Are you looking for tips on how to stop overthinking after being cheated on? Spiraling through loops of numbness and pain is common after this experience, as is feeling worthless after being cheated on by someone you love. After all the hard work you have put into this relationship, not to mention the deep emotional investment, your partner would stray is a hard truth to take in.
This is why, such a discovery is almost always followed by stages of grief after an affair, going through the whole gamut of anger, denial, bargaining, and depression. Needless to say, the emotional toll of being cheated on is immense and can trigger mental health disorders such as depression or anxiety, of which intrusive thoughts and overthinking are common symptoms.
When that happens, you need healthy coping mechanisms to deal with overthinking instead of diving deep into work or drinking your pain away. To help you understand those healthy coping mechanisms, we spoke to emotional wellness and mindfulness coach Pooja Priyamvada (certified in Psychological and Mental Health First Aid from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of Sydney) who specializes in counseling for extramarital affairs, breakups, separation, grief, and loss, to name a few. Read ahead for her insights.
Is It Normal To Overthink After Being Cheated On?
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If someone cheated on you or worse, they tried to justify it later by blaming you, it is obviously normal to overthink about it or to be engulfed in waves of self-doubt. So, if you’re feeling vulnerable and sorry for yourself, know that these are normal feelings one goes through after being cheated on.
Pooja says, “At this point, people begin to doubt everyone. They can’t trust easily, hence, they overthink every word said or unsaid and the actions of every person around them. Staying with someone who cheated is a very confusing stage to be in and most people in infidelity recovery go through this phase. You hate them and you love them. You want to forgive them but you are very angry too.”
She further explains how cheating affects the brain, “Cheating affects the brain by leading to grief and mental health conditions like anxiety, chronic stress, and depression. It can also bring back childhood trauma issues like fear of abandonment or parental neglect.”
Before getting to how to stop overthinking after being cheated on, let’s try to spot a few triggers after being cheated that are likely to get you caught in the overthinking loop:
- Your low self-esteem after infidelity will make you to judge yourself brutally or compare yourself with the person your partner had an affair with
- You may feel anxious thinking, “Is the affair still going on?” or “What if they cheat on me again?”
- If you have abandonment issues or a similar experience in your previous relationship, you may live in constant fear of “what if they leave me for that other woman/man”
- Trust issues will make you doubt and overanalyze every word coming out of your partner’s mouth
- If it’s the second time your partner cheated on you, it’s natural to overthink the future of your relationship
Related Reading: 10 Steps To Recover If You’re Being Fooled By Someone You Love
Signs You’re Overthinking About Being Cheated On
Why do people cheat? It could be narcissism or entitlement, lust or love, or even boredom. Some people cheat because they have low self-esteem and the validation from someone other than their partner makes them feel good about themselves and some cheat because they are given a guarantee of confidentiality and so they don’t fear getting caught. Some cheat because they fear intimacy and others cheat due to unmet emotional or physical needs in their current relationship. Some do it just because the thrill of a clandestine affair gives them a kick.
People who cheat are driven by different reasons, depending on the personality types of cheaters. But unfortunately, the cheated partners always tend to take it upon themselves. And hence, the overthinking, which makes moving forward after infidelity much more difficult. Here are a few signs that such intrusive thoughts about cheating are living in your head rent-free:
- You keep blaming yourself for your busy schedule or some habits that your partner finds annoying
- You have become overly conscious of your body and appearance, about how you look or walk and talk
- You feel the urge to spy on their phone or call their friends/colleagues to double-check their whereabouts
- You become suspicious whenever you see your partner talking to another man/woman
- You keep obsessing about the details of your partner’s infidelity – How deeply involved were they with their affair partner? Was it just sex or were they emotionally invested? Where did they meet? How many times? How was the sex? Was it better than it was with you? Did your partner think about you when they were with their affair partner? Or did they think of them when they were with you?
- The mental images of your partner with their affair partner keep coming back every time they try to touch you and it affects physical intimacy in your relationship
How To Stop Overthinking After Being Cheated On – Expert Tips
An affair can shake the foundation of any relationship and you are not wrong to overthink whether your entire married life or relationship was based on a lie. Why did they cheat on you? How did the love fade away? The thought of “Why me?” pops up in your mind so very frequently. Questions like these make getting over infidelity an insurmountable odd.
