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FAQ: Dealing with Cheating

FAQ: My girlfriend cheated on me. She wants me to forgive her and promised she wouldn’t ever do it again, but I just feel so angry and lost, and I kind of want to make her pay. What do I do?

It’s normal to feel angry or lost after being cheated on. It can be a big shock, and most people don’t know what to do while they’re reeling from shock. There’s no one way that people feel if they’ve been cheated on, and how you might respond could depend on a whole lot of different factors. We can’t really tell you what to do here, but we can talk about some questions or things you might want to consider.

A lot of people’s first reaction is to end the relationship, and that’s totally okay. If you aren’t interested in continuing to date the person (or if you just need a break away from them) then you don’t have to. We have a couple of info pages on breaking up:

But if you do want to stay in the relationship, or at least stay in it until you figure out how you feel, here are some things you might want to think about:

Taking Space. You might realize that you need space from your partner to figure out how you feel. That’s totally okay. Making time and space for yourself is healthy, especially while processing information that’s tough to deal with. It might be worth telling your partner that you just need some time to think, or give them a sense of when you’ll check back in with them, just so they don’t get the impression that you’ve broken up.

Rebuilding Trust. What do you need from your partner to feel like you can trust again? Are you going to need reassurances or check-ins from them? What kind of contact will they have with the person they cheated with? How much time do you think you’ll need to start to move past it? These are all things worth thinking about or talking about with your partner.

Working Through the Feelings. It’s normal to have feelings of anger, hurt, betrayal and/or sadness, but it’s important that you work through them in a healthy way. These are powerful feelings and they’re valid, but they can get in the way of you reconnecting with your partner if you’re taking the feelings out on them. Venting to friends or a therapist could help. Other options could maybe be expressing yourself through creative or physical activity.

Try to not lash out. In the beginning, it can be forgivable to take out your pain on your partner by hurting their feelings (giving them the cold shoulder, bringing up their actions, being passive aggressive, etc.) but at a certain point making them feel guilty is going to get in the way of rebuilding your relationship. You may feel like monitoring your partner’s phone, or cheating on them back, but these behaviours will likely just push you further apart.

There’s no single right way to react to cheating, and however you feel is totally normal and valid. Lots of people don’t know how they’re going to react until it happens. But it can help to check in with yourself throughout the situation, to see how you’re feeling, and to try working through that in a way that helps you grow in the long run.

Again, this can be really hard. Being aware of your emotions, processing them, and rebuilding trust takes a lot of vulnerability and energy. Sometimes it can be an experience that helps you stay with a partner, and sometimes it doesn’t work. Putting your faith in someone to not cross your boundaries again can be risky. It’s up to you to decide if you think keeping the relationship is worth the risk.

Resources:

If you have questions about this topic, feel free to contact one of our peer educators. [Link]