Infidelity can be one of the most painful experiences you can have next to losing a child. The pain that is created from the betrayal is nearly unbearable and much healing is needed afterward, whether you stay in the relationship or not.
In this article, I talk about one sign you need to pay attention to most when you suspect cheating in your relationship. Then after an affair is found out, the emotional wounding that takes place will need mending and healing.
Infidelity is one of the most challenging, and damaging emotional events in life. And the more you trust and feel safe with someone, the more powerful and painful it feels when it happens. It can be debilitating and feel like what I would call emotional murder. I hate to use that term, but it really can feel like one of the worst emotional pains you can experience.
Getting betrayed is like someone grabbing your heart so tightly it can’t beat anymore. You can feel it in both your mind and body. It can even hurt worse than physical pain because it is that powerful.
Infidelity is so prevalent in our society that we have to talk about it. We have to figure out why it hurts so bad and why it’s so hard to forgive someone after they’ve betrayed us. And especially if it’s best to grow through the healing together or apart.
Everyone has their tipping point. Some people want to forgive the cheater and move forward with the relationship and others want nothing to do with their partner ever again – and get as far away as possible.
This is a highly sensitive subject and I’ll do my best to address it with respect. What I want to touch on in this article are two aspects:
- An important but sometimes overlooked warning sign
- How to heal and move on after the cheating is found out
Whether you decide to stick it out with your partner and heal as a couple or move apart and heal separately, healing has to take place. It doesn’t matter if you are the unbeknownst victim of a cheating partner or the cheating person yourself, you likely have to heal something inside you after an event like this.
Yes even cheaters need to heal, unless they don’t feel bad about cheating. If that’s the case then that’s an entirely different topic. Many cheaters however do feel bad and have to live with regret their entire lives which is not a quality way of life.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to excuse behavior. I just want to address the consequences, the pain, and the healing surrounding the behavior.
If you’re thinking of being unfaithful in your relationship then maybe after reading this article, you’ll change your mind.
Cheating is betrayal and betrayal is emotional murder. Once you step out of the relationship and into that realm the damage is done.
My First Experience with Infidelity
In my 20s, I loved playing with scanners. Not the type of scanners that tell you the price of items at a grocery store, but the type that you could tune into police and emergency bands over the airwaves. Back then (in the late 80s) scanners picked up almost every type of audio signal because technology was less secure. In other words you could hear almost anyone who was talking on almost any wireless device.
With the right scanner, not only could you could pick up two-way radios, but also cordless phones, baby monitors, drive-up windows at fast food restaurants, and even the latest technology of the time: cellular phones.
It sounds like I was quite the voyeur back then. Perhaps in a way I was! (Just a little). But I didn’t know that what I was doing was intrusive in any way because I figured everyone knew that cordless devices could be heard over scanners. It was so easy, like tuning into a radio station.
Regardless, when cell phones came out they could be easily intercepted by using a simple, legal Radio Shack scanner. All you had to do was scan in the right frequency range and soon you you’d be picking up private conversations. These weren’t three-ways, they were calls between two people that didn’t know I was listening. According to today’s laws you could say I was illegally tapping phone calls.
When I talk about it now I feel kind of embarrassed to admit this stuff. Back then it was so easy to tune in. It was like walking by an open door and hearing a conversation going on then choosing to stop and listen instead of continuing to walk.
When I think back to all the conversations I overheard, I really don’t remember most of them (Many of us tend talk a lot about mundane things). However, there was one conversation that stuck with me. I heard a man laughing and being friendly to a woman on the other end of the line. They were talking as if they knew each other really well and being cute by calling each other romantic pet names. They would use terms of endearment like “honey” and “baby”.
Then I heard the guy say, “I’m in the driveway outside my house right now.”
The woman on the other end says, “Oh yeah? Is your wife home? Can you see her inside?”
He says, “Yeah, I see her…” He lets out a little laugh. “It looks like she’s cleaning the house or something.” Then they both laughed and continued their conversation.
My heart skipped a beat the moment I realized that he was talking to his girlfriend while watching his wife through the window of his own home. I was witnessing what appeared to be an affair in real time. I don’t remember too much more of the conversation after that because I was sort of in shock. I started having all kinds of thoughts like, ‘He’s cheating? He’s talking to his girlfriend while watching his wife in the house? What? That’s terrible!’
I suddenly felt awful for the wife thinking he was betraying her and taking advantage of her trust as she was likely oblivious to what was going on. I couldn’t believe I was witnessing an unfaithful husband sitting in his car talking to his girlfriend while watching the one he married and promised to love and honor take care of their house. I thought about how his wife must go through her day… oblivious to his cheating, feeling very happily married to the man she loves, trusts and respects.
She probably doesn’t think twice about his whereabouts when he comes home and acts like everything is fine between them. Of course, I could only imagine what their life must be like. Besides the call I overheard, everything else was just a guess on my part. But I imagined her not knowing anything and feeling happy that she was with someone she could respect and trust.
The thought that came to me was: “What a bastard!”
For the first time in my life, I felt what it was like to be cheated on. And it wasn’t even happening to me!
Trying It On
When we “try on” what it might be like to be in someone else’s shoes, we empathize. We live vicariously through another person and experience the world not only seeing the world through their eyes but also seeing things from our own perspective too.
This might sound strange, but I imagined being that wife not knowing what my husband was doing. I’m walking around cleaning the house, not worrying about my marriage because I fully trust the person I am with. Life is just normal, and everything is good.