However, your focus should not be on the reasons your partner was disloyal to you. Right now, you need to know how to stop worrying after being cheated on. The first step is to accept all your emotions and not judge them. Whatever it is that you are feeling, your feelings are valid. And if you can manifest the following ideas, healing from infidelity and depression will become easier for you:
Related Reading: 9 Psychological Facts About Cheating – Busting The Myths
1. It has nothing to do with you
Why did they cheat? It could be a courage deficit or the fear of being abandoned. Some people have an insecure attachment style owing to which they go into self-destruction mode the moment things start getting serious in a relationship. And then there are others who don’t wish to conform to the idea of monogamy, but instead of exploring ethical non-monogamy or polyamory, they cheat on their partner.
However, one thing is certain, cheating on you is their choice and that choice is not influenced by your flaws even though they might try to frame it that way. A person can be perfectly happy in a relationship, in love with their partner, and yet go on to cheat. The bottom line is, the urge to cheat lies in their psyche and not your shortcomings.
Pooja points out, “Feeling worthless after being cheated on is unfortunately a common experience. Being cheated on does hit one’s self-esteem badly. So how to get over being cheated on? One must remind themselves that this isn’t about them, this is about their partner’s behavior. Self-blame is not right. Nobody should be held responsible for the behavior of any other adult.”
2. Understand the psychology behind cheating
Why are some people more prone to cheating and lying while some manage to stay loyal and honest effortlessly? Pooja answers, “Humans, by nature, are not monogamous. Monogamy is a social construct and not a natural instinct. However, some people promise monogamy to their partners and stay committed to it with emotional effort while others give in to their polyamorous instincts. What’s wrong in this whole thing is the breaking of trust or the promises made to each other, not the actual behavior of feeling attracted to many people.”
Recovering from depression after an affair would be easier if you understand the psychology behind cheating. You will realize that some cheaters just have unresolved issues and low self-control. We are not saying that this justifies adultery in any way. But it can help you not blame yourself for whatever happened:
- They almost get a kick out of being rebellious and breaking norms, which is why sometimes a cheating person shows no remorse
- Having variety brings the thrill and adrenaline rush to them
- To avoid feeling what they are feeling, they keep wanting what they can’t have
- For some cheaters, their commitment issues are so deep-rooted and self-esteem so crumbled that they fill that ambiguity and incompleteness by doing something that is ‘forbidden’
3. Find out the ‘why’
If you notice closely, you will see that half of the things you are overthinking are majorly made up in your brain in a frenzy of rage or anxiety. For instance, “What if they are still talking to that person behind my back?”, “What if I lose weight? Will he/she love me then?” The ‘what if’ zone is a dangerous place to dwell in. So the first actionable step toward getting over infidelity is to find out why you are so worried about certain things that may or may not happen. We tell you how:
- First, write down one anxious thought that’s bothering you
- Second, figure out why you are so distressed about this
- Third, think if that ominous thing actually happens, how will it affect you? Can you live with the consequences?
- Fourth, is there any way you can solve the issue, say by communicating your concerns?
- Fifth, note down the steps you want to take or talk about and follow that trail
- Sixth, if you realize there’s nothing you can do that will change the course of action or it will not actually affect you, how about you let the thought go? Burn or flush the paper maybe?
4. Get out of the confinement of four walls
They don’t say an idle mind is the devil’s workshop for no reason. If you live every single day sunk in the blues locked up in your room after being cheated on, it will impact you adversely. Naturally, your work suffers and so does your social life. And the intrusive thoughts about your partner’s disloyalty eat you up from the inside.
If you are truly eager to know how to stop overthinking after being cheated on, you have to set yourself free from this prison. Even if for an hour a day, go outside, take a walk, look at the greens, and breathe in some fresh air. Eventually, when you feel a little better, have a chat with your friends and family members who you can confide in with your deepest emotions. Trust us, you will feel a lot better and find meaning in your life all over again.
5. Practice grounding exercises
Stay grounded, stay in the present, and be aware of every breath you take. Mindfulness turns out to be extremely helpful in healing from infidelity and depression. It’s a Buddhist concept that makes you more conscious of your thoughts and actions and helps you connect to your mind, body, and soul.
