3 Tips for Recovering from an Infidelity
What do you do when, in the wake of an infidelity, you find that your ability to trust has been shattered?
Once you’ve discovered your partner’s been unfaithful, it’s everything that you don’t know that serves to haunt you. You get pulled into the past and find yourself replaying moments that you spent with them, looking for the clues you missed - the warning signs you didn’t see.
And, upon learning the truth, you suddenly feel like you never truly knew your partner. You can’t believe they hid secrets from you for months, or maybe even years.
You wonder what that says about them.
...and then you wonder what it says about you.
Because after the initial shock of learning the truth begins to fade, you realize that the scariest part isn’t really even the revelation of the truth as much as it is the horrific fact that you didn’t spot the red flags sooner. That you were in the dark about so much of it for so long.
As I disclosed in my previous blog post, I recently discovered that one of my exes was unfaithful to me at various points during our relationship. And, that finding caused me to look inward.
More specifically, it led me to ask myself the following questions:
What does this betrayal suggest about my ability to read people?
Is my radar for spotting good partners - or even just good humans - inherently broken in some way?
And if it is, am I doomed to keep repeating the same mistake going forward? Will I keep choosing companions who cheat?
Then those personal questions led me to ponder some larger, more existential questions:
What do you do upon learning that someone you dedicated years of your life to being with - someone you lived with, made sacrifices for, and fully trusted - manipulated you, lied to you, and hid nauseatingly-awful secrets from you?
How do you cope when your ability to trust your partner gets shaken on the most foundational and fundamental level possible? How can you possibly recover from that?
How can you find a way to move forward when you’ve suffered a betrayal so deep, so utterly complete, and from someone so close to you - so inextricably intertwined in your life - that it’s incomprehensible? -I mean un-fucking-fathomable? How can you have faith in people again after that and not feel like you’re being a naive idiot? How can you remain open, yet also stay safe?
In the midst of all of these swirling questions, I knew that I needed to be strong - that I couldn’t let my partner’s infidelity break me. And I knew it would be tragic if I allowed his transgressions to render me incapable of trusting future mates.
But, fuck. I mean, how does one come back from this??
I certainly don’t possess all of the answers. However, after taking a few days to meditate, get some headspace, breathe, and get recentered, here’s what I came up with:
1. Don’t take it personally.
So often when a partner cheats on us, we make it about ourselves. We tend to get defensive and frame their actions as a personal attack or a nod to our inadequacy in one or more departments.
But if you take an objective look at the situation, it’s almost never really about you. Rather, their actions are about themselves.
Looking to my own situation as an example, my ex’s affairs were essentially his way of trying to address his own issues and unhappiness. And I wasn’t perfect or faultless in our relationship by any means. But what happened happened independently of me. His decisions were his own, and he is solely accountable for them, just as I am for mine.
While your partner’s disloyal actions may have deeply hurt you, it’s important to recognize and acknowledge that they didn’t engage in those actions with the goal of hurting you. They chose to do what they did in an effort to meet their own needs in one sense or another. Your pain was effectively collateral damage.
So try to gradually coax your ego to let go and stop making your partner’s infidelity about you. You’ll find that it’s then easier to begin to move forward and heal.
2. Your unfaithful partner is not representative of all men/women, nor your future partners.
This one has admittedly taken me some time to really internalize. While I wholeheartedly believe this statement to be true, for a long time I had a deep-seated fear that I carried forward with me and that continued to nag at me despite all of the work and healing I’d done - like a relentless rock in my shoe.
And that fear was that my gauge for reading other humans - particularly those whom I wished to trust - was somehow severely flawed or hopelessly broken. I feared I wasn’t capable of determining peoples’ trustworthiness, that I wasn’t able to discern when my partner was being forthright with me.
Which, incidentally, is a fucking terrifying feeling.
But what could I do? Either I had to keep trying, or I needed to give up and accept being alone.
We don’t get to have it both ways though. It’s not possible to be open and trusting, but also safe and secure at the same time. Love requires vulnerability. And wherever there’s vulnerability, there’s risk.
Unless we’re willing to give others a fair shot and a clean slate from which to start, we won’t have a hope of finding love again.
3. Stop looking back and start moving forward.
I referenced this common occurrence in my last post, but when we learn that our partner has cheated on us, we often find ourselves looking back and desperately seeking to unearth all of the painful details. We want to pinpoint exactly what happened, with whom, and when.
In a moment when we feel completely helpless, it’s as if by engaging in this process of information gathering we feel we’ll be able to regain at least some of the control we’ve lost.
Unfortunately, the truth is we don’t have control (and never did, for that matter) - not over our partners, nor the world around us. And understanding every detail of our partner’s infidelity will not grant us that control we crave.
So stop looking behind you. Stop ruminating on past events. Because you don’t have the power to change the past, and focusing on what’s already happened won’t serve you.
Looking backwards won’t heal you and won’t enable you to grow. So instead, endeavor to let go and bring your focus back to the present - where you can then do the work you need to do to move on.
The three tips that I’ve offered up here admittedly may not work for everyone. But they helped me - a lot. And if you ever find yourself on the receiving end of an infidelity, I hope they prove helpful to you too.