If your partner’s cheating led to the end of your relationship, you are probably wondering how you will ever get over it.
A breakup due to unfaithful behaviour adds its own specific elements of grief. I know from my own experience as well as from clients, that even a long way into the healing process, an affair can still torture you with feelings of unworthiness, sorrow and anger.
Getting over a breakup when you have been cheated on takes self-compassion and patience.
All types of cheating cause pain
Sometimes the betrayal isn’t from a physical affair. The online world in which we live offers numerous opportunities for a partner to undermine their relationship. It might be secret online dating or following people they are sexually interested in on social media.
It might even be “emotional affairs” where your partner is connected with someone in real life but never crosses the line of sleeping with them. Instead, they turn to them for their emotional comfort.
Any of these types of cheating cause genuine anguish, mistrust and they lead us to question and doubt ourselves as much as we do our partner.
Over the past 10 years, I have learned so much about cheating and it’s relation to the self, both from my own divorce and from working with clients on both sides of the story.
Today I begin to share my 3 main discoveries about how to heal from this particular type of heartbreak.
No.1 Recognise that the cheating isn’t inherently about you
When a partner cheats the initial response is usually shock and anger. We are, of course, perfectly entitled to be angry after betrayal; it’s a healthy expression of standing up for our worth. Anger says “you’ve crossed a line and I deserve better”.
But not far behind anger, often come feelings of shame, low self-esteem. and diminished confidence.
If you are left for another person the obvious conclusion is that they have qualities that you don’t . If someone else has taken your place whilst you were still in the relationship, then it’s natural to start feeling a bit worthless and flawed. The question we inwardly ask is “Why aren’t I enough?”
Even if you haven’t been left, these feelings apply. Discovering your partner has undermined your relationship by being emotionally or sexually attracted to other people, in real life or online, brings up the same gut-wrenching responses of grief and humiliation.
The reason we feel these emotions is because our minds (and sometimes our ex partners) are telling us that we:
- Didn’t do enough to stop them from straying
- Weren’t attractive/interesting/ambitious enough
- Were flawed or had issues they couldn’t/wouldn’t deal with
- Are unable to meet their needs in the way this other person can
Whether or not there is any truth to these, it’s more important to examine what we have made these accusations mean in terms of the cheating.
If you are feeling any humiliation, shame or low self-esteem after you have been betrayed in this way, it’s because a part of you is believing the story that you did something which caused your partner to cheat.
Now it’s time to change that narrative once and for all, because cause and effect are not as simple as that.
There is nothing wrong with self-reflection and taking responsibility; it’s something I advocate highly for myself and the people I work with.
You might be responsible and need to hold yourself accountable for:
- Your part in the weaknesses of the relationship,
- Lack of communication,
- Your behaviour and actions
- Your unhealed wounds
But you are not, and never will be, responsible for a partners cheating.
Having worked with clients from both sides of the betrayal dynamic, I know that owning the full responsibility for what’s yours, while relinquishing responsibility for what someone else did, is empowering and healing.
If you want to heal effectively you have to recognise that the cheating is not about you, as much as it might appear to be. As personal and hurtful as the betrayal feels, it happened only because that was the choice the other person made.
It’s time to recognise that being cheated on does not mean you are:
- Responsible for the betrayal
- Worthy of shame
- Lacking as a person
Sometimes these feelings can be hard to shift. They may even trigger betrayal events from earlier in your life, so it’s important to explore them with compassion for yourself and seek support where necessary.
Moving on from betrayal happens when you start to re-establish your feelings of self-worth and self-love.
If you notice that when you get angry it comes from a place of indignation “how dare someone question my worth?” rather than despair and powerlessness, then you are on your way to healing.
In the next blog posts I will share with you the 2 other major realisations that led me to finally let go of:
- The powerlessness I felt about the betrayal
- The resentment at being wronged
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With love and support,
How To Get Over A Breakup After Cheating: Part 2
How To Get Over A Breakup After Cheating: Part 3
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