How to deal with being cheated on (without being vengeful)
This one is for Diana! Hope this helps and thank you for writing to me!! xo If you prefer to listen, here’s the podcast version of this blog post.
This is for anyone who has been burned bad in a romantic relationship and now you are are struggling with the idea of revenge: you hate them, you’re hurt by them, you want them to show they care, but they are not showing any signs whatsoever. Maybe you were in a committed relationship with someone and discovered they had been cheating and lying to you all along. Maybe you even confronted this person and they acted aloof and then immediately moved on as though you meant nothing: your feelings and tears are almost invisible and their “love” has somehow evaporated. If this sounds like you, even remotely, then this is a blog for you. It’s so you can let go of the obsessive thoughts about this person and accept the truth of your situation so that this never happens to you again.
If you are reeling from a very recent realization about a relationship – I know this is all a lot to take in so don’t do it all at once. Reading too much on a topic like this can be overwhelmingly painful – so right now, go easy on yourself and just be gentle about how much you tackle.
The loss of someone you loved itself, is painful. On top of that you are confused by the fact that they seem to care nothing about you or your feelings. That’s also painful. It’s extremely confusing because you have feelings in all directions and together, they don’t make sense. Because this is not how a person who loved you is meant to act. That is a key piece of information. That is not how someone who loved you, is meant to act. It’s not normal or average – this is not what your life and future are meant to be.
So if you’re here now in life, I’m guessing you are reeling over the loss, but also over what the hell happened – feeling like ‘…what is wrong with me if they’re not trying to get me back and why didn’t they didn’t love me enough before, not to cheat?’ So when you see that they apparently do not care about you, it can evoke rage and obsession and all kinds of feelings that are toxic, to say the least. You can remain trapped here – in these terrible feelings – suffering at the hand of this person who does not deserve any attention from you at all. Especially after destroying your heart. So I am hoping to give you some tough-love and clarity on your situation so that it never happens to you again.
This relationship is your greatest teacher: it was meant to happen, because you have some very important learning to do right now. My hope is that you treat it that way and you don’t let this be for nothing.
I will start with the basic reasons why you should never enact revenge, ever. Part 2 is about “the why” behind this person. Part 3 is “the why” behind why you chose them. Part 4 is a set of tools to help you move forward.
Part 1: Why Revenge is Never a Good Idea.
You act against your truest self, your most loving self and in the process, you degrade yourself. You act as someone lower than they are, because you’re not only getting down on their level by pursuing interactions at all – you are showing them you want their attention. Even though it’s negative attention, it’s still an invitation to engage. An invitation includes ANY kind of interaction – even if it’s a seemingly harmless email about “trading stuff.” And sending invitations to someone who degraded you and hurt you is not okay. The best way to think of it, is they force you to act against yourself, they retain power over you – power that you need to sever by force. Don’t let them continue to degrade you by forcing you to act and feel lower than who you are. Additionally, if you engage them in any way, you are keeping the door open: you are actively inviting them to respond. You are saying, “I am listening and I care.” When it comes to a person who has hurt you, the most valuable thing you have is access to yourself. Cut it off now and don’t look back, because if you want revenge – it shows me that you are vulnerable to this person.
If this person burned you very badly, say you were cheated on extensively – I am guessing you are affected very deeply because their behavior – if interpreted logically- says that you are not enough, and you meant nothing. So it makes sense that you would feel drawn to wanting the validation you didn’t get. Their actions created a question-mark in your life: am I worth loving or am I not? The fact that you’re affected so intensely that you are enraged, means that somewhere deep down, you think they’re right. You are unsure and questioning the truth of your value as a person. If you did not feel this way and you were completely confident in who you are and your value, you would think, “What a psycho-moron! They just lost the greatest thing that ever happened to them! I am lucky to have escaped such a terrible relationship.” You’re not thinking that because. . . (drumroll) . . .you think it’s about you. That’s what this comes down to.
I know you don’t want to care about them and the want of vengeance is totally involuntary. You’re likely reading this because it’s making you unhappy to be obsessed and affected by them at all – the pain is too great and you are struggling to make sense of this relationship and wanting them to care. Wanting them to validate that you mattered to them at all – that they felt in love, too. This is a very tough-love thing for me to say but I must say it and you must hear me: they don’t. They’re only looking at themselves and what they want. They are trapped in their issues, which prevent them from having any ability to see you or your feelings or understanding your pain. You must accept that. The illusion they presented to you, was not real.
