There’s no rulebook for a happy relationship. It can bring a wealth of joy but also bring its fair share of heartbreak and challenges. And for most, a cheating partner is the greatest trial a relationship can face. Dealing with infidelity can feel insurmountable. You’re thrown into a state of crisis, and you feel anger, anxiety, depression, and despair. And while leaving may be your first instinct, ending a relationship isn’t always easy. But it’s how you deal with it that really matters. The following are some steps you can take to help weather the storm gracefully and with dignity and hopefully use the situation to learn and grow to reclaim your happiness on the other side.
Gather Your Evidence
Your gut may tell you that something is not right. He stays late at work. He whispers on his phone a lot. Work trips have increased, and he’s suddenly interested in texting and social media. Yet, while we gals are intuitive beings, be 100% certain before you say anything. Accusing your partner of having an affair when he, in fact, isn’t could do irreparable damage to trust.
If you are certain he’s been intimate with another woman, and you’ve had sex in the meantime, get yourself tested for STDs. I know I know, But at my age?! Alas, yes. Sexually transmitted diseases don’t practice ageism. And no matter how much your man swears he was “safe,” don’t take his word for it. After all, this is a cheater you’re dealing with.
Confront Your Partner
Holding in your feelings won’t make you feel better. Figure out how you want to communicate with him. Be clear in your mind on what you want to say. Take a deep breath. Then verbalize your feelings. He needs to understand how this affects you, and it will give him the opportunity to explain what and how it happened is important for you both.
Don’t be afraid to ask hard-hitting questions but don’t lose your cool. Yelling may feel good in the moment, but it’s not productive in the long run. Things to consider would be…
- Ask him why he felt cheating on you was an option. Not only will you learn about his experience of the relationship, but it will also give you a window into how sensitive he is to you and your feelings.
- Ask about the details of the affair or incident, but only if you can handle it. Once you know something, you can never unknow it, and people have different levels of tolerance towards this sort of thing. For some, knowing gives a sense of closure.
- Ask how many times or if it was just once. If cheating is a way of life for him, you’ll have a better idea of what you want to do.
- Ask if he feels bad about his infidelity. This is a must if you are trying to decide if the relationship is worth saving. A man who feels no remorse will definitely do it again.
- Ask if he wants to work on the relationship. If he does, be clear that it will take a lot of work to repair and trust again.
- Ask him if he’s willing to seek therapy with you to help deconstruct, then process the betrayal.
- Ask if he’s in love with her or if he’s willing to stop seeing her and remove all temptations to engage with her (I.e., deleting, blocking, finding a new job, etc.). Taking physical steps to cut off contact with the person is critical.
Don’t Blame Yourself or Rationalize
“I’m too demanding.” “I don’t pay enough attention to him.” “If I’d taken better care of my figure, this wouldn’t have happened.” Uh, hell no! Blaming yourself won’t change a thing and will let him off the hook, so don’t waste your energy. And for the love of God, don’t play the victim or wallow in self-pity. It will only make you feel worse. It happens. It’s horrible. It hurts. But you will survive. Remember, you are more than your relationship. This is about him – not you. NOW GET OUT OF BED.
Don’t Obsess Over the “Other Woman”
When a significant other is having an affair, it’s rarely about the third person. It’s easy to blame another woman for your partner’s infidelity, but really, this is between you and your man. No matter how tempting, don’t stalk her on social media, call her, or confront her. While confrontations can bring temporary relief and boost self-esteem, they can also confirm the significance of the relationship. It’s up to you whether you make the situation ugly or deal with it with grace and dignity.
Don’t Punish Your Partner
You’re infuriated and hurt. Your self-esteem has taken a hit. Yet while it may momentarily feel good to be cruel to your partner, bitterness will only make your relationship worse. Resist the urge to lash out or, God forbid, have an affair yourself. It doesn’t work! Instead, focus on constructive ways to deal with your situation so that you can move forward – with or without him.
Don’t Try to Get Revenge
It’s just plain immature.
Be Careful Who You Tell
It’s healthy to talk to someone close to you about what you’re going through. But trash-talking your partner to anyone who will listen instead of focusing on healing and moving on can keep you in a state of anger and make you look like the crazy one. While you might get a temporary sense of satisfaction, you’ll also get a barrage of advice about what you should do, muddling your decision-making process. Further, what if you decide to stay with him? You’ll be facing remorse on top of all the other complicated and painful emotions.
See a Marriage Counselor or Therapist
Therapy means time, energy, and money. But considering the future of your marriage is at stake, it’s probably worth it. A neutral professional can help you identify unmet needs and underlying resentments and teach you to communicate better. He or she will help you see your partner’s point of view and what’s missing in your relationship without hurling insults at each other. Bringing issues out of the closet in a safe environment so you can process what went wrong within your relationship will help you determine if your relationship can be saved.
Take Time to Heal
There’s no time limit on pain, so take as long as you need. Shock, fear, depression, and confusion are normal. Feel these feelings. Don’t expect this jumble of emotions and mistrust to go away immediately – even if you want to heal your relationship. And don’t let your partner rush you. He has to understand that just because he wants to start fresh again doesn’t mean you can snap your fingers and make it so. Take care of yourself. Your immunities are low – emotionally and physically. Eat well. Get plenty of sleep. You know the drill. And take all the time you need to heal.
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
Avoid saying you want a divorce or taking drastic measures right away. Now that you have all the information you need to make a well-informed, level-headed decision on whether or not to stay in the relationship, take time to ponder and heal. Infidelity is one of the greatest challenges a relationship can face, but it doesn’t always mean it’s the end if you can get real with each other on what hasn’t been working. If you’re able to avoid blaming and shaming, and if there’s a willingness on his part to do what it takes to regain your trust, it’s a good sign that your relationship could possibly be repaired. If handled the right way, you may even come out stronger than before.
Use your voice, confront him, don’t blame yourself, and don’t be a doormat. Speak your truth. You will get through this challenging time, one way or another. Forgive on your own terms. Remember, you deserve love, respect, and loyalty… and surviving infidelity is all about doing what’s best for you. You got this, girl!