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“Why me? What did I do? What about me isn’t enough?” and a host of other questions bombard our minds after discovering a partner’s infidelity.
The crushing reality of being cheated on slowly sinks in over time. The heavy emotions linger even longer in the heart of the person who was betrayed.
Being cheated on can be one of the most emotionally taxing things anyone can go through. If we add the factors of gaslighting, manipulation, and emotional, verbal, or physical abuse to the situation (usually one or more is present in the deception), the healing process becomes even more difficult. One aspect of life that takes the biggest hit after being cheated on is one’s view of themselves and their self-worth. Even someone with high self-esteem and knowledge of their worth is left questioning their value.
If the cheating partner shows genuine remorse, and the relationship is reconciled, the one betrayed is still haunted by questions of identity and self-worth throughout the healing process.
The only way past those thoughts is the realization that it wasn’t about us.
When I discovered my partner’s infidelity, it felt as if I was a bug wrapped in a spider’s web. Each layer of the web was another lie—I was left to wriggle my way out of the deception. I had to fully dispel the lies and exit denial before I was able to escape the web.
When walking through an actual spider’s web, we feel as if it’s still on us long after we swatted it away. What lingers, after escaping a web of deception, are negative views of ourselves.
I thought I knew that my self-worth was not dictated by anyone’s thoughts or actions—that I was a person worthy of care, love, and value—but I didn’t feel it. A shift in perspective was required for me to not only intellectually know my self-worth but to live in it freely.
I had to accept the fact that it wasn’t about me.
Admitting that an affair is not about us is a difficult pill to swallow—we are the ones hurting from heartbreak and betrayal. But the cheating partner’s choice is centered around themselves. Cheating is an act of selfishness.
I am not saying that the betrayed party is entirely innocent and didn’t contribute to possible relational turmoil. I am saying that the cheater has several choices on how to handle the situation, and cheating is the selfish choice. It’s no longer about their partner or their relationship; it is about their escape, pleasure, avoidance, or satisfaction.
Once that choice is made, it is no longer about us even though we are left to pick up the pieces.
So how do we accept the fact we are hurt and need to heal from the selfish acts of someone else?
The first step after acceptance of the situation is feeling the feels. It is allowing us to experience the pain, whether it seems logical or not. Don’t suppress it; don’t try to ignore and cover it up with other people or substances.
If we want to heal, we need the space to feel and to hurt deeply. That is a big hurt! We must give ourselves the grace to process and repair—and it will take time.
As the hurt subsides we can fully accept that it wasn’t about us. This can be difficult because, in many situations, it takes realizing that our partner didn’t set out to hurt us. Still, we were collateral damage for their hurt, lack of maturity, baggage, or pure selfishness.
More often than not, cheating is a result of a person’s inability to handle difficult situations. Whether it be strife in the relationship or personal baggage, they are unable to cope in ways that foster communication and healing.
They end up hurting the ones closest to them in an effort to not hurt themselves more. Hurting people hurt people. That is by no means an excuse for their actions! But realizing that it wasn’t about us, though it stings at first, can bring freedom in healing.
Next is to address the negative views we have of ourselves that have manifested as a result of this pain.
Let’s forgive ourselves for our mistakes and our flaws and embrace and enhance all of the positive things we have to offer. Take small moments to celebrate steps in our healing process. Write down the positive things we have to offer, and if we are having trouble finding those, talk to family and friends—seek out encouraging people.
The best way to continue in healing is realizing that not only was the affair not about us, this world is not all about us. Do things with and for other people. Let’s broaden our scope even more to those who are around us.
Gather support from those who care and look for ways to encourage others as well. Healing won’t be quick and will take time and intentional effort, but the process will help us know our worth, grow in our value, and live freely in who we are.