What's In This Article
Infidelity is one of the biggest causes of emotional pain in a relationship. There is no doubt that this breach of trust results in massive emotional distress.
Yet, the complexities involved make it hard to extract how much pain is from the infidelity itself or the issues surrounding the affair.
Monogamy is the most common form of marriage, and sexual fidelity takes top priority in most standard types of romantic relationships, married or not.
Trust can take years to mend if broken in a relationship, and sometimes it’s irreparable.
To heal from this deep wounding takes patience, compassion, time, and space. When we are hurt, these are qualities that are hard to cultivate.
But, it is possible to recover from this with concerted effort. Sometimes healing requires separation, yet other times it can bring two people closer together.
There are many reasons why an affair takes place. Couples need to be willing to look at the issues beyond sexual infidelity if they are to heal and rebuild their relationship.
This is understandably hard for the partner who has been cheated on.
Give yourself time to process the betrayal before you look at your potential responsibility for improving the relationship. Remember, your partner’s actions are theirs.
There may have been issues in the relationship, but they chose to cheat.
At the beginning of a relationship, many people state that they would immediately end a relationship if their partner cheated on them.
Yet, when infidelity occurs, they may find that they do not want to end the relationship. It can be very confusing as the betrayal is profound.
Yet, the pain of ending the relationship can be just as severe as the betrayal itself. However, with proper support, studies show that couples can not only move forward in their relationship, but some also find a deeper connection.
If you choose to stay together, you’ll have to learn to let go of resentment and anger in due time and accept that your partner has made a mistake. If both of you are committed to healing and rebuilding trust, this circumstance could create a stronger relationship.
You may find yourself more attentive to the other person's needs and more aware of your own needs. This awareness can help both of you address problems before they result in more significant issues.
But first, this kind of betrayal can feel like a tremendous loss, a death in many ways, which can trigger a similar response to grief and mourning. You may find yourself grieving for your past and your future. These reactions are completely normal and expected.
Although everyone has a different reaction, here are some common emotions you can expect to feel.
9 Emotions To Expect After Being Cheated On
The infidelity may come as a complete surprise, shocking you out of reality. As a result, you may feel numb and unable to function or go into hyperactivity mode and act like it is just another day. Either reaction is normal. This is your nervous system's way of surviving the shock.
It is strongly recommended that you don’t make rash decisions at this point. You want to make decisions with a clear mind, not a mind in crisis.
You may deny the allegations, stand up for your partner while blaming the other person involved, or deny responsibility for yourself. If your partner has left, you may also set your mind to the idea that your partner will regret their actions and come back to you.
All of this is hoping that the situation will be turned on its head, and you will not have to face the crushing reality.
This is also an expected reaction. Stay strong. You will find stability again.
A deep sense of betrayal may fill your thoughts 24-hours a day. You may feel like your entire relationship is invalidated.
You may find yourself obsessing over every detail. However, it is doubtful that you will know every detail, and it is not necessarily beneficial for you to have the exact information. Your trust bond with your partner has been broken. That is the betrayal that you will need to work through.
You have a right to feel betrayed, so honor this. The intensity will shift as time moves forward.
Anger is an emotion that is processed differently by people. Some people will close up emotionally and go silent, while others become volatile and chaotic. And some others may cry because they can’t express themselves in any other way.
Don’t be afraid of this emotion. There are many reasons to feel righteous anger. And, often, anger covers up the real pain of wounding, allowing you to regulate your emotional energy before going into deep sadness.
You may direct your anger to people or situations unrelated to this situation to buffer some of the pain. Try to be aware of your anger, because you may find yourself trying to push some of your pain onto others.
On the flip side, though, it’s important to let yourself be angry. Instead of letting it blow up, allow the outward expression of it in suitable ways. For example, you may want to scream into a pillow or out in the forest, or you may feel like punching a pillow or a punching bag. If that is your impulse, do it.
Let the energy move through you. Energy needs to move, and if it is not allowed to do so, it will either implode or explode. Neither have positive results.
There is a fine line between love and hate. Infidelity can cause you to cross that emotional line. Wavering between these emotions is confusing. How can you hate someone you loved just yesterday?
This, too, is a normal reaction. Your mind is struggling to find some sense in the situation. Hatred can compartmentalize the emotion for the time being.
This is an uncomfortable feeling for most people. Keep breathing and know it will fade.
At some point, you may feel hopeless, lethargic, and sad. You may question what you did wrong to deserve this. It may feel like your partner chose to hurt you, and you may wonder whether you will ever get past this pain.
None of these thoughts are beneficial and will not solve the problem. Instead, they will only lead you further into despair. It's okay to let yourself feel sad for a while, but do not let that sadness turn into self-punishment.
You may temporarily feel like all of your hopes and dreams have gone away, but this is not true. Instead, you will have new hopes and dreams. Life will continue, possibly in even better ways than you can imagine right now.
You may feel shame and embarrassment and, therefore, may isolate yourself from others. However, it is essential to understand that your partner made these choices, and you are not responsible for their actions.
It is good to remember that you are not a rarity in this situation. Some studies suggest around 30–40% of unmarried relationships and 18–20% of marriages have reported sexual infidelity. Both men and women, married and unmarried, and of all age and ethnic groups, find themselves in these vulnerable situations.
People experience depression in different ways. There is no “right” way to experience depression. If you are prone to depression, this is a situation in which you want to make sure you have some professional help available to support you.
If you haven't experienced depression previously, this stage may feel overwhelming. Still, it isn't a sign of a mental health issue. Instead, it is a natural response to the situation.
Some indications of depression are:
- Inability to focus
- Inability to eat or tendency to overeat
- Not wanting to get up in the morning
- Not finding joy or pleasure in things you usually would
One common emotion that may feel confusing is hope. It may come with two different perspectives: you may feel hopeful that issues that have needed to be addressed in your relationship can now be fully disclosed and worked on.
