I’ve been cheated on - what now?
You’ve suspected for a while but now you have the evidence and your partner may even have confessed. Either way the physical and emotional blow is hard and intense. You feel incredibly alone and can’t believe it’s really happening.
But you’re not on your own. Over half the population will be cheated on at some point in their lives. Whilst cheating is sadly all too common, our own circumstances and the way we deal with it is a very individual story.
Here we look at life from that very first moment. 5 of the most common feelings, 5 things you probably want to do and shouldn’t and 5 things that you probably should.
Off balance - Your have plans and expectations for this partnership and the reality doesn’t match. You’re feeling totally thrown sideways, confused and off balance. Did I ever really know this person?
Anger - You can almost feel hysterical about the betrayal. It’s hard but it’s normal.
Grief - The pain is as intense as bereavement, sometimes harder, as this loss doesn’t have explanations. There isn’t a certificate for why this happened.
Physical pain - Such is the intensity of emotion, you often feel physical symptoms too. Headaches, sickness, loss of appetite, comfort eating and exhaustion are all very common.
Blame - You want to blame someone or something to make some sort of sense of it. Usually, but unhelpfully, we blame ourselves.
What you want to do but shouldn’t
Details - It is totally understandable and very normal to want to know all the details. You think it will help make sense of what happened. It rarely does. There are things you want to hear, reassurances that could make the pain a little easier to bear, but you hear things you weren’t expecting, things that makes things worse, answers that hurt even more. Getting the facts in order to make rational decisions about the future is essential, getting every last detail makes the wound cut far deeper.
Revenge - Born from the anger they are feeling, my clients have slept with ex’s, sent intimate texts to old school flames and signed up to multiple online dating sites. You want to regain some power and get back some self worth. But they all tell me later they wish they hadn’t, that these things made them value themselves even less. Stay true to who you are.
Tell family and friends - This can sometimes be a form of revenge. My clients have told their partners’ family before they do, named and shamed them on social media and made sure all their friends know just how much hurt they’ve caused. But it always come back to haunt them. At this stage nobody knows what the future holds and hearing how nobody really liked your partner anyway and lots of conflicting advice isn’t helpful. They are not you and will never have to walk in your shoes so you need to make your own rational decisions. We’re not saying shutdown your support network, just be careful how many people you speak to, who they are and how much you tell them.
Tell the kids - Again, some see this as a way to throw some hurt in the opposite direction, to make the other feel the same pain. Rationally however we all know that the only person we’re really throwing the pain at is the children. Yes, they’ll know something is not quite right but they don’t need to know the exact details of what mum or dad has done.
Panic - You’ll do anything to stop the pain and may consider any options that can make this happen. I’ve seen clients in the first stages of raw pain file for divorce, throw their partner out and jump on a plane to start a new life elsewhere, all actions they lived to regret. You think you should be doing something but such big decisions are not advisable at this early stage.
What you SHOULD do
Give it time - A cliche but true. Every day that passes, things will begin to feel that little bit clearer. Possibly the most common reflection from all of my clients is that they wished they’d left major decisions a bit longer. You don’t want to regret them.
Talk to someone - But not all your family and friends. There is a lot of help out there. The Affair Clinic offers specialised help to those who suspect and discover affairs but most relationship counsellors will also be able to help.
Talk to your partner - It might be the last thing you want to do but you need to know the basic facts in order to make decisions about your future. Affairs come in all shapes and sizes and you need to know what has happened, what their intentions are and where that leaves you. A word of caution. They are no longer a stranger to a lie and everything might not emerge straight away. They might excuse this by “not wanting to hurt you” but a gentle reminder that the hurt is already very real might be appropriate.
Be kind to yourself - TV and films would suggest that at this stage we should be diving head first into a bottle of wine, taking up smoking or sitting in a dark room and eating nothing but chocolate. You might well feel like doing all of those things and yes, it will numb the pain for a bit and avoid facing the world, but in reality you’re actually sitting in the pain rather than moving away from it. Try and give yourself every chance of having a clear head, to be able to talk rationally and feel physically well. You’ll feel so much more empowered.
Try not to obsess - So easy to say but very difficult to achieve. Just like any highly stressful situation it is very present when you open your eyes in the morning and when you close them at night. Whilst it’s helpful to talk to your partner or counsellor and think things through it isn’t useful to ruminate about all the things that may or may not have happened. If you can, box up the time you allow yourself to think about it and then focus on children, a job or anything else that can distract you.
It is worth repeating that every situation is different and the complexities are as individual as a fingerprint. Talking to someone can really help you work through your specific story and towards your personal happy ever after.
The Affair Clinic provides a specialised counselling service to individuals and couples where an affair, or the suspicion of an affair, is affecting their lives or relationship. Clients seek to obtain some clarity amongst the confusion in a secure and confidential environment by talking to an experienced, uninvolved and neutral third party.
Facebook: The Affair Clinic