Then I think about what it would feel like if I found out he was cheating on me. It would be so devastating and painful. I’d be crushed in so many ways and wouldn’t know who to trust or where to turn. The person I depended on most would suddenly be the most distrustful person in the world.
The secrets I shared and all the special moments we once held close crushed in an instant. My entire marriage would feel like a scam, as every happy moment I remember with my husband transformed into miserable, painful memories that lost any meaning they once had.
It’s a grim, pathetic picture I painted for sure. But all of this went through my head in just a few seconds. Lots of pain, and a whole lot more loss of what was and what isn’t anymore. When I snapped out of it and back to my own life, I thought back to how he was talking to his mistress on the other end of the phone.
He sounded… happy. He sounded nonchalant, as if what he was doing was perfectly normal.
He seemed to have absolutely no compassion nor care for the woman who made a promise to love and support him. He was getting all of his romantic, emotional and probably physical needs met by someone else. He was dishonoring his wife and she probably had no clue.
Of course, I was imagining that all of this was the case. I was assuming I knew exactly what was going on in her head. I mean, it was clear that the man and the other woman were seeing each other outside his marriage but I have no clue about his situation with his wife. Maybe they slept in separate beds like my mom and stepdad did for many years. Maybe she was even okay with his poly-amorous ways and knew that he was seeing someone else.
There could be a whole slew of possible explanations. But the scene stuck with me, and at that moment I made a promise to myself that I’d never put someone through that. I committed that no matter how bad my relationship got, I would stay faithful, or leave the relationship I was in first, before ever putting my romantic emotional or physical energy towards someone else.
So my voyeurism actually had a positive impact on me. I mean, before I heard this, I really didn’t think about infidelity at all. And when I had a girlfriend, I never intended to cheat, but I never thought about how bad it would be if I did. I simply didn’t have the knowledge or the foresight or even the empathy to see how destructive cheating could be.
But that conversation I overheard made an impact on me. The FCC may not have liked me spying on other people’s conversations, but I did learn at a young age just how badly someone could be hurt from infidelity.
So let’s talk about this very sensitive subject today. I know there’s a lot of people out there who’ve been victim to it, and I know there are a lot of people that are, or were, perpetrators as well. There are many facets of temptation, pain, trust and betrayal mixed in with all this cheating, but we’re going to focus on mainly, the aftermath.
After all, if you suspect your partner of cheating, you can just go online and look up “Warning signs of cheating” and there are plenty of lists to help you determine if it’s true. But there is one thing I want to talk about that those lists don’t cover well and that’s your instincts. Your instincts provide the strongest clue to consider if your partner is cheating or not. We’ll get into that pretty deep in the first part of this article.
The Challenge of Trust
Infidelity is a violation of the rules of a relationship. When we start a romantic partnership with someone, there are usually a set of boundaries that the relationship either assumes, or is clearly communicated about as things get more serious.
These rules create a level of comfort and security for those involved so that they don’t have to continuously obsess about if their partner is going to do something that will cause them upset. In other words, if one of the relationship rules you establish is that neither of you make a large purchase without consulting the other first, then that is one thing you can cross off your list of worries. You’ve already addressed it, so you can forget about it.
Remember that commercial, “Set it and forget it!” with the Ronco Rotisserie? You put the chicken in the rotisserie, turning the temperature dial, then walk away. This is like establishing rules in a relationship. Once the rules are established, you set them, and forget about worrying about them anymore. Once they’re set, they should be set, right?
If you had to continuously remind each other of the rules, then they aren’t rules at all, they are only reminders, like sticky notes. Reminders can fall off the fridge and get swept into the garbage.
But rules are rules! And you either set them and abide by them no matter what, or you leave the relationship… right? But not all of us do that. Some of us can be lenient with some rules, giving in a little here or there. And the more slack you give, the more that’s taken. It’s not always the case, and it doesn’t always mean someone’s going to cheat. But it is something to observe once in a while, for sure.
When you never have to revisit or emphasize the rules, it means you trust each other. When you can set the rules, then forget them in the sense that you don’t have to worry about enforcing them, that is giving in to trust.
Trust, at least in a romantic relationship, involves allowing someone to walk around carrying your heart. I know it’s not like this for everyone, but it’s the way I look at trust. I can picture my girlfriend at a restaurant with another man, and completely trust her because she has my heart with her. It’s something that she cherishes and holds on to.
I trust her with my heart, so even if the man makes a pass at her, she’ll feel me there with her, and say, “Uh, sorry, I’m with Paul!” It is that full trust that I put in her, and know my heart will be safe.
This is one perspective of course. Not everyone has this type of metaphor for trust in a romantic relationship, but I think it describes what many of us want. I would want to know that if some guy made an inappropriate gesture toward my girlfriend, that she would make it clear that she is taken.
Regardless of how trust works for you, it’s how we can feel good in life without worrying all the time. When you spend the majority of your time worrying about how your partner is going to respond to you, or if your partner is going to cheat on you, or hurt you, then you don’t trust them. If you spend more time feeling unsafe and insecure, that is your cue to get out of the relationship.
We all have really good excuses why we can’t leave a situation, but feeling unsafe and insecure for the majority of the time is not how a healthy relationship is supposed to work.
When you have full trust, you don’t worry.
