How to Get Over Someone Cheating

By Joel Balsam | | Dating
How to Get Over Someone Cheating
Olena Yakubchuk/Shutterstock

There’s little worse in this life than someone cheating on you. The betrayal and pain you’ll undoubtedly feel is intense—and you can be excused if finding out makes you act out of sorts. But then what? Learning how to get over someone cheating on you, while not easy, is an important part of the healing process.

Why is getting over someone cheating so hard?

Cheating is betrayal, and that hurts because it makes us feel like the person we trusted with our deepest, innermost vulnerabilities didn’t value us.

According to Charles J. Orlando, a bestselling author of books about interpersonal relationships and relationship dynamics, there are two kinds of cheating: flings and affairs.

Flings are those one-night stands that can happen on vacation or a night out without your significant other.

Some research indicates flings may be common. According to an ongoing survey about cheating called Truth About Deception, 53% of 62,763 female respondents and 71.9% of 32,162 male respondents have had a one-night stand. These flings can be chalked up to a lack of self-control and/or respect for their partner.

“[But] affairs are different," Orlando said, “as they aren’t fast, hit-it-and-quit-it acts of misguided lust and sexual wanting. [Affairs] are long-term relationships—sometimes involving sex, sometimes not—and they are trickier for someone to get over because there has been investment over time—and it’s also an emotional investment.”

The survey found 90.9% of women and 77.2% of men have had an emotional affair, and 53.4% of women and 66.9% of men have cheated on their spouse more than once.

Both flings and affairs are painful, with affairs being decidedly worse because they are sustained, continuous unfaithfulness. They both involve betrayal, which “attacks the most basic foundation of our self-esteem: value,” Orlando said.

How to get over someone cheating on you

Getting over someone who cheated on you isn’t easy, but it is possible.

Decide on a path and commit to it

Infidelity does not necessarily mean the relationship is doomed. Humans are complex and they can have momentary lapses in judgment. With some work, patience and perhaps professional counseling, it may be possible to start over and rebuild a relationship. Some couples may even use the experience to explore less traditional relationships, such as ethical nonmonogamy.

On the other hand, concluding you can no longer trust your partner is not unusual, either. If the pain is too much to bear, moving on may be in both partners’ best interest. If this is the decision, the following advice may still be helpful for healing and getting back into the dating scene.

There are no wrong answers, but make sure you commit to whatever you decide. There’s no greater waste of time than deciding to work on a relationship’s issues, only to conclude months later that it just isn’t going to work.

Evaluate the core disconnect

Affairs don’t usually happen when everything is going well in a relationship. They happen because core emotional needs are not being addressed or discussed. So, if you’re planning on moving on from this—whether alone or with your partner—you need to address what went wrong.

“While the person who chose to have the affair is clearly in the wrong, the process of healing requires both parties to get real on what separated them,” Orlando said. “The person who cheated has to evaluate why, and the person who was cheated on needs to hear the reasons.”

Prepare to be honest

Finding out you’ve been cheated on can be traumatic and dramatic.

Give yourself and your partner the time to digest what happened and to eventually talk about it. Doing so is critical to moving on, but realize this won’t all happen at once.

“The actual reasons for the affair usually come out in stages, as the person who cheated might not want to reveal their true feelings or they might not want to hurt their partner any more than they already have,” Orlando said. “Allow space for disclosure over time, and make the discussion a safe place to get real and honest, both about the affair as well as the choices and experiences that led up to the infidelity.”

Experience vs. right and wrong

A cheating partner may be in the wrong, but they aren’t necessarily evil. Viewing cheating as a moral failure makes it harder to make peace with what happened and move on. As hard as it is to hear, you’ll need to eventually listen to why your partner chose to cheat.

“While the action of infidelity isn’t excusable, the feelings behind the action are part of that person’s experience,” Orlando said. “Both need to hear each other and accept the other’s experience as valid from their point of view.”

Structure your communication

Don’t expect to get over the pain and betrayal after one quick chat. That just won’t happen.

“Many times, the person cheated on will experience signs that are akin to PTSD, with heavy emotional and behavioral triggers,” Orlando said.

Getting over someone who cheated on you may take work, so Orlando suggested setting ground rules for communication (i.e., set time limits, give space to speak, validate each other’s feelings). Be patient as you work things out over time. Even if you decide there’s no path forward as a couple, structured communication usually makes the healing process easier.

Get some help, together and separately

Therapists and counselors can help when dealing with the hurt inflicted by a partner who cheated. While seeing a therapist individually is great, seeing a couple’s counselor can help work out communication failures.

“To start the process of reconnection most often requires a third party who has no emotional skin in the game,” Orlando said.

Trust is a two-way street

Cheating is a betrayal of trust, and a simple apology won’t make up for it.

“Working through the multitude of issues surrounding infidelity requires vulnerability by both people,” Orlando said.

To move on with this relationship, you’ll need to allow for both sides to be heard without beating the same drum over and over again. You can’t bring it up in future fights if you hope to get over it.

“As feelings come up (often long after the affair), a clear, honest line of respectful communication will continue the process of healing without burning the trust that has been built,” Orlando said.

Recognize that you can’t go back, and you shouldn’t

You can’t go back to the way things were before your partner cheated. Trust has been lost, at least momentarily, and you’ll never forget the pain your partner put you through.

If you decide to move forward with the relationship, validate the discussions you’ve had since you found out and look forward.

“The only way forward is by forging a new path and creating a new, improved relationship that is built on renewed trust,” Orlando said.

Forgive and accept

If you want to get over it, you’ll need to forgive your partner, as hard as that sounds. You’ll also need to forgive yourself for the reasons they gave for why they cheated.

If you can’t manage to do that, the relationship is likely beyond repair.

Conclusion

“Cheating is a symptom of an already failing/failed relationship,” Orlando said. “Communication has broken down and a disconnect already exists.”

For that reason, getting over infidelity isn’t easy. But with work and commitment, it is possible to rebuild a relationship.

You have to accept this happened and allow the space to forgive and accept each other.

Disclaimer: The above is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.