Life After Infidelity: What Happens Next
You've Discovered Infidelity or Cheating in Your Relationship: Now What?
I can honestly say that your first step is going to be to remember to breathe. For some, learning about infidelity can be as shocking, disturbing, and heart wrenching as losing a loved one quite suddenly. In essence, a betrayed partner has lost someone they had grown to love. As human beings, we often times believe that those we love most will love us back equally and loyally. Finding out otherwise can be devastating, leaving one to feel as though the person they loved and trust most... has died.
I'm really not into, or even respectable of websites that tell you to "give it time" and that all things will work out for the best. I can tell you with a strong hand of experience, that philosophy often times does not work and other times is pushed to the way side with logical heart strung questions. I can also tell you that the question most often asked when infidelity rears it's ugly head and, is "why".
What type of a relationship is this to begin with?
Before you decide to stay or go, I must ask you to stop and think. What type of relationship are you in? How long have you been with your partner? What else is going on in your relationship. To be even more blunt with you; more times than enough, I have seen abused men and women alike pushing aside the fact that they are abused, and wanting to work on the infidelity in the relationship. Don't go there. If you are being abused, infidelity is not the problem in your relationship- abuse is. Get out now.
Having said that, you really need to examine your entire relationship.
- Have they always cheated or is this a first time?
- Have you two never got along in the first place?
- Were there a host of other issues going on, that never seemed to work out no matter what?
Basically, what I am asking is that you evaluate your relationship. Infidelity takes a lot of time to get "over"; oftentimes in the upwards of years. If this is a relationship not worth working out in the first place, then infidelity should be looked upon as the straw that broke the camel's back and nothing more.
A Cookie is a Cookie
One of the first arguments you may get from your cheating partner is that they actually didn't cheat. Some excuses you may hear are:
- Well, she chased "me", therefore it was not cheating
- I didn't sleep with her, therefore I didn't cheat
- I felt pressured to sleep with him/her just to get them to leave me alone
- I did it for us.
- We never really talked about that, so I didn't think it would be cheating.
The list truly goes on, but the bottom line is that cheating is cheating; whether emotional or physical. You don't have to sleep with someone to have an affair, but cheaters can tend to tell us otherwise.
Anything you wouldn't do in front of your partner with them there regarding the opposite sex... is cheating. Your own definition applies as well.
Because they wanted to, that is why
In order for one to even begin to get past infidelity in their relationship, they must understand the dynamics and what happened. There are generally quite a few individuals who will blame themselves, or rather who are being blamed for their partner's betrayal. Having had infidelity occur in my time, and having scanned over a bazillion forums looking for anything to ease my wandering mind and aching heart; I can tell you with all due honesty that I heard a plethora of "excuses" for why cheating occurred. To make matters worse, I can describe things I have heard from both sides of the coin: the cheater, and the betrayed. Without going into too much detail, the plain, cold and hard truth about why infidelity occurred in your relationship is because your cheating partner allowed it and didn't reject it.
Imagine yourself at a dinner party and being offered dessert when you are clearly stuffed full. Sure, that extra chocolate piece of cake looks inviting, but the the truth is- you couldn't eat another bite unless forced. What do you do? You reject the dessert with a simple "no thanks". Unless you are held down and forced, you won't be having dessert tonight; and to deny such is your right.
The same holds true with infidelity and cheating: unless held down and forced, any act of betrayal happened because your partner allowed it; hence wanted it to happen. I really wish there was an answer as to "why" cheating may have happened in your relationship, but the truth is, cheaters cheat because they can.
First Step First: Get all the Information you need
Cheating takes a whole lot of lying in order to accomplish, ie... "no, honey, I wasn't with someone tonight- the car tire went flat and I had to change it on the side of the road for two hours".
If you are not satisfied with what your partner is telling you regarding the indiscretion, you have the right to walk away. Yes, that is correct- you have the right to walk away and forget the rest of the steps. In fact, you have the right to walk away anytime you want to. Finding out you have been betrayed is probably one of the most heart crushing times in your life; the last thing you want to do is jigsaw the puzzle piece together for your cheating partner. If you cannot believe what your cheating partner is telling you ( you may not accept it), and if the pieces don't fit together so well, believe me- they will come back to haunt you.
Your cheating partner, if they wish this relationship to work MUST give you full disclosure regarding his or her affair. To do any less would be to add insult to an injury you may or may not recover from as an individual, let alone a couple. If your cheating partner does not understand this, and wants to stay hush on the details when you require them, again, it may be time to move forward. I am not an advocate of cheating, and I can also tell you I am not an advocate of staying. However, I've been there and I tried to stay. My partner though it was "funny" to tease me with details. I don't believe there is a soul out there that will be tickled by the trickle truth effect.
Whether you stay in your relationship or not, one thing is certain: you are not going to feel a sense of closure until you get a full disclosure on what happened behind your back, and on your time. I would explain to your partner that if any new details creep up a year, or even two down the line, it could very well be the end of your union. Believe me when I tell you that many relationships have ended not so much as by the hand of infidelity, as it was the lies that were spewed afterward.
