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Tips for the Aftermath of Cheating

When you start dating your partner, you could see yourself being with them for the rest of your life. You were looking forward to things with them. You might’ve even gotten married. As a faithful person in the relationship, you felt it was important to trust them implicitly. However, cheating can certainly have an impact on the relationship.

Things started to get strange. Your partner became a bit distant, maybe even a bit mean to you. At times, you started to wonder what was going on. Or maybe it wasn’t like a typical cheating episode. Maybe it was a matter of an illusion of a perfect relationship destroyed when you discovered evidence of infidelity

The obvious question is, how are you going to deal with the aftermath of cheating? Is it even salvageable? Let’s look at what we’d suggest for people currently in the middle of a cheating ugly fallout. 

Before You Begin: Should You Salvage This Relationship?

The aftermath of cheating often results in divorce, and statistics back this up. Infidelity is a leading cause of divorce, with the APA citing it to be a major factor in 20 to 40 percent of all divorces. It’s okay to admit that this could be the final straw in a relationship. No one will fault you for it. 

Cheating is often the final straw in a string of major problems in a relationship. This is because most affairs that start tend to result from unmet needs in the relationship or a symptom of worse problems. If any of these are true, it’s best not to try to salvage the relationship:

  • You do not feel safe around your partner. Does your partner physically hurt you, scream at you, or intimidate you? If so, it’s not wise to stay with them. Contact your local domestic violence shelter and start your path to a breakup. Abusers do not love you, so you have to love yourself. 
  • Your partner shows no remorse, blames you or tries to brush it under the rug. If this is the case, your partner has already decided to quit your relationship. It’s not going to get better.
  • This is the second, third, or even fourth time this happened. You shouldn’t have to deal with the aftermath of infidelity more than once in your relationship. If it’s a repeat pattern, your partner doesn’t care to change. 

Other Considerations

  • If you were honest, you feel unhappy in the relationship. Sometimes, infidelity is a golden ticket out of a bad situation. If this is the case, it may be time to take a cue from your relationship’s outcome and leave. This is still true if you feel cowed or cornered into staying.
  • Your partner doesn’t treat you well. Have you repeatedly tried to put the spark back in your relationship, only to have your partner ignore your pleas? Has it been a relationship where you’re doing most of the work without any appreciation from your partner? Life is too short for a bad partnership. If you have felt like it’s been a one-sided relationship, it’s time to call it quits.

A Final Word About Breakups From Infidelity

A breakup or divorce does not necessarily mean that you are a failure as a partner. Quite the opposite. Breaking up with your partner can mean doing the right thing for both yourself and any children in the equation. You can’t set yourself on fire to keep others warm.

Studies show that children tend to mimic what they see at home in their relationships. If your relationship is icy or abusive, that’s what your children will likely seek out in their future marriages—at least on a subconscious level. 

So, don’t worry about your kids suffering from divorce. It might give them a good lesson on what relationships are not supposed to be.

Before The Cheating Fallout Fully Hits: Having “The Talk”

So, there seem to be three different stages of having The Talk about infidelity. We’re going to break it down so that you get the full scoop, step by step:

Part 1: Finding Out What Happened

You can’t get over the aftermath of cheating without knowing what happened and whether you both want to move forward. That’s where The Talk happens. 

This is when the betrayed party asks exactly what happened, with whom, and asks to see the text messages. When you’re finding things out, it’s important to learn trickle truthing and ensure that you’re not being fooled.

PRO TIP: If your partner is unwilling to divulge what happened, your partner is tacitly siding with the affair. This is a sign that they will not stop cheating, so the only real aftermath of infidelity you should concern yourself with is divorce papers. 

Part 2: What Should We Do?

The Talk is mostly considered to reveal all the information, but it shouldn’t just be an information reveal. This means that you need to be able to talk candidly about what you want to do moving forward. What does this mean?

  • Ask if they want to stay with you. If they choose the affair partner, it’s done. You cannot change a person’s mind regarding who they want to be with.
  • Ask how they want to handle telling others. In rare cases, typically among high-profile couples, it may be better to keep an affair under wraps if you want to allow your marriage to survive. In most cases, being open about what happened is a way to show genuine remorse.
  • Tell your partner what you need from them to rebuild trust. Keep the list objective and give them reasons why. This includes asking them to cut contact with the affair partner, deleting dating apps off your phone, allowing you to monitor their electronics, and going to therapy. If they refuse, it’s time to walk away. 
  • Be realistic about the state of your relationship with your partner. If you haven’t been willing to have sex with them for the past four years, it may be realistic to expect them to be stray. However, if you have done what most people expect from a doting partner, you cannot assume this affair was your fault. 

