Been cheated on? Betrayed? Sideswiped and blindsided by someone you love? That hurts so much.
Cheated on? How could that happen? You thought everything was OK. Well, maybe, you weren't quite as involved, or caring, but you told yourself that relationships settle into daily life. After focusing on each other so intently, you started seeing friends on your own again, and got back into your old groove.
Maybe you were working more, and rushing home less. Maybe, you went out with your friends more and less with your partner. After all, we have each other for forever, right? Then, it happened. You were cheated on.
You didn't want to see the signs so you didn't let them trouble you. It hoped it would be OK. But, it wasn't.
Your partner said everything was OK, but wasn't acting as though that were true. Each time you asked, you were assured there was no problem. You wanted to believe it. Or, you didn't even ask. You were so sure that you deserved to be doing what you wanted that you failed to remember that you were in a relationship with another human with feelings.
Or, you really were being the best partner ever...and it still happened.
You were cheated on. Not only are you hurt, you're angry, upset, fired up, and shut down. You want your partner to pay. Big time!
You respond generally in one of two ways:
- You tell everyone who will listen what a slime bucket your partner is, and milk every bit of drama, pity, sympathy, and rage you can from it.
- You don't tell anyone because you are completely embarrassed, humiliated, and somehow sure you deserved it, maybe even, that it was inevitable.
Neither way helps. The truth is that you have to talk with your partner...a lot! (And, if your partner won't talk with you, that's a more troubling problem than the cheating. You'll need a relationship expert to help. )
Yes, I know, talking is not exactly what you want to do with him or her. You'd rather bash her reputation into the ground, or turn into a puddly mess, crying, moaning, and sharing your pain with him. But, the only person with whom you NEED to talk to--aside from your therapist--is your partner. And, bashing, emoting, and telling everyone in sight how rotten s/he is only makes matters worse.
No, I'm not suggesting you bury your feelings. Far from it. But, I am inviting you to engage in learning conversations with him or her, rather than a blame fest.
Why? Because, in most cheating cases, it took the two of you to create an environment where cheating was even an option! Careful now. Don't get your knickers in a twist! I said "in most cases." There are, of course, times when someone cheats and it has absolutely nothing to do with what's going on in the relationship, but those times are rare!
COURAGEOUS STEPS TOWARDS EACH OTHER AFTER YOU'VE BEEN CHEATED ON:
- Prepare by reading the two chapters on the Personal Weather Report™ in my book, Kaizen For Couples: Smart Steps to Save, Sustain & Strengthen Your Relationships. You'll need those insights to keep the conversation going in a positive, learning direction.
- Make a time to talk about what's going on, free of distractions. frequently. Stay in touch, even when you want to shut down or walk away.
- Talk about how you feel, not what your partner did. - "I feel hurt, disappointed, unsure, afraid."
- Talk about how you feel about what you did. - "I am embarrassed, hurt, unsure, needing resassurance."
- Tell each other what you need. e.g. "I need to feel respected." "I need to be understood."
- Speak about what is in your heart, not about why you want to give your partner a piece of your mind.
- Stay in touch. As feelings come up, own them and talk about them. Your feelings are not your partner's problem. They are your response to what is happening. You have the right to talk about what is going on within you, but not about your partner. (I know. You SO want to!)
- Talk to each other and your therapist, not to your friends, family, and strangers at the lunch counter.
- Work to feel heard, seen, acknowledged, and accepted once again.
THEN, and only then, can you begin to problem-solve. I know, it's counter-intuitive. You want to yell, scream, blame, demean, rant, rage, and throw things, but none of that actually helps the relationship. Do that when you're by yourself or with your therapist if it helps get the pain out. It won't help you to wage war on your partner. It only delays possible peace talks!
If, as a couple, you have avoided conflicts in the past, notice that pattern. Cheating is often a way of getting your partner's attention, especially when you aren't good at talking together about feelings and problems. You have to work at developing emotional intimacy. Unfortunately, many people believe it is somehow a magically by-product of loving someone. It isn't. You have to learn, and then practice, practice, practice.
And, did I mention you need to immediately get professional help? Good, because you cannot resolve this alone. If you try, what you end up doing if you try is burying feelings and creating resentments that pop up during every argument you ever have for the rest of time!
Be courageous. And, be a grown-up. Talk with each other like rational human beings, not blaming, festering, fuming crazy people. You want to solve something, not make it worse.
When you've been cheated on, or if you are the "cheatee", you need to talk, to understand yourself and each other. And, get help. People who care about themselves and their partners do that...right away!
© Rhoberta Shaler, PhD
The Relationship Help Doctor
Disclaimer: All advice, insights and suggestions made here are not to be construed as psychological or legal advice. Any actions you undertake as a result of reading any article, book, video, ebook or blog post from Rhoberta Shaler, PhD, are entirely your own. Having worked with individuals and couples for more than twenty-five years, she offers her insights and opinions for your consideration only.