Finding out that you've been cheated on can be one of the most devastating things that can happen when you're in a relationship. The thing is, no matter how confident you are in yourself, being cheated on can damage your self-esteem in the worst possible ways. As anyone whose ever gone through it would know, infidelity can affect you both mentally and physically. As a new study found, asking yourself this one common question can make things even worse: What did I do wrong?
"Being cheated on can create serious trust issues," NYC-based individual and couples therapist, Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW, tells Bustle. "You may become wary of everyone in your life and start having an intense fear of getting hurt emotionally. You may also feel a lack of connection with people. Instead, you may isolate yourself from socializing with others. Finally, you may experience low self-esteem and thoughts of, 'What did I do wrong?' or "What is wrong with me?' are common."
In a study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, researchers from the University of Nevada, Reno wanted to see how people's mental health and behaviors were affected by infidelity. So they conducted a survey of over 200 college students who've been cheated on in the past three months, and were in relationships that averaged nearly two years. Here's what the study found:
The Person Being Cheated On Can Experience Both Psychological & Physical Distress
"When someone is being cheated on they're often also being lied to, which is really the issue at hand," Dr. Michele Barton, PhD, Director of Clinical Health at Psychology Life Well tells Bustle. "If your partner is lying to you on a regular basis, this can induce feelings of anxiety and paranoia that are warranted, yet without evidence may feel like you're going crazy reeking havoc on your self esteem and sanity."
That sort of thing can definitely change you, which is why it's so common for people to be hesitant and guarded when they enter into a new relationship afterward. But as the study found, the psychological distress you get from being cheated on can lead you down a road of risky behaviors such as unprotected sex, drug and alcohol abuse, and binge eating or not eating that it could harm your physical wellbeing as well.
The anxiety you experience from being cheated on tends to have physical symptoms that manifest such as migraines, stomachaches, IBS, nausea, loss of appetite or overeating.
According to Barton, the anxiety you experience from being cheated on tends to have physical symptoms that manifest such as migraines, stomachaches, IBS, nausea, loss of appetite or overeating. "So if you find yourself in these circumstances, deal with them immediately as long as the symptoms continue the worse the damage to your body and mind could be," she says.
Putting The Blame On Yourself Can Make Things Worse
"Asking yourself what you did wrong after being cheated on puts part of the blame on you when in fact cheating has nothing to do with you," Hershenson says. "Cheaters have their own issues and insecurities that lead them to cheat. Oftentimes cheaters feel invaluable or insignificant in their relationship or life in general. Cheating gives their ego a boost when they don't have healthier coping skills to deal with their issues."
The physical and psychological effects can hurt more when you're constantly asking yourself, "What did I do wrong?"
Cheating tends to hurt most people. But the physical and psychological effects can hurt more when you're constantly asking yourself, "What did I do wrong?"
According to the study, people who blamed themselves for their partners cheating were more likely to engage in risky behaviors. While researchers aren't exactly sure why this happens, they theorize that an individual's damaged self-esteem can lower their inhibitions toward risky behavior or cause them to retaliate against their partner. Women were also more likely to feel the distress of being cheated on more than men.
What You *Can* Do
"You must remove yourself from the situation in order to heal," Barton says. "You can't be expected to heal and deal with the person who hurt you at the same time." If you can remove yourself from the situation and clear your head, you might be able to get a better perspective on things to prevent you from placing the blame on yourself.
I think it's best to remember that getting cheated on isn't your fault. I know it's hard to stop yourself from thinking that you could've done something more or that maybe if you were a little bit more of this or a little bit less of that then maybe your partner wouldn't have strayed. But the truth is, your partner cheating on you isn't your fault. That's on them. So don't let this get you down and always remember to be kind to yourself.