If you’ve been at the receiving end of infidelity, you’d be all too familiar with the knock-out punch in the gut the revelation of cheating can feel like. While the shattering initial impact of a partner betraying your trust is well-documented, it’s also worth pondering how being cheated on changes you.
No incident of cheating is easy to get past. In fact, it can threaten the future of your relationship. For a lot of people, the discovery is too painful to get past, prompting them to end the relationship and move on. In many cases, couples do try to stay together and reconcile in the wake of infidelity.
In both cases, the impact of being cheated on are felt deeply. If you decide to end the relationship, you may grapple with loneliness after being cheated on. If you decide to stay together, the incident looms over your romantic partnership like the Sword of Damocles, threatening to slice your relationship apart at the slightest misstep.
The long-term effects of being cheated on are often more complex and hard to process than the initial shock, pain and anger. That’s why it becomes even more imperative to understand how being cheated on changes you. Let’s try and understand the feelings after being cheated on.
Can Being Cheated On Change You?
Infidelity in a relationship is seen as the greatest form of betrayal in a committed, monogamous relationship. It is seen as a single act that can undo all the promises a relationship held for both partners. But even more so for the one who was cheated on. For a long time, the concocted image of your partner in bed with someone else is imprinted on your mind.
You cannot stop replaying it over and over again. As is the way of the human mind, this image – which is a figment of your imagination – is likely to be far more graphic than what went down in real life. Over time, this image may begin to fade away but the long-term effects of being cheated on may still linger.
You may be wondering, “Can being cheated on change you?” Helping us look for answers, is psychologist and director at SAATH: Suicide Prevention Centre, Nishim Marshall, who says, “You may be leading a perfectly content life, feeling grateful for your partner, your relationship and how well things have panned out for you. In such a situation, finding out that you have been cheated on can come as a rude shock.
“Firstly, it shatters you into fragments with endless questions about yourself, your self-worth, self-esteem, self-image, and confidence. You find yourself grappling with self-doubt, feeling devastated, insecure, betrayed, and angered by the thought of a third person coming between you and your partner.”
Why being cheated on changes you?
The reason why being cheated on hurts so much and changes you is because most people tie the act of cheating with their self-worth. Was I not good enough? Where was I lacking? What does the other person have that I lack? Questions like these commonly weigh on the mind of the person who has been cheated on.
Likewise, when you try to explore the reason for cheating in a relationship, you focus on factors like unhappiness, dissatisfying sex life, issues in the partnership and so on. This is how most people who have been cheated on make this occurrence about themselves. Consciously or subconsciously.
However, cheating is almost always an outcome of the cheater’s personality and may have nothing to do with their partner or the relationship. It can be a result of one’s journey and early influences such as witnessing cheating in their parent’s relationship or growing up in a dysfunctional home. It can also be a way of hiding, running or coping.
Acknowledging this and disassociating yourself from the what, why and how of cheating is the only way to negate the effects of betrayal on the brain.
11 Ways Being Cheated On Changes You
In the aftermath of the cheating, the goal should be to focus on why the transgression happened rather than what transpired between your partner and the other person in their life. Whether you want to move on after being cheated on or stay together and make the relationship work, this is the only way to truly heal from cheating.
However, most couples are ill-equipped to meet this goal. At least on their own, and without the help and guidance of a counselor or therapist. As a result, the long-term effects of being cheated on begin to take hold.
What are these long-term effects? And how does being cheated on change you? Nishim shares these 11 impacts of infidelity and betrayal that you may experience if you have been cheated on:
1. You develop trust issues
“All the trust you had in your partner vanishes in an instant,” she says. As a result, you may develop deep-seated trust issues that extend far beyond the relationship.
Myra, who was cheated on by a long-term partner, experienced this first-hand. “I returned from a conference earlier than scheduled and headed home all excited to surprise my partner. Only to find him in bed with a woman from his workplace. That too in the bed we had shared for 7 years!” she says, with a lump in the throat.
“I know it’s one of the most cliched ways of finding out that your partner has been playing you, but that’s how it panned out. Even though I ended the relationship then and there, I don’t think I quite recovered from the setback. One of the ways being cheated on affects a woman is by taking away her ability to trust people,” she adds.
Myra is now married but a part of her struggles to trust her husband. I sneakily check his phone, verify his whereabouts, because I cannot shake off the feeling that he too will betray my trust.
Related Reading: How To Find Out If Your Partner Is Cheating Online?
2. You compare yourself to this OTHER person
“Another common fall out of being cheated on is a tendency to compare yourself to the other person. Men who have been cheated on experience it just as much as women do. That’s because a transgression on the part of your partner invariably dents your self-esteem.
So, you find yourself stalking the other man or woman on social media or making a mental checklist of how they’re better than you or vice-versa. That’s how being cheated on changes you – it crushes your sense of the self,” says Nishim.
