I once got mad at a friend in high school because she told me about an indiscretion she had engaged in with someone other than her boyfriend. It was super innocent, she was my friend and her boyfriend wasn't, and I had never been cheated on. Still, I took major offense to the idea. I don't know what exactly drives me so nuts about cheating, but I think we can all agree that it sucks. My friend is a good person, and people make mistakes. So is it possible to trust someone again after cheating?
There's so much commotion about "ghosting" and "breadcrumbing," but in all of those cases, while better behavior exists, no one is breaking a promise. The promise in a relationship being: unless you are polyamorous or in an open relationship, you're not supposed to sleep with other people. Or make out with other people. Ideally, you don't drunkenly late night text other people either.
Welp, we all know that the world we live in is not ideal. (Shout out to 2017!) Cheating has existed since the beginning of time. (Or at least, recorded time.) If you've been cheated on by a significant life partner and you decide you want to try to make the relationship work, what are the steps to actually doing that successfully?
Of all of the things we do in life, getting back together with someone who has cheated on you is truly easier said than done. This is probably because trust is paramount in any relationship. I spoke to someone with much more expertise, London-based sexologist Catriona Boffard, about how to trust someone after an indiscretion. Here's what she had to say:
Practice Don't Ask, Don't Tell
No, not the discriminatory U.S. military policy. Curiosity will actually kill the cat (you) in this case. I know you are curious, but do you really want to picture your partner in bed with another person? "[Don't] ask for the gory details! Ever!" says Boffard. "Ask questions like 'what did this person make you feel that you don't feel in our relationship?' rather than 'how was the sex?' or 'did they orgasm?'"
Don't be a masochist! And on that note, don't go looking for the other woman (or man's) social media accounts. It will be hard not to Google them, but there is not a single good thing that will come from you knowing that they recently vacationed in Jamaica and works at Credit Suisse. You don't need to know that.
Therapy Is Key
If you do choose to stay with your partner, things aren't magically going to go back to normal. A therapist can be important to getting your relationship back on track, and can help you deal with worries surrounding trusting your partner again. "Couples need to work through it, preferably with a psychologist or sex therapist," says Boffard. "They need to focus on prioritizing each other again and reconnecting with each other."
Additionally, I think having your own therapist outside of couples' therapy is important. Someone who advocates for you alone is an extremely helpful tool to have during a tough time. It's good to take space away from your partner to speak about your fears.
Time Heals All Wounds
The most trite advice for anyone suffering from heartache is in fact some of the truest advice around. I, for one, have only ever truly healed from heartbreak after time. The fact that it takes so much time is what makes heartache so painful, even as a grown up who's been dumped before.
"Trust will take time, and as a couple you need to appropriately negotiate how you can work together and what specifically you can do to repair trust in the relationship," says Boffard. She adds that it's important to negotiate on this, but still be patient. Yes, your partner cheated and should be going out of the way to help you trust them again, but patience is important. "Trust is earned and it will likely take a while to repair the damage done," explains Boffard.
Sometimes, as a woman, I feel like I should shut the door the second a man isn't entirely perfect to me because "I deserve better." In some cases, this is true. If someone continues to manipulate you, emotionally or physically abuse you, or cheat on you, you should get out. That said, partners make mistakes just like we do.
If the cheating was a one time thing or in a strange moment, you can still be a feminist and try to repair your relationship. "I believe that affairs are generally not the problem, but a result of the problem," explains Boffard. "So many people and couples have lost their way by this stage, and working through an affair can actually lead to an even better, stronger relationship." There you have it, a tiny silver lining to a very painful situation. Take care of your heart and follow your gut. Remember, you can always change your mind.
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