They don’t and probably can’t love you or feel for you. You have to accept that reality and know that it has nothing to do with you or your worth – at all. You accidentally chose a person who cannot see you or love you – and you deserve someone who loves you more than anyone in the world. You deserve someone who cherishes you. You are a catch! You are a prize, to be honored and coveted – you are a kind and wonderful person – how dare this person hurt you! You are meant for someone who knows what they have and will never for a moment let you go. And this person exists – in truth, they do. But you have to start acting as the person that will be capable of CHOOSING them, too. You have to train yourself out of the bad habits and choose better – and ONLY better. You have to set your own bar higher, and you have to start doing it right now. To do that, I believe you have to understand how to see this situation objectively – because when it comes to our choices, they are emotional and totally engrained into our muscle-memory. They are engrained into our experiences so in order to decide to change them, we have to first become educated on what created them – and then actively DECIDE to choose differently. Which brings me to the first element of your education… “The Why” behind this person to whom you accidentally handed your heart.
Part 2. “The Why” Behind Chronic Cheaters & Manipulators
In all of these cases, it has NOTHING to do with you. At all. This is a problem related solely to that person and their issues. I will cover various casual types all the way up to the severe – but universally, all of them – are choosing to act as unloving humans. They are choosing to disregard the value of others and choosing to lie. That’s what you need to know: regardless of their issues, it’s always a choice.
*I will also post the references for books you can read on specific topics at the end of this post.
Self-Haters In Sexy Camouflage
This is so you can remember the name – but basically, when someone avoids intimacy by keeping part of their life always outside of the commitment, it’s often because they have terrible feelings about themselves deep down that they refuse to face – therefore they “wear” the camouflage of wanting to have more sex. They cheat to avoid emotional intimacy because they don’t want to be “seen” or invest in themselves, ever. They stay as far outside the relationship as possible – never a participant – only a manipulator, because they are “safe” there and not threatened. If I were in your shoes, I might be thinking “Awe, how sad – that poor person – I can convince them they are great and worth loving…” and to that I say NOPE. You can’t. Only the person can learn to love themselves, for themselves. That work needs to be done by them, for them. And regardless, don’t think about helping them – you need to learn a lesson about what just happened to you.
A Halloween Costume of “Don Juan”
This is my metaphor for someone who gets confidence about their worth from people wanting to be with them, sexually. It’s only superficial confidence and it doesn’t last because inside there is emptiness. Basically, they just want lots of attention because they define how well they’re doing in life by the fact that people want to have sex with them. It’s like an arbitrary and messed up measure of value, kind of like when people fit into a size “zero” and it makes them feel thin and socially “okay” – even though that size is just an arbitrary measure. In this case, lots of sexual partners earned represents, “I am a charismatic, powerful and attractive person.”
Childlike Selfishness or, The Hardest Lesson Ever Learned
If this is the first and only time this has happened in your relationship and this person feels an extreme amount of remorse, there’s a very good chance they had to learn this lesson the hard way. Not all cheaters are to be abandoned – and that’s something only you can decide based on your relationship and your history with this person. Sometimes if a person cheats, it’s because they were selfish and just wanted what they wanted – regardless of the consequences, in this case – physical pleasure. Though this is extremely selfish and often unforgivable, many people really cannot conceptual of the value of their relationship until they suffer its loss: they literally cannot conceive of what they want, deep down – so it acts as a truth-test. For whatever reason, some lessons are so major that must be experienced first-hand to be understood, and once they’re learned – they stick.
Most people go through this lesson in early adulthood, and if they really experienced the loss and felt the ramifications of their actions, they never repeated it again. So if it was the first time this has happened for this person, they might just have to learn this lesson by suffering with the pain it has caused them. Because you can’t anticipate what it feels like to hurt someone you love until it happens, once that pain has been really, truly felt – that will outweigh the desire that one might feel for sex, regardless of the situation. If someone really loves the other person, it’s very likely they would never do it again (assuming they don’t have other serious issues that might contribute). However – if that person doesn’t feel the loss at all, that’s an entirely different kind of person. That kind of person would be…deep breath…
Don’t close your ears. This one is more common than you think and there’s a wide range of behaviors that fall under this category. In general, it’s a person who is fundamentally damaged from a young age: sex became a way of soothing themselves, so they take this on as a form of oxygen. It’s a non-stop obsession and fixation and it’s all-consuming. You cannot talk or love them out of it – it is a permanent condition and you are merely in the path of destruction.
How to know if this person was a sex addict?