Slowly, you can let go of the temporary, worldly concerns and be free from your sufferings. Explaining the concept, mindfulness meditation coach Ririi Trivedi told Bonobology, “Buddhism is all about compassionate living. And, mindfulness helps us become compassionate toward ourselves and others. It teaches us to be non-judgmental.” You can try these exercises to practice mindfulness and get rid of your misery of overthinking:
- Take a walk around the room and name five things you see, two things you hear, and something you can feel
- Stomp your feet, rub your palms together, raise and stretch your hands upward and try to feel the sensation in your body
- Notice your breath. Inhale on four counts, hold for four seconds, and exhale on six counts
- Gaze at the flame of a candle for a few minutes and try to introspect on your thoughts
- Practice stillness, be it in your room or on the lawn, try to stay still for ten to twenty minutes
- Practice guided meditation
6. Modify your living arrangement
Moving on after being cheated on becomes harder when two people are living together and one of them has betrayed the other’s trust. There will be a change in your partner’s behavior after getting caught cheating. This change can range from pleading for forgiveness and exhibiting remorse to being too defensive or too indifferent, or skeptical to have conversations. And there will certainly be some blame-shifting in the relationship.
In the middle of this chaos, you will hardly get any time and space to process the shock and feel what you truly feel about your mental state and the future of this relationship. So, we suggest, you make a separate living arrangement, perhaps move in with a friend, move back to your parents’, or get yourself a BnB for a couple of weeks. It will give you both the required time to gain some clarity on how you want to take the next step.
7. Rebounds will hurt you more
My friend, Paul, keeps telling me, “After my ex-wife cheated on me, I feel like fooling around, drowning myself in casual relationships, and taking a break from serious commitment. Is it okay to have rebounds to get over being cheated on? Can you tell me how do I stop thinking about being cheated on?”
Studies show that 90% of rebound relationships end within three months. From a realistic point of view, we can say that rebound relationships may work like a soothing ointment to your broken soul for the time being but it cannot be a long-term solution to get over depression after infidelity. Here’s why a rebound relationship does more damage than good in most cases:
- You are getting in this with the sole purpose of making your partner/ex jealous, which is not fair to your rebound partner
- Since you are emotionally vulnerable at this moment, the odds of getting exploited are high
- Your trust and abandonment issues from the past relationship will be projected on to this one
- In most cases, these relationships tend to be purely physical and you don’t find the emotional intimacy you seek
Pooja says, “There is no harm in casual relationships, every relationship need not be committed. What is wrong is this: you are seeking the lost partner in every partner you are with. They still remain the gold standard of love. Or, you are with others to make them jealous or settle a score with them. Rebounds can be very tempting but it’s not the key to how to get over being cheated on. However, a deep and independent connection with someone genuine must be nourished.”
Related Reading: The 5 Stages Of A Rebound Relationship
8. Find ways to release the anger
How to stop overthinking after being cheated on? Well, we realize that there is a lot of pent-up anger and frustration in your mind which is unfolding as overthinking, anxiety, and depression after infidelity. If these suppressed emotions get an outlet, it will take a weight off your chest. Instead of raising your voice or being rude to nice people, you need to adopt a healthy harmless approach to release the anger, and here are a few of them:
- Scream!!! Into a pillow, inside your locked car, or on the roof of your office building. Let it all out
- Find a rage room or smash room in your vicinity and break some stuff
- Do a cleansing ritual – burn some pictures or letters from your partner
- Go to the gym and punch a sandbag as hard as you can
- Now, on the mellow side, you can let your artistic soul out and sing, dance, or paint your anger away
9. Know that not everyone’s the same
Research points out that it is extremely difficult to rebuild trust with a partner who has cheated on you. The ones who are at the receiving end of infidelity respond with disappointment, anger, and even an urge to control their partner. Forgiveness depends on a lot of factors like guilt on the part of the cheater, love and affection between the couple, positive changes shown by the cheater, etc.
Being cheated on leads to trust issues with not just a partner but with people in general too. So how to stop worrying after being cheated on? Pooja answers, “We must break the mental barrier about people. Everyone and every relationship will not be like the previous one in which you experienced heartbreak or infidelity. One will have to be slightly brave to be vulnerable again with someone. One must let others help and prove that they care and are trustworthy.”
Look at it this way. You are disillusioned now. When your illusions are broken, life brings you closer to reality. Your partner denied you something and now you feel incomplete. But isn’t it an illusion that you need someone else to make you feel complete? It’s time to look deeper instead of reacting and trying to fix someone else. This incident has the power to open up a spiritual dimension for you. As Rumi said, “The wound is the place where the light enters you.”
10. Resist the temptation to seek revenge
Clients often ask Pooja, “Please tell me how do I stop thinking about being cheated on? I feel vengeful. I want him/her to feel the same hurt as me. I sometimes ask God to put him through the same misery. Am I an evil person? ” Pooja points out, “Feeling vengeful is a natural reaction to such deep hurt. As long as one doesn’t actually get vicious or act out on a plan of revenge that leads to real harm, these feelings are natural. You are not an evil person.”
Remember, in trying to punish somebody, you will only end up punishing yourself. You don’t have to react to them or do something stupid, like them. Instead, focus on what you want from life, on how to find peace after being cheated on. Here’s how to cope after being cheated on by your partner and tame the thoughts of drawing an evil plan to get back at them:
- If you feel like resorting to revenge cheating, think again
- Channel your grief and pain into growing as an individual
- Take all this anger and frustration, and channel it into your career. It will give you happiness, satisfaction, and a sense of empowerment
- Being better every day in your personal and professional life might give you a kick that’s even greater than romantic love
Related Reading: Expert Lists Out 9 Effects Of Cheating In A Relationship
11. How to recover from being cheated on? Focus on yourself
Drowning yourself in alcohol, drugs, sex, or work might distract you temporarily but it won’t fix your pain. The pain will come rushing back until you try and find ways to make peace with it. Advising how to cope after being cheated on by someone you still love, Pooja says, “The pain will take some time to ease up as each person processes grief and loss differently.” She shares some tips to get you through this period:
- Cry it out and let yourself feel all the feelings
- Focus on your healing process and not the cheating incident
- Start by eating healthy and working out
- Indulge in self-love and self-care
- Take care of your mental health
- Find beautiful ways to date yourself
- Find a new hobby or rekindle an old one
12. Ways of moving on after being cheated on? Write down your thoughts
If you are wondering how to stop overthinking after being cheated on, try journaling. Whenever you feel you are losing control over your thoughts and your mind is traveling uncharted territories, write it all down. You don’t need to have a flair for writing to document your thoughts.
Take a stream-of-consciousness approach and write spontaneously just as they come to you. Looking at your thoughts in black and white is almost like looking at them from a third person’s perspective and it gives you a lot of clarity. After a few months, if you feel like going back through the pages, you will get an idea of how far you have come since then and you can keep track of your progress.
13. Seek professional help
Finally, infidelity is traumatizing and it might lead to a serious dent in self-esteem and trust issues for life. That’s how cheating affects the brain deeply. Coping with something like that needs healing at a deeper level. Working with a licensed therapist can help you heal in ways beyond your comprehension. Also if you are looking for a cheating spouse support group online, we have a few suggestions:
- Infidelity Recovery Institue
- Infidelity Survivors Anonymous
- Infidelity Support Group
- Infidelity Help Group
- Surviving Infidelity
You might even be confused as to whether you should get back with your partner or let them go. You might be torn between whether you should fight for them or be strong enough to pull away. Seeking professional help becomes the need of the hour in such cases. Our counselors from Bonobology’s panel, like Pooja Priyamvada, can help you with this.
How to eventually be happy after being cheated on? How can you make sure that your next partner doesn’t cheat on you? How to find peace after being cheated on? Pooja concludes, “Have conversations with your partner, talk about your triggers and insecurities, and ultimately, accept that not all relationships are forever. So if at some stage they move on or you do, it’s alright, but it must be done with consent and not cheating. You cannot ensure their commitment to the relationship; you can only make your boundaries and commitment clear.”
- To stop overthinking after being cheated on, you have to first understand the psyche of a cheater and realize that it has nothing to do with you
- You should get out of the house more often and practice grounding exercises
- Remember, taking revenge or getting into a rebound relationship will do more damage than good
- You can try healthy ways to release your anger or change your living arrangements if you are a live-in or married couple
- Seek professional help if you can’t seem to control your thoughts
Now that you have a fair idea about how to stop overthinking after being cheated on, let’s end with the quote by Donald Driver, “Don’t get mad. Don’t get even. Do better. Much better. Rise above. Become so engulfed in your own success that you forget it ever happened.” Just remember, that there was nothing wrong with you, and playing games or seeking revenge won’t help you. Only channeling your energies toward constructive directions can heal you. Just focus on yourself. Everything else can wait.
This article has been updated in June, 2023.