitely not an excuse, it is worth exploring why the affair happened.
When you’re ready to talk about it, try and get to the root cause.
Not only will this answer the questions swirling in your head, but it will also help you decide if you want to continue the relationship.
8) Evaluate your relationship honestly
After you’ve had the talk, it’s time to assess your relationship.
Infidelity is a complex issue that stems from one or many underlying unmet needs.
It’s essential to know where exactly the breakdown in your relationship happened and which of your partner’s needs went unaddressed.
Be honest with yourself—denial won’t help you understand and accept what happened. And if you can’t do that, it will be difficult to think clearly and make the right decision.
9) Don’t make decisions out of fear
Nobody wants a relationship to end. Nobody wants to be alone again. On the other hand, it can be excruciating to think about staying with someone who has hurt you so badly.
Unfortunately, there’s no right or wrong choice when it comes to staying or leaving.
No matter what, don’t let your fears control your decision. And while we’re at it, don’t make decisions rashly.
Instead, take the time to process everything to arrive at a thoughtful, intentional decision. Ask yourself if the relationship is worth rebuilding and if you can truly forgive your unfaithful partner.
If you think it is and you have it in you to forgive, then identify what you want from your partner going forward. You might find it helpful to make a list of your needs and expectations to help you organize your thoughts.
10) Avoid seeking revenge
I’m sure everyone knows what Confucius said about revenge: “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”
This saying rings as true today as it did thousands of years ago.
When we want to go the revenge route, we’re dooming ourselves to failure.
Revenge doesn’t just punish the one who betrayed you; it also punishes you by keeping you filled with anger and negativity.
I get that it’s so tempting to get back at the person who hurt you. I know how satisfying it can feel when you finally see them hurting just as much as you are.
But this satisfaction is temporary. Pretty soon, you’ll find yourself stuck in the same old emotional rollercoaster you were on, going round and round in a cycle of bitterness.
Focus instead on moving forward with grace and enlightenment. Trust that you will get to a place of healing. Taking the higher ground will always bring us great peace of mind no matter how hurt we feel.
11) Make sure your partner wants to make things right
If you decide to move forward and try to rebuild your relationship, you’ll have to consider some key points first:
- Is your partner remorseful?
- Has this happened before, or is it a one-time poor choice?
- Is your partner willing to cut off communication with the third party?
- Is your partner willing to work on mending the relationship?
If you’re both committed to healing and making your relationship work, however, know that it won’t be a quick fix.
12) Work on rebuilding trust
Infidelity is a serious breach of trust, and it is 100% challenging to learn how to trust the cheater again. Some people find that they just can’t trust that person again and eventually leave.
If infidelity isn’t a dealbreaker for you and you’re willing to move forward, you’ll need to understand that learning to trust again is a slow process.
And while the burden to earn your trust back lies on your partner, you do need to manage your own emotions.
It’s okay to express your feelings to your partner, but try to avoid accusations and maintain respectful communication.
It’s also a good idea to refrain from discussing what happened repeatedly. Talking about it over and over may lead to retroactive jealousy. This will keep the wounds open and prevent you from healing.
Find new ways to connect with your partner emotionally and sexually. Establishing new rituals of connection, such as daily walks or sharing meals without distractions, can help build a new foundation for the relationship.
13) Consider working with a counselor or therapist
Sometimes, dealing with a cheating partner can be so painful and difficult that it requires the help of a professional.
A marriage counselor or therapist can help break down the issues and identify the steps to resolve them. You’ll learn strategies for managing your emotions and communicating with each other constructively.
And even if you choose to break up with your partner, going to counseling is still advisable.
Psychologists point out that people who have been cheated on may suffer from post-traumatic stress, anxiety, and substance misuse, among others. Counseling can help you pick up the pieces and find yourself again.
14) Work towards forgiveness
Finally, we get to forgiveness. I know this might be unthinkable right now while you’re still reeling from the shock and pain of betrayal.
But given enough time, you may find it easier to forgive them, even if you think they don’t deserve it.
Forgiving someone who has betrayed you doesn’t mean you’re weak. On the contrary, it shows how strong you are. Letting go of anger and hurt isn’t easy; it certainly isn’t something a weak person can do.
When you extend forgiveness to someone who has hurt you, you choose to heal your heart and take care of your mental health.
However, don’t be pressured to forgive right away. It needs to be on your own terms. There is no timetable for healing and true forgiveness.
Your partner needs to understand that they don’t have the right to force you to accept their apology and forgive them when they want.
Can a relationship go back to normal after cheating?
Cheating changes the lens through which you and your partner see each other.
If you choose to stay together, understand that you are starting anew from a very different place emotionally. It will be a brand new relationship you’re building, this time with new lessons learned.
It will take a long, agonizing while and lots of patience and commitment to get back to the happy state you used to enjoy. But as long as you’re willing to put in the work, your relationship can survive an affair.
Can a partner cheat and still love you?
It’s a common misconception that people who cheat don’t love their partners.
But experts say otherwise—according to them, being in love doesn’t shield you from lust.
Infidelity isn’t an all-or-nothing situation. Just because your partner cheated doesn’t mean all the love is gone. It’s normal for human beings to be attracted to other people even when they’re committed to someone else.
This is possible because the human mind is powerful and can rationalize just about anything. So yes, it’s possible for someone to look elsewhere for their needs while still being in love with their partner.
Cheating can shake up the strongest marriage or relationship, and it is profoundly challenging to bounce back from it.
The aftermath of discovering your partner’s affair is similar to the grief we feel after a loss, and you will need time and excellent coping strategies to survive it.
But whether you stay or leave, remember to do what’s best for you. No matter what happens, you can take the lessons you learned from it, move on, and be your best self.
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.
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