Learning about your significant other’s betrayal can be the single most painful experience in a relationship. Suddenly you can’t help but think about them with the other person, and you’re feeling so stupid!
“How could I have been so blind?” “How didn’t I see the signs?” “Why did I trust him to begin with?”
And yet, you decide to stay and not break up or get a divorce - you want to give it another try. It can be done, that much is sure - with a lot of effort from both sides. But there are certain things you need to be doing (and others you need to stop!) if you want to give your relationship the chance to live.
Stop the Blame Game
Whether it’s you you’re blaming by holding on to those thoughts I mentioned before, him for betraying you and your love, or both - you need to stop. I know it sounds hard and downright unempathetic to say it, but it’s the truth.
Just ask yourself: What do you get by holding on to blame?
You're either torturing yourself and let your mind run wild with all these thoughts that keep you awake at night (Captain Hindsight much?), or you’re attacking your partner (directly or through bitter passive aggressive comments) and making them bitter in return.
“So what? They deserve it for what they’ve done to me!”
That may well be true according to your moral compass, but let me ask you this: If they deserve your torture and you enjoy inflicting this justified pain on them, then why stay in the first place? There is no way you can do both: keep your relationship alive and make it a healthy, trusting, respectful place again, all the while making the other person feel like sh*t.
By now you may be thinking I’m somehow “on their side”, but the truth is - I am on nobody’s side. All I want to do here is help you make the most of the relationship you chose to fight for, and believe me, it does not start with that just anger we all like to hold on to.
The Behavior is Bad, not the Person.
This is perhaps the most important thing to accept after being cheated on. Whether they really liked someone or had too much to drink, the fact is - they did a bad thing. However, that doesn’t make them a completely rotten person, only one that made a huge mistake. And though you may not have cheated on anyone before, you, too, have probably made huge mistakes you tortured yourself over afterwards.
“But this is different. He betrayed me, my trust, our love!”
Indeed he did - and now it’s time to bring that trust back. So how do you do that? By following the next couple of steps.
Step 1: Have an Open Conversation.
I have to warn you - this one will be painful, but it’s crucial if you want to mend your relationship. Start by saying how you feel - hurt, angry, depressed - and make sure to say it’s due to his behavior and his mistake rather than reaching for “You hurt me!”, because that only leads to his defensiveness, your amplified anger and, well - all healing and mending stops there.
Next, ask him to tell you why he did what he did. Ask for the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Once you hear it, it’s important to not fall back into blaming yourself!
“If only I had tried more, looked better, been more present…”
Once again, this leads you nowhere and you don’t deserve to feel guilty over someone else’s mistake. He should have talked to you about anything that was bothering him before making a choice to cheat, and you have nothing to blame yourself for.
Step 2: Be Honest About Your Expectations.
Getting the trust back is going to be difficult, but not impossible. Start by openly saying what you expect of him in the coming period. Whether it’s for him to call every hour if he’s out with the boys or to spend at least 5 nights a week with you - let him know!
I am never one to propose any sort of controlling behavior in a regular relationship, but that’s because trust is usually there already - or at least should be. But right now, he needs to prove to you you can trust him again, and it needs to start slow. After a certain period of time, you should start lowering your demands bit by bit, because if it just keeps on going forever, then you’ll never really trust him again, right? Control is the opposite of trust - if he has no choice but to be faithful, how does that prove anything?
Rules are similar same when it comes to social media. You have the right to ask him to be an open book - phone password and all. You should, however, restrain yourself from looking through his messages as much as you can, but I understand if you feel the need to do it from time to time. The fact is, simply by knowing you can access it at any time, he’ll be sure to play by the rules.
Step 3: Be Honest with Yourself.
“Am I ready to do this?”
This is the most important question you need to ask yourself. It’s okay if you can’t forgive him and if you can’t give up the control and restore the trust. You don’t need to fight for something you’ve lost faith in if you don’t want to - it doesn’t make you a lesser person! You have your own feelings and mental health to tend to, and if you can’t forgive cheating, give up before you end up hurting yourself and him all the more.
But if you’re certain you want to try, then put all your effort into it. Be honest, communicate, let him know every time you’re insecure It will be a rocky few months, that much is true, but if you’re communicating without (passive) aggression, placing the blame, and punishing him - you’ve done your part of the work. The rest is up to him.
If you're struggling to recover from an emotional affair, you can read all about it here. And if you need to talk to someone about the struggles in your relationship, schedule a free first session with me - I'm here to help.