Cheating. It’s a vile 8-letter word. It’s a term that changes lives. Being cheated on is the greatest form of betrayal and can leave many invisible scars. After publishing this post about toxic relationships I was surprised to learn many of you have lived through toxic relationships. Later in the year, I published this detailed post about my painful experience with being cheated on. I was in tears reading your messages sharing the gut wrenching affects of infidelity in your lives. Your heartbreak, along with mine, motived me to write up a “how-to” guide on moving on from one of life’s most painful instances. But here’s the thing about cheating: there’s no one-size-fits all remedy. Everyone heals differently, in their own timing. The truth is, I wanted to wait until I was fully healed to publish this post. I wanted to chronicle every step I needed to experience in order to fully move forward and get back to the me I loved so much. Healing takes a lot of time, love and patience. But if I can do it – so can you.
1. Recognize (and believe) it wasn’t your fault
Here’s a statement I wasn’t ready to accept for a while: it’s not your fault. After being cheated on, a million thoughts run through your head. How did this happen? Why did this happen? Why wasn’t I enough? They’re cruel, self deprecating thoughts and they circle in your head like sharks. But here’s the truth: cheating has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the cheater. No matter how much they try to justify it: cheating is a decision. It didn’t “just happen”. It was a choice. And someone who is willing to make that decision does not deserve you. This realization didn’t come easy, either. It took months of wrestling my own thoughts. But ultimately, I realized it wasn’t my fault, I was dating a very broken person. And surprise surprise, his pattern of betrayal has continued.
2. Get the support you need
Your world turns grey after being cheated on. It’s a hard reality to face. The one you trusted with your heart committed the ultimate betrayal. And it will likely take a blow at your self esteem. It can be difficult to go back to your daily routine post trauma. Let’s be clear: being cheated on is a traumatic event. Trauma can stir up a whole world of emotions. This is when friends, family and therapy come in. Let them be your support system. Show them your broken heart and let them help mend it. It’s okay to ask for help. Beyond friends and family, the best thing I did for myself was seek therapy. I had so many questions and I wanted non-biased answers. I’ve been lucky enough to have a therapist for the majority of my adult life, and it was a crucial factor in my healing. Once you understand why it happened, it will be easier to heal. It’s refreshing to be in a confidential, judgement free zone. Let it all out. It helps.
3. Practice self love
Your ego has most likely been severely bruised. I get it. Healing takes time. Now is the perfect time to treat yourself. What makes you happy? A vacation to a beach town? A weekend at the spa with the girls? It’s time to treat yourself with experiences and people who feed your soul. It can be easy to go down the path of self destruction. Alcohol, drugs, ruthless sex – these are all temporary fixes and won’t help your healing in the long run. Be good to your mind and body. And if you find yourself going off track, talk to a close friend or family member. No one is perfect. Let them help.
3. Forgive yourself
Why did I date this idiot in the first place? I should have seen the signs! Girl, stop beating yourself up. Stop it right now! It’s time to forgive yourself. Forgive yourself for the red flags you chose to ignore. Forgive yourself for justifying his actions. Forgive yourself for staying when everyone told you to run. Forgive yourself. Show yourself grace. Use this as a learning curve. Make a promise to yourself you’ll never let anyone treat you this way again.
4. Forgive the cheater
Eye roll central. You want me to forgive that idiot that crushed your heart? Actually, yes I do. Here’s the thing about forgiveness: forgiving someone doesn’t mean you condone their actions. It means you love yourself enough to let go of the anger, the hurt, the pain. How exactly do you forgive a cheater? Do you have to send them a text saying “I forgive you”? To each their own. It may sound cheesy, but a physical act helps to solidify this monumental step. Write them a letter and burn it. Send them an email. Throw a rock in a river. Send off a lantern into the sky Frozen style. It doesn’t matter what it is. But the physical act of releasing your feelings and forgiving someone is straight up powerful.
5. Trust yourself again
What I failed to realize before being cheated on is it not only crushes the trust you have in men (or women), it also crushes the trust you have in yourself. For me, this was the most difficult consequence of cheating. Up until that moment, I was confident in making decisions based on that feeling in my gut. My female intuition. It had never failed me before. But love can silence those God given attributes. It can make you say yes when your gut is saying no. Looking back, if I would have listened to my gut…I would have left a long time ago. But love, oh love. Here’s the reminder you may need: always listen to your gut. Always.
6. Learn to trust men/women again
I’m going to be honest and say I’m still working on this one. Ladies, this one takes time. You’re not alone if you’re struggling to trust men (or women) again. Past experiences of infidelity can generate an enormous amount of anxiety. Going on dates may not be as much fun anymore. It’s normal. Actually, it’s to be expected. You need to guard your heart. Find someone who can be patient with you. Find someone willing to communicate with you. Find someone who is willing to prove their loyalty, no matter how long it takes.