January 15, 2012

How To Heal After Infidelity

How To Heal After Infidelity

For anyone who has experienced the pain of infidelity, the possibility of returning to life as it was seems impossible.

In fact, next to the emotion experienced when a close friend or family member dies, the most painful human experience is being cheated on.

But, the good news is that you can recover from infidelity. Being cheated on brings with it feelings of guilt, betrayal, disgust, and anger. But these feelings can be overcome.

The most important thing is to recognize that you don’t have to be a victim, and that you can control your own recovery.

In this article, you’ll learn how to decide whether to stay in the relationship or to move on; learn how to trust again; and especially what NOT to do after you’ve been cheated on.

Don’t let someone else’s actions take control of your life. If it is of any comfort, know that you are not the only one to have suffered infidelity.

It’s shocking how many people have experienced infidelity in committed relationships, but the good news is that these people have all survived and so will you.

Types Of Infidelity

There are many different types of infidelity, ranging from sexual to emotional. No two affairs are alike because the factors motivating the betrayal can be broad and complex. It’s important to differentiate between these two types of affairs:

1. Accidental

Most first time affairs are accidental. They usually arise out of contributing factors such as alcohol, a new situation, and exotic travel.

Your partner might have been too drunk on a boys/girls’ night out and made a stupid decision. Often these types of infidelities are with a stranger.

Or they might have been tempted by a workmate during a conference trip. The most important point about an accidental affair is that they are one-time only events.

Once the accidental affair has been perpetrated it’s important what your partner decided to do about it.

a. If they decided to confess their affair immediately and admitted fault then they clearly understand that they are at fault and that their action hurt you.

b. If they blamed you or your current state of relationship, believing that an unhappy relationship caused them to stray, then they are not aware of how disrespectful and unhealthy their actions are.

c. If they keep the affair secret they are strongly at risk of straying again.

2. Romantic

Romantic affairs are when a person betrays their partner because they believe they are in love.

Psychological reports show that often people have these type of affairs when they are deeply unhappy with their life but don’t feel capable of taking control.

In this instance they use the idea of ‘falling in love’ to overcome their cowardice to stand up to their problems.

These types of affairs are often repeated infidelities and are usually carried out in secret. The damage that they cause is often the most difficult to overcome because an affair of the heart is not only a physical betrayal, but also an emotional betrayal.

It breaks the fairytale of being someone’s one and only on which many relationships are built on.

Once you have established what kind of infidelity you have suffered you can evaluate whether or not your partner made a genuine mistake, which should be forgiven, or whether their cheating was the beginning of a trend that your partner has managed to justify.

Whether you decide to continue your relationship or to end it, evaluating what you have suffered is the first step to gaining back control over your life and overcoming the pain that you have suffered.

Stay Or Go?

This is a really tough decision, even when infidelity isn’t involved. The most important thing to remember is that the decision is yours to make.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to see whether you should stay or go.

Is your partner genuinely sorry? Are they taking responsibility for the infidelity?

If your partner sincerely regrets their actions they must also accept that they will have to make non-negotiable changes to repair things.

They must also accept that it might take a long time before their actions bear fruit.

If your partner is trying to rush you into moving on, or isn’t willing to make the changes you need, don’t feel that you have to put up with it.

If you send the message that there will only be minor repercussions for their betrayals then your partner won’t understand how much they’ve hurt you and will continue on with the same cheating behavior.

Do you believe your partner and are you willing to trust them in order to repair the relationship?

Your partner should be the one making the majority of the effort to repair the damage that’s been done. However, some sacrifices – especially emotional – will also have to be made by you.

You will probably have to suspend your anger and resentment at some point in order for your partner’s actions to make a difference.

This might seem unbelievably unfair, but take comfort in the fact that many relationships do overcome this horrible obstacle and become stronger because of the work the couple have put in to stay together.

If you don’t trust your partner’s promise not to cheat on you again, or if this isn’t the first time, then it will be very difficult for any progress to be made.

Many people who don’t trust their partner’s promises pretend to go through with reparations in order to punish their partner. This ultimately hurts everyone in the relationship and is the most detrimental thing you can do.

Thinking about the future, do you think your health and happiness will be better by being with your partner?

This of course is a decision of the heart, which is ultimately what usually decides the matter for most people.

Unfortunately many people’s self-esteem is crushed by an affair and they often do not feel they deserve happiness. It’s so important to build your own self-esteem up and believe that you are a valuable human being who deserves the best.

Improving your self-esteem makes such a difference when it comes to telling your partner what they need to do to rebuild the relationship. Don’t believe that your partner is a mind reader, or gifted at reading your ‘signs’.

Say what you want clearly; define the boundaries and conditions you are comfortable with.

