When I first found out my long-term boyfriend cheated on me, I felt paralyzed and sickened. In the months that followed, the burning question that dominated my every waking thought was, "What had I done wrong?". I compared every aspect of myself to the women he cheated on me with. Did they give him something that I was lacking?
"Infidelity often leads us through a host of complicated emotions, ranging dramatically from shock to anger, anxiety to fear, extreme loss and mistrust," Marriage therapist Dr. Talia Wagner tells Bustle. "It takes a while for our mind to stop cycling around the betrayal, as we seek more information, going through times and dates trying to make sense of the hurt. This constant internal cycling keeps the sense of hopelessness and despair we feel inside alive for a long time after initially learning of a mate's infidelity. It is important to try and let that go or these negative thoughts consume us."
Infidelity can feel agonizing, but it's important to keep an open mind towards what it can teach us. "Even if you were the one who was cheated on, be willing to learn and grow from what happened," Los Angeles-based dating and relationships coach Lisa Shield tells Bustle.
From being cheated on, I learned the power of trusting myself and my instinct, which science has proven is essentially a collection of our subconscious experiences. I learned to treat myself with kindness, understanding, and empathy. I learned to value myself and treated myself with the love and care I deserve. I learned I should not internalize what he did. I learned that his infidelity was not because I couldn't satisfy him or due to any deficiency or flaws of mine. Above all, I learned I had that his actions were not a reflection of my appearance, my character, but a reflection of his relationship with himself.
So what do others learn after their partner's infidelity? I spoke with 17 people to hear what being cheated on taught them.