11 emotions you go through after being cheated on – and how to handle each one

Getting cheated on sucks – to put it gently.

It’s the ultimate betrayal, a rug pulled out from underneath you, a truly miserable affair.

It’d be bizarre to expect yourself to just get over infidelity and move on unphased.

But what might surprise you is just how many emotional stages you go through, and how long the experience can stay with you after the event.

‘Your whole world and everything you believed has suddenly shifted and you don’t know which way is up,’ says pychologist and relationship expert Neil Wilkie.

‘The emotions that you feel, the order in which you feel them and how long for will be unique to you and your situation.’

That being said, there are 11 feelings that are likely to come up. Ahead, Neil breaks these down – and shares how to deal with each one.

Shock

The first thing you’ll be struck with is shock. Because, well, it’s shocking.

You’ll be baffled as to how this happened, and wondering how you didn’t spot any signs. You’ll feel like you’ve been knocked over and can’t yet get up.

‘You need to pause, breathe and connect with the new reality,’ says Neil. ‘You want to be at your physical and emotional best to get through this.’

Denial

When something terrible happens, it’s tempting to just hide away and pretend everything’s fine.

We’re sorry to say that’s not a viable way forward.

Neil tells Metro.co.uk: ‘Find out what you can to prove to yourself that this is real. The reality may be painful, but you need to find the truth rather than avoid it.

‘Growth does come through discomfort and pain. Know that you can get through this, and it will be to a better place.’

Betrayal

‘They have broken their vows and promises,’ says Neil. ‘How could they do this to me and why? They have taken our world and destroyed it. I can’t trust them ever again.

‘Yes, what has happened is awful. You need to understand what happened and why. Did this come out of a clear blue sky or were there unmet needs in the relationship. If you and your partner are prepared to work at it, trust can be rebuilt and you could get to a better place.’

Humiliation

It’s natural to feel embarrassed. Limit that feeling by taking some time to process this on your own, rather than spreading the news of what went down.

Anger

Don’t deny that anger. Just learn to express it in a healthy way.

Neil recommends:

  • Go to a quiet forest or beach and just scream out whatever you need to.
  • Roll up some newspaper and pretend a dining chair is your partner. Beat the chair and shout out how you are feeling
  • Get lots of paper and spend 15 minutes writing non-stop (that means with no pauses!) about whatever is in your mind. At the end of that time, take a break of at least five minutes. Come back and read through what you have written, see what themes have emerged and then take the paper and burn it, safely.

Hatred

‘You are full of hate for them and the person they had an affair with,’ Neil notes. ‘You want them to be burned by the power of your negative thoughts.

‘What will hate do for you? Will it help you or keep you locked in a dark and horrible space?

‘Let that negativity flow through you. Do not hold onto it. Instead hunt for positive energy in your life, experiences that will allow you to feel love and support.

‘Try, every evening before you go to sleep, thinking through three good things that you have seen or experienced that day.’

Sadness

This one’s tough. Know that sadness is inevitable and needed. Embrace it and allow yourself to wallow for a bit. Give yourself permission to cry.

Loneliness

When your partner cheats on you, it can feel like you’ve lost your other half.

Tackle this by reaching out to other people in your life who can listen without judgement, and consider helplines such as Samaritans that will help you when you’re at crisis point.

Depression

Sadness can sink further into depression. If you’re experiencing a real low and have lost motivation to do anything, even getting out of bed, seek professional support.

Hope

Great – now you’re starting to see light at the end of the tunnel. You’re recognising that your life isn’t over.

Now, it’s time to make a decision.

Neil says you have three choices:

  • Put a sticking plaster on the old relationship, bury the hurt and pretend it didn’t happen. And then hope the relationship fairy will appear and magically make everything better.
  • Separate, believing that it had become a bad relationship and that the trust could not be rebuilt.
  • Both commit energy to creating a new and better relationship. Acknowledge that life had changed and that you had drifted apart. The foundation of love is still strong enough to build anew and recover trust.

This is where professional help of an experienced relationship counsellor may be vital.

Decision time

This is when you’re feeling decisive and in control.

As Neil puts it: ‘I am clear about what I want and know the path I want to take. This has been a tough journey, but I am a stronger person as a result. The future that I want is looking attractive and feasible.’

Now is a good time for an exercise to check in with yourself.

‘Get some large sheets of paper and coloured pens,’ advises Neil. ‘Draw two pictures, the first representing life right now and the second representing your ideal life in the future.

‘Compare and contrast these and then work out what you need to have happen to get you to your ideal future. Set out and take the first small steps to start you on that journey.

‘Discovery of an affair can be the catalyst to examine what your relationship had become, what was good about it and what was bad. It is the opportunity to decide what sort of relationship you want in the future.

‘Look through the trauma and take the opportunity to either say goodbye to the person who betrayed you or to seize the opportunity to rebuild trust and create a new and better relationship with them.’

Neil Wilkie is a relationship expert, psychotherapist, author of the Relationship Paradigm series of books, and creator of online couples therapy programme, The Relationship Paradigm.

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