The 6 Huge Mistakes You Can Make After Your Partner Cheats As good as it might feel, don’t try and get even. Whether your partner drunkenly makes out with someone else or has a months-long affair, being cheated on hurts. As difficult as the aftermath may be, however, sometimes staying in the relationship is worth considering. Only you and your partner can decide whether the relationship is worth repairing. Infidelity is painful, but as couples therapist Irina Firstein, LSCW told Cosmopolitan.com, a relationship does usually get better when people are committed and they’re working hard to establish a trust and are truly remorseful.”
In fact, she says that many couples she has worked with have even developed stronger connections post-cheating.
Rebuilding a relationship after a partner cheats, however, is not an easy feat. As you move forward together, some behaviors that might come naturally may be sabotaging your efforts to rebuild. Here are five to avoid.
- Don’t ignore the infidelity.You might be tempted to act as if nothing happened because it feels less painful. If you do, however, any resentment you have will likely fester and you won’t address the underlying problems in the relationship. “The most important thing is to understand the meaning of the infidelity, because many, many times it’s a reflection on the satisfaction says Firstein.
“There are, of course, situations where people are S3@.x:’ually compulsive, but most of the time, [cheating] really happens in a kind of attempt by the cheater]to bring some attention to the problems in the relationship.”
Maybe the infidelity really was a one-time moment of weakness, or maybe it was an attempt by the cheater to find something they felt was missing in the relationship. Either way, figuring it out will bring you closer together and make infidelity less likely to happen again in future.
You should focus not on “making things go back to how they were”—things are already different—but on building a new, stronger, more fulfilling relationship. It is possible.
- Don’t blame yourself.That said, someone cheating on you is not your fault. You’re not responsible for it, you didn’t “deserve” it, and if your partner crossed lines instead of communicating their needs (or breaking off the relationship), that’s on them, not you.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to understand those needs and meet them if you want to salvage the relationship (and of course, they should do the same for you). “It’s kind of empowering to see, This is what happened and this is why it happened and this is my role in it,” Firstein points out—but don’t beat yourself up over someone else’s bad decision.
- Don’t try to get “even.”It might make you feel better momentarily to trash your no-good cheating partner on social media or destroy something of theirs. You might even get a rush from cheating on them, too. But “evening the score” is what opposing teams do, not two people who ostensibly love each other and are both dedicated to recovering from one person’s violation of the other’s trust. Right now, it’s important for you both to do what you can to feel like you’re on the same side again.
- Don’t bring up the infidelity to “win” unrelated arguments.As S3@.x:’ therapist Vanessa Marin haspointed out, “The fact that [your partner] cheated doesn’t give you the right to beat [them] up endlessly or bring [their] infidelity out as your trump card every time you get into another argument… You have to be willing to let it go if you want to move on.”
- Don’t rush the healing process. Your partner’s betrayal could hurt in the same ways for the same reasons for a long time. Be patient with yourself as you process, and let your partner know that they need to be patient with you, too. “It’s very important for the person who had an affair to understand that their partner is devastated and that it’s difficult to put things back together,” Firstein says. “There are going to be a lot of questions asked, and sometimes it’s going to be the same questions over and over again.
- Don’t shy away from professional help. “Very often, [infidelity] is the thing that really brings people to a therapist’s office” when they could have benefited from being there long beforehand, Firstein says. Yes, it can feel scary and messy to analyze your fury/guilty/shame/embarrassment/sadness while sitting next to the person who triggered it. But a therapist can give you both tools for establishing healthier styles of communication. This is your shot at a new relationship with the same person—don’t be afraid to call in a pro. And don’t worry, they have already seen it all.