Or, you may feel hopeful that this is motive enough for you to leave the relationship and find something that is a better match for you.
Eventually, you will find that there is a way to move forward, even if you don't know how that will look.
7 Steps to Recovery After Your Partner Cheated On You
Recovery from infidelity-induced pain is not necessarily a linear process. You may find your emotions fluctuate, and your recovery dips in and out of these next stages. Give yourself the time and self-compassion to allow the fluctuations, and eventually, you will find stability again.
Here are some guidelines for helping you to recover after your partner has cheated on you.
1. Accept That You Were Cheated On
Before recovery can begin, infidelity is something that needs to be acknowledged and accepted. You may or may not ever know the details, and this is not necessarily important to know for you to move forward.
However, you must, above all else, accept the reality of the situation. This doesn't mean you forgive or forget at this stage. But you acknowledge the problem and make changes in your life to move forward.
Read More: 11 Signs He Will Cheat Again
2. Let Go of Anger
Once you have expressed your anger, it will be necessary to let go of that emotional energy. This will take some time and should not be rushed. Most people do not like to feel the dynamic energy of anger, but it is necessary.
Processing your feelings around this will help you to move forward. Ignoring them allows them to stew inside and come out at a later time.
3. Get Support
Through all of the stages of this situation, you must have support around you. This may come in the form of family or friends. But you also may need some professional support if you find you cannot get back to your daily life in a productive way.
Sometimes professional support is the best way to work through this, as you can be assured of an objective perspective and advice.
You can decide whether to seek out professional help at any time. Still, if you are experiencing any of the following, we suggest you do so sooner rather than later:
- You cannot take care of yourself, your children, or others you are responsible for.
- You're not sleeping, skipping meals, or not taking necessary medications.
- Your emotions steadily increase in intensity rather than fading or coming in waves.
- You're thinking about hurting yourself or others.
4. Figure Out if the Relationship Is Worth It
After a shock like this and its effects, you will need to reevaluate whether this relationship is worth continuing. This may be a one-time situation, or it may happen again; there are no guarantees in life. The decision to stay in the relationship must be made by you and based on what is best for you.
This is a good time to take space from your partner. Both of you need this time and space to reevaluate your lives and decide what things need to be changed to move forward.
5. Communicate With Your Partner
You should take some time and space before trying to work things out with your partner. First, take the time to sort through some of your initial emotions. Then you can be clear as to what issues need to be addressed independently and what needs to be addressed together.
Often, a mediator/counselor may need to be present if you cannot find a way to communicate with compassion and care. There’s nothing to be ashamed of if this is what you need.
6. Focus On Yourself
You may worry about how everyone else is doing with the situation, including the person who committed the infidelity. But, remember: unless you properly care for yourself, you cannot care for anyone else properly. Therefore, you must be the number one priority right now.
If you have children, you will need to be mindful of their needs as well. It may be a good time to bring in some family or friend support to help with their daily care for a little while, particularly in the first few days, until you can get a handle on your own emotions.
7. Commit to the Healing Process
Once decisions have been made about continuing or ending the relationship, you must commit to the healing process. This may include counseling – independent and couples, self-inquiry and self-regulation of your emotions, and a willingness to move forward.
This doesn't involve invalidating emotions that continue to come up, but it does require you to process them appropriately.
Don't rush your process but also don't dwell on the past. Finding the right path forward can take time.
Moving on from infidelity requires patience, compassion, a willingness to do so, and some skill. It is not easy, but it is possible. Some couples even report that they are more satisfied and fulfilled in their relationship after working through this serious situation.
Although it may seem obvious – my partner cheated on me – the definition of infidelity can vary amongst couples. One person may feel an emotional connection regardless of physical activity is considered infidelity. At the same time, others may think that even an online connection is infidelity.
Couples mustn't assume what each other believes to be a breach of trust. Fidelity should be discussed early on in the relationship to make sure both parties understand the expectations.
There are many reasons an affair can take place. It will be essential to look into the relationship's issues at a deeper level to prevent another betrayal.
Some problems that unfaithful partners have cited as reasons for an affair are:
- Addictions: drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, etc.
- Lack of care and/or affection
- Lack of communication around needs
- Mental health issues such as depression, bi-polar
- Chronic health issues
- Significant life changes: parenthood, empty nest, new jobs that result in longer separations
- Lack of attention due to caregiving of children, elderly parents
- Unaddressed marriage problems like conflict avoidance, fear of intimacy
- Personal dissatisfaction at work and home
- Low self-esteem
If you find yourself in a situation where you have been cheated on, even if you've had these previous conversations, remember that the pain will fade. You will need to take action according to what serves you best, but the pain will fade whether you stay or go.
Forgiveness is a significant indication of healing. This isn't just shallow words of forgiveness but a real sense of release and relief. Unfortunately, there is no easy 1-2-3 step program for forgiveness.
It will come the more you can look at the real issues in the relationship, what your responsibility in the relationship is, and where you can do your personal work to be a loving partner.
Forgiveness is about letting go of the anger, guilt, and sadness around the situation and using that energy more productively for yourself. It is not about condoning the behavior or saying, “it's okay that they did that.” It's about taking back your energy and using it to better your life, not just avoiding getting stuck in spiraling thoughts about the situation.
Overall, time is the biggest healer. Be kind to yourself, and allow as much as you need.
Lauren Cook-McKay is the Vice President of Marketing at DivorceAnswers.com. She holds a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) from the University of San Diego and applies her training in private practice to helping couples struggling in their marriage. She believes there is hope in all marriages and strives to provide therapy to couples that will lead them back towards a loving marriage, or an amicable divorce that brings peace and closure.