When you don’t spend your time hoping your partner doesn’t hurt you, you don’t worry.
When you feel unsafe, insecure, or even scared more often than not, it may be time to leave.
I know someone who wasn’t even liked by her husband, but she stuck with him in the marriage for years. He ended up doing a lot of really bad things in the relationship hurting her heart over and over again. She used the words “crushing” and “devastating” explaining her experience in the marriage.
I don’t want this for you. If it’s gotten to the point where you don’t feel trusting enough for the other person to keep your heart safe, then it’s time to get help or move on. At least, talk to your partner and see where it leads. And at most, go to counseling or leave. But don’t just sit there and take it. That’s a lingering bad feeling that only gets worse over time.
Lingering negative emotions need closure otherwise they eat away at you both physically and mentally.
Lingering negative emotions affect the body. In fact, I did an episode on that very subject. And since that episode aired, I’ve had a few emails from listeners to corroborate what I spoke of. One woman who wrote having to deal with her husband’s infidelity said that the emotional turmoil she went through afterward caused infections, rashes, and panic attacks, along with other things.
It’s vital that you remember that lingering negative emotions affect the body. This is why it’s so important to move past them and get back to living healthy again. Before finding out about the affair, you have bad feelings that affect your mind and body (suspicions). After the affair, those bad feelings have amplified and continue to linger until you can feel safe and trust again.
Trust is the hardest part after the affair. When all the bad thoughts and feelings are stripped away, we’re left with a choice to trust or not to trust. Trusting happens when your instincts tell you the behavior you see in your partner is congruent with good intentions. However it’s difficult to trust your partner when you know something is off and can’t quite put your finger on it.
Coming up next, I’ll talk about the first step in developing trust. When you suspect your partner of cheating, the first step is to trust the person who has those suspicions… you.”
Trust you first.
When you are starting to suspect something, don’t dismiss the feeling you get. Don’t rationalize it away. Don’t do any of those self-defeating behaviors we tend to do when something just “can’t be true”.
Just explore and investigate what you suspect first. If you instead use your brain to override your instincts, you will be giving up a very powerful, built-in radar system. Almost always, your intuition knows more than you can think (literally). The problem happens when your intuition is telling you something but you don’t want to believe it.
Denying is Like Lying to Yourself
Like I said earlier, there are a quite a few warning signs of infidelity and they can be found all over the web. Any of these individual signs could mean nothing. But many of them added up, along with what you know and what you feel, can indicate a potential cheater.
I want to explore one warning sign that isn’t often addressed in many of the articles and books you read. This one warning sign is probably one of the most powerful indicators of a cheating person: Your denial.
It’s not them coming home later than normal, or acting nicer to you, or hiding their phone messages from you.
Your denial is one of the strongest indicators of a cheating partner.
Denial is what we do when we just can’t believe something could be true, so we rationalize it away thinking that it isn’t possible. Denial is that place where your instincts kick in and want to reveal to you probabilities, but your defense mechanisms activate to protect you from what could be true and devastating. This is actually a self-imposed dysfunction.
When we protect ourselves from the possible reality of intense emotional pain, it is a dysfunction. Our body is designed to feel and release pain but our defense mechanisms are the thoughts we use to help suppress the pain. We suppress what we feel because we don’t want to feel the pain.
In a manner of speaking, our body is doing what comes naturally by presenting us with data that makes us feel suspicious. But then our brain kicks in and convinces us that what we believe is happening simply can’t be true.
Believing that someone is capable of betraying us is hard to handle on its own. But believing the other person actually did betray us might be impossible to bear.
It’s such an immensely negative place to be. No wonder some people go into denial so easily – the pain of suspicion is usually a lot less stressful and more tolerable than the pain of knowing what could be true. This is what keeps some affairs going on for months or years. Some people just don’t want to investigate further for fear that it could be true. When you refuse to believe something could be true, you are in denial.
Denial is like pretending someone isn’t repeatedly kicking you in the stomach while you’re on the ground actually getting repeatedly kicked in the stomach. You can’t really rationalize that away.
Our instincts work really well. They are designed to protect us. So when they kick in, that indicates something that needs addressing. Denial keeps us from addressing our suspicions. It is what causes things to go on for far too long.
I learning to understand denial first hand watching my mom as I grew up. She never wanted to believe that anyone in her family could do anything wrong because that would mean she’d have to face the pain of dealing with a hard truth. She would rather close her ears than hear a hard truth.
A “hard truth” is one you know will be very uncomfortable to share with someone, yet you do so anyway because it’s the truth and it’s only fair they know. Like when a kid takes their mom’s luxury car for a joyride and puts a dent in it. I would call that a hard truth that would need to be told.
Another example of a hard truth might be to tell your significant other how much their new perfume bothers you, or how embarrassed you are by their behavior when you go out. These can hurt our partners so we typically avoid telling them. We can choose to accept these truths as our problems and come to an acceptance inside ourselves, or we can stuff them down and simply not talk about them, or we can share them with our partner and hope to have a healing conversation with them.
When your partner chooses not to share something that affects their emotions towards you, you pick up on it in some way. And when you do, you can either choose to go into denial, or you can talk about it.
Talking about it can either bring closure, or more questions. But at least you get it out on the table. Let’s say you suspect your partner’s late nights at work are more than just work. If something doesn’t feel right about their reasons for working late, what would you do? Would you not saying anything? Or, would you ask harder questions?
