Getting cheated on is one of the worst kinds of heartbreak. Not only do you have to deal with the immense betrayal that comes with someone doing something like that to you, you also have to contend with the aftermath. A person doesn’t just cheat and nothing happens. When someone cheats, regardless of what happens next, the relationship is totally different and changed, no matter how happy you two were previously. This means that when you find out he cheated, you need to think of another question right away: what happens next?
When you find out he cheated, you have a decision to make. What do you plan on doing with your newly broken relationship? Do you try to fix it or do you walk away? That decision might seem like a really daunting and scary one right now, so we decided to try and break down that major question as best as we can so you know exactly what you’re going to be getting into no matter what decision you make. One option is much simpler than the other, but whatever decision you make is a valid one, as long as you do it in a way that is healthy. Here are fifteen things you absolutely need to do once you find out he cheated on you.
Let me say this as clearly as I can: none of this is your fault. I don’t care how badly the relationship was going or how checked out you were, there is no reason for anyone to cheat on you. You can even cheat in open relationships: the arrangement requires lots of communication and a breach of trust can be as catastrophic for them as it would be for a monogamous relationship. Nobody made him go out and cheat on you. The only reason why it wouldn’t be the fault of the person who cheated is if the guy was coerced into it in some way, which can and does happen and it wouldn’t be his fault if that happened. Outside of that, though, cheating is 100% the fault of the cheater. Before you do anything, take a deep breath and try to remember this.
Before you do anything at all, you need to make sure you have the facts straight. The last thing you want to do is charge right into a situation with him where you’re absolutely sure he cheated, only to find out that not only did he not cheat, there was a logical explanation for his shadfy behavior and now you look like the crazy one. Too many women have charged into a “you cheated, I’m leaving” conversation only to find out that the guy was being so shifty because he was secretly shopping for an engagement ring. Don’t be that girl. Make sure you know for sure what’s going on before you attempt any sort of confrontation. We all know what happens when we assume.
Before you go and do anything rash, you need to do something for yourself. No, that something for yourself cannot be anything destructive, and you certainly can’t cheat on him as revenge. Call up a friend and go to lunch with her, or take a couple of hours at your local spa. Do something that’s going to get you into a better headspace so you can figure out what is you need to do next. When you go out and do this though, I’d refrain from making any huge decisions. Now would not be the time to drastically change your haircut or max out your credit cards on fine leather goods and the iPhone X. Those decisions can have negative repercussions down the road, especially on that last one considering how easily they seem to shatter. Keep it positive, but also keep it frugal.
This conversation will be a really difficult one, guys. It’ll be a hard one for him, too. It’s really hard to come face to face with the person you hurt and have to face consequences for how you betrayed them. This is when the guy will say his piece about how he’ll never do it again and you’re the only woman for him. He might even promise big things like going to counseling, big vacations or a timetable for marriage. It might be really hard, but unless there’s explicitly any deal-breaking behavior going on with him, try and listen to what he has to say, especially if you’re trying to save the relationship. This is also where you’re going to lay out what he needs to do in order to get your trust back, and this is something you’re going to have to explicitly lay out for him.
I’ve gotten into debates on this one, but I don’t think that all cheating is equal. There is a huge difference between the guy who gets drunk at a party and makes out with a girl because she comes onto him and he’s just not present in his mind and body and the guy who makes a habit of cheating and has a secret girlfriend and a secret life. Both of those guys are different from the serial cheater who’s basically living the single life with you at home holding down the fort. When you talk to your guy, make sure that you get the whole truth. Only then can you make a decision that you won’t totally hate. You won’t be entirely happy with either option in front of you, so you need to be totally informed.
Now, there’s something you’re going to need to know here. You will not be happy with literally any decision you make right now because both options are a different sort of terrible. The first option involves leaving him, which comes with all of the trappings of breakups and trying to navigate single life after a while of being out of the game and your brand new baggage thanks to getting cheated on. The other option means that you stick with him, which means that while you still have your relationship, you’re with someone who’s violated your trust in a huge way and the two of you are going to have to work twice as hard to make anything work. Both options aren’t great, but depending on the kind of person you are, one of them will stick out as the right decision.
Now that you’ve made your decision as to what you plan to do about the relationship, you need to do something even harder: stick to your guns. Many women who make a decision about a cheater end up waffling about it and causing lots of confusion for themselves and everyone else. For example, if you’re going to stay with him, don’t undermine your decision by going public with what’s going on in your relationship and demonizing him to your people, who are still going to have to make nice with him now that you’re staying. That will make things really awkward and a lot harder to work out. On the other hand, if you’re leaving him, break up and go ghost. No trying to stay friends and certainly no hanky-panky. Pick a route and stick to it.
