Shock. Disgust. Heartbreak.
These among a slew of other emotions are the ones that fill your mind, heart and stomach as you learn that your significant other has cheated on you.
Shock because you can’t believe they would do this to you. Disgust because you don’t know how you will ever look at them the same. And heartbreak as you realize that they carelessly played with your heart and gambled with your future–the future that you wanted them to be a part of.
But, can they still be a part of it? Believe it or not, there are couples out there who managed to salvage a relationship after infidelity and went on to live happily ever after.
And no, it wasn’t just one of those exception stories like in He’s Just Not That Into You, where the idyllic story only belongs to a friend of a friend of a friend.
No, these stories are real and the couples who are currently living them probably followed these four tips. So, whether it was you who was unfaithful or your partner, follow these four tips and learn how to fix a relationship after cheating.
Give yourself time to grieve
Finding out your partner cheated can make you feel like the relationship suddenly died. Everything you thought you knew about your partner suddenly goes out the window.
You may lay in bed at night, watching him sleep and thinking, “Who are you?” His face looks different, everything word that comes out of his mouth suddenly feels like a lie.
Because of this, you need to give yourself the time to grieve. Really think about what he did, about whether you could ever trust them again because, let’s be serious, what is a relationship without trust?
And this goes both ways. People who cheated will be filled to the brim with anxious anticipation and fear as they wonder what you’re going to do.
Because, remember: everything is in your court–you call the shots as to whether you can forgive them, which leaves them just waiting there, stuck in the doghouse.
This will cause them to want you to either just forgive them already or just put them out of their misery. Don’t give in. They’re the ones who messed up and filled you with hurt and anguish, so they have no right to rush you to make a decision.
A break may be what you need at this point as it will give you the time and space to figure out exactly what you want and whether or not you can forgive them.
Chances are, you’re going to be feeling really sh*tty after learning that your partner cheated. It will cause you to question things about yourself, things like am I good enough?
Is our sex life boring? Did I drive him to do this? The thoughts will drive you crazy and filled with self-doubt, so to break up the thoughts until they’re fewer and farther in-between, distract yourself.
Your girlfriends will be a great help for this. You need someone to vent to, to be a shoulder to cry on and a hand to hand you over a glass of wine.
Let them be there for you as they take your mind off things. It will also help you regain some of your independence and will make your partner feel more apprehension as they see you out there, living your life. Without them. Making them feel a little bad is not something you strive for, but it doesn’t hurt.
They need to feel as remorseful as possible, to see that if you wanted, you could move on without them. So, take this time to yourself until, eventually, once you’re leaning towards forgiving them, you can distract yourself by hanging out with them.
Doing things you used to do that would make you happy, such as cuddling on the couch or going to see a movie. Eventually, you’ll get used to their company again and can stand looking at them without uttering awful words in your mind.
Figure out what went wrong in the relationship
The men and women who constantly get cheated on are usually the ones who took back their partners right away without first figuring out where the relationship went wrong.
People who are happy in relationships don’t usually cheat for no reason; often times, there’s something there, lingering in the background of the relationship, causing them to feel unfulfilled.
It could be that your sex life has diminished or vanished entirely, or that you had been focusing too much on your work and giving less and less attention to them.
But, don’t just put the blame on yourself because it could also be because of them. Maybe they had cheated in previous relationships, thus making a habit of it, or they had grown up in a household where their mom and dad did things like this on the reg and they subconsciously grew up viewing that behavior as no big deal.
Maybe alcohol is to blame and they never knew they had a problem, or they have an unhealthy sex addiction, one that causes them to stray even when things were good in the relationship.
Whatever it is, you need to work on the problems to ensure that something like this never happens again. This may even include seeking professional help, like from a therapist or a couple’s counselor. Just remember: putting a Band-Aid on the problem may be a quick fix, but it will likely lead to more hurt in the future.
If you decide to move on, actually do that
One of the reasons many couples who were shook from infidelity do not make it long-term, even after deciding to work on things, is because one person just can’t move on.
They may say that they could, but lack of trust is lack of trust, and it will come out in ways that you may not even realize. Like when he or she is going out for drinks and you can’t help but question who they’re going with, how late they’ll be out, and whether they’ll be drinking.
No one likes to live under a microscope and if they were really and truly serious about never making the same mistake twice, they aren’t going to be too happy if they still feel like they’re being punished two years down the road.
Remember Carrie from Sex and the City when she pleaded to Aiden after they got back together after she cheated on him with Big, saying, “You have to forgive me” over and over?
He had to eventually move on from how he was feeling. He couldn’t punish her forever, so if you are the one to make the decision to forgive your partner and actually move on, you actually have to do that.
You will only drive yourself crazy if you’re still feeling paranoid all the time or if you constantly feel the need to worry yourself over who added him on Facebook or, even worse, actually start to check his emails and text messages lately.
If that’s not normal behavior for you, one day you may look at yourself in the mirror and not even recognize who you are. So, as is often the case, you may need to let go and move on completely.
It will hurt, especially if you truly pictured a forever with them, but why waste your life with someone who you can’t rebuild that trust?