This is one of the main reasons I emphasize building honesty in the relationship as soon as possible. Because when a situation arises and you have a suspicion of anything, then your honest thoughts about the situation will be much better received because that is already how you communicate.
But if your questioning comes out of nowhere, that will seem a bit strange to your partner. Though, I don’t want to make it sound like asking is a bad idea. Either way, approaching them is a great idea, because of something I truly believe that keeps you emotionally healthy, and that’s closure.
When you have lingering thoughts, especially suspicious thoughts, closure is the key to moving on and enjoying life again. Denial keeps the door open, closure ends the lingering. When you are unable to give yourself closure, you leave your mind and body open to damage.
It reminds me of a video game I played in the 80’s called Warlords. In Warlords, there are four castles on the four corners of the screen. They are all facing each other. In front of each castle is your player. It’s really just a block, but you can move it left and right to defend your castle from fireballs that are being shot at your castle.
You can either redirect the fireball by bouncing it off your block, or you can hold onto the fireball to carry it to another position so you can fire it into another player’s castle. The drawback of holding onto the fireball is that the longer you hold onto it, the more fire drops onto your castle destroying it bit by bit.
That’s how I see negative emotions: The longer you hold onto them, the more they disintegrate your mind and body bit by bit. The emotions are like fire dropping into your soul and burning you from the inside out.
The way to release those emotions (suspicions are also negative emotions), are to ask for the hard truths from your partner. Ask for the truths you know you don’t want the answer to so you can get closure on the suspicions.
In the case of infidelity, the truthful answer will likely be the last thing you want to hear and will probably hurt terribly. But you can either endure the pain you know or the pain you don’t. So get out of denial as soon as possible and face the truth so that you can start moving forward.
Denial is one of the many signs of infidelity, but it is not often addressed when you see those “Signs your partner is cheating” lists online. But the reason I chose to focus on it is because it’s time to trust yourself, and your instincts. It doesn’t mean you’re right that there’s an affair going on, but it does mean that the summation of all your senses has given you a theory that is cause for suspicion.
In other words, when you suspect something, and you’re not sure what it is that you suspect, but you know it’s something, that’s usually the subconscious part of you picking up things that you aren’t detecting consciously.
The other person’s body language, the inflection in their voice, the way they smell, subtle changes in their behavior, how they look and even how they feel, all of these can be just a tad different than before. While your conscious mind is busy talking to them or paying attention to other things, your unconscious mind is very busy picking up the rest of the story.
And the way our instincts work is that we’re not sure why we feel the way we feel. That’s how suspicion works. We feel a certain way when we suspect something. It’s a combination of all the data our senses have picked up. We haven’t put the pieces together to form a bigger picture, but something is different.
This is a complex issue to talk about as there are so many emotions are involved, and multiple challenges that stem from it however I decided to write how to heal after the affair is found out simply because that will be the most important step for both partners, yes, even the cheater.
I know several people who’ve either been the victim of betrayal or the perpetrator. And in every case with these particular people there was pain on both sides and regret on the side of the cheater.
Having an affair is like committing emotional murder. I realize it’s a dramatic way to say it, but the pain I’ve seen people in because of an affair is monumental. The words “crushed” and “devastated” are often used interchangeably when they describe that period of their relationship.
I don’t use the words, “emotional murder” to pummel the cheaters. There are those who’ve committed adultery that are truly sorry and regretful. But it’s important for the cheater to understand what their partner might be going through.
The instant an affair is discovered it’s like being stabbed in the heart. If you’ve never experienced this kind of pain, just imagine every possible negative emotion you could have happening at the exact same time: Anger, sadness, humiliation, embarrassment, and a whole lot more.
The one person you trusted your heart with just threw it out the window on the way to their lover. Then on their way home, they picked it up off the street, wiped it off, stuck it in the trunk, and returned home. Even though that is a colorful way to explain it, it can feel quite literal to the victim of cheating.
The feelings of huge loss and immediate distrust of the world can wash over you when you find out about an affair. And you won’t know what to do next. It really can be devastating.
To my knowledge, I’ve never been cheated on. But I do know what it’s like when the one person you trust with all your heart suddenly gives you a proverbial kick in the face for no reason.
In one episode of my show, I once told the story of when I was being abused by my stepfather at four years old. He had taken my soiled underwear and rubbed it onto my face to show me that four year olds shouldn’t mess their pants.
The one person I thought was there for me to protect and love me was the very person who turned on me. And when I wanted to cry and needed a hug, I couldn’t reach out to that person because he was the one abusing me. I had no one to turn to.
It was awful at the time. Later on in life, I was able to process that event and release it. However at four, I was hardly old enough to know what was considered healthy and what was considered dysfunctional. When children don’t know any other way of being treated, pain can almost be considered a normal part of childhood.
As awful as some moments of my childhood were, I had defensive mechanisms that blocked some of those memories helping me to survive. Of course, we always have to deal with those repressed memories and accompanying emotions when we get older, but that’s why I write articles like this and create my show.
When we’re adults and have to deal with something like betrayal, it strikes us on an entirely different level. Our minds are mature and we aren’t so carefree like children. We hold grudges and repress anger and sadness. We know how to define our pain so we explore it and feel it inside and out. We attach stories to our pain that we can’t let go. We find blame and feel guilty; We become a wreck as it affects our love life, our career, our family life, the whole thing. It causes a whirlwind and it may feel like our world is collapsing around us.
