It’s not easy to find out that your girlfriend cheated on you.
If you’re reading this article, it means you’re looking for some guidance. You’re feeling hurt, angry, and likely, above all else, confused. Why did she cheat on me? Why didn’t I know about it sooner? If you found out for yourself, you might be wondering why it took so long to find out. If she told you, you might be wondering what changed that she finally decided to break the news.
Take a deep breath and step back from all those feelings. It’s okay. You can make it through this tough time.
After she confessed to you in-person or, even worse, you discovered the truth on your own, you probably felt devastated. You experienced a wide range of confusing emotions and the overwhelming sensation that you can not trust anyone anymore.
You asked yourself:
How could this happen? And, what should you do now?
Recently, there’s been a big shift in gender proportions when it comes to betrayal. Male cheaters used to outnumber women, but nowadays it’s not entirely sure whether more women or men are cheating.
The first thing to remember is that it’s unfortunately common for people to cheat. If you’re in college, the statistics are pretty jarring — around a quarter of people in relationships are flirting with someone else through a social or dating app, and 10% have actually met up. As tough as it is to be dealing with this, you’re not alone.
The next thing to think about is what this means for your relationship. For many people, the idea of their significant other cheating on them causes an immediate emotional reaction. Think about it. When your girlfriend broke the news or you found that incriminating text, you probably had a rush of adrenaline and an immediate surge in anger, right? But you can’t let that immediate emotional reaction determine how you’re going to react.
When it comes to dealing with a cheating partner, you need to approach it with open-mindedness. It’s a foreign concept for many people, but with some important information, you may want to go back to your girlfriend and have a much different concept than the one she thinks you’re gearing up for.
What Is Cheating?
First up: what even constitutes cheating? You might