So You Found Out Your Partner Cheated on You. Now What?

Couple sitting on opposite sides of a wall“You cheated, you lied, you said that you love me,” the song goes, and a lot of people are saying it, too.

So you found out your love is untrue. Now what? Maybe you suspected it all along, or for quite some time, or you had no idea whatsoever—but it’s here now. And it stinks.

Can you ever trust again?

Can you ever stop being so angry?

Can you ever get over it and move on?

The soul-crushing effects of infidelity are hard to live with, much less live through and leave behind. Who has the power to do that?

When someone you trust tramples you emotionally, with or without warning, it may not feel like there’s much left after that. But you still need to go on living—for yourself, for your kids (if you have any), for your family, for your future.

What can you do? What should you do?

You can break up. For many couples, that seems like the simplest and most logical outcome. You can stay together but live as though you’re not. You can try to repair and reawaken your relationship.

I don’t think any of these options is easier than any other. They are all hard.

If you don’t have kids and don’t have to see each other and plan and work together, going your separate ways might feel like the best, cleanest option.

If you stay together but live as though you’re apart, perhaps for the sake of children, life can get increasingly complicated. It is an option, though.

If you stay together and try to reawaken your relationship, you have to work hard—both of you—every day to find yourselves together, to regain your footing, to make new psychic space for yourself and for each other. You need to address what happened in a constructive way that simultaneously (1) acknowledges the hurt inflicted and (2) explores the cracks in the foundation that ultimately led to the infidelity. This is most effectively done with the support of a trained couples therapist.

When you finally release the rage, you may be in a more creative and peaceful place where you can nurture yourself. And that’s just what you need—to be nurtured, to find nurturing people to help you, and to take care of yourself.

Deciding what to do is the trick, and of course there are other options. You would be smart to consult with good friends and wise and compassionate others. You could join a support group or work one-on-one with a therapist or religious leader who will help you sort out your options and figure out what you want to do next.

It’s easy to blow your top, boot your partner, or get out yourself. Angry feelings give you force and also protect you against feeling the more vulnerable and tender feelings you have. Those feelings hurt. Perhaps feeling vulnerable makes you feel weak, whereas anger makes you feel strong, at least for a time. It’s an illusion, though; anger isn’t strength at all.

No matter what you do in the aftermath of infidelity, it’s important (and also exceedingly difficult, especially at first) to gradually let go of the rage and feel ALL of your feelings. After all, there was a time when you cared deeply for this person and thought about a future together. The future you once imagined no longer exists. It died with the infidelity, but if you both commit to doing the work it takes to rebuild, a new future can be born.

When you finally release the rage, you may be in a more creative and peaceful place where you can nurture yourself. And that’s just what you need—to be nurtured, to find nurturing people to help you, and to take care of yourself.

You may need the strength of a lion in the beginning, but then you’ll need to be gentle with yourself. I think that’s part of what it means to grow up: to be strong and loving, compassionate, wholly real, and wholly your loving, responsible self.

© Copyright 2015 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Lynn Somerstein, PhD, NCPsyA, C-IAYT, therapist in New York City, New York

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Murray

    Murray

    December 28th, 2015 at 10:20 AM

    i am one of those people who would have to know all of the gory details- who it was with, what happened, how many times. You know all that stuff that makes you feel even worse? Well that is everything that I would have to know before I could even begin to think about working on things and getting through it as a couple. If I even decided to do that at all.

  • Tristan

    Tristan

    December 28th, 2015 at 3:11 PM

    When I found out that my husband had cheated on me with a woman from a long time ago in his life I was devastated. We have children so it did not at that time seem like an option for us to get a divorce, it felt like we both wanted to work on our problems. I had the hardest time admitting that while I was not to blame for his actions, I was responsible in some ways because I had just as many faults in the marriage as he did. We still go to counseling, and I will never say that it was easy but I will say that we are probably stronger today as a result.

  • hal

    hal

    December 28th, 2015 at 5:23 PM

    so hard on the male ego that’s for sure

  • Marissa

    Marissa

    December 29th, 2015 at 7:41 AM

    The easier thing to do when there are no children involved is to let the relationship go. But when you have children there are times when you will feel that you owe it to them to at least give it a chance. This is probably going to mean that you need to work with a marriage counselor because most couples can’t do it on their own. It is at least worth trying when their are children, because we would all do well to have more homes remain intact but only if it can be done in a loving way.