Children move on to the next thing, even though they are being abused. It’s almost like the loyalty of a dog. They keep coming back. Children come back, even after severe abuse.
And that’s something that sometimes happens with adults. You get cheated on, you go through a myriad of awful feelings, then sometimes, you go back. You go back because you realize that even though the person hurt you, he or she may still love you and can still fulfill so many of your needs.
The difference between going back to a parent that abused you or a romantic partner that cheated on you is that there’s more of a likelihood the partner is willing to work things out and never cheat again. Whereas an abusive parent doesn’t often see the light and stop abusing, at least according to all the people I’ve known who’ve gotten abused.
And this is an important talking point for both the person who’s been cheated on, and the cheater themselves. Because a cheater doesn’t always have to be a cheater. A cheater can recognize a mistake, and never make that same mistake again. They could fall into temptation then regret it immediately afterwards. This can open the door for forgiveness and rebuilding, but not always.
If you’ve been cheated on, did you stay with your partner? If so, why? And if you stayed, it must be because you want to trust, or you actually do trust them to not do it again. And if that’s the case, how is your relationship right now? Is it stronger than before? Because if it isn’t, you may be heading for disaster once again.
I’d like to now share a story with you of someone who got cheated on. She was a very sweet woman who simply couldn’t get past some of the emotional triggers from the affair her husband had. Let’s talk about her now.
When I had my hypnosis practice, I had a client whose husband cheated on her with multiple women during a time when she was sick. He was not getting his emotional or physical needs met, so decided to seek them elsewhere. When she found out about it, she felt worthless and alone. And of course, crushed. Her heart was thrown out the window, so to speak.
However, she loved so much about this man, that she decided to forgive him and take him back into the relationship. The only problem was that every time she saw a woman that she believed her husband might have an attraction too, she got filled with bad feelings.
No matter what he said, she was filled with negative emotions, and reliving the affairs he had inside her head. She couldn’t get rid of those images no matter what. Well, some hypnosis worked and some didn’t. I was able to help her feel better, but the bad feelings were very strong.
That’s when I realized she wouldn’t allow herself to experience the full range of negative thoughts and emotions she was having. She would have a bad thought, then try to stuff it away so she wouldn’t have to feel it. This is denial after the fact. She was denying herself from feeling bad by trying to stuff the bad feelings away.
Even though she really believed he would never cheat again, and he swore up and down on his life that he never would, she would still get these debilitating thoughts. And because of this, he could never live down the fact that he cheated.
And that’s a recipe for disaster. That formula, where one person cheats, then is taken back and forgiven, then is reminded of that cheating over and over again because the person who got cheated on keeps getting triggered, will lead to a breakup, or possibly more cheating.
She would have these bad thoughts popper into her head that led to bad feelings, then she would make him feel bad for cheating on her, all over again. If she wanted the relationship to work out, it wouldn’t with this type of repetitive behavior. Something needed to change so that the relationship could start to rebuild itself.
In her case, one of the steps we took was to push her beyond the pain. This was probably the hardest thing I ever had to do with anyone, because it’s like setting off a bomb when it happens. But here’s what I did. I asked her to recall a time that upsets her. Not the time when he cheated, but a time after she took him back that puts her in that bad state of painful emotions. This would be when she is reminded of what he did.
So she did, and she started crying. I asked her, what are you imagining right now, and she told me. She saw him and another woman together, and she was starting to get upset. Then she said, I don’t want to think about this anymore, can we stop?
This is the point where we can stop at her pain threshold, or push beyond what she can handle. If we stop here, we can approach it again at another time and slowly work our way through all of the emotions. However, that could take years of resistance and lots of money, so I decided to light the fuse and set off the bomb.
I told her, I want you to imagine the worst case scenario. I want you to imagine them fully engaged, and everything you hate about it to appear in your head. Create a clear image of your husband and that woman, or other women, in your mind so that you have to witness everything.
This is a dangerous place to take someone, and I’ll probably never do it again. But I knew she was on the verge of a breakthrough, so I had to move forward with it.
So she reluctantly did. She imagined more of the very bad scene, and she cried even more because of it. I think she even started shaking. Then, I told her to go even further and amplify the images and feel the pain and let it all play out in her head right now.
At this point, she yelled, “No, I can’t, I can’t!” and ran out of my office, screaming down the hall. I got up and ran after her. When I caught up to her in another empty office at the end of the hall, I was able to help her break through the pain, telling her it was okay to release everything now and that her full expression right here and now was her moment of full release.
When she calmed and came back to the office, she cleared up a bit. She was calm and wiped her eyes. She was back to the here and now, still a little shaken, but recovering from her breakdown. And we ended the session.
The next day, she came back, and she was a different person. Her face was bright, she was smiling, and I remember she just looked younger. I said, “Wow, you look so different!” She said, “I feel different. I feel so much better.”
We talked back and forth, and I found out that much of her pain was gone now. She wasn’t reliving those old painful moments anymore, she felt free. For her return session, I just reinforced those good feelings and gave her some hypnosis to help her feel good again, if she ever felt an episode come on.
The point of this story is to share with you how the relationship she wanted to rebuild she was also sabotaging at the same time. She loved him and was willing to move forward with him, but kept having these reminding images over and over again, causing her to relive the pain.
