How to Begin Moving Forward after You’ve Been Cheated on

“Forgiving someone doesn’t mean condoning their behavior. It doesn’t mean forgetting how they hurt you or giving that person room to hurt you again. Forgiving someone means making peace with what happened. It means acknowledging your wound, giving yourself permission to feel the pain, and recognizing why that pain no longer serves you. It means letting go of the hurt and resentment so that you can heal and move on.”  

Daniell Koepke

I wrote an article called Why I Thanked My Ex and Now Appreciate the Heartbreak on last week and the responses from those of you that read it deeply touched my heart. I had no idea it would bring about such personal stories from people I have never met and allow others to open their hearts to me like they have. We are all so connected to one another no matter how separate we often feel. One of the things that touched me the most was hearing from people who had been betrayed, or cheated on by their Exes and how hard it was to picture forgiving them, never mind thanking them! I saw this as an opportunity to start a discussion on the topic as there are many of you out there who walk around carrying this pain every day.

When we have experienced the ultimate betrayal in our relationship we can feel like we will never be able to trust anyone with our heart again. It can get especially tough when our Ex chooses to continue to be with that person, rubbing it in our face that they are happy now because we were the one who was damaged and ruined the relationship even though this is not true. When our Ex moves on with someone else before properly ending things with us it leaves us confused, scorned, angry, resentful and defeated. We become focused on protecting ourselves with these powerful emotions thinking that this is what we need to do to protect ourselves from the same pain in the future. We focus on the pain as a way to make ourselves feel safe. If we focus on something then there’s no way we can be blindsided by it again, right? If we build the anger-wall high enough then we can rest easily behind it knowing that we’ve got it covered. No one will be able to get past us because we’ve built it up so high.

There is something very hard about building a wall that high though. We are the ones who have to sit behind it. We have to sit back there by ourselves, alone, pissed off and bitter. And when we shut one person out, or the possibility of a partner out, we shut everyone out whether we mean to or not. A wall built from anger does not discriminate. It is all inclusive and isolates us from every other single relationship, including the one with ourselves. It does do its job of keeping us hidden, but it does not stop our pain. A wall of resentment only creates another prison, one that keeps us very stuck and depressed.

So how can you begin to come out from behind the wall you’ve built up because you are so tired of being back behind it? You don’t necessarily need to call your Ex up and thank them for cheating on you and you don’t need to accept that their behavior was OK. What can help you is acknowledgment of the situation, your pain and what you want for your future though. The only reason to forgive the situation is to set yourself free, not to make your Ex feel better.

And if it helps, remember that your Ex has not healed themselves from getting into a new relationship. They may seem happier, joyful, or peaceful in the new relationship, but they have only avoided their own pain and brought it into a new relationship. If someone does not clean up their side of the street you can bet they are bringing it with them wherever they go. Know that your Ex is still dealing with whatever it is that made it OK to cheat and they are hurting too. You may not really care but this way of looking at things helped me to let some of the hurt go, which is something I did really care about. I have compassion for my Exes who have not been able to be alone with their pain and had to jump from one relationship to the next just to avoid feeling anything. The gift from these relationships for me was being able to recognize this avoidant behavior going forward though and say no thank I when I saw it. Being able to say no allowed me to feel freedom from betrayal and made me feel safer to come out from behind my wall.