These positive actions are healthy and will give you confidence that you did everything you could if you do finally decide to leave the relationship.

If you can’t imagine a future with your partner, if you feel unhealthy or generally unhappy with them then perhaps this relationship is toxic and you should take this opportunity to free yourself.

You can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs, and similarly a few relationships might fail before you find the perfect fit. Don’t be too proud or too stubborn to walk away if you can’t answer ‘yes’ to this question.

If you can answer ‘yes’ to all these questions, then there is probably hope in your relationship and it would be worth spending time trying to work on your relationship, even if you ultimately choose to end things.

On the other hand, if you have answered ‘no’ to these questions, then investing any more time into salvaging the relationship might be a waste of time.

If your partner is not genuinely sorry, or you don’t feel like you’re healthier with them, then it is probably time to cut your losses.

If you could only answer yes to some of the questions then you’ll need to weigh up the time you’ll need to invest versus the pain you are feeling.

Mending A Relationship After Infidelity

Once you’ve decided to stay with your partner the ownership is on both of you to make changes to rebuild the relationship.

Whilst you might feel that it is reasonable to ask your partner to do make major sacrifices as punishment or payment for their cheating, you might also feel that it is extremely unfair for you to have to make sacrifices since you didn’t do anything wrong.

The first thing you’ll need to do in order to start the healing process is drop this belief.

You’re going to have to put in a lot of work and sacrifice too in order to get through your problems. The sooner you accept this problem, the better.

Now that you’re ready to start rebuilding, here are some guidelines to point you in the right direction:

Accept

Realize that even the most beautiful and successful people have been cheated on. It happens.

Accept that it has happened to you. You aren’t alone, and it doesn’t have to define you. The thing that differentiates people is how they deal with it.

Give yourself a reasonable amount of time to grieve and feel the pain, but don’t wallow in your grief.

Acceptance is liberating in a way. It happens by waking up one morning, taking a deep breath, releasing it and getting on with life.

If you’re struggling to accept what’s happened to you reach out to those around you.

Your partner might be the person you traditionally lean on for support, but you probably won’t feel comfortable leaning on them in this case.

Talk to your family and friends, or join a support group. Talking about it will make you realize it’s not the end of the world, which will help you accept your situation.

Forgive

Yes, this is a must, even if you really, REALLY don’t want to. Once you’ve accepted the situation the next step is to listen with an open mind (and an open heart if you can) to your partner’s apology.

Tell yourself that this is the last time you want to hear it. Hear them out, then forgive them and stop expecting to hear your partner apologize.

Forgiveness comes with a heavy asterisk. Stop bringing it up. This is a requisite of forgiveness.

Try to judge your partner on their actions since the affair, rather than constantly bringing up the offending incident.

You won’t find this easy at first, but after a little while you’ll find you’ve achieved a peace of mind that will help you move forward.

Move On

If you accept your circumstance, and forgive you partner you should find that this next step comes naturally as the next step – provided your partner has given you the support you need to feel comfortable in the relationship again.

The best way to move on is to start making plans for the future again. If you’re still really struggling you can make a really simple plan, like going on a day trip somewhere, or even just getting a coffee.

If you feel that you’ve come a long way towards overcoming your pain and are ready to release the pain altogether then plan something big.

It’s important that you two plan it together. Often therapists recommend doing a teambuilding activity that is also fun for couples recovering from an affair. This can be something like enrolling in a class together or taking up a team-based sport.

Don’t Stop

Keep working on the relationship and make sure that you keep the lines of communication open. Sometimes couples engage a therapist to give them a weekly or monthly neutral environment to air any problems they may be having.

You might find that your painful feelings still rear their ugly heads from time to time, don’t be alarmed.

It’s natural to have some residual anger or grief left over after such a traumatic event – and it’s not like you’re an expert in recovering from being cheated on (since hopefully it’s something you only do once).

When this happens it’s important that you don’t bring up all the bad blood that existed with your partner.

Try and keep the positive improvements they’ve made since the infidelity in the front of your mind – this should help you drive the pain or anger away.

Learning to Trust

First off, when you’ve suffered an emotional trauma that shakes your faith in your partner and your relationship you might feel like you don’t ever need to trust ever again. However, learning to trust again is crucial to moving on from this terrible event.

This doesn’t mean learning to trust the person that cheated on you. If you have discovered that your partner is a serial cheater then you can feel free never to trust them again.

But learning to trust in the future is necessary, since trust is the cornerstone of intimacy. Some people that are deeply wounded try to bury their pain and lock up their emotions inside.

Here are a few tips that can help you in this regard:

Give yourself a break. Don’t try to force yourself to trust immediately. Take it slow, whether with your unfaithful partner, or with a new partner.