He regretted cheating, and wanted a real relationship with his wife again, but also had to work with her who kept bringing it up time and time again. It’s not that he didn’t deserve these reminders in a way, but at what point is too much, too much? At what point do you stop bringing up the past and focus on moving forward, and rebuilding a relationship that you want to work?
In one of the episodes of The Overwhelmed Brain podcast, I told you to always amplify negative lingering emotions so that you can get past the point where resistance kicks in. In other words, when you have terribly painful emotions, they stick around because you choose to remember or feel the pain only up to a certain point, then choose to repress them again. This cycle of feeling bad then repressing keeps the thoughts and emotions coming back over and over again.
And, it never ends. At least, until you go beyond the pain you felt before. Until you push beyond your own limits into even more pain, where release and the end of suffering is possible.
Total release of suffering is what sits atop the precipice of pain.
Once you go beyond the point where you can’t take the pain, it takes you to a whole new level of tolerance for pain, and more importantly, breaks through the pain and into release. I think many of us don’t want to tolerate pain, we just want to repress it so we don’t feel it.
I’m backwards however. When I sense a bad image come into my mind, I expand it, make it more visual, more painful, and amplify all the bad feelings until I’ve explored it completely. Believe me, it sucks. But when I do this, I suddenly am not so sensitive as I was before. And, if I’m able to explore every possible avenue of pain with this thought, I’m less likely to be triggered in the future.
Now, this doesn’t always work when I do it by myself. Sometimes I need days or even weeks of exploring and digging into myself to be able to release something. And even recently I found myself with an egging thought and emotion I simply couldn’t get rid of, so I had to explore things I don’t normally use to heal. I used tapping, or Emotional Freedom Technique, to release the trigger. I mentioned this once before, but I hardly ever use it. But sometimes, I cannot be objective enough about my own stuff to be able to heal through it, so I resort to something I don’t fully understand. This helps me heal because I’m not thinking logically or rationally.
I recommend you look up EFT or tapping for those emotional problems that just don’t seem to go away. And, of course, find a therapist if you are really stuck on something because sometimes you are not your own best healer all the time. I believe anyone can heal themselves, but I also believe that you can be your own biggest resistance to healing as well.
I want you to heal from infidelity, whether you are together with the person or not. This is painful stuff. But before I finish this article, there’s the other side of the coin I want to address and that is how the cheater can grow and heal through this too.
I want to talk about an aspect of cheating that puts the cheater in a different light. A cheater has certainly earned going through the ringer, as they betrayed your trust. But what if the cheater absolutely regrets the cheating? What if he or she had the temptation, slept with one or more people during a certain period of your relationship, then after it all blew up, wanted to save the marriage and chose to put all of their time and energy into doing just that?
And what if that’s what you wanted to?
Let’s talk about something you may not have considered yet.
The one who cheats and regrets has a long, difficult journey ahead of them, especially if their partner wants to continue and rebuild the relationship. They went through act, they were either caught, or admitted to it, they were accepted back into the relationship, and now they have to regain the trust of their partner.
The cheater feels like less of who they were. They know they just caused their partner awful pain, and they may never be able to live that down. They face the guilt and punishment from that time in their relationship in many ways. Their friends and family may know about it, and they will get looks from others for quite a long time.
Remember, this is if the cheater regrets their behavior and has no intention of ever repeating it. If you know a cheater who repeats this behavior, that’s probably not someone you want to be in a relationship with.
But if the regretful cheater wants to lose the title of “cheater”, he or she has a bumpy road ahead. What happens is that not only do they feel incredible guilt and sadness, they also get that reinforced from their partner. They feel awful, and their partner makes them feel worse.
This is probably good for the first few months as it acts as a sort of punishment for the cheater, but eventually, the trust has to be earned and forgiveness has to sink in, or it will never work. I’ve talked to quite a few men who have cheated on their wives, and there’s a recurring theme I see over and over again. After the affair is over, and the story is out and the wife knows everything, they feel emasculated.
They feel pathetic, undeserved of love, and less than a human being. They feel like they’ve done worst thing in the world, and will now choose to live in this unempowered place for the rest of their lives. Their women (and men too if they were gay) took them back, and they came crawling back with their tails between their legs, and have stayed that way ever since.
This is a true place of submission, compliance, and obedience. These men now do everything the woman wants. They share with their wives all their messages back and forth with people, they check in all the time, and let their wives know everything that’s going on their lives at all times just to continue to prove that they are now loyal, and will be loyal forever.
Think about this for a moment. Let’s say you made the biggest mistake in your life. You regretted it, and asked for forgiveness and received it, then from that point on, you act as if you are still the same person who made the mistake. And, you might even be with someone who reminds you of it all the time.
Imagine that! You are continuously reminded of a mistake you made a long time ago, never able to live it down, no matter how much you’ve changed. It can turn a person into a pathetic, submissive, sorry shell of who they once were. They’ve lost desire and passion, and are only there to serve you and be reminded of how wrong they were.
There is a period of time where a cheater needs to go through some punishment, but after that, there’s an opportunity for the cheater to step into his or her own power again. The men I know that have cheated feel like they can never feel empowered again, so they stay broken and submissive. They don’t feel like men anymore.
Now, if you’re someone who is rebuilding their relationship with someone who cheated on you, and they’re in this place of sorrow and regret, is this the type of person you’ve always dreamed of being with?
Do you want a healthy, loving relationship full of vitality and passion? Or, is it better for you to make sure that person stays, for lack of a better word, pathetic? Is this your dream relationship?