Here’s a rough list of behaviors that likely occurred – though it could have been one of these and that’s definitely enough. If you dated someone who was soliciting prostitutes, or had multiple avenues of cheating that seemed to be happening at all times. If the person was constantly consuming porn (at all hours, in all places) or reading Craigslist personals for meet-ups – regardless of what they said about why they were looking. If the person wanted sex from you at all hours, on an endless basis. If this person had no boundaries related to sex – whatsoever. If this person boasted their past behaviors and those behaviors made you feel a little shocked, you were likely with a sex addict.
They are also manipulative and often are sociopaths and psychopaths who lack the ability to feel empathy. This is the most dangerous factor, as they don’t feel that what they are doing is that bad: they have a totally different value system than you, despite whether or not they convinced you that they agreed with yours. They cannot ever want what you want or feel what you feel – they will never choose to be committed to you because to choose one mate is to threaten the supply of their drug. Stay away from them – do not listen to words, ONLY TO ACTIONS. This kind of relationship is very, very dangerous – especially to the person who is often drawn to a sex-addict. The types who are attracted to them are often very, very giving and overly focused on “fixing” someone who’s damaged. If you dated one, you likely wanted to feel needed and accepted and the fact that they wanted you felt so comforting. That’s how it starts.
Regardless of the person you encountered, the most important point to remember is in all of these cases – the reason they cheated IS NOT ABOUT YOU. You were never the cause of the situation, it had nothing to do with what you look like or what you did or didn’t say or do – that person acted based on their own selfish issues and those have absolutely no connection to you and your actions.
At this point, I would like you to accept this truth so you can approach the situation properly. I literally want you to paste that on the wall in front of you or on your phone. “It’s got nothing to do with you.” In truth, they don’t even truly know you. They can only know themselves and what they want.” Really paste this up on the wall in front of you. If you start to want to ask again, “Why don’t they miss me” remind yourself again. Which brings me to. . .
Part 3: The Why Behind You
If you chose a person like this, you were likely tolerating bad behavior for a long time. There were warning signs that you either didn’t see or didn’t acknowledge and THAT is what you have to start looking at, right now. What made you ignore it?
If this experience is inciting a want of revenge, it tells me that somehow their opinion of you defined you – to yourself. It held a lot of power, and still does. So, somewhere, you don’t have a convicted opinion about yourself and your worth.
This is a journal exercise:
I want you to ask yourself what warning signs you now know that you missed before? What in you disregarded them? Why did you let them go? Were there things you were “cool” with that others in your life were like, “OMG are you serious? I can’t believe you’re okay with that—” Write those down.
When people you date have “issues” those issues cannot be ignored because they don’t go away just because you don’t see them. I want you to promise yourself that you will not choose the same kind of person again. Make a commitment to yourself, write now, that you will do the work necessary to avoid this from happening again, forever. Write that commitment down in your journal and address it to yourself. Date it and sign it.
If you’re looking ahead in the future and feeling overwhelmed and shattered, don’t worry. When it comes to trust – your trust has been shattered by this experience, yes – but know that it will be very clear to you who is trustworthy and who is not – once you do the necessary learning based on this experience. You’ve basically got to pull the skillset from other people who have the vision that you didn’t have – and objectively choose to enact the habits and behaviors that they do, when choosing relationships. You’ve also got to do a lot of work on yourself and your relationship with that self before you get back into any relationship. This is a big lesson in your life – do this work on yourself and do it right.
To give you a bit of context, here are some of the traits that come with choosing untrustworthy people – so if you have one or more of these, it makes total sense that you were drawn to a person who did this to you. It’s semi-built in to your comfort zone.
You feel unworthy or damaged.
You chose someone despite warning flags. That is not self-protective. Which makes me think – you feel like you are “not hot enough” or damaged goods somehow – like maybe you can’t get anyone “Great” or ideal, or you’re never gonna find someone who will love you as well as you will love them. That’s a bad habit of a thought – that’s a sign you’ve got to do some work on yourself and improve your relationship with yourself and also your confidence. Start some heavy duty self-work.
You are codependent
If you are non-stop obsessed with what they think and feel and can’t stop taking apart the things they said about you, I am guessing you are codependent. What created that adjective has a few very specific causes: you have a history of alcohol in the family or parents who were incapable of taking care of you – maybe you were the main caregiver, or your parents were too consumed with work or their own problems to give you the protection and safety that you needed – or maybe one parent had a problem with rage or emotionally falling to pieces. This all creates a dynamic in children that basically makes you leave yourself to focus on someone else – it’s a survival mechanism, and it’s healthy when you need it – not so much now, as an adult.
