It can take a long time to feel OK again (Picture: Getty/Metro.co.uk)
When your partner cheats on you with someone else, it represents a huge betrayal.
The person who you trusted the most, who you loved, maybe even planned to spend your life with, has deceived you. The rug has been pulled out from under you – and it can leave you questioning everything.
It isn’t only the act of cheating that hurts, it’s often the lying and sneaking around that really gets under your skin. It can make you wonder – what’s wrong with me? Can I ever trust them – or anyone – again?
Whether cheating signals the end of your relationship, or you chose to forgive them and take them back, there is still likely some heavy baggage that you need to work through.
Recently, Gogglebox star and presenter Denise van Outen, revealed that she is seeking therapy to get over her cheating ex. She said she is going through therapy so she can be ’emotionally ready for her next relationship’.
‘I think because everything that happened floored me, like literally floored me, I then wanted to sort of start to understand why there seems to be a pattern as well, not just on the other side of it but on my side,’ she told Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place podcast.
So, should more of us be turning to professional help to cope with our hurt after being cheated on?
Match’s dating expert, Hayley Quinn says it is certainly understandable if you do feel like you need to talk to someone about what you’ve been through.
‘If you discover your ex cheating on you, it will take some time to reconcile the relationship you experienced with the reality of their infidelity,’ Hayley tells Metro.co.uk.
‘This is because the relationship you knew, wasn’t as it seemed. If you’ve placed your trust in someone and this trust is broken, it can plunge you in the world of dating with a sixth sense of danger.’
Hayley says it’s really easy to fall into suspicious patterns that can fuel your lack of trust. You might find yourself Googling ‘red flags on first dates’, for example, or be tempted to look through a new partner’s phone.
‘You need to instead focus not only on restoring your trust in other people, but also in yourself and your ability to make good decisions for yourself about who you commit to,’ says Hayley.
How does being cheated on manifest in future relationships?
If you’ve been cheated on, Hayley says it can be tempting to make broad, sweeping conclusions about the world of dating.
‘You might think – “no one’s faithful anymore,” or, “why am I always the one ready for commitment and not my partner?”
‘If this sounds familiar, take a step back and focus on creating a more positive outlook around dating, for example, with more statements: “yes, I’ve been hurt before, but I really believe there’s lots of great people out there who want the same things as me, I just have to find them.”‘
Charlotte Johnson, sex and relationships expert at Mega Pleasure, adds that it’s common for your self-esteem to take a knock in the wake of being cheated on. And this can impact future relationships too.
‘Being cheated on can impact your self-esteem and confidence among other things,’ she says. ‘Over time, you may find that this impacts your mood and how you approach new relationships.
‘You may even find it difficult to connect with potential lovers on a meaningful level as a result of your past experiences. Trust is a major factor here and it’s likely to take some time to rebuild.’
Charlotte adds that being cheated on may make you more skeptical of forging new relationships which, while completely normal, may prevent you from moving forward.
‘The most important thing to remember is that you are not to blame,’ she says.
Hayley suggests that if your self-esteem is suffering, remind yourself that your ex’s infidelity is not a reflection of how attractive you are, or how good you are as a person – it’s more about them than it is about you.
‘Write a list of all the ways your ex treated you that showed you they weren’t a keeper, and a list of what you need from a future relationship to be happy,’ says Hayley.
‘This puts you back in the driving seat and reminds you that you’re the one choosing your partners.
‘Remember, a real keeper will make you feel consistently secure in your relationship and will work with you to heal any insecurities you have.’
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How to put cheating behind you
At the end of a relationship, the thing we always crave the most is closure.
Often we want an apology, or an acknowledgement of the harm that was caused. And answers to the many questions we may have about the infidelity. However, you might not ever get closure in the way that you want it.
‘A break up caused by cheating may face you with many unknowns, making it harder to trust again,’ says Hayley.
‘You might not be able to do this immediately, but something that can bring closure is to reflect on what you’ve learnt from this experience. Remember – you’re not back to square one, you’re wiser this time around and more clued-up on what you need to be happy in future relationships.
‘When you can find meaning in your past relationship – even when it ended badly – this will leave you better placed to move on.’
Charlotte adds that it is also important to allow yourself the space to be sad, and to grief what you have lost. It isn’t healthy to just act like it never happened, or that it didn’t hurt.
‘The best way to move on from this is by recognising your grief and surrounding yourself with those who mean the most to you – such as your family and friends,’ she says.
‘Importantly, it’s OK to allow yourself to feel upset, angry or whatever other emotions you are feeling for a short while. Don’t try to ignore it.
‘Another great way to help put the cheating behind you is by prioritising yourself. Take some time to invest in your self-care whether that’s taking time away from the internet, reading a book, exercising, or booking in a manicure.’
Practical strategies for getting over the hurt of cheating
‘If you want to get over someone, it’s important for you to stop interacting with your ex.
‘Ban yourself from late night texts, trawling through their social media or talking about them with your friends.
‘Even if you’re hurting now, know the end destination you’re heading towards is neutrality: they’re just not going to be as important to you in the future as they are today.
‘Even if it feels scary at first, after you’ve had some time to grieve, start to interact with new people again. Take the pressure off and just focus on having fun, relaxing dates.
‘It’s also wise to accept that you won’t find the same connection that you had with your ex again, but you could find a new connection that’s amazing in its own way.
‘Cut yourself some slack to build these new relationships, and trust, gradually.
‘It can be hard to open up again if you’ve been hurt, but keep reminding yourself by interacting with new people you’re giving yourself the opportunity to have new experiences that can help to heal.’
Hayley Quinn, dating expert, Match
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