As long as you live with this fractured sense of self-esteem and self-worth, you can neither assert yourself in your existing relationship nor forge healthy partnerships in the future.
3. A desire to seek revenge
Another significant way that being cheated on changes you is by instilling in you a desire to exact revenge on your partner. “You want to show your partner that you too are capable enough to have affairs, flings or one-night stands outside the relationships,” Nishim says.
This is among the top-most reactions of how being cheated on affects a man. It can happen even to people who have always deeply valued loyalty in relationships; those have never even so much as given another person a second glance, because they were in a committed relationship. A breach of trust can take you down the path of promiscuity, if only to show the other person up.
This is a strong reaction to how being cheated on changes you forever.
4. Being cheated on embitters you
Women and men who have been cheated on may also undergo a personality change. “Feeling bitter, angry and irritable are some of the common effects of betrayal on the brain. These changes, in turn, affect your relationship with your children (if any), family and friends, besides impacting your performance at work.
“Being cheated on hurts so much that it brings out the worst in you. The realization that the person you valued the most has trampled all over the love and trust you shared can be extremely painful. Nevertheless, that is the reality of cheating,” says Nishmin.
Unless you find a way to process and channelize these negative emotions, the personality changes induced by the act of cheating can become permanent.
5. You grapple with toxic emotions
Nishim describes these as a mix of feelings of guilt, jealousy, insecurity, shame and embarrassment. While jealousy and insecurity are more relatable emotions in the aftermath of cheating, a lot of partners also grapple with guilt, shame and embarrassment.
This is seen more commonly in how being cheated on affects a woman, but the possibility of men going through similar emotions cannot be ruled out. Henrietta’s story shows us how the guilt crept in. She says, “My husband cheated but I felt guilty because I couldn’t shake off this nagging feeling that it was my job that created gaps in the marriage, making space for a third person to come in.
I was offered a promotion and had to move to a different city to set up a new office. It was a 1-year gig, and I took it up thinking we could manage. But then, my husband ended up having an affair six months into this transition. To this day, a part of me blames my decision of making ours a long-distance marriage for his transgression.”
6. It makes you question your entire relationship
Suzanne was pregnant with her first child when she caught her husband sexting an ex. “Here I was carrying his child, spending sleepless nights in discomfort, my body changed beyond recognition, and he was getting his share of action on the sly. What’s worse, we were in bed together while he was sharing elaborate sexual fantasies with his ex.
“He swore that he had not slept with her or even met her person, and argued that it was just some harmless release of testosterone. Rather than being apologetic about it, he swerved the argument in the ‘is sexting cheating’ direction.
“Not just his actions but his reaction upon being caught red-handed made me question the entire premise of our relationship. Had he done this before? Would he do it again? Did he ever truly love me like he did his ex? Or was ours just a marriage of convenience,” she says.
In Suzanna’s case, being cheated on hurt so much that she couldn’t view her relationship the same way ever again. From there, things unraveled pretty quickly.
7. Being cheated on makes you more guarded
It takes a lot of heart – and trust in the other person – to let your guard down and put your vulnerabilities out in the open. How being cheated on changes you is that it makes you more guarded.
Not just in your current or future relationship but as a person. If you’re wondering whether being cheated on changes you forever, this is a classic case in point. As someone who has survived infidelity, you may never be able to share your deepest insecurities, fears, hopes and dreams ever again, even with those closest to you.
That includes friends, family, parents and children. The shattered trust makes you lock away a piece of yourself forever.
8. It can put you off relationships
Tully, a successful production designer, admits that wariness about committed relationships is one of the nasty long-term effects of being cheated on. She was in her 20s when her college sweetheart betrayed her trust.
“For the longest time, I had sworn off men. Through the years, I’ve had flings, one-night stands and even experimented with my sexuality, but could never bring myself to be tethered to another person again.
“The fear that they would do the same is just too unshakable. Something that even a decade of therapy couldn’t heal. On the bright side, it has taught me to own and be at peace with my life choices,” she says.
Related Reading: Am having an affair and it has made my marriage more bearable
9. You become more hardened
Chris, a black, gay man, who came of age in the 80s, had already had an extremely hard life. He couldn’t come out to his family or friends, and the double life was taking a toll on him. He met a gorgeous man and fell in love with him.
It seemed as if his journey would get easier hereon, except his partner wasn’t big on the idea of monogamy or commitment. “Life had already been hard and him cheating on me was like the final nail in the coffin. It turned me into this cynical, brooding man, who couldn’t tap into his own emotions much less share them with others.
“The silver lining was that this hardened version of myself was ready to take on whatever else destiny threw my way. That became the bedrock for a successful and prosperous – albeit lonely – life,” he says.
10. Cheating can give you the courage to move on
Therapists agree that cheating is more of a symptom than a cause of relationship problems. The fact that a third person could come into your relationship points to existing cracks and gaps.
