Betrayal, hurt, anger, hopelessness, inadequacy, failure, and finally profound loss....these are the feelings I experienced when I found out my partner had cheated on me. I have been through a lot of pain in my life, but betrayal by someone you love has to be one of the worst types of hurt. It cuts you down to your core and makes you question everything you thought you knew about that person, and even yourself. Nothing makes you feel more inadequate and unworthy than believing you were not enough for someone.
Reasons why people cheat
There are many reasons why people may decide to cheat in a relationship. Maybe they have fallen out of love with their current partner, fallen in love with someone new, maybe they are seeking revenge, or maybe they are seeking emotional or physical connection. Some are simply not able to control their desires and have a constant need for attention or validation, despite actually caring for their current partner. Despite the "reason" the end result is the same. Betrayal is betrayal, and trust is always broken when infidelity occurs.
What to do when you have been cheated on
Depending on the state of your relationship and your history together you may choose to stay or you may choose to leave the relationship. The first time I found out my partner cheated I made the decision to stay and see if we could work past it. The second time it happened, I knew that I was never going to feel safe again in the relationship and made the decision to end it.
If you decide to stay, I think the most important thing to do as a couple is seek therapy. Get to the bottom of why the affair happened and take the necessary steps to prevent that from ever happening again. In order to heal and rebuild trust there are a few key things that need to happen:
The cheater needs to acknowledge the hurt and pain they have caused. They need to listen and truly understand what impact their actions had on their partner.
They have to feel remorse. This is key! If they do not feel true remorse then they will do it again.
They have to prove that they are willing to do whatever it takes to gain back trust and support their partner through this grieving process. This is the step that is critical to building a stronger relationship for the future and making the partner feel safe enough to allow them to trust again. I highly recommend getting a personal therapist to help you with this step.
If you decide to leave
If you do not believe the betrayer is truly sorry, and unable to put in the work so that you may both work at healing the relationship, it is best that you remove yourself from it so that you will not continue to be hurt. Forgiveness is still something you may need to learn as you move on.
Forgiveness is a critical step in healing
Forgiveness is not for them, it is for you. It is not to excuse their actions...what they did was still wrong. What forgiveness will do is remove that burden from you, it will allow you to let go of the anger, the hurt, and the pain and to be able to finally move forward. And that should be your goal. Heal, learn, and move forward with the lessons you have learned so that you are stronger and wiser the next time.
Steps to help you forgive:
Write down what happened. Not feelings just the facts. This will help you keep your thoughts more rational, and also will help to remind you why that person is not healthy for you, if you are considering taking them back.
Realize that hurt people hurt people. Often their lack of empathy or selfishness stems from past traumas and unhealed issues that they are dealing with. It is a reflection of their issues and not you! This realization helped me so much. That it was not my inadequacy that was the issue. I was good enough, and I deserved loyalty, he was just unable to provide it.
Reflect on what you went through and what lessons you learned from it. For me this may have been the most therapeutic part. Instead of looking at my relationship as a waste of time and a failure I started asking myself what lessons did I learn from it. I learned that I could open myself up to someone completely and make myself 100% vulnerable. That I was capable of breaking down the walls I had spent years building. And for me that gave me hope that in the future when I do meet someone that deserves my trust and loyalty I will be able to give myself to them completely.
Remind yourself that you are worthy. You are worthy of love, of respect and loyalty. You deserve to feel safe in a relationship and cared for. You deserve someone who will look out for you and protect your heart. Whatever ways that you felt inadequate, make sure you keep reminding yourself that you are worthy. Keep telling yourself this until you truly believe it.
Forgive them and move on. For me this step took the form of a letter, a letter I never shared. I wrote down the loss, the hurt and the pain, but also the lessons. I wrote that I wish him healing too. That I want things to be better for him and that I wish him well. That I will cherish the good times that we had together, but that not all things were meant to be forever. Sometimes people come into our lives to teach us important lessons. And that maybe I needed to learn this lesson in order to truly appreciate the good things that the future has in store for me.
In conclusion: You deserve to forgive and let go
Take the time to process things fully, to heal and reflect back on the hurt for the lessons it contains. It is ok to reach out for help during this stage. Maybe this is friends, family, an elder, a therapist or all of the above. But work through your hurt and make sure that you process it fully. Only then will you be ready to forgive the one who has hurt you.
And once you do, I promise you that you will feel relief! You will feel lighter when that burden is gone!
Are you still holding onto resentment towards someone in your life? What is holding you back from letting that go? And what has helped you to forgive in the past?