When it comes to dating, this is just a bad habit and you can untrain this way of thinking – but it takes, first, awareness. If there are issues in your past that you haven’t dealt with yet, you should start on them now before getting into another relationship. Don’t bring them with you to the next one – because the next one you’re going choose someone awesome with no issues at all!
So if this sounds like you, you will have to start doing some exercises on your habits to untrain your codependency. There’s a great book called “Codependent no more” that I recommend to get you started – I’ll put links to other helpful material at the end of this post.
That person made you feel good about yourself.
If this person came onto you very strong or made you feel like the most amazing person in the world, it makes sense to me that you allowed yourself to accept less than positive behavior – because in the moment it was an equal trade: you knew they loved you the way you were, so why wouldn’t you do the same for them. Plus, they made you happy and what a wonderful, novel feeling! I feel complete – this person sees me for what I am and also loves me that way! I will do the same. If this sounds like you, I am guessing you had not had anyone make you feel that accepted and loved before, so it was overwhelming and profound to have someone feel this way about you. That also makes sense.
This situation in particular, is a toughy – because you were manipulated to feel great, so the loss – for you, is double – because it was a loss of this love of yourself, as well as a loss of this person. The illusion you grew accustomed to was quite literally, a different relationship because it translated into how you viewed yourself: you constructed a reality based on how they saw you, so accepting the fact that they lied is devastating. When it hurts the most is when what they created for you – in your feelings about yourself – is something you don’t believe is true. Meaning, if this loss is excrutiating for this reason – and you have been leveled to mush, they likely convinced you of merit you had never seen before and losing the belief now, you feel reduced to rubble.
I can tell you from the outside of your pain – that the belief they gave you of yourself, the glowing confidence in your beauty and strength: that’s how you should feel about yourself, regardless. You should love yourself that much and more, all the time. You should covet yourself as much as they did – and more. And THAT is what you need to build in yourself, starting right now: strength and conviction in your value, beauty and worth. You can do it with habitual self-love and deliberate self-bettering. Know that the most valuable ingredient you can ever have in your love-life is self-love. Your love for yourself backs you up in future relationships even if others take their love away. You will never be leveled like this again because you will have a shield that is the love of yourself.
I know that’s easier said than comprehended, especially when you’re in an emotional spot like the one you’re in right now, so just start with the simple goal to love yourself more. Start taking steps in that direction.
Part 4: Tools to get your brain off of this icky, lame person who hurt you.
Let this be the only time you choose wrong. Always stay connected to the fact that this person caused you a lot of damage and you still escaped with your life in tact – hopefully they didn’t rob you of your finances, or give you herpes, but you are spared from a lifetime of damage. This pain is a great teacher in your life. We all need these big lessons for a reason – to gain a very specific piece of knowledge that we were likely lacking. Take it as that. Really reflect.
If you are suffering and trying desperately to not miss them or not long for them, my first tool is to help you sever that nerve that wants to love them still – despite the pain.
Don’t Get Sad, Get Angry.
I know that sounds weird because I never condone hate or anger, but in this case it’s very helpful to untrain a conflicting want of them and their company. It makes sense because you were with some version of this person for a long time – so you miss that person –the one who lived in your mind. But therein lies the break from reality: you didn’t know them at all. So in order to really retain your grip on the safe-distance, I want you to think about them and focus on how they hurt you. Focus on how terribly uncaring and selfish their acts were: think about your person as you might a friend or a family member, and feel the anger over their violation of you and your precious gift of a physical body. You should be thinking, “How DARE they hurt me. How DARE they lie to me and defile my body. I am so precious, how could they discard me like that?!” Get PISSED off. If your mind wanders toward the longing, remind yourself of how trashy that act made you feel. SO NOT OKAY.
Get mad at this literal circumstance having happened to you – put your pain and energy toward never allowing it to happen again: this situation sucks and it is not your lot in life. Not for you – not fair – not warranted. Ask for the vision that you need to see this coming and know that this is the last time you get tricked by anyone who can see the voids in your heart and knows how to play them.
Take this step seriously: there should be no compassion – only a need to sever the connection. If you feel at all drawn to them, you need to get really, really mad at what this person has done to you – because the fact that you are allowing yourself to look toward them at all – shows you are still caring about what they think: you are not “safe” yet because want their attention.
Decide your Values.
This is another journal exercise and it’s in here because I am guessing that you likely didn’t recognize you were violating your values when this person took on a role in your life – or perhaps, you don’t know what your true values are – at all. I want you to write a list, in your journal. The list is made up of your standards of conduct for how you demand to be treated, as a human. Whatever they are, keep them basic, keep them black and white, keep them universal and not conditional– and from this point forth, stick to them. Decide you will abide them always. If someone does not adhere, cut them out of your life and do not accept less-than from anyone: friend or suitor.
