Anyone who has ever been cheated on knows the gut-wrenching feelings that come with finding out about it. In my Love Essentially column, just published in Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press, I give 9 pieces of advice for the cheatee.
What to Do After The Cheating by Jackie Pilossoph
Though it was 27 years ago, I still vividly remember when my boyfriend of two years told me he had cheated on me.
I was sitting on my bed, utterly shocked. You know the feeling, the one where your jaw is on the ground and your body feels frozen while your brain tries to process what you just heard. Finding out someone cheated on you is like getting punched in the stomach. Hard. It’s a devastating experience I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
The relationship you thought you had is gone, instantly replaced with something that feels ruined, stained and, honestly, kind of gross.
The emotions of finding out your spouse or partner cheated on you range from sorrow to confusion. You find yourself feeling naive, and, most unproductively, bad about yourself.
With that in mind, here’s a bit of advice from someone who got cheated on to others who find themselves in that unenviable position:
Assess the cheater’s response in deciding how to move forward. This is big. Let’s say the cheater is extremely remorseful and begs for forgiveness. That’s hopeful, right? I think a lot of couples can get past cheating when there is regret (as long as it’s for the right reasons and not because the cheater got caught) and a desire to work things out. Some cheaters who get caught have an initial reaction of anger toward the other partner. They blame their significant other for their cheating and say spiteful things. They express built-up resentment to their partner, when they should have had that conversation INSTEAD of cheating. Big difference in the two reactions from the cheater. One reaction offers a chance to work things out. The other: forget it.
Honesty can be brutal, but aren’t you glad you know? You’re not living a lie anymore. It’s liberating. You feel like you just woke up from a coma. As bad as you feel, at least you know things can’t get worse. Probably.
Remember, it’s not you. I’m not saying that the person who was cheated on is perfect, but the fact remains: At least they didn’t cheat. The cheater has to live the rest of his or her life dealing with their wrong action. Deep down, he or she will always carry it with them. Try living with that. Guess what? You don’t have to. The cheater does, though.
Don’t feel ashamed. Let’s say other people in your community know that your partner cheated. Two words: Who cares? Your partner, not you, should be embarrassed.
Don’t feel stupid. People who get cheated on often feel like they should have picked up on it, like they were naive or living in a bubble. Not the case. Most people don’t want to believe that the man or woman they love would lie to them and betray them, so it’s often hard to see it. There’s nothing stupid about that.
Don’t go off the deep end. When I found out about my cheater, I went a little crazy, calling people and airing my dirty laundry. Trust me, don’t do that, because people remember how the person who was cheated on reacted. Think classy and carry yourself with grace. You’ll thank me down the road.
Feel happy for yourself and sorry for your ex’s future partner. If he or she cheated, there is an 86 percent chance it will happen again in his or her next relationship.