  • Cade

    Cade

    December 29th, 2015 at 11:30 AM

    Is it too simplistic to say that there are times when I would just rather not know, bury my head in the sand and pretend that it didn’t happen?

  • kimberly

    kimberly

    December 29th, 2015 at 4:07 PM

    Cade- while I understand the desire to bury your head and forget about it, you also have to think about the damage that this is doing to you and your relationship.

    I don’t think that there has ever been a problem that has been solved fully by trying to forget about it. That might make it go away fro a little while but eventually it will rear its ugly head at some point all over again.

    I say that even though it can hurt like H*** it is better to deal with it now and let the chips fall where they may.

  • Gil

    Gil

    December 30th, 2015 at 10:28 AM

    I have had a couple of girls cheat on me and while I know that it isn’t my fault, they are the ones who made the choice to do this, there is still this part of me that wonders why it keeps happening, what I might be doing to contribute to this.
    I ask and they never have a good answer so maybe it’s just that I am hooking up with the wrong kind of women?

  • patton

    patton

    December 30th, 2015 at 4:09 PM

    When I found out the last thing that I wanted to do was tell anyone. It embarrassed me that I could have been so stupid.

  • Stella

    Stella

    December 30th, 2015 at 5:15 PM

    Shoot, if that happened to me, that guy would be packing up and heading out the door.
    there are too many GOOD fish in the sea to have to put up with that kind of nonsense!

  • Pam

    Pam

    December 31st, 2015 at 11:07 AM

    Unfortunately I have lived through this and I know that there is a huge amount of pain that is involved when your spouse cheats on you. If you are like me this is something that you never even imagined could have happened until it does and then you are kind of stunned by the whole thing.
    We chose to go into counseling and to do our best to work through it, and we did but it has taken a long time for him to regain my trust and for me to be comfortable being with him again.It just takes time and if you are not willing to invest in that then the marriage is probably over.

  • Dawn

    Dawn

    January 4th, 2016 at 5:07 PM

    I don’t need that kind of stuff in my life.

    I have better things to do than to spend time with someone who obviously does not respect me enough to not cheat.

    Nope, for me this is a situation where one and done, I would be out of that relationship fast.

  • Mal

    Mal

    November 12th, 2016 at 3:38 PM

    I’m disappointed n very hurt by this situation. How do I cope

  • Sharon

    Sharon

    January 28th, 2016 at 3:09 PM

    About “letting go of the anger and rage”, I would caution against this as a blanket technique, at least in the early stages of finding you’ve been betrayed. And especially for more expressive people with tempers, forcing yourself to “let go” of anger is unrealistic. It is perfectly normal to let out your anger in a legal way (hitting a pillow or even a tree with a baseball bat, smashing things, yelling (including at the cheater) or even playing a violent video game! Pretending you are not devastated would never be suggested as easily as pretending you’re not angry, because it’s more socially acceptable (esp. for women) to NOT let out anger. I say that if you don’t express your rage, then it will go underground, so to speak, like a poisonous plant whose roots were never killed off. And the only thing that kills them off is to tear them out and let them be heard. They WILL subside in time and give you chance to heal in other ways, but this should never be forced, in my opinion. This also goes for the current trend to do what I call “forcing forgiveness”. Not everyone can do this! Not everyone should, even if they can. Sometimes, betrayal is unforgiveable, just as certain other behaviors are to someone else. And if fake forgiveness and anger are pushed under, to allow the relationship to continue, then they will fester and come out in all sorts of negative ways, poisoning the relationship, no matter how “okay” you force it to look on the outside. Anger is a natural part of our makeup, and yes, occurs in degrees depending on the person and how they were hurt. Of course, hanging onto it for too long IS unhealthy, but anyone who has been hurt horribly by a cheating partner has every right to own their anger as long as they need to, to begin the “gentler” types of healing.

  • Mika H.

    Mika H.

    July 3rd, 2016 at 3:09 PM

    Good discussion. I’d only add that many people in this situation need to prepare themselves for multiple disclosures or discoveries, over time, and that trust issues aren’t helped in the process. I’d also state that the remark about ‘forced forgiveness’ above is a good one, and the tendency of many couples’ therapists to discount or dismiss the anger and hurt of the betrayed party can be particularly destructive.

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