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Lessons From the End of a Marriage

A “How to Thrive” Guide After Divorce

After Being Cheated On: Distinguishing Between Fears and Warnings

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“I never want to go through that again,”

I think we all say after being cheated on once we’re through the initial whitewater of the discovery that bashes us upon the rocks. We examine our memories for the missed clues about the affair and we scan the horizon carefully, looking for signs of another impending discovery. 

In some ways, we’re more equipped to spot the signs of trouble. After all, we’ve been down that road before. Yet in other ways, we’re handicapped by our experiences because our heightened fears can have a tendency to see trouble where it doesn’t exist.

It’s a scary place to be after being cheated on, where you’re wondering if it’s happening again while at the same time you’re doubting your own judgment. 

The following can help you determine if what you’re seeing is a genuine warning or if your fear of being cheated on is whispering falsehoods into your ears:

 

1 – Get Out of Fight or Flight

It is impossible to distinguish between a legitimate threat and a harmless – yet painful – echo from the past when you’re emotionally elevated.

Take a step back. 

When you’re in this state, your brain interprets everything as a threat. Before you can determine if the danger is real or imagined, you have to first calm and connect your body and your mind. Go for a walk. Engage in your favorite hobby or activity. Get some sleep. 

If it is still bothering you when your body is no longer in fight or flight, it is something that needs to be addressed.

 

2 – Be Mindful of Your Energy

After being cheated on, we often go to one extreme or the other, where we either obsessively look for evidence that it is happening again or we bury our heads in the sand, afraid of what we might see if we look too carefully. 

Both approaches can be deceptive as they either minimize or amplify the information that you have. 

Ideally, you want to be between those two states, where your eyes are open yet you’re not peering into every crevice looking for the monster that you imagine is there. 

 

3 – Avoid Listening to Too Many Voices

One of the more painful realizations I had after discovering my ex-husband’s betrayal was that I had allowed myself to trust him more than I trusted myself. (Hello, gaslighting). And one of the best silver linings of being cheated on was learning to trust my own voice again. 

It’s natural to want to reach out to others to either validate or explain away your suspicions. But too many voices can muddle what is already unclear. Remember that they are hearing this through your filter and then adding on their own motivations of not wanting to see you hurt. 

Sometimes the best thing to do is allow our own voice the time and space to speak and to listen without passing judgment. 

 

4 – Weigh Both Your Intuition and the Evidence

When properly tuned, our guts are quite an impressive lie-detecting instrument. Yet being cheated on often has them out of tune, playing discordant notes regardless of the stimulus. 

On the other hand, waiting until the evidence piles up and crushes you isn’t ideal either. 

Listen to your gut, but don’t believe everything it has to say. Consider both your intuition and the facts. When they’re in alignment, it’s time to listen.

 

5 – Choose Your Approach Carefully

If all of the above indicate that it’s time to have a conversation, be mindful of your approach. If the evidence is subtle, state what you’re feeling and seeing without immediately becoming accusatory. 

Opening with the assumption of cheating will only prompt a defensive posture that will try to protect at all costs. If you’re looking for truth, you have to give it space to come out. 

 

When the wounds from being cheated on are still fresh, you’re naturally guarded and distinguishing between fears and warnings is quite challenging. With time and practice, you’ll become better at discerning the difference and your trust in your own perceptions will grow. 

 

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “After Being Cheated On: Distinguishing Between Fears and Warnings

  1. We’ve found one simple question is helpful for the two of us and our own issues surrounding what happened, whether it’s my anxiety over what happened, or his own issues that created the situation in the first place. We stop and just ask ourselves “facts or feelings?”. Sometimes, if we feel like the other is getting into a bit of a “spiral”, we’ll ask the other the same question. It helps immensely to just pause and actually be mindful about where the feeling is coming from, rather than the feeling itself.

    1. Good strategy:) I’ve really struggled with identifying facts because my ex was so good as gaslighting.

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