Getting back out there and dating again after being cheated on is no easy task, because the hurt and betrayal you experienced can leave a lasting mark. It takes some degree of vulnerability and trust in order to be open to new prospective romances. Fortunately, there are ways to work through this and leave some of that hurt and fear behind so you can reenter the dating world with optimism and an open heart.
First of all, don't be too hard on yourself if you're struggling to let go of the past. You've been through a traumatic experience, so that's to be expected. As Dr. Carla Marie Manly, clinical psychologist and author of Joy From Fear explains, this kind of betrayal can have a profound impact on your psyche. "As a person prepares to date again, it’s important to deeply process and heal from the betrayal. Otherwise, the negative effects of the betrayal — which are often mistrust, anxiety, fear of attaching, and doubt — tend to get in the way of creating a successful new relationship," she tells Elite Daily.
What it comes down to, licensed psychotherapist Dr. Laurel Steinberg tells Elite Daily, is a fear that you'll be cheated on again in the future. However, you don't need to feel this way forever, she says. "It can be overcome by deciding to not make yourself too emotionally vulnerable until you have a really good sense of a future partner’s integrity. Also, by recognizing that everyone is different and deserves a fair shot — you won’t punish future partners for past partners’ mistakes," Dr. Steinberg explains.
If you think you're ready to start taking those steps, here 's what the experts suggest you keep in mind when you begin dating again.
There are still good people out there.
When you're betrayed by someone you love, it can be easy to feel as though you’ll never be able to trust again. After all, if they were unfaithful, no one can be trusted. Dr. Steinberg assures that's simply not the case, no matter how true it feels. This is why she says to remember to tell yourself: “By dating again, I could meet someone wonderful who will treat me well.”
Cheating says everything about the cheater, not about you.
When someone's unfaithful, it can be easy to internalize it and feel as though it was something you did (or didn’t do) that caused them to cheat. Dr. Steinberg advises not to fall into that mental and emotional trap. “Try not to take being cheated on so personally — the behavior's a reflection on the cheater, not the cheatee. The cheatee was the good one who deserves good things to happen in the future,” she explains.
That doesn’t mean you can’t learn from the experience, however. “It’s important to look at the prior relationship for signs of red flags and growth opportunities. Remember that a partner’s infidelity is never your fault,” says Dr. Manly. “Each partner's responsible for keeping their commitments in a relationship. Although the betrayer may have tried to blame the situation on the betrayed, there’s never an excuse to betray a partner.”
You deserve happiness.
Having your heart and trust broken by infidelity can be a blow to your self-esteem, but never forget that you deserve happiness and love in your life. This is why Dr. Manly says that, when you're feeling down, you should remind yourself that “life is a mixed bag and it’s [your] turn for something good to happen.”
Infidelity is unacceptable to you.
One of the best things about getting back out there and dating again is that it offers you a fresh start in your relationships. You get to reset your expectations and your boundaries, and Dr. Steinberg says you shouldn’t be shy about your stance on infidelity. “Tell the person upfront that cheating on me would be very damaging to me — and that if there are relationship problems I would be happy to work on them constructively,” she explains.
Trust can and will be ~earned~.
Every relationship, good and bad, offers opportunities to learn more about you and what you want for your future. One of the best lessons that comes from the painful experience of being cheated on is that your trust isn't something you have to give right away. It's OK to make sure someone is worthy of it first. “Rebuild your inner core and foundation of trust and stability. As you build trust in a potential new partner, watch for open communication, honesty, integrity, and congruence in words and actions. Those who have these qualities tend to earn trust due to their high character,” says Dr. Manly.
Finally, remember that it’s OK for this to be hard for you; it's normal to be nervous about dating again. So move at the pace that feels best to you. “Those who are betrayed often don’t realize or appreciate the full impact of betrayal on the psyche,” explains Dr. Steinberg. “Given that safety is a core, instinctual need, infidelity can rock a person’s very foundation of trust in others. And, depending on the nature of the existing relationship, prior relationship history, personality style, childhood trauma, and life stressors, the negative impact of the infidelity can be extremely destructive.” While the cheating may have hurt you, there's one more silver lining: It meant someone who wasn't truly worthy of your heart showed you who they are. “Finding out you were being cheated on was a lucky day because it got you away from someone who wasn’t capable of loving you properly,” concludes Dr. Steinberg. So hang in there, be gentle with yourself, and remember: you got this.
Dr. Laurel Steinberg, licensed psychotherapist