“MY GIRLFRIEND CHEATED ON ME – PLEASE HELP!”
Recently, I learned that my girlfriend cheated on me. To make a long story short, I found out after seeing her with another guy at a café (holding hands).
Upon confronting her about things, she came right out and confessed to their relationship. And yes, they’ve been sleeping together.
I’m devastated and unsure of what to do. We’ve been dating for almost a year now.
-Hurt and Confused
Let me start off by saying that I’m super sorry to hear that you found out your girlfriend cheated on you. I can only imagine what it would be like to learn about this in the way that you did; catching them together in an intimate moment.
On the psychological front, we know from research that learning a romantic partner has betrayed us is one of the most devastating things a person can endure.
Compounding your pain are the two types of infidelity that happened. One is emotional and the other, physical. When you combine the two, it’s equivalent to a Category 5 storm on your psyche.
While you didn’t say it, I am assuming there was an agreement of monogamy and that you were under the impression that both of you would be exclusive.
All I can say is wow man, I really feel for your pain.
YOUR GIRLFRIEND CHEATED – NOW WHAT?
Now, you are left in a situation of wondering what to do. In fact, there may even be a part of you who wonders if you should take your girlfriend back after she cheated?
In my experience, most guys enter this weird plain of reality after such an event that’s a mix of surrealism and confusion.
In the immediate aftermath, some men ask themselves:
- Can we repair the relationship after cheating?
- I’m still in love with her still but does she still love me?
- What did I do to cause her to cheat on me?
Given the dynamics, I’ve decided to put together a 10-point guide on how to handle a cheating girlfriend. In situations like yours, it just makes sense to provide something concrete that you can refer to.
Bear in mind these suggestions shouldn’t be thought of like a cookie cutter approach to infidelity. In truth, each situation is different, particularly when it comes to men and breakups.
Instead, explore each of the listed points carefully and adapt what feels right for your situation.
1. Stay focused on the present
Because you are likely traumatized, it’s critical that you keep your awareness focused on the present. Otherwise, you’ll enter a place of psychological distortion and make decisions that may or may not be based on facts.
Yes, I’m talking about self-care here and it’s not something to blow-off.
Here’s the deal. After a person has experienced psychic trauma, the mind begins to replay images, activities, and events repeatedly. This happens on both the conscious and subconscious level.
Your job is to remain centered in the present as much as possible. It’s the only way that you can make smart, informed decisions about the “next steps” that will take place.
2. Don’t deny your feelings
The second part of coping with news of infidelity is to stay in touch with your feelings. As men, we tend to minimize our emotions and buy into the destructive stereotype of being able to handle pain.
I’m here to tell you that kind of hyper-masculine behavior is toxic and unhelpful. Whenever we deny our feelings, we paradoxically make them stronger.
Your best course is to simply be aware of your emotions without letting them control you. There are some practical ways to accomplish this.
Perhaps the most effective approach is to meditate. Yes, that may sound a bit woo-woo but it really does work because it accomplishes two things at once.
First, it centers your attention on the here and now (see point one above) and two, it allows a mental portal for emotional distress.
I encourage you to read this post on how to conduct a complete body scan meditation to learn more.
3. Lean into your circle of support
This point is obvious but I’m mentioning because of its importance. When you’ve had your heart ripped out, the last thing you want to do is be around people.
I’m not suggesting that you force yourself to hang with your buds and pretend like nothing is going on. In fact, making yourself be with others can be counterproductive.
But what you can do is lean into your support systems and share what you are feeling. Screw the “bro-code” that suggests guys don’t engage in emotional sharing. It’s BS.
The reality is most of us are desperate for real conversations about what’s going on, deep inside. But if we don’t open up, we continue to remain lonely and hurt.
I think what you’ll find is that your friends will be able to relate to your pain, at least on some level, and help you move through the healing process.
4. Remember, it’s your choice
Once you start gaining the support of others, there is a good chance friends will offer advice. In fact, I’m confident this will happen.
Some will suggest you cut your girlfriend off and ghost her. Others may suggest that you have a sit-down and find out all of the particulars that led her to cheat. And still, others might encourage you to try and repair what has been broken.
I can’t tell you which route to take but I can say this. In the end, the choice of how to move forward is yours.
All of this is to simply say don’t let others pressure you into deciding. Instead, take the smart approach and absorb all of the advice collectively.
Your subconscious mind already knows the right path to take however, it will let you know the answer in its own time. This cannot be forced. You’ve been seriously hurt.
