A Therapist Teaches You How To Face Infidelity With Dignity

The pain of being cheated on is incomparable. But it doesn’t have to destroy you.

By Jourdan Travers, LCSW | October 4, 2022

Infidelity is a complex and painful experience that can cost both members of a relationship dearly. It can make you question the foundation of your identity, asking things like:

  • "Is there something wrong with me? Am I not enough?"
  • "Was my entire marriage an elaborate lie?"
  • "Will I ever be able to trust my partner again? Or any other partner?"
  • "Why did this happen to me? Did I do something to deserve this?"

Trying to rush to make sense of a traumatic experience is never a good idea. It can lead you down a dark and intrusive thought spiral.

Instead, there are a host of immediate steps you can take to regain your composure before you embark on a deeper investigation of the breach of trust. Think of it as emotional first-aid.

Here are three things you can do in the aftermath of a cheating episode.

#1. Take a time-out

Everything is not fair in love and war. In the case of infidelity, in all likelihood, it will not be pretty.

A lot of couples will tell you that so much of the pain they caused each other in the aftermath of a betrayal could have been avoided if only they had retreated and not attacked. This is true regardless of whether they chose to continue the relationship or not.

Therefore, instead of forcing a confrontation or making a life-altering decision in haste, the first thing on your agenda should be to find a soft spot to land on – for yourself and for other people (like children) who might be affected by it.

Take refuge in a safe space, like your best friend's or parents' home. Ensure that the first few conversations you have in this time are with non-judgmental loved ones who want nothing but the best for you.

The instinct to hurt your partner back might overwhelm you, but it's not worth the regret it might cause later.

One way to be fair to yourself during a time of emotional turmoil is to imagine a loved one going through what you are and to treat yourself with as much patience and attention as you would treat them.

#2. Get professional help

An extramarital affair or an instance of infidelity are scenarios that will attract the attention of others, for better and worse.

You might find yourself inundated with unsolicited advice and unhelpful sympathy. Even if they come from a good place, messages of regret and condolence cannot take you very far in your journey of healing.

In such a sensitive time, it is often a good idea to make an appointment with a therapist. Many therapists are specifically trained to help people overcome difficult family and marital issues – and getting an unbiased perspective eliminates many of the inhibitions you might feel when talking to a close loved one.

No judgment, no projections, no assumptions. Just an in-depth conversation about the best way to get you back on your feet.

#3. Remember that you both are human

It can be argued that empathizing with your partner after they have broken your trust does not help you in any way, and that might be right. But approaching them with a vengeance and viewing them as a monster doesn't necessarily help either.

You do not have to forgive them or forget their actions but it is worth reminding yourself that harboring hate in your heart is akin to constantly picking at a wound.

To forever view them as the 'perpetrator' is to forever view yourself as the 'victim.' In most cases of infidelity, the situation and the people involved are far more complex than that.

It might be hard to imagine that there could be light at the end of this particularly dark tunnel. But many people have been through it before you and most of them do not come out of it alone.


Even with infidelity, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Research suggests that, while the road to recovery may be long, practicing forgiveness, seeking counseling, and managing memories are a few effective ways to start the process. For reconciliation to work, therapists will tell you that there needs to be a fundamental shift in the power dynamic of the relationship. To move past your current partner, you'll likely need to redefine what you desire in a romantic partner.