There are fewer punched to the gut worse in life than finding out your partner has cheated on you. What's worse is the agonizing decision of deciding if you should stay together. There tips for saving your relationship after cheating are designed for those of you who believe your story isn't over.
In my time as a Domestic Violence Victim Advocate and Planned Parenthood Certified Responsible Sexuality Educator, I've spoken to many couples about infidelity. Aside from ruining trust, it tends to have a big impact on self-esteem. You might feel like you weren't good enough or wonder what you could have done differently to keep your partner from cheating. These are normal thoughts. What's likely more accurate is that there is something going on with your partner, not you, that lead to the cheating.
Staying together will require you to find out what that is. Maybe your partner just messed up. Maybe he or she just sucks at life and doesn't deserve you. Either way, if you have sworn to be faithful to each other and your partner breaks that promise, it's absolutely not something you deserved.
Read through these tip to see if you have what it takes to fight through infidelity and come out happy on the other side, or if you need to say good bye.
1. Be Honest
You gotta lay it all out on the table. This is the worst part, but in order to build trust, you need to start with the truth. If you don't think you can handle hearing all the details, that's fine, but you need to know what you're up against. Was it a one-time thing? A single lapse in judgement? Or has your partner been on an all-you-can-cheat buffet for years? This kind of information matters because it exposes the level of betrayal. It can also help you pinpoint the timing when perhaps things started to get difficult in your relationship.
2. Talk It Out As A Couple
Therapy can be a lifesaver in this situation. You get to air your your grievances in a safe, moderated setting, and you have an unbiased third party in tow who not only understands your feelings, but can better explain them to you and your partner. Plus your therapist will have probably helped lots of couples through similar situations. There's nothing like having that experienced guidance when you're at a loss.
3. Talk It Out Alone
There may be some things you're not comfortable saying to your partner just yet, and in that regard, solo counseling has your back. If you want to go forward with your relationship after someone cheats, you need to be sure, otherwise you'll live in a state of anger and resentment. Your therapist can help you decide if you truly want to save the relationship or if you're just reacting to the heartbreak. Your therapist can also help give you tools to work through your feelings of betrayal, distrust, sadness, anger, and low self-esteem.
4. Make New Terms
You have to be comfortable in your relationship in order to work on it. That means you might need to make some ground rules surrounding contact with the person or people your partner cheated with. It might mean keeping therapy dates, setting up date nights, taking a break from social media, or whatever your relationship (and your heart) needs to survive. These rules don't have to be permanent, but they can give you peace of mind while you're trying to put it all back together.
5. Consider The Alternatives
Some couples find that they do want to be together but that monogamy just doesn't work for them. In that case, they make arrangements to be in an open relationship or to explore polyamory. These situations are not ideal for everyone, and they take a lot of communication and maturity, but for some, it's an ideal solution. If the idea of sharing our partner breaks your heart, do not agree to try these situations out, trust me. You'll only invite more heartbreak before you embrace your true feelings. But if you're interested, you might find that having more than one partner is exciting for you both.
6. Let It Go
Once you've agreed to stay together and be faithful, you need to forgive and move on. You may have feelings to deal with for months or years to come, but that doesn't mean you get to punish your partner for them on a regular basis. If you find that even after time passes, you're still resentful and angry, staying together might not be an option. If you find you can forgive, but still occasionally feel pain and distrust, that's natural. The trick is to learn to express your feelings without blaming, and then leave the situation in the past. In other words, if you chose to stay, you can't hold the cheating over your partner's head for life.
7. Work On Your Bond
You could feel like you have an absolutely perfect relationship and then wake up one day to find out your partner cheated. Sometimes things happen that aren't a reflection of you or your partnership. But sometimes infidelity happens after tragedy (like loss of a child) or when things get shaky. If that's the case (not an excuse, but an explanation) then repairing your relationship will become priority number one. Work on your friendship, build trust, have fun together, solve money issues, or tackle major disagreements. Do whatever it takes to examine and repair all areas of your lives.
It's a rough road, but it can totally be done. And remember, it's your relationship, so no shame in forgiving, and no shame in leaving.