Moving On: How To Decide What Happens After Your Partner Cheats

by Zoe Siegel

I’ve never been cheated on. Well, not to my knowledge, anyway. If you happen to know something I don’t, please let me live in ignorant bliss.

It’s a little bizarre for me to feel lucky that none of my partners stooped to that level, yet that’s the norm my generation has grown to accept.

Once upon a time, creating a romantic relationship was a truly special thing. It was about proving you were worthy of another person and promising to remain worthy until the day you died.

I mean, okay, I may be romanticizing things a little bit. I’m also thinking of a time when women had very few rights; men were drafted into wars, and divorce was seriously frowned upon.

That kind of stuff aside, it wasn't all bad. I think it would do us some good to take notes from our predecessors.

Cheating is not an option, and it certainly shouldn’t be an action. Unfortunately, it happens. It's a huge breach of trust, and it can make you question everything you know.

Your friends are guaranteed to have opinions, and people will definitely try to tell you what to do. It's all with good intentions, but they don’t know the ins and outs of your relationship.

Only you and your partner know if it's best to repair the damage or part ways, not to mention how to go about doing so.

That being said, I’m sticking my two cents in, anyway. I cannot claim to have any idea what it’s truly like for someone to betray my trust like that. I can imagine it’s awful and that deciding what to do next seems impossible... or incredibly obvious.

As quick as some people may be to kick their partners to the curb only to regret it later, others will try to make it work, only to have the relationship die a slow, tedious death.

Ah, but then there are the few who make it. Those who understand what has been lost and what needs to be rebuilt. Those are the couples who know just how much work it will take, and who believe their relationships are worth it.

It's okay if you don't think your relationship is worth salvaging after infidelity. It's not giving up if you think the best course of action is to move on. Here’s the thing about an issue like cheating: It’s difficult to get past.

Just making the choice to try is a big deal. You have to have a good reason to consider putting forth that effort. Your cheating partner needs to make you believe he or she is worth it. That’s a difficult feat, considering that person just gave you a huge reason why he or she is no longer worthy of your time.

So what can cheaters possibly do to prove themselves? Well, for one, they can figure out why in the world they cheated in the first place.

Whether it’s a personal problem they’ve been dealing with or something going on between the two of you, it’s vital to figure out why the infidelity happened. You can’t find a solution if you don’t know what the problem is.

Regardless of whatever pre-existing problems led to infidelity, deciding to be unfaithful is one strange thought process. In fact, it probably didn’t actually involve much thought at all, which is equally as troubling.

Since a relationship is made up of two people, both people are involved in whatever problems exist. This means -- brace yourself -- you're going to have to accept the part you played all of this.

To be clear, I'm not talking about being cheated on. If your partner is trying to blame you for making him or her cheat, that's just not acceptable. The cheater alone is responsible for his or her actions. It's called free will; you can't force someone to do anything.

That being said, if there's something you can do to improve the quality of your relationship, it's necessary to acknowledge that. If something you're doing or did in the past bothers your partner, it's your responsibility to recognize that. I know it's difficult to accept any part you've played in a situation that hurt you so badly, but it's vital to be honest with yourself.

Easier said than done. It's difficult to have a clear mind when it comes to our own actions. What you want and what's right may not be the same thing.

If you want to stay in your relationship but honestly see nothing good coming of it, the right choice is to leave. It's important to do what's right for your mental health and happiness.

Believe me, I know what it's like to pair myself with a "fixer upper." I know what it's like to want and believe someone loves me enough to change for me. But, change can't come from anyone but the person doing the changing.

I stayed because the immediate satisfaction was more appealing than the long-term reality.

While neither of us cheated, we stayed together long past our expiration date, until the relationship disintegrated into nothing more than dust. Because of that, it took me a long, long time to get over that relationship.

I know how difficult it can be to put your foot down, but believe me, it's worth it. Remove yourself from the situation for as long as you need. Clear your head and gather your thoughts. Figure out what you want. Consider if the person you’re with is worth it.

If you’ve been together for a significant amount of time, there’s presumably a lot of good memories and history between the two of you. There are a lot of reasons you should work things out. On the other hand, those were also all the reasons your partner shouldn't have been unfaithful.

If you haven’t been together that long, though, cheating may be a red flag for future behavior. It’s only been a short amount of time and there are already big issues.

There’s less time for your partner to have proven he or she is worthy of another chance. However, it’s possible he or she is the type of person who learns from mistakes and never makes them again. But you just don't know for sure; it really is a leap of faith.

I really can’t tell you what to do. I’m all for giving advice, sure, and I think it’s important to talk to people whose opinions you value; they may be able to provide insight that you hadn’t considered. However, at the end of the day, the decision is yours alone.

To quote Stephen Chbosky, “We accept the love we think we deserve,” and I’ll be damned if it isn’t true.

Photo Courtesy: We Heart It