I’m willing to bet your ideal mate looks a lot better than that. So, what needs to happen for him to feel like a man again? What does he need to do to break out of this shell and become the person he needs to become to feel his power again?
This works both ways too, whether you are a man or a woman. Once you are in a space of regret and guilt, when do you step out of that to live life again? If you’ve really learned your lesson and will never cheat again, then it’s time to become mentally healthy again and be the person your partner wants.
My friend told me that men who are in this pathetic state need to, “grow some balls!” That’s not necessarily untrue as the implication is that they need to get their power back. But it will be a give and take between two people. Both of you need to support the growth of each other, not the downfall.
Both of you need to show the other that you are stepping into your power again. What that means is that, if you cheated, you are going to prove your love for the one you love, not live in a pathetic place inside yourself. You want to step into a powerful place of confidence and vigor, showing your partner that, “Yeah, I messed up bad, and I wish I hadn’t. But dammit, I am going to be your rock from this point on. I’m there for you when you need me. But this time I’m also going to be there for me and be a person who is committed to being the best I can for the one I love.”
When a former cheater can step into his or her power and be a mentally healthy person, he or she becomes what the other one really needs in order for the relationship to thrive. If one or both of you are in a pathetic or sorrowful state, that’s no way to rebuild the relationship.
If it’s too soon, and the pain still stings too much, maybe you need to go through a grieving period before either of you can step into these roles.
There is a point where the feeling of weakness and guilt has to stop so that the foundation of integrity and strength can be built up stronger than it was before.
This article isn’t about forgiving and moving on, it’s about empowerment. Once an affair happens, and you want to put the pieces back together, it doesn’t mean that one or both of you have to live life in shame forever. You’ll go through that at first, but then you need to hop into your power again.
Good relationships are built on empowerment, determination, strong feelings towards each other, and rock-like support. If you are an “infidelity survivor”, and you want it to work, then prove your worth, not your fear. Show your partner that ‘yeah, you are still hurting, but you want this to work dammit, so let’s make this happen.’
Sometimes just the hard truth is what you need to move forward. “Yup, I screwed up. But I want to make things better now. Are you with me?”. Or, “Yes, you screwed up and I might still be angry with you, but let’s face this head on because I want it to work out. You are still building trust with me, but I need you to stand up be the rock for me, not cower down and hope you are forgiven every minute of every day. This is not how I want my relationship to be.”
When you both step into your power, things will start to shift. I know it’s hard! But remember there’s a point where the blaming, shaming, and guilt tripping have to stop, so that you can start something new. Otherwise, your foundation will be shaky all over again.
What’s the perfect answer to all this cheating nonsense? What is the best course of action after you cheat on someone, or they cheat on you? What do you do with the flood of awful emotions that come up from inside, probably ones you’ve never experienced before?
There is no perfect answer. Introducing an affair into a relationship will alter everything. If you’re thinking of cheating, my advice is not to do it. Giving into temptation gets you a quick high coupled with long-term emotional pain. And if you’ve been cheated on, and your partner regrets it, and they want to keep the relationship, they need to accept that there will be a few months or longer of you being hyper-aware and observing their every move.
And I fully encourage that. The cheater will be scrutinized for months, and their every move will be subject to judgment and interpretation. If you’re a former cheater, and it’s been several months or even longer than a year, and you’ve had no thoughts of cheating again, then step into who you are and who you want to be for your partner.
The victim of cheating may be harboring lots of pain still, but if the former cheater is actually forgiven, then that person needs to step up to the plate and become the loving, confident person that the other one wants for a romantic partner.
A former cheater who regrets their mistake and whom you’ve really forgiven, needs to be given the space to find him or herself again, and step into that. Otherwise, a dis-empowered life is no life at all. Walking around in shame and guilt and submission all the time is not what one half of a relationship should be.
If you are still mortally wounded from being cheated on, and still can’t trust your partner, then maybe it’s time to consider that the relationship simply won’t work out. Every situation is different, and everyone needs to heal in their own way, and in their own time.
It’s possible the saying, “Once a cheater, always a cheater” can be an accurate description of you or your partner. And if it’s been too long, and you still feel that way, then the relationship may not be meant to be. But if you do honestly trust the person who once cheated, and know that they won’t cheat again, but you still have feelings of resentment or anger, then it’s time for you to step into your power and be the person you’d want to be if the cheating never took place in the first place.
In other words, if the cheating never happened, how would you want to feel in a relationship? Who would you want to be for your partner? At one point, the shaming, guilting and pain has to stop so that you can actually rebuild the relationship with a solid foundation of love, not a shaky foundation of pain and anger.
There are many opinions about all of this mess, I realize. As much as I believe I am full of unconditional love, I don’t think I’d be able to stay in a relationship with someone who cheated on me, especially because I ask for clear communication from the very beginning when getting to know someone.
I don’t like head games, and only want to hear truths, even if they hurt. If my girlfriend is starting to have feelings of cheating, I would rather her come right up to me and say, “I’m having feelings of cheating” than to have her hide it. At least when it’s out on the table like that, it might actually save our relationship, instead of create what could be a nightmare of pain in the future.
