If you find yourself wondering, “What should I do after my boyfriend cheated on me?” – this article is for you.
My Boyfriend Cheated on Me
Learning that your boyfriend cheated is super painful. When this happens, you will naturally have intense emotions and urges. You may have conflicting urges and desires.
One part of you may want to seek revenge. Another part of you may want to break up. And yet another part may want to fix your relationship with your boyfriend.
Knowing What to Do
If you found out your boyfriend cheated on you, you will likely find yourself on an emotional rollercoaster. One minute you may not be able to stop crying. The next moment you may be rageful. Then suddenly you may feel hopeful you can work it out with your boyfriend.
Naturally, you will be focused on trying to figure out what to do in your relationship. However, to make the right choice and take the right actions, you must care for your feelings first.
Not Being Able to Think Clearly Yet
Intense emotions such as shock, anger, heartbreak, or embarrassment impact your ability to think clearly. This is because when you naturally enter a trauma response (fight-fight-freeze-fawn). Your nervous system doesn’t know the difference between the trauma of a lion chasing you or being betrayed by your boyfriend. Instead, it simply wants to protect you. However, this natural protective mechanism turns off your prefrontal cortex which is where your decision making occurs.
When this happens, you must focus on self-soothing first to enable your prefrontal cortex to come back online. Only when this happens are you able to know what you should do after your boyfriend cheats on you.
Soothing Your Emotions to Make Healthy Decisions
The first step to coping well is to accept your emotions rather than judge them. It’s completely valid to feel a range of conflicting emotions.
Next, whenever you feel emotionally distressed, you will want to practice self-soothing. These are skills that help calm you down. You will want to first practice deep breathing as this helps your nervous system regulate to think clearly again. This video will show you how to therapeutically breathe:
Next you may do any activity that calms you down. Naturally though you will forget what these activities are when you are overwhelmed. To support yourself, I encourage you to download a free self-soothing handout. This handout helps you figure out how to soothe yourself when you’re overwhelmed as it includes a variety of activities which you can use to self-soothe.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up
If you discover your boyfriend cheated, it’s important to not beat yourself up. Your natural urge may be to attack yourself or criticize what’s “wrong” with you as to why your boyfriend cheated. However, it’s important to be self-compassionate to not make a painful situation worse.
It’s not your fault your boyfriend cheated. Whatever the reasons your boyfriend may give you for cheating, it was his choice to cheat on you and his responsibility alone. Even if he may have felt disconnected from you, he chose to betray you rather than communicating his needs assertively. This is his failing – not yours.
To be able to truly heal your relationship, it’s important he takes accountability for his choice to cheat on you – rather than potentially blaming you.
How is Your Boyfriend Reacting?
To figure out what you should do after being cheated on, it’s important to look at your boyfriend’s reactions. This will help you understand how healthy it is for you to stay or if you should leave.
If he is taking accountability for his behaviors, and understanding that it will take time to heal, this is a positive sign.
However, if your boyfriend is blaming you – or gaslighting you – for his cheating this is a major cause for concern. While you may have hurt him or made him feel disconnected, he was responsible to communicate with you rather than betraying you.
The only way to heal from a betrayal trauma like cheating is for your boyfriend to take true accountability.
You Must Re-Establish Trust
To heal your relationship, it’s essential to work towards rebuilding trust. Without trust, you cannot have a happy, healthy, or safe relationship.
Fundamentally, trust means that you believe the other person has your best interest in mind. Once someone betrays you, it’s valid you will lose trust and question if they truly do care about your wellbeing. Sometimes, trust can be regained. Other times, it cannot. This is an individual process for each person and each relationship.
How to Rebuild Trust
To rebuild trust, your boyfriend must take accountability. Esther Perel, a therapist who specializes in supporting couples experiencing infidelity explains,
During the crisis phase, the responsibility for repair lies primarily with the one who had an affair.Esther Perel, The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity
The Steps Towards Rebuilding Trust
- Your boyfriend must take accountability for cheating on you. This means no gaslighting, excuses, or blaming you.
- Your boyfriend must accept and respect that you need time to heal. Any attempts to pressure you to make up your mind are disrespectful and a violation of your natural need for time to heal.
- Attend therapy together. Healing after someone cheats is a complex process, and you deserve the support of a licensed couple’s therapist. You may find a local therapist for your needs on the Psychology Today directory.
- Take your time to rebuild trust. This often takes at a minimum a year of therapy together.
- Accept that you can’t control the future. Attend therapy to work on your issues around controlling his behaviors. Trying to control others is a core symptom of codependency and so if needed, work on your codependency recovery.
- Work to figure out your true needs in the relationship and what will make you feel safe. You may do this by journaling, talking to a therapist, reading self-development books, and talking to friends.
Should You Stay or Leave?
No one can answer if you should take your boyfriend back or not. The only person with this answer is you.
But please know that whatever you choose you cannot go wrong as long as it is aligned with what is authentic for you.
You’re Not Weak if You Stay
If you choose to stay with your boyfriend, you’re not weak. Commonly, the quick reaction is to leave someone after they cheat. However, if you authentically want to make your relationship work and your boyfriend works to rebuild trust – there is no weakness in this.
It takes a lot of strength to listen to your authentic desire to stay especially when others may judge it.
It’s Ok to Leave
If you feel called to leave, please be kind to yourself. The grieving process during a break-up is complex and painful and complicated by betrayal. Please seek support as needed both by a professional and your friend.
Making the Right Choice
You cannot make a wrong choice after your boyfriend cheats on you if you take time to really listen to your needs and wants. There are no guarantees in life and so the best plan after being cheated on is to be honest with yourself about what you want to do. Of course, you may need time to cope with your emotions before having this clarity. It’s ok to not know yet what you want to do. Take care of your feelings and the clarity will come in time.
About The Author
Krystal Mazzola Wood, LMFT is a practicing relationship therapist with over a decade of experience. Currently, Krystal sees clients at her private practice, The Healthy Relationship Foundation. She has dedicated her entire career to empowering people to heal from unhealthy relationship processes. She does this by teaching the skills and tools necessary to have a life filled with healthy and loving relationships.
This passion led her to write her best-selling books and create courses. Her books, The Codependency Recovery Plan: A 5-Step Guide to Understand, Accept, and Break Free from the Codependent Cycle and The Codependency Workbook: Simple Practices for Developing and Maintaining Your Independence have helped many people heal.
She is currently working on her book, Self-Love Made Possible: The 5-Step Guide to Stop Being Your Own Worst Enemy and Become Your Own Best Friend. To be notified of its release, please join the waitlist here.
If you have any personal dating or relationship questions, Krystal is happy to provide advice using her expertise and compassion. If you feel comfortable, feel free to leave any questions in the comments of this post. Otherwise, you may send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or DM her on Instagram.
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