Set of Sabrina, 1953 by Mark Shaw
Whether it’s a physical or emotional affair, getting cheated on sucks—especially when you’ve been feeling deeply connected to your partner, only to then get blindsided by the betrayal.
Some say physical cheating is the worst offense one can commit in an exclusive relationship, but emotional cheating—where your partner connects with someone else in a “relationship-y” manner without any touching—can be just as damaging.
Editor’s note: Although this article uses male pronouns, the advice applies to all sexual orientations and gender identities.
1) He exchanges “good night” texts with her.
2) They fantasize about being together.
3) They compliment how good the other looks, in a not-so-platonic manner—we all know the difference.
4) They engage in sexting.
5) He’s talking to her about work and personal issues you don’t know about.
6) He checks on her regularly, asking if she made it home safely or wanting to know how she slept.
7) He confides in her about how unhappy he is in his relationship with you.
People who downplay emotional cheating are usually the ones doing it. They want to believe the behavior is innocent, so they don’t have to feel guilty or stop inappropriately engaging with someone else outside the relationship.
Once you discover you’ve been cheated on in either capacity (under the assumption you’re heartbroken over it), let yourself fall apart and grieve the betrayal.
Kick, scream, yell, cry (in a safe place without hurting yourself or anyone else), and eventually allow yourself the time and space to process your pain. The devastation can feel overwhelming, so don’t rush into coming up with a solution on whether to stay or go.
If you live with your partner, perhaps hitting pause and finding a place to stay temporarily is the healthiest option as you wrap your head around what’s transpired. Once the initial shock has subsided, talk to your partner (if he’s willing to) and get clarity around what was behind him going astray.
Sometimes we don’t always get the truth, and in cases like cheating, regardless of your partner’s reasoning, don’t expect his why to make you feel better. That said, if you’re both in a position to save the relationship because you recognize you were asleep at the wheel—due to work distractions, kids, money stress, or a lack of personal happiness that really had nothing to do with each other—then it is possible to make it work.
Yes, it is totally possible to find happiness in your relationship after your partner cheats, whether it’s a physical or emotional affair, but you HAVE to implement a serious commitment to prioritize rebuilding trust.
I highly recommend each person individually seeks professional help—just because he was the one who cheated, doesn’t mean there isn’t work for you to do. This could be the thing that not only strengthens your bond, but also wakes you up to be both more conscious in your relationship and more conscious about the woman you want to be outside the relationship. Talking to a counselor or coach together as a couple could also be highly beneficial.
And if you find yourself immediately coming up with excuses like you don’t have the time or the money, ask yourself how badly do you want this to work?
If someone diagnosed you with a serious illness, you’d figure out the time and the money to heal because you’d believe that you had to figure it out.
What if you had to save your relationship? It’s OK if you decide you don’t want to, but it’s a great question to ask so that you can gain clarity on whether the effort and energy is worth it.
Finally, if you know in your bones this person isn’t to be trusted because of his history of cheating and lies, and catching him red-handed is the final straw, love yourself enough to leave.
I know it’s excruciatingly painful to let go of someone you love, but isn’t it more painful to keep letting yourself go while you stay with someone who isn’t giving you the respect and loyalty you are most worthy and deserving of?
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