So your partner just cheated on you with their ex, what do you do?
Infidelity hurts. Loving someone and then having that love thrown right back in your face because your partner decided to rekindle their former love affair can be one of the most heart rending and traumatic experiences. They say that ‘I am sorry’ is the most trite, stupid, inadequate phrase in the English language. They may just have it right. Saying you are sorry never quite justifies one’s reprehensible actions. But should you simply forgive someone if they apologise, or should you turn your back on them and try to move on with your life? Let us talk about what course of action one should adopt in the case of a partner who’s decided to betray your trust and get it on with his/her ex.
1. Don’t blame yourself
This is vital. You are not, in any way, to blame for your partner’s disloyalty. Infidelity is a choice, and the fact that they made it has nothing to do with you. Several times, cheating partners try to justify their behavior by placing the blame squarely on their partner’s shoulders. They may give any excuse for their lack of sincerity and loyalty, several of which may even be related to unhappiness in the relationship. While the fact that they were unhappy in the relationship holds the glimmer of possibility of being true, their cheating on that basis does not. Understand that this has nothing to do with you.
2. Do not try to get even
This is a most ill-advised course of action. If you are laboring under a misconception that this will bring you happiness, peace or contentment, then enlighten yourselves. While I don’t blame you for wanting revenge, it is an unhealthy act of a bitter individual. What it would do is leave you feeling worse off, and more insecure and diminished. You are better than that, and you deserve better.
3. See it for what it is
Is this the first time, or one in a long line of indiscretions? This is very important. Do you see them repeating this behavior in the future? While it may be true that it is impossible to predict the future, and you are in no way an exception to that, you can however examine the present and the past, and choose to infer the nature of their potential behavior through that. Do they have still feelings for their ex which is why they decided to cheat on you with them? Or did it and the ex mean nothing? Are they truly repentant? Have they behaved like this in the past? Do they promise not to repeat their actions?
4. Examine your feelings
How do you feel about this? One thing I can testify to after my small series of cheating partners was that I had, somewhere deep down, begun to play the victim. It was my coping mechanism, and it affected my future relationships. It took quite some time to realise that what I really should be doing is assessing the situation for what it is, honestly examining my own feelings and admitting my reaction towards it, rather than feeling victimised by it. Summon up your courage and stand up for yourself.
5. Consider collateral damage
In any divorce, children are often the ones seriously affected. Do you have little ones with your partner? Would it be possible for you to consider living with them for the sake of your children? I understand that this isn’t a scenario from the Meg Ryan chick flick ‘The Women’, but several people choose to continue to live with their partner after having moved past their partner’s transgression. And several of those people do it for the children. Custody battles are exhausting, difficult and complicated. But worst of all, they are the toughest on the children, which makes them all the less appealing. Although living in a loveless marriage where both partners resent each other and are perpetually bickering is not something any child should have to grow up with. So whether your relationship can withstand this, and you can take that step for the sake of your children is entirely up to you to decide.
6. Decide if you can forgive and forget
This is particularly difficult, and I personally wouldn’t recommend anyone to stay in a relationship where your partner is not truly contrite and filled with penitent regret over their actions. But the choice to forgive and forget is yours. This does not mean that you should go a little French and turn a blind eye to every act of disloyalty. Forgiveness does not mean that you accept what they have done and may allow it continue. It says more about you, than it does about them.
7. Give each other space
At this point, before you can choose to forgive, you will need to give each other space. When my last boyfriend disclosed to me his indiscretion, my very first instinct, after the mind-numbing stab of pain, was to hold onto him. My trust was broken. My confidence shattered, even more so since it wasn’t the first time I had been cheated on, and that made me want to cling to him in an unbalanced symbiotic relationship. I felt I did not have the confidence to break up with him, and that insecurity played havoc with my sanity. Giving each other space is important. If forgiveness is what you are willing to consider, then you two need to separate for a few days and sift through your feelings, before you are even ready to do anything else.
8. Meet up
After you have considered your emotions and are in an open frame of mind, meet up, and be willing to listen to his/her side of the story as well. Perhaps he/she feels that they were neglected in the relationship, and saw this as an easy way out. Although cheating is never justified, understand that you both need to talk about it before you can move past it. If they are willing to do that, then there is hope. Otherwise it is best to let go and move on.
9. Else let it go
Perhaps you are one of those who cannot consider the prospect of living with a cheating partner, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Or perhaps you find that continuing to live with a cheating partner is an ingredient for a development of resentment, and I don’t blame you in the slightest if that is how you feel; you’re only human, after all. It is imperative to understand that you can’t ‘forgive’ and continue to bring up their indiscretion at every possible opportunity or at every argument you two have. That is not how forgiveness works. And nor is that healthy for your relationship or your own well-being. If such is the case, and you find the thought of being with them is not just a source of distress, but truly appalling to you, then for the sake of your own sanity, let it go, and move on. To that end, Kay M. Rutherford has said, "I have to love myself more than I love him, in order to leave him."