This is my take on what is a pretty universal experience when healing after being cheated on. We’re going to go through three basic steps. Some people never move on from this first phase, which can stop you from experiencing meaningful connections and love.
Phase 1: Rebuild Your World
If you’ve just been cheated on it can feel like your world has gone from certain and stable to utter chaos.
Survival needs first: food, shelter, clothing, and safety.
It will be very, very difficult to get your external world stable if you’re not safe and if you’re worried about what that other person is going to do.
A few examples: this might mean finding a shelter to stay at or a friend or family member. This could mean relocating, getting a different job, or even something as simple as eating well, sleeping well, and moving your body. Even if you don’t have the emotional energy to do what you normally do.
Unfortunately, some people never actually move on from this first phase, and that’s problematic.
If a person doesn’t get their external world stabilized or if they just stop at that point and never go on to the next step, everything from that betrayal experience becomes externalized.
It becomes all about the world, all about other people, blaming the betrayer. Not that they were innocent, certainly not. If everything is on them, then guess what?
You never have to change, but that also means you never get to change: you never get to have a new experience that would be so much more rewarding.
You’ll know if you stopped at this point because there will be a tendency towards over-generalized judgments.
For example, thinking “All women are the problem, or all men are the problem.” Thinking, “Everybody lets you down. The world is just a terrible place. There’s nobody good in it.” Having the same dating experiences over and over and over again. Choosing to suffer with terribly painful loneliness rather than risk getting hurt again.
This is why it is so important to move on to the next phase.
Phase 2: Rebuilding Yourself
Phase one was all about what’s outside of you. Phase two is all about what’s going on internally.
If you don’t trust yourself, it’s hard to feel safe with anyone, and it increases the chances of being betrayed or taken advantage of again.
One of the things that I always hear people say after a betrayal and a trust loss:
They saw the warning signs, but they went forward anyway. They didn’t want to confront the issue. They didn’t want it to be true, because if it’s true, that’s so much more painful than believing in a lie.
Until you can no longer maintain the lie.
And so the longer it drags out, the more painful it is when the truth is eventually faced.
As you can imagine, this is one of the hardest parts of betrayal and trust loss.
This rebuilding your self-phase, it’s the proverbial journey into the underworld.
It’s getting beneath the surface. It’s finding the meaning and purpose for the experience, and it is different for everyone. There are no one size fits all plans for these kinds of experiences.
It’s facing the self, not the betrayer.
What I consistently hear people say is they feel like they let themselves down. They knew better, or they ignored the signs, and they did it anyway. But this is also the moment that real healing becomes possible.
Phase 3: Acceptance & Forgiveness
Forgiveness happens spontaneously after you’ve resolved those internal bits. There’s absolutely no need to force yourself to forgive someone.
Unless you genuinely have done the resolution and the healing of that betrayal of your trust, it won’t work. You’ll be saying it, but deep down you won’t really be feeling it or believing it.
When it happens spontaneously, people always say that they realized the forgiveness was more for themselves than it was for the benefit of the betrayer. It’s the inner peace and the emotional freedom, that feeling of lightness that they experience internally.
Acceptance and forgiveness are a natural byproduct of rebuilding your world and rebuilding yourself.
Real forgiveness is the freedom you experience from the past.
If you’d like to learn more about recovering after being cheated on and how I can help I offer one-on-one consultations.