Focus on relationships where you feel that you trust the other person. This may be found in a family relationship, especially with parents.

It may also be found with long-term friends, or even colleagues.

Realize that whilst your partner was unfaithful to you, these people are trustworthy. Take comfort in this and focus on these positive relationships.

Insist on honesty. Explain to your partner how important it is for them to be honest to you.

It’s important for them to know that they MUST be honest with you even when, or especially when, they think you will get mad at them for telling the truth.

When you start a new relationship, tell your new partner about your traumatic experience and how you have difficulty trusting.

What Not To Do

Don’t blame yourself.

This is a reflex emotion for almost anyone who’s been cheated on, but it is not your fault. No matter how unhappy your partner might have felt in the relationship they had other ways to express their unhappiness.

It was their choice to cheat, you didn’t drive them to it. Don’t let your partner sell you a sob story about how you weren’t fulfilling them sexually or emotionally.

It always comes down to the fact that cheating is never an acceptable or healthy action.

Whilst your partner might have valid points about you not being as sexually or emotionally available as they would like, they could always have chosen to communicate this with you and if they felt they had exhausted the lines of communication they could have ended the relationship before finding solace in someone else.

Don’t hide yourself away

Many people find it terribly embarrassing to have been cheated on.

If you’re feeling embarrassed about what’s happened to you don’t keep it a secret or hide yourself away in your room.

Let the people around you – friends and family – help you.

Staying locked in your room crying will only prolong the problem. Taking is part of the healing process; the sooner you start the sooner you’ll feel better.

Don’t punish yourself physically

When you’ve suffered an emotional blow as big as discovering your partner has cheated on you you’ll need all the strength you have to recover from it.

Many people blame themselves, especially what they consider their physical imperfections.

Others turn to comfort food and begin over eating and eating unhealthily to try and cope.

This is a downward spiral that you can so easily avoid. Eat well-balanced meals at regular intervals and drink plenty of water.

Don’t punish your partner

Most people’s reaction to finding out their partner has been unfaithful is to get flaming mad. That’s totally natural and understandable.

But don’t’ translate your anger into petty punishments for your partner.

No matter how sincerely they do these tasks, you will never get the satisfaction you need.

You both will end up using your energy and time on trivial arguments rather than for making healthy progress.

Learning that your partner has cheated on you (whether it be directly or indirectly) will probably make you so mad you’ll want to lash out at them.

No matter how awful their act is it is never ok to revert to violence. It might even cause you to end up getting more hurt, and it is not unusual for people to be issued with restraining orders.

Don’t ever lash out physically at your partner. Instead walk away. The best thing that can happen is you’ll cool off and be able to return to talk the situation out.

The worst thing that can happen is you never go back and move on to greener pastures. Either way it’s win-win.

Don’t cheat for revenge

This is perhaps the number one mistake people make when they are cheated on. Their anger and pain drives them to have an affair to ‘get back’ at their cheating partner.

This kind of behavior hurts everyone involved, including the person you choose to cheat with, who is an innocent bystander in the whole situation.

Cheating on your partner won’t make you feel any better, and you’ll lose all self-respect.

Don’t turn to substance abuse

Turning to substance abuse, like alcohol or drug abuse, is never the right road to go down, no matter how badly betrayed you have been. It’s never a good idea to turn to addictive substances, but more so when you are depressed than any other time.

Turning to alcohol or drugs at a time when you feel deep pain will lead you down a dark and ugly path where you ultimately get a lot more hurt than you already are.

The decision to turn to alcohol or drugs can stem from all the things previously mentioned, blaming yourself, hiding yourself away, punishing yourself physically, and even wanting to punish your partner in a passive-aggressive way.

You certainly wouldn’t be the first person to give in to the temptations, but learn from the example of all the people in the past (including celebrities) by avoiding indulging in any of these substances.

How To Heal Faster

The healing process is painful and long, and you shouldn’t try to force it to go faster than it’s naturally going.

However, there are some simple things that you can do to help you emotionally, thereby speeding up your recovery.

Break off all contact with your partner’s fling

In situations where your partner has accidentally cheated on you with a stranger, or someone not directly connected to you, breaking off contact with them will not be difficult.

However, in cases where your partner has become romantically involved with someone else, they probably have regular contact with that person, and so might you (for example if it’s a mutual friend).

In this situation it might be a lot more complicated to break off contact with this person.

Of course it’s natural to expect your partner to break off contact with their partner in crime. You probably don’t feel that you are able to trust your partner around that person anymore.

This is a reasonable request, but you should also try to avoid seeing this person until you are fully healed.

Imagine your pain is a wound.

Every time you see the person your partner has cheated with it rips the scab off the wound and you have to start all over again to repair it. It will probably always hurt a little when you see this person – even 20 years into the future.