The No Contact Rule and Repercussions for Same
You must instill a no contact rule with your partner. Only you have the pertinent information regarding your partner's affair, so your scenario may vary. However, as a rule- your partner should have no contact whatsoever with the person they cheated on you with. Accordingly, there must also be repurcussions as to what will happen if contact does happen ( from your partner to the other man or woman). Don't make blind threats, ie.... "If you contact her again, I will leave." Make rational threats instead: "If you contact her again, I will leave."
Why are those two sentences the same? Because that should be what happens if your cheating partner contacts their lover again. If, someone who has professed to love you beyond belief and has stood up for you and with you for however long, takes it upon him or herself to betray you- the last thing you need is to be not taken seriously. Isn't that what already happened? Was you as a person not secretly scoffed at and ridiculed? Did the cheating actions of your partner not show you they do not respect nor care for you to the same level you do them?
Your cheater is now in the fog: they may have fallen in love with their lover or think that they are. It may take time for your cheater to come out of their endorphin driven fantasy and step back into reality as we know it. The truth however is that this is also your reality, and it is quite painful.
If they are babbling and crying on their knees how much they love you and how much they want this to work out, a no contact rule goes in place and all contact with their lover ends. It should also be against the rules for their lover to contact them and they not tell you of this. Again, cheaters lie. It goes without saying then that some cheaters will partially follow the no contact rule and try to play it off as though their lover contacted them, so they felt compelled to talk to them.
Hand it over
This is such an easy step, it should have almost been in place from the start. I say that with sarcasm for one sole reason: I don't believe couples in relationships have the right to hide cell phones, email accounts or the like from each other. Some tend to view having your partner's email password as an invasion of privacy. Consider me old fashioned, but:
If you share a bed, if you share the bills, if you share your time, if you share your heart, if you share your life, if you share your promises- I highly doubt that "sharing" your email passwords is an invasion of privacy.
Whatever they had that was hidden, should now become open to inspection. In fact, now is the perfect time to install keyloggers and other snooping devices to make sure you the cheating partner that wants to stay with you is playing fair. How long you decide to snoop is completely up to you. But as far as them having anything that could allow them to contact their lover be off limits to you is a no no.
Sign up for Counseling
I feel obligated to say that I sort of detest the whole idea of counseling for cheating. Why? Because cheaters cheat because they want to. Having said that, if someone does something they want to and then get caught- talking to them about it normally doesn't help as they have already done what they wanted. However, there are a few remorseful cheaters out there that truly know they crossed a line and never wish to go there again. In that scenario, counseling could be of great benefit. If you have a cheater on your hands that you are dragging into counseling kicking and screaming, or they use the entire session to point out how they wouldn't have cheated if only you would have done x,y and z better, or they won't attend at all- I'd consider ending the relationship.
If they had time to cheat and truly want to make things work; then they can find time to go to counseling.
Change Yourself for Yourself
Do not, and I repeat *do not* change yourself for your partner. Please don't get trapped thinking:
- Well if I cooked more...
- If I spent more time in the bedroom
- If I looked better
- If I listened more
- If I wouldn't have went on that one week vacation...
Stop! Your partner cheated on you because they were a selfish, weak individual who held you at the lowest possible respect he or she could. They pretty much deemed your union as something erroneous and replaceable.
It is quite common after being cheated on to want to make oneself look better. Great! Do it, but do it for you. After I was cheated on, I hit the gym, cut my hair and colored it, got a new wardrobe and also a tattoo. (The tattoo says the word respect across my lower back, by the way). But do you want the real truth on why you should change for yourself? Good, because I am going to give it to you.
The hard, cold, devastating, and insane as it may sound truth is that you are not immune to your partner cheating again. You would think after the crying, the counseling, the destruction, loss of weight and sleepless nights that your partner would never think of cheating on you again. Wrong. They just might.
Change yourself by changing your thinking to: The reality of the situation is that he or she could cheat on me again. If they do, I will be ready to leave because:_____________
Now fill in that blank. What is going to change in you to allow you to get up and leave that day if your partner cheats on you again?
- Do you not have a job? Now is a great time to get one
- Have you never gone to college? Go
- Are you dependent on your partner financially? Doing the first two can change that
- Are you codependent? This is a real kicker here, but worth looking into
- Are there custody issues? Legal issues? Find out now what the laws in your state are; as you may have been very mislead regarding them
Most importantly, come back into yourself as a person that was put on this earth for your own purposes. You might be a wife, husband, father, mother, sister and brother, but often times we forget we are "us". Find yourself again and hang onto that person. If you haven't done a hobby in years, start doing it. If you find yourself waiting on your partner's every whim, stop. Wait on yourself instead.
Am I saying to be selfish? No. Selfishness is what started this mess in the first place. However, I am saying to love yourself, never turn a blind eye again, and try to be as prepared as you can for what life may throw at you.
There are, or should be, absolutely no second chances when it comes to infidelity and cheating. If it happens again- take it from me: Your partner REALLY believes you are a joke, and in fact probably does not love you. It would then be time to move on.
You only have one life to live. Do you really want to live your life for someone else, investing everything you have into someone other than yourself? I didn't think so.
While it may be true that a couple can move on from infidelity and that trust can be earned again, it is also logic then that sometimes no lesson in life has been learned. Take this opportunity to learn as much as you can about yourself and life. Sit down, relax, breathe and inhale. You are so much more than his or her partner.
You... are you... remember him or her?