Let what will be simply be and allow the process to unfold organically.
5. Focus on what questions when you talk
Because the status of a relationship isn’t always known in the immediate aftermath of cheating, I’m not going to label her as your “ex”.
It’s very possible you still refer to her as your girlfriend and conversely, she may still think of you as her boyfriend.
Regardless of the label, there will come a time when you want to talk about all that has happened. Common questions as part of this dynamic involve wanting to know why she cheated, why that particular guy, and why did you do this to “us”?
My best advice is to avoid that first question (why she cheated) as much as possible. The reason? It’s simple. Getting to the why is like circling the mountain.
She may not fully understand her motivations because most people rarely do when it comes to infidelity – beyond a carnal attraction.
Instead, focus on the “what” questions. What questions offer concrete answers that allow both of you to mentally digest events.
Example what questions with cheating:
- What led you to do this?
- What was it about our relationship that made this possible?
- What consequences were you thinking of when you decided to step out?
- What trust, if any, still exists in our relationship?
To learn more on these types of questions, be sure to read this post on what to do if your girlfriend never initiates.
6. Avoid the blame game
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen guys who have been cheated on enter the destructive mental minefield of playing the blame game.
Here, I’m about nasty self-talk that only serves to crash your self-esteem and confidence as a man. You know what I’m talking about, right?
- I must be ugly, otherwise, she wouldn’t have cheated
- There’s something unattractive about me that led to her step out.
- My manhood isn’t enough to satisfy her.
- If I were more emotionally available, I could have prevented this.
Engaging in any of the above needs to be avoided like the plague. While it is important to conduct self-inventory, it’s not helpful to pile a bunch of crap on yourself – emotionally or mentally.
Instead, step back from the situation and put on your analytical hat. The best way to do this is to assess things based on facts. This goes back to the what questions mentioned above.
Finally, on this point, if you do find yourself partaking in caustic self-talk, it may be time to take your head to thought court.
In simple speak, thought court is a place that you can go and put negative thinking on trial. Here is a worksheet that you can use to help on this front.
While not curative, it can be used as a powerful tool for coping.
7. Allow time for healing
Regardless of the outcome, meaning to break up or stay together, it’s critical that you allow time to heal. Making a long-term decision right after news of infidelity is unwise.
Let’s face it – your mind isn’t in the best place.
Instead, call a timeout on your relational status. This means being direct and telling her that you need time to process. If she doesn’t understand or tries to pressure you into taking her back, stick to your guns.
Healing activities include:
- Exercise and physical activity
- Going to counseling
- Avoiding substances that can crash your mood like alcohol
- Being with people who love and support you
There is no such thing as a timeframe for “getting over” cheating. The best you can do is work through. Part of this process involves investing in yourself emotionally and mentally.
8. Taking her back or not
There will come a point where one of two outcomes will occur. The first being that you’ll decide to take care back with the goal of working things out. The second is breaking up.
Obviously, this will be a joint decision (but one you will influence greatly).
Once a decision is made, it’s imperative to stick to your choice. We know from clinical research that people who go in and out of relationships with ex-partners do great psychological harm to themselves.
This is even more of the case when she dumps you, after cheating, and then wants you back.
9. Don’t reach out to the other guy
As all of the above unfolds, there may be a strong desire to confront the guy your girlfriend connected with. To the extent that I can convey this over the web, let me say it loud and clear: don’t do it.
Not only is this unproductive, it could also land you in real trouble should a physical altercation happen. Additionally, all you’ll be doing is engaging in the game of comparisons.
While I recognize there may be a part of you that wants to seriously bust this guy’s face up, you’ve got to remember that it takes two to tango.
Don’t go down this road. This leads us to the next point.
10. Respect yourself
At the end of the day, you have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror. For some guys, it is simply impossible to be OK with a girlfriend who cheated.
For other men, moving through infidelity is a bit easier. Much depends on your personality and life experiences.
That said, a guiding principle is to make sure you are respecting yourself in the process. This also means not allowing anyone to get into the habit of disrespecting you.
Being cheated on sucks. It can feel like someone ripped your heart out and then stomped on it as sat back and helplessly watched.
All I can tell you is that in time, this moment will pass. Hopefully, the 10-point guide I’ve shared above can assist you on the journey.
Allow yourself space to process the enormity of this news. Remember healing isn’t instant. Eventually, however, it does happen.
Think you could use some dating tips? Email Ask Jack at firstname.lastname@example.org