Stay Completely Honest with Yourself at All Times.
Moving forward, you have to train yourself to look for the warning signs you accepted or ignored before. You have to ACCEPT those warning signs unconditionally. I think that often when we “want” the idea of something to be true so bad, we want to ignore or forgive the signs that they are not who we wish they were. In this current relationship, something told you the way this person was before hand and yet you allowed it to slip past you. You accepted it as “okay.” That could have altered your future and changed the moment you’re living right now– and it’s something you can change from this point on. Don’t repeat this again: decide right now you will never accidentally ignore something that doesn’t sit right. Trust those nudges from your gut.
Act in Accordance with Your Own Best Thinking.
Be disciplined. Right now, though you have conflicting feelings and the weakest part of you wants to fall back into dysfunction, focus on abiding your best self and only your highest values as a person. If that doesn’t give you enough power, just focus on not letting them win. Be your own coach: literally talk to yourself to overcome whatever emotional urges you have that oppose your highest values and continue to listen only to your own best thinking. You know rationally that you don’t want to be affected by the asshole who defiled you, so just keep sticking to that knowledge and do what you can to help your physical person act in accordance with your own standards of conduct as a human. In other words, do not permit ANYONE to bring you lower than who you are- which is kind and loving and worth loving. Lock yourself indoors if you have to! Call friends to hold onto your phone. Know yourself and your values, beyond the loneliness and pain.
Book Up Your Time Like Mad.
Focus and fantasize about your awesome and epic future self. Build more of what is great in you: add friends to your phone, add social gatherings to your calendar, add multiple cool-sounding hobbies! Literally – fill your schedule to the roof. Right now, though it can feel superficial – you need all the external tethers you can get. Don’t question them, just build them to everything and anything and get yourself out of your old lonely spots. Restructure your schedule around newness and character-building activities. This is not based on them – it’s based on replacing them as quickly and thoroughly as possible. Do it and mean it.
Get Happy With You, Solo.
This one is going to take more than a little while – so it’s more about deciding to make an investment in the outcome. Before you get into another relationship, you need to work on being really loving toward yourself and acting really protective of that self. You need to also grow the bond you have with yourself so that you can rely on you – no matter what – even if you do happen to encounter another selfish manipulator. Right now, you’ve got to do some reflecting and healing – so take this window to really get to know yourself, minus the want of anyone else. Decide you’re going to figure out what you want in life – as a person, alone – and not on any kind of schedule.
Educate Yourself and Build Growth Support.
Right now I suggest you surround yourself with educational and inspiring material and supportive and understanding individuals. If it’s not supportive to your healing and self-love, you can’t be around it. Period. Take this time as a self-protective time that you need to be selfish and just allow yourself the distance to do it right. Don’t worry about the judgements or instructions of others: this is all about you and what you need to do to take care of yourself and heal properly. I have listed a few references at the end of this post, but I want to caveat that they can be heavy, so if you do buy one of the books, just take it in a little bit at a time and don’t overdo it. Make sure you have support systems of any kind in place – especially if you’re trying to confront painful stuff. Basically, anyone you can talk to honestly who will help you to feel seen and understood.
In closing. . .
I know it hurts right now for a lot of reasons, but know that this is not your life – and this pain and suffering is not meant for you and your future. You are above this emotion and you know it. This is not who you are, and it’s not who you were born to be. So decide now that you will grow as a result of this experience and you will use it as a tool to grow the muscles you might be missing so you can be happy and find your true love: the person who will love you well, and be capable of loving you deeply, right back.
What is most important right now is focusing inward: looking at yourself openly, wanting to know and protect that self, and treating yourself as precious and important above anything and anyone else.
Decide that you only want to be with someone who loves you truly. Set a bar for yourself to what you deserve. Stop trying to figure “them” out and let go of making them know anything about the pain they caused you. Because, who cares? You don’t – you are above that – and you have moved on. Yuck. Get your focus where it belongs: on what you want in life, what you will have and who you want to be. Which is loved.
Sending you much strength and positivity. I will be thinking of you. xox Sarah May B.
For peeps who had parents who were volatile and alcoholics:
For over-givers who might have dated a sex-addict. (Don’t be freaked out by the cover.)
For peeps who have one or all of the above (for soothing purposes).
For peeps who went through trauma or abuse at some point in life and also happened to have ended up with one of these douche-bags.
For peeps in shock that they for-real dated a sex-addict and wtf!? WHY!
Featured image via Flickr