Most of us have been, or will go, through a breakup (or, you know, a few) in our lives. None of them are especially fun, but there is something exquisitely painful about having your relationship implode because a partner cheated. The confusion, the pain, and — let’s be honest — the anger in this situation can be really intense. None of this is made any easier when you're faced with actually having to get over someone who cheated and move on for good, which can feel like it’s even more impossible.
Here’s the silver lining: If it feels like moving on from a cheating partner is harder than the other breakups and heartbreaks you’ve endured, it's definitely not just you. “It’s really challenging to move forward when you’ve been cheated on,” life coach Nina Rubin confirms to Elite Daily. But why is it so much more difficult? It turns out that not all forms of heartbreak are the same, and the effects of infidelity can last much longer. Here's what the experts have to say on why the pain of cheating lingers, plus how to move forward and put that hurt in the rearview mirror.
Cheating Undermines Your Ability To Trust
When a relationship ends due to a partner's infidelity, there is another layer of betrayal, and that, Rubin explains, is what destroys the faith you had in them. “Physical and emotional affairs cut the main artery of a relationship: Trust. When you’ve been cheated on, you can no longer trust your partner,” and that, she explains, can be incredibly painful.
“Affairs bring with them extremely complex emotions and thoughts of anger, hurt, shame, embarrassment, self-doubt, humiliation, confusion, and fear,” explains Dr. Gary Brown, a prominent couples' therapist in Los Angeles. But it's not just the pain that makes moving on from a partner who cheats difficult. There are also feelings of anger to heal from, as Cherlyn Chong, a dating and breakup recovery coach for professional women, tells Elite Daily. “It hurts to know that your ex has broken their promises to you and wasted your time and energy,” she explains.
Infidelity Can Undermine Your Self-Confidence
Perhaps the most insidious part of breaking up with someone who was unfaithful is the way that their betrayal can undermine your self confidence. Chong warns against falling into the trap of comparing yourself to the person your SO cheated with. “Not only do you have the loss of the relationship to get over, you also have the shame of feeling replaced by someone ‘better.’ You're constantly wondering if they were better-looking, taller, funnier or even better at sex than you,” says Chong. Not only will these kinds of comparisons increase your own pain, but they aren’t even the reality of the situation, Chong explains. “It's never because you weren't good enough,” says Chong. “Nor was it something you did that caused them to cheat. Cheating is their decision, and their decision alone. Cheating is multifaceted, and sometimes the reason for cheating can be deeper and more complex.”
How To Get Over Someone Who Cheated
Understanding why getting over someone who cheated is so difficult is one thing, but knowing how to actually do it is another. The first step is to make a conscious decision to move forward, says Chong. “If you have determined that the relationship is broken beyond repair, the most important thing is to simply decide that you will move on,” she explains. That also means sticking to this decision even if the cheating partner decides they want to keep trying. “If the person has broken up with you due to the other person, you must 'reject the rejector'," Chong says. "If you have broken up with the person, you must decide that you will not accept that person back, because they have broken your trust and that can never be replaced again.” By staying firm in your choice, Chong says you can actually speed up the healing process. “Set a goal, figure out how you will get there, and then push yourself to get there. Take time to grieve, but don't stay there too long,” she advises.
How long is too long to grieve a breakup? "It takes as long as it takes,” says Rubin, although she adds that the time you take needs to be constructive. “The best thing you can do for yourself is process the pain and learn more about your triggers. Keep holding your head high.” It's also important to note that, as you continue to heal, the feelings of betrayal left by cheating can create lasting emotional scars. “You may have triggers in your next relationship,” says Rubin. “This is normal. If you start feeling anxious or paranoid that your partner is going to cheat on you, this is a cue to get help and talk to them about your concerns.”
While there is no way to entirely avoid the pain that follows infidelity, the most important thing to remember is that healing is possible. “You can move forward. You can have a great life post-infidelity,” assures Dr. Brown. So hang in there and make your focus about self-care and self-love. You've got this.