Life after cheating

Anyone who’s been cheated on, or has cheated in a relationship, will know first-hand the devastating emotional fallout a partner cheating can cause. Infidelity can shake the foundations of a couple's trust in each other.

It’s easy to over-simplify cheating behaviour because we naturally want to assign blame for a betrayal. Beyond hearing ‘a leopard never changes its spots’ or ‘don’t hate the player, hate the game’ from well-meaning friends, it can be hard to get real, solid advice. We're here to help you out.

Psychologist Honey-Langcaster James offers the following advice to help you navigate the aftermath of cheating.

What should you do if you’ve been cheated on?

No one can tell you what you should do if you’ve been cheated on, as only you know what is right for you. However, here are some things you could think about:

If someone has cheated but clearly feels deeply sorry for the hurt they caused you, they may have genuine regret for putting your relationship at risk and want to make amends. In which case, although you will still feel hurt about it, after talking it through fully and working on re-building the trust between you, you might decide to forgive them and put it all behind you. Relationships can even improve after cheating, especially if it makes you both think about how much your relationship means. So it’s possible that you might get even closer as a couple through dealing with it all.

However, if your partner has cheated because they just didn’t respect you or your feelings enough, or because they are inherently untrustworthy, you need to consider if this is the kind of relationship you really need.

How does your partner respond when you challenge them on their behaviour?

This can tell you a lot. If you try to talk to them, are they are defensive? Or worse, do they try to blame you in some way or minimise what they’ve done? If that is the case then that indicates they are not paying enough attention to your feelings. They may not care about the impact on you or appreciate how important the trust is in your relationship and instead they might only be concerned about their own image or not being made to feel in the wrong. In which case, this is probably not a healthy relationship for you to be in. You could continue to get hurt, and you owe it to yourself to be with someone who cares enough to think about you all the time, including when you’re not together.

How to repair trust after cheating

Cheating not only damages the trust between you and your partner, it can actually undermine and have a negative impact on your trust in ALL relationships. If you’ve been cheated on in the past, it can leave you feeling generally insecure and distrustful of other people.

Things you can do to repair your trust and move on from the past:

  • Remember that just because someone has cheated on you in the past doesn’t mean you’ll be cheated on again by a new person. Give each new person and relationship in your life a fair chance.
  • Be kind to yourself. Don’t fall into thinking that you weren’t good enough, or wondering what you did wrong. If someone cheats, it only says something about them.
  • If someone is genuinely sorry that they cheated on you and really regrets their behaviour and hurting you, you might decide to forgive them. If you do, give the relationship a second chance. Don’t continue to punish your partner if you do decide to stay with them.

Ultimately, cheating can hurt deeply. If you find yourself really struggling to cope, make sure you reach out to someone you trust and talk to them about how you feel. There is nothing to be embarrassed about, it’s not you who’s broken trust in the relationship.

If you feel like you can’t get over this, or you have been crying excessively or having disturbed sleep or appetite for several days, consider speaking to a professional. Being cheated on can trigger depression and anxiety so speak to your GP or see a Counsellor if you feel like you are not coping.

Where to find support

If you have concerns about your relationship, visit Relate for more information, and to message a counsellor for support.

It is always good to speak to someone you trust about the issues you might be facing, no matter how big or small. Although it can be hard talking about relationships, everyone finds them challenging at times. So if you are experiencing difficulties, don’t feel ashamed or different and don’t feel you have to hide away from it.

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