Discovering a partner has cheated is one of the most difficult experiences a person can go through.
While more than 90 percent of Americans believe infidelity is never acceptable, 20 percent of men and 13 percent of women have admitted to sleeping with someone other than their spouse. For the injured party, the revelation may implode the relationship. Beyond that, it may also erode one’s sense of self-esteem and instill seemingly irreparable trust issues.
If it happens to you, your initial reaction may be to feel like you’ll never get over this deception. However, as permanent as the pain might feel, it will eventually fade. With an understanding of the grieving process, you will eventually learn to accept what has happened and understand why it occurred, and all of that will help you move on.
The stages of grief
Grief is associated with loss, and infidelity means more than the loss of your cheating spouse; you’ve also lost your vision of the relationship both of you had built.
Although originally proposed as a model related to death and dying, the five stages of grief are now a well-known model for many grieving processes, including being cheated on:
These stages are rough explanations of what someone may go through, but, of course, grieving is a very personal process that varies widely between individuals. For example, some people may not experience all five stages, while others may go through each stage but in a different order. Still, others may find one stage lasts much longer than another.
While understanding these stages might help you contextualize your emotions, it’s important to remember that there is no single roadmap to recovery. It’s a different journey for each of us.
Making the choice
Instead of immediately breaking things off with your partner, one option is to take some time to process your grief before you make a final decision. This is especially important for couples with children or dependents, as the decision to separate or stay together not only affects you and your spouse but others, as well. By taking some time to heal, you also give yourself the freedom to reflect on your relationship and develop a well-thought-out plan for moving forward.
You may find the root causes behind your partner’s cheating are ultimately fixable if both parties are willing to work on them. Conversely, you might find the trust is completely gone, and it may be best to end the relationship.
Either decision is legitimate. But no matter which option you decide is best, make sure it’s your decision.
Whatever you decide, the lasting effects of your partner’s affair may follow you.
If you decide to stay with them, understand that the relationship you’ll have in the future will be far different from the one you had before. Build a new vision for your relationship, because holding on to the ideas and resentments of the past will only hinder your efforts to create a new foundation for the partnership.
Seeking couples therapy is ideal, as you and your partner can gain extra support while you work together to rebuild a functional, loving relationship.
If you decide not to stay with your partner, you may subconsciously develop trust issues moving forward. Avoid dating immediately after a breakup, because relearning to trust others takes time and effort. Just as our bodies need time to heal after experiencing physical trauma, our psyche needs time to heal from emotional stress.
Taking care of yourself
Whether you decide to stay or leave, self-care is integral to improving your mental and physical health. Use this time to develop a hobby, hit the gym or study a new language instead of dwelling on the reasons for the infidelity. Surround yourself with a support system of friends and family.
If you find the affair has caused a mental health issue or an addiction to drugs or alcohol, consider going to therapy or joining a support group.
Although the revelation of a partner’s cheating can be painful, healing and moving on is well within your grasp. Just don’t expect it to happen overnight: Every person and relationship is different. This process may take months or even years, but you will trust again.
Have faith in the healing process, maintain a close support system and remember to always stay hopeful for the future.