Often, couples keep sweeping their issues under the carpet until they blow up in their faces. This attitude can be a breeding ground for infidelity. Likewise, a lot of times, couples stay together, trying to drag a relationship that has long run its course, just because it is familiar and comforting.
In such cases, the loneliness after being cheated on can be that final nudge needed to move on and reclaim your life.
11. It can bring out a new you
Yes, being cheated on changes you but it doesn’t always have to be in negative ways. “Once you’ve been through the wringer of anger, hurt and pain, you can begin to heal. The realization that you’re much more than someone’s partner can help bring back your self-worth, lost self-confidence and self-respect.
“With it comes a sense of power and faith. Your inner voice, your consciousness starts to speak to you. This transition starts to empower your broken heart and strengthen it, slowly but steadily to make it UNSTOPPABLE.
“No one can stop this confident, energized version of you from going places. You start looking at yourself as a beautiful, precious and worthy person, who is not ashamed to acknowledge reality,” says Nishim.
Now that you have a better understanding of the psychological damage of being cheated on, the question then becomes “How do I move on after being cheated on?”
How To Survive Being Cheated On
Reading about how being cheated on changes you forever might understandably have you a little worried about what’s in store for you. Although, with a little bit of mindfulness, you might be able to reverse the psychological damage of being cheated on.
Granted, it won’t be all that easy but nothing worthwhile is easy if you think about it. Let’s talk about a few things you can do to make sure the feelings after being cheated on don’t define who you become
1. Take some time off
No matter how stoic you are, the feelings after being cheated on will get you down at one point or the other. You will be understandably depressed for a while since the whirlwind of emotions going through your mind will not be easy to deal with.
In such a situation, taking some time off from relationships, work, responsibilities might be helpful. Take some time to figure out how to move on. However, be careful to not let this slump last longer than it should. Treat a break as a short escape, not as a lifestyle. Once you’re back on your feet again after the break, you might be able to reverse how being cheated on affects future relationships.
2. Eradicate “was this my fault?”
One of the most damaging things you can do after being cheated on is blame yourself for your partner’s infidelity. Your partner cheated, knowing the consequences and knowing it would make you feel miserable. If you think there was a problem that led them to cheat, well, cheating isn’t how one deals with problems. Your partner should have had a conversation with you, not indulged in an affair.
Blaming yourself is most often what cheating does to a woman. By eradicating thoughts like, “Was this my fault? Did I do something wrong?” you should aim at eliminating any self-doubt. The feelings after being cheated on will be a lot easier to deal with once you do.
Related Reading: How To Forgive Your Cheating Partner And Should You?
3. Don’t let anger control you
We’re not saying you shouldn’t be angry, since anger is one of the prime feelings after being cheated on. Undoubtedly, anyone will be angry at some point in time. However, what’s damaging is when you let this anger affect other areas of your life, like your work or your friendships.
While you’re taking some time off, accept the fact that this happened and instead of living in the past, focus on what’s next. If you’re wondering how does being cheated on affect a man, anger is one of the primary emotions.
4. Understand that you will find love again
When your mind is in emotional turmoil after being cheated on, it’s easy to start believing things like, “I won’t ever find love again, I’ll die single”, or “I can never trust anyone again”. It might seem cliched for you right now, but you’ll soon understand that time really does heal all wounds.
Worrying about the future is what cheating does to a woman. Instead of believing that being cheated on changes you forever, choose the path of healing and start believing that time will help you overcome all your issues. You will find love again.
5. Seek professional help
Consulting a therapist is one of the most productive ways that can help you get over the feelings after being cheated on. You’ll be able to understand why you’re feeling the way you are and how you should go about dealing with those emotions.
How does being cheated on affect a man when men are more resistant toward therapy? That’s usually the reason why it takes them longer to process their emotions. Unable to open up about their problems, they never truly confront them. By seeking professional help, you’ll be able to understand what’s best for you and gather some self-awareness while you’re at it too. If you’re currently struggling to deal with being cheated on, Bonobology has a multitude of experienced therapists to get you over this difficult time in your life.
How being cheated on changes you depends on your outlook on life, your state of mind, the health of your relationship, and your past lived or shared experiences. “Life quizzes you about trust, honesty, and faith. We are all given choices in life, after being cheated on one can either become resilient and powerfully independent or become a bitter, negative person. The choice is yours,” Nishim concludes.
Cheating annihilates two cornerstones of a relationship – trust and respect. Without these essential elements, you cannot hope to have a robust, healthy relationship.
There is no concrete timeline to getting over being cheated on. With expert help and therapy, you can put it behind you in due course. However, in quite a significant number of cases, the impact of being cheated on can stay with you forever.
If you’ve been cheated on and haven’t been able to process and get over the episode, you may end up bringing trust issues, insecurities, jealous tendencies and paranoia into your future relationships.
No, cheating is never okay. Not even when done to get back at a cheating partner. If you have been cheated on, you have only two options available to you – end the relationship and move on, or stay and try to give it another shot.