Your Next Step
1. If you have been cheated on, forgive yourself first.
Forgive yourself if you feel stupid, conned, or whatever. Forgive yourself for allowing certain people into your life. Then after you forgive yourself you can be open to forgiving others. If the cheater regrets their behavior and you believe they are sincere, that’s when you can start healing with them. And when you’re ready you can step into who you want to be in a relationship and not let the fear of someone cheating again plague your life.
I won’t lie: The cheater could cheat again. But that’s true of anyone. Couldn’t anyone, even those who’ve never cheated, have an affair? In the right circumstance, under the perfect conditions, with the most alluring person, the temptations are there. And we either trust the one we are with or we don’t.
So when it comes to your healing, you either trust the person you are with, former cheater or not, or you don’t. If you don’t, then you need to gauge whether are they genuinely earning your trust day by day or not. If not you may always have an under-layer of distrust towards them.
Once you know if your trust can be re-earned through their daily behavior to regain it, you can decide if this is a relationship you want to continue.
2. If you suspect your partner may be cheating, confront them. Ask them.
If the communication in your relationship is ambiguous you’ll always have suspicions. But if you are direct and want to know the truth, ask direct questions. A cheater may lie but go with your instincts.
I once asked the victim of a cheater what her instincts told her and she said she believed from the beginning that he was cheating. But denial kept her in the relationship. He would cry and beg her to come back as part of his manipulation. He promised to change and be an honest husband again. But her instincts told her otherwise. And as soon as she let her rationalizations kick in having thoughts like, “Well, he did seem sincere”, or “Well, he promised, so I guess he meant it”, she chose her logic over her instincts.We have instincts for a reason.
Trust in those first then go from there.
3. If you are considering cheating, remember that you are committing emotional murder.
It’s harsh I know, but when you are in someone’s heart, you are in their most vulnerable place. And by betraying the trust they have given you (and that’s a lot of trust), you are chipping away at their very soul.
But I’m helping you avoid a massive mistake. If you feel like cheating, tell your partner just that. Or at least express to them how you’re not happy in the relationship. Express hard truths to them. It probably won’t go well but it will get everything out in the open. The truth could end everything right then and there, but if that happens then you get to do what you want after that anyway.
Or the truth could lead to the most powerful, healing, and bonding experience of your relationship.
4. Finally, if you have cheated on someone, and you regret it and know that you will never do it again, and your partner wants to rebuild the relationship, you will probably have to suffer some punishment for a while.
Your partner will want you to feel guilty, shame, and remorse. He or she will want you to know how much pain you made them feel and will want you to walk around like a beaten dog with your tail between your legs.
There are very few people that forgive right away, especially for betrayal, so expect this to happen. And quite frankly, maybe you deserve to be punished for a while. Maybe you deserve to feel all of this negativity so that you can remember what is was like to put someone through it yourself.
I’m not making any judgments on whether you actually deserve it or not, but this kind of backlash is very likely unavoidable. What goes around comes around. It’s the natural order of life. When you go over to the greener grass, your own grass will eventually die.
When you want to save your relationship after betraying your partner, the punishment is inevitable and almost always unavoidable. But when enough time has passed, whether it’s 3 months, 6 months, or even a year, you’ll be able to crawl out of the hole you’ve been in so that you can start living life again.
You may have committed emotional murder but you shouldn’t be sentenced to life for it. Eventually you need to step into your power again. Not only for you but for the other person as well.
One half of a relationship that is feeling shame, guilt and regret does not make a healthy relationship. When enough time has passed there needs to be progress. Keeping your head down in shame is not what a truly committed life-partner wants or needs in their life. Stand up and step into a higher self. And if those old flames come back and want to be with you again, squelch their fire and be the rock of stability that will not falter from your partner’s side.
If you are truly committed to the relationship you are in and want to rebuild it then it’s up to you to eliminate anything that’s a threat to the harmony you are trying to create. Old flames can burn your relationship to the ground. Show your partner that you are always carrying the proverbial fire extinguisher so he or she knows that you are committed to them. It’s a corny reference I know but sometimes it helps to hold an image in your head so that you can act swiftly when needed.
If you’re in a relationship that has experienced an affair, choosing to save it will be a tough decision to come to. Some are worth saving, others may never have had a chance to begin with. My wish for you is that you keep the line of communication open. Don’t be afraid to confront and face hard truths because that is what prevents a lot of this from happening in the first place.
Whoever you are and whatever you’ve done, if your intentions are true and you want things to work out and enough time has passed, step into your power and be the person your partner wants and admires.
Tune into Love and Abuse, the podcast about poisonous communication and toxic behavior for more information on working through difficult relationships.
If you are experiencing manipulation or emotional abuse in your relationship, get the M.E.A.N. Workbook to take the test and start the process of healing and getting your power back.
Expressing the hard truths about yourself is the first step in establishing a strong foundation in a relationship. As you express a hard truth, it adds a solid brick to your foundation. It’s real, not based on hope or fear. These hard truths, when addressed right up front, will leave less room for surprise later on.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve never cheated or been cheated on, or if you have. The foundation you start to build or rebuild is what sets the tone for the rest of your relationship. If you build a strong foundation of communication, you will always know where each other are in the relationship. It can be hard, I know. But it’s easier to go through the hard stuff now, to avoid the pain that could come up later.
You can do this. Nurture your relationship with honest talk and by expressing the hard truths. When you do that, you’ll create the magic that romance is made of.
Step into your power so that the next time you look into the mirror, you can absolutely believe what I already know to be true, that you are amazing.