Trusting Again After You've Been Cheated On
One of the worst things that could have ever happened to you did- you were cheated on. It's devastating, and the thought of trusting your partner or someone new again seems overwhelming... if not impossible. Trusting again requires two very important actions- learning and earning. You have to learn how to trust again, and your partner has to earn your trust. It's difficult, but it's not impossible.
It's not your fault.
First things first: recognize that the cheating is not your fault. Yes, it takes two when it comes to making or breaking a relationship, but when cheating occurs, the responsibility for that betrayal falls on the cheater. Even if they try to rationalize why they did it, and part of you thinks maybe you deserved it, you didn't and it's not your fault.
There are always other options besides cheating. Communicating the wants and needs that aren't being met by your partner. Going to counseling. Ending the relationship. There really is no excuse for cheating. Once you come to terms with the fact that the cheating is their problem and not yours, the healing can really begin.
Let yourself feel.
Trusting again requires letting go of the past, but in order to let go, you first must feel the emotions. Every tear; every frustration; every moment of disbelief- they're all necessary in order to heal. If you try to suppress those emotions, they will continue to bubble underneath the surface until something triggers them.
Cheating often brings up a feeling of anger. You might be so mad at your partner that you wish the absolute worst upon them (and the person they cheated with). It's important to understand that anger is a secondary emotion. Fear, hurt, humiliation, rejection, and frustration are all primary emotions that trigger the secondary emotion of anger. Anger will not make the cheating go away, and it certainly won't speed up the healing process. Recognizing the primary emotion that's driving that anger, and addressing it, is the only way you'll truly heal.
Trust yourself first.
You may feel like you have poor judgement after you've been cheated on. How did you not see the signs? Why didn't you get out sooner, before the cheating occurred? You may be worried that you'll end up in another relationship where you'll be cheated on.
If you don't trust yourself, there's no way you'll trust another person. You may have been blindsided by your partner's cheating, but you're smart and your cheating radar is high. If something feels off, you'll follow your intuition this time. Take some time to sit with yourself and really determine what you want and need out of a relationship. Set clear boundaries and expectations. If they're not being met, you know you're strong enough to move on. You did it once, you'll do it again.
Look towards the future.
Once you do the hard work of healing after infidelity, try your best not to look back. The past should only be brought up if it's affecting the present. If you've decided to stay with the person who cheated, repeatedly bringing up the infidelity won't do either of you any good. Be honest about your feelings, but once they are dealt with, move on.
If you're starting a new relationship, remember that your current partner is not your ex. They don't deserve to be punished because of your past. You wouldn't like that being done to you, so give them the benefit of the doubt unless they prove otherwise. Yes, they need to earn your trust, and that will take time, but you also need to learn to trust again, and part of that lesson involves letting go and moving forward. Living in the past will only leave you stuck, and being stuck isn't any fun.
Your desire for a healthy relationship must be stronger than your pain.
Being cheated on hurts. It's probably one of the hardest things you will ever have to go through. That pain will only last if you allow it to, though. In order to move forward, your desire for a healthy relationship has to be stronger than your pain. You have to decide that you will no longer stay in that place. You have to remind yourself that you are worthy of love and happiness.
No one can make that decision for you. You can choose to stay in that unsettled, awful place. You can allow it to hold you back from living the life you deserve. Or, you can choose to heal, learn to trust again, and give someone the opportunity to love you. The latter sounds like a much better place to be.
If you would like more help with healing after infidelity, here are some books I recommend:
Healing from Infidelity: The Divorce Busting Guide to Rebuilding Your Marriage After an Affair by Michelle Weiner-Davis (best for those seeking to reconcile with a partner who cheated)
Forgiving What You Can't Forget: Discover How to Move On, Make Peace with Painful Memories, and Create a Life That's Beautiful Again by Lysa Terkeurst (a Christian-based book designed to help you move forward towards peace and forgiveness)
Beyond Boundaries: Learning to Trust Again in Relationships by John Townsend (good for both rebuilding a current relationship after infidelity, or learning to trust again in a new relationship)
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