However, working through your relationship issues and recovering your strength so that you are in a healthy place will make it easier to deal with the pain of seeing them.

By then the wound should be significantly healed so that it won’t just rip off unless there is duress.

Get professional help

Next to a death the death of a close friend or family member, the feeling of being cheated on is one of the most painful and difficult to recover from in all of human experience.

Bearing this in mind, seeking professional help to deal with this traumatic experience might be a necessity, and will certainly help you heal faster.

As previously mentioned, most people only experience infidelity once. A therapist, on the other hand, has many experiences of infidelity and is able to set a logical framework for repairing the damage done.

Your partner might be reluctant to attend a therapy session.

They may feel embarrassed to admit to another person what they have done, especially if the affair happened under embarrassing circumstances (such as cheating with a prostitute).

However, realizing that society (not just you) regards their action as shameful is an important part of the retribution process.

If your partner isn’t willing to attend therapy with you, consider going on your own.

You don’t have to suffer through this experience on your own. A therapist will help to lead your emotions in healthy directions so that you can overcome your pain.

Starting Over After An Affair

Breaking Free

When you decide that you can’t continue with your partner for whatever reason it’s time to break free from them. It’s best to try and make a clean break from your cheating partner.

You need to focus on yourself and your recovery. Avoid an on-again-off-again relationship, as these relationships are typically repeats of past behavioral patterns.

On-again-off-again relationships can damage your ability to trust so severely that you may not be able to trust again without serious professional help.

Spare yourself all this pain by simply telling your partner you don’t want to be contacted in any way.

A good way to help you keep your resolve is to tell a close friend so that they can monitor you and talk you out of contacting your ex when you are feeling lonely.

Don’t Jump into a Relationship

There is a tendency in people who have had a failed relationship to run straight into a rebound relationship.

This might come from the fact that you weren’t ready to be single and the decision to break up was forced upon you suddenly when you discovered your partner was cheating on you.

More worryingly, it might stem from a need to prove to yourself and others that you are not a bad partner.

You will need time to heal after you break up with an unfaithful partner, no one recovers instantly, so accept that you need to take some ‘me time’ and stay single for a little while.

Start Again Slowly

When you feel that you are emotionally comfortable enough to enter into a relationship again take it slowly.

You might feel embarrassed to reveal that you have been cheated on, but your partner really needs to know this information.

It will help them understand your sensitivity to certain issues, and also help them understand that they must be totally honest with you and work to gain your trust and keep it.

If your new partner is not sensitive to your need to go slowly at first then perhaps they are not the right person to start a new relationship with.

Don’t try to force them; it might take a little trial and error to find the right match. You might also notice that the type of person you are attracted to is different, so take the time to get to know the new you.

Don’t Bring Your Bags With You

When you become involved in a new relationship don’t bring the baggage from your previous relationship with you.

This is the kiss of death to any new relationship and especially so for people trying to start over after they’ve been cheated on.

Of course this doesn’t mean leap in blindly, but try not to actively look for signs that your new partner might be cheating on you.

If you find that you can’t overcome the paranoia that your new partner is cheating on you then perhaps you need to take a step back in the relationship until you are more comfortable that they are trustworthy.

Conclusion

I hope that this report has given you some ideas about how to decide whether or not it’s worth putting in the energy to repair your relationship after you’ve been cheated on.

Hopefully you now have some idea of the best ways to move forward in your life – be it by working at rebuilding your relationship positively with your partner or moving on with your life without them.

With any luck you also have some idea of what to avoid doing.

There is life after an affair, take comfort from the fact that many people have suffered through the awful affair to become stronger, better and happier.

Whilst you might not be able to see it now, believe that the pain that you experience after you’ve been cheated on is only temporary.

The good news is that you can control how infidelity affects you now, and in the future by making wise, informed, and healthy choices. This requires a lot of strength and willpower at a time when it might be in short supply.

But persevering and making choices you might not want to for the sake of the relationship will ultimately benefit you, even if you can’t salvage the relationship.

Finally, don’t be afraid to walk away from a cheating partner – especially if they are a multiple- offender (i.e. have cheated on you more than once).

It can feel humiliating to admit that a relationship has failed, but don’t let your pride keep you in an unhappy relationship.

There is no shame in breaking a connection that is toxic to you. You can move forward in your life on your own – there are plenty of examples of people who have.

Whatever you decide, there is light at the end of the tunnel; just don’t give up. As the age old saying goes, “Time is a great healer” and with time, you will also realize that time is also a great teacher.

Depending on whether you want to work on your relationship or move on in life, here are a few resources that may help you during this tough time.

Break Free From Affair

How To Get Back With Your Ex

How To Save Your Marriage

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