No matter what you do, you need to take some distance from him. If you’re breaking up with him, you absolutely need to have him disappear from your life. Keeping him around will just be emotionally confusing for you and make it that much harder to get over him, and it’ll also be easier to fall into the dreaded relationship backslide. If you’re staying with him, you guys can’t be on top of each other for awhile. The two of you need to take a step back from each other, at least physically. The last thing you need is to feel like all he has to do is kiss you and the betrayal just goes away because life doesn’t work like that. That was why the whole Ross/Rachel cheating storyline was so sad! Regardless, take this time to work on yourself.
Okay, this might be my petty side talking, but it is my opinion that if someone cheats and the couple lives together, the cheater has to leave and find a new place to live as soon as they can. After all, the person who did the cheating is the one who broke the relationship and the other person’s trust. Now that it comes to breaking up, the person who got cheated on really shouldn’t have to be inconvenienced by another person’s dumb decision. Look up housing laws where you are because it’s definitely illegal to kick someone out without warning, but if both of your names are on the documents attached to that place of residence, the person who got cheated on should get to keep it. Your mileage may vary on this one depending on your situation, though.
If you’re planning on staying, you need to go to some form of couples counseling. This is a must. Cheating is often the result of something deeper being wrong with the relationship, so if you’re going to get to the root of the problem and move on from it, you’re going to need to do some soul-searching to figure out what’s going on. I know a lot of people are weird about going to therapy for whatever reason, but I can promise you that when you find the person who’s right for you, you’re going to know it, and that counselor is going to do wonders, not just for your relationship, but for the two of you as individuals. If you can’t afford couples counseling or just don’t have anything like this, it would be helpful to get yourself into some kind of free or online support group for people trying to stay together after cheating.
If I could take any kind of advice and stamp it to the forehead of someone going through this situation and deciding to stay, it would be this. If you’re going to stay with your cheater, you need to own that decision and you can’t use it to continue to punish him. Sure, he cheated, but if you’re staying, you’re saying that you’re going to make the effort to forgive him. I know that’s really hard, but it’s also really important that you know what staying really means. It means that you want to stay with him and deal with the consequences of his cheating, and doing that means not holding it over his head in an attempt at manipulation. That would actually give him grounds to leave you. If you’re going to stay and forgive him, you have to mean it.
I know that for a lot of women, the desire to go through your guy’s phone can be a big one. Personally, I don’t really get it, but I don’t have to get it in order to empathize. This desire would grow twice as big for those women who have been cheated on. Many women find themselves discovering evidence of cheating thanks to snooping through a guy’s devices without him knowing. Resist the urge to do this. As much as you want to quiet your own paranoia and know for sure what your guy is doing and saying on social media and in his texts, you don’t have the right to essentially be Big Brother. He might be a cheater, but he’s still a person. This goes back to the whole “if you’re going to forgive him, you have to mean it” thing.
Many women go into a situation like this absolutely sure that they want to take him back. Then they actually go through the process of trying to work through something like this and find that they really can’t get past it and they end up breaking up anyway. Then they end up feeling absolutely awful because they let the relationship die and they couldn’t be the bigger person. If you’re feeling like that right now, let me tell you that what you’re feeling is totally natural and there’s nothing wrong with you because you have this dealbreaker. Again, it’s not your fault that he cheated, and if he makes you feel that way, then he wasn’t worth it, to begin with. The best thing you can do for yourself is to focus on yourself and leave behind the people who you can’t deal with anymore.
Let me be really clear with you: your emotions are going to be all over the place for awhile. Expect that overly affectionate couple you see all the time to annoy you in a visceral, “I want to fight them” kind of way. You might find yourself crying at romantic comedies or skipping love songs you used to love, or literally anything in between. You’ve just been really hurt and you’re going to be sensitive for a while. Think of it like a serious injury, like getting stabbed. Sure, you can get the knife out and stitch up the wound and let it heal, but it’s going to take time for that healing to happen. The skin around that wound is still going to be raw and delicate, and you’re going to have to work around it to get back to 100%. Emotional pain is kind of the same way, and if we thought of it that way we’d probably be a lot more psychologically healthy.
If you’re leaving him, you don’t really need to do any work in the relationship because there won’t be any relationship to work on. However, that doesn’t mean getting over things is going to be a walk in the park for you. You’re still going to be emotionally sensitive from all of this, so it’s my suggestion that you don’t try and get yourself a rebound. You might find it a little easier to get over your cheater by getting under someone else, but it’s not necessarily the healthiest way to go about things. Instead, you should take this time to avoid dating at all and spend time with the other people in your life. Remind yourself that you haven’t lost everything just because one jerk cheated. That way, when you meet a guy who’s worthy of you and you feel like you can trust, you’re not going to be paranoid that he’s going to be the last cheater.