Other Considerations

  • Consider getting a post-nuptial agreement with a cheating clause. Having legal incentives to stay loyal and outlining what would happen in a divorce is a smart move. The relationship could fall apart fairly quickly when things are so fragile.
  • Demand to get a full panel STD test with your partner. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Because HIV can take up to six months to show on a test, you may have to get a test in half a year. 
  • If your partner met their fling at work, it might be time to discuss a career change. This is not always doable. That’s when you have to discuss whether you can pressure the affair partner to leave or have a chat with HR for a transfer.
  • If the affair partner is pregnant or your wandering partner is pregnant, it’s important to discuss what to do. A pregnancy resulting from an affair is an instant relationship killer in many cases. If you choose to move forward, you have to develop a plan. 

Part 3: Re-Establish Boundaries

The health of a relationship is often defined by the boundaries you maintain and keep. This is doubly true when dealing with the effects of cheating on a relationship. When we talk about “boundaries,” we mean that these are the things that absolutely, positively should not happen if you want to continue the relationship. 

This is where you explain what actions will end a relationship. Cheating again is a boundary. It’s also reasonable to expect your partner to cut contact with the affair partner. 

Dealing With The Psychological Effects Of Being Cheated On

While people often discuss how bad being cheated on can be, the truth is that you are going to be hard-pressed to find someone who can fully articulate how devastating cheating can be. It’s a legitimately traumatic experience. 

Many people never fully recover from it, even after the relationship ends. To help you get a handle on things, we will offer the best tips for this.

Don’t Be Afraid To Give Yourself A Makeover

One of the most powerful psychological effects of being cheated on deals with your self-esteem. Most people who are cheated on tend to feel like they’re not enough—or worse, their insecurities get pushed to the forefront. 

Now is a good time to confront those insecurities. This means that you should consider doing something to lower your insecurities and build confidence. If it means losing weight, do it. If you feel like you need to dye your hair, give yourself a haircut, or even get Botox, have at it. 

The key here is to build yourself up, ideally independently of your partner. 

PRO TIP—Many affairs start as a result of personal insecurities. This is a wandering spouse’s way of proving that they “still got it.” If this is the case, they also have to start working on self-improvement. Otherwise, an affair will happen again. 

Understand There Is No Timeline For Healing

Some people can recover from being cheated on within a year. Others may feel resentful and hurt for decades after—even after they have already left their betraying spouse. Every single person is different. 

You cannot rush recovery from trauma, but you can make a conscious effort to move forward. So, don’t be upset with yourself if you feel that you should have already gotten over it. It may just be too early for you. 

PRO TIP—If your partner starts getting irritated over things not returning to normal while you’re still upset, this is not a good sign. It’s a sign that the remorse they showed during the discovery portion of the affair was not legitimate. In other words, if they get annoyed at you struggling with the pain they dealt, it’s time to call it quits. They have no remorse.

Therapy And Support Groups Help

Admittedly, therapy can cost quite a bit of money, but so does divorce. If you want to reignite your relationship, the best thing you can do is find a therapist who understands your needs and is willing to work with you individually and in couples. 

If you cannot afford therapy, don’t lose hope. In most major metropolitan areas (and on certain online forums), you can find support groups geared towards support for betrayed spouses. They generally have in-person meetings, and most are free of charge.

PRO TIP—If you have kids, be open about what happened and get them into therapy. Many kids feel incredibly hurt finding out that a parent stepped out of the relationship. They need to feel secure in your marriage and may need help processing what happened.

Learn To Communicate Better

If both you and your partner are dedicated to improving your relationship, you have to start working towards a better line of communication. Sometimes, this can mean having a mindset of radical acceptance. Other times, it could mean explaining what you need and why. 

Every relationship is different, but the important thing to talk about is how you can better reach out to one another. If there’s something your partner does that makes you shut down, be upfront about it. Otherwise, things are not going to improve. 

Schedule Date Nights Regularly

When you have a wandering spouse or partner, one of the effects of the emotional affair can be an emotional distance growing between the main partnership. In other words, it’s common for spouses to become emotionally distanced from one another due to the affair. 

If you want to keep your marriage intact, you’ll have to get used to mend it. This can only be done by spending quality time together via a date night. Hire a sitter, get romantic, and spend time trying to woo one another. It’s the only way to start rebuilding. 

PRO TIP—Now is a good time to remind each other of why you fell in love with each other in the first place. A good exercise is to explain what you like about your partner, taking turns after each compliment. 

Take Things One Step At A Time

It will be a rollercoaster of emotions when you’re dealing with an affair. Some days, you’ll feel totally fine and even connected to your partner. Other days, you will be repulsed by the sight of them. Even more days, you may feel numb. Or you might feel crazy. 

Trauma does this to people, even when you’re usually a pretty laid-back person. There’s not always a rhyme or reason to how you will feel on a given day. Even a simple photograph or song can send you into tears. This is normal, and it’s something you will experience—at least for a little while.

Every day will be different, and it’s best to take things one day at a time. Some days are naturally going to be rougher than others. 

PRO TIP—Over time, you may notice that certain things trigger feelings of trauma in you. These can include certain foods, a place your partner went with the affair partner, or even a specific outfit. For your mental health’s sake, it’s best to spot these items and learn to avoid them.

How To Handle Social Blowback From An Affair

Affairs do not just harm the people in the relationship or a betrayed partner. They also tend to ruin reputations and also breaking social ties with friends. As a result, it’s important to control the damage if you want to have a relationship to survive an affair.

Should You Tell Your Friends?

If you are in a career that involves being in the public eye, the answer may not be yes. It’s best to talk to your PR agent or publicist about this issue. However, most of us are not in the public eye, and it all boils down to how you, as the betrayed party, feel. 

In most cases, being open about what happened with your friends is a part of the standard consequences of an affair. Your friends also will be your support system here. If the affair partner was a friend, other friends should be aware of why you are unwilling to meet with them. 

It’s important to recognize that some of your friends will try to dissuade you from staying with your partner. However, that’s to be expected. Brace yourself for that experience, but don’t justify why you stay. It’s your decision. 

Yes, Cut Affair Partners Out Of Your Social Activities

The worst affairs often happen when a couple’s friend is the homewrecker. Unfortunately, stepping into a couple’s love life comes with consequences. One such consequence is that you will be cut out of your friendship circle when the affair is discovered. 

Your friend isn’t your friend if they are willing to betray you like that. If they kept the affair a secret, that’s even more proof that you don’t need them in your life. Don’t be afraid to tell others, so that this wouldn’t happen with your other friends, too. 

Avoid Badmouthing Your Partner

Yes, it’s okay to admit that your partner cheated. However, you don’t want to make your partner out to be a complete dumpster fire. This can make it hard for your friends to want to be in their presence and actively sabotage your reconciliation efforts long-term. 

Whether you like it or not, your friends will want to see the best for you. If you make your partner out to be a terrible person with no redeeming qualities, they will start treating him that way. This, in turn, can alienate your partner from your social life. 

Do Not Try To Compete With The Affair Partner

There is a knee-jerk reaction that happens after an affair. The first thing the betrayed spouse wants to do is prove they’re better than the affair partner on all fronts. Truthfully, you don’t have to compete. You proved you’re a better person because you didn’t become a homewrecker. 

PRO TIP—Many cheaters, particularly narcissistic ones, tend to try to pit their spouse against the affair partner. This doesn’t have any real purpose that’s beneficial to anyone. It only serves to feed the ego of someone incapable of being a good relationship partner. 

You will start to see this in partners who “need time to decide” who to be with or with people who compare you to the affair partner. This should be an instant signal to break up.

A Final Word: It Always Takes Two To Tango

That classic phrase should be a major motto when recovering from the aftermath of cheating. The affair partner played a role, but they wouldn’t have been successful if your partner remained faithful to you. So, let’s not blame the affair partner entirely. Your partner also had a role in the betrayal. 

And yet, it’s important to realize that the wandering spouse alone cannot save a relationship that’s been damaged by their philandering. If you want your relationship to thrive and succeed, you have to work with your partner to make it happen. A relationship can never survive with only one person pulling its weight. 

As long as you both work together as a team, there is no reason why you can’t overcome this difficult event. It’s all up to you to make it happen.

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Ossiana Tepfenhart

Ossiana Tepfenhart is a writer with over ten years of experience in the relationship world. She enjoys cooking and hitting up her local nail salon. A graduate of the school of hard knocks, Ossiana's relationship writing has been featured in major publications like YourTango and MetNights magazine. They have appeared on countless podcasts and radio shows thanks to their unique takes on what it means to be in a relationship in difficult times like these.

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