You were cheated on, so now what? The answer is in you.
Whether it was an emotional affair, a one-night stand or a longer-term fling, your spouse, girlfriend, or long-term partner cheated on you. You’re hurt, you’re angry, you feel betrayed, and justifiably so. After you get past the initial “how could this happen?” and “how could you?” unless you’ve raged à la Angela Bassett in Waiting to Exhale and emptied your cheater’s closet of bespoke suits and designer watches in Louis Vuitton luggage and a wheelbarrow, loaded it into his BMW and set it afire, you have a decision to make. Do you stay, or do you go? Can you, or do you want to trust someone again after they have cheated on you? This may irrelevant because in many cases, cheating marks the end of a relationship. It can be the catalyst that allows both partners to agree things are over. It’s a painful and unfortunate way to get to over, but there it is.
Trusting again isn’t easy after being betrayed. Depending on the length and complexity of the relationship, you may want to believe what they say—”It’ll never happen again”—so you can maintain the relationship, but how do you know if they’re telling the truth? They’ve already lied at least once. The answer may be, you can’t trust them, whether this is a boyfriend of two months, or a wife of fifteen years. And that’s where infidelity is like ripping the Band-Aid off on a relationship. It becomes too painful to recover from the lying; the only solution is a break-up. That said, your days of trusting others are not over, even if your days of trusting this person may well be.
On the other hand, cheating can be a way to shine a light on relationship issues and lead to a new beginning. Is this a relationship you believe in and is your partner committed to future monogamy? Are you still in love? The path you take is up to you. The point is, you need to trust again, whether it’s your current partner who cheated, your future partner, or even, and this really is the bottom line, yourself, and your own judgement moving forward.
You can learn to trust again, just not in the way you think. Re-learning to trust is not about hoping that your partner won’t cheat on you again, or that your next partner will be faithful. Trust comes from within. It is re-learning to trust your intuition. You likely doubt your inner voice now. You were duped. You partner lied to you or hid their affair. How can you trust your gut instinct about anything again? Well, trust is about learning to be still and listen. It is about trusting yoursef. Your partner is human and humans let each other down. And, no matter what words come out of someone’s mouth, you never really know if someone is lying, but if you are still, and you listen, you can feel it in your gut. And you can trust yourself.
Only your own intuition tells you the truth all the time. Learning to trust your instincts is the most important way to know if your partner is being honest about their outside relationships, and ultimately, about their feelings for you in general. But you must listen. In order to be in a relationship and feel safe, you have to trust your inner voice. Your intuition will never lie.
Trust your inner voice and you can learn to get past the affair, if that is what you want. If you still love your partner and believe in working on the relationship, and he or she wants to work to rebuild your trust, and commit to monogamy again. Or trust your inner voice and know that your partner is going to cheat again, and you would like to move on, if that is what your intuition tells you. In either case, don’t allow your fear of being alone, of disappointing someone, of not being the “good guy,” or of breaking up the family, get in the way of doing what’s ultimately going to be best for you, and your children if applicable.
Have confidence in your inner voice. Recognize and acknowledge your fears and separate them from your intuitive voice. Your gut will tell you if you can trust the person again, and if you even want to try. Move past those fears, real or imagined, so you can make the right decision, whether you stay and rebuild, or whether you go and find trust and love with someone new. Your inner voice knows what to do. Now, go and do it.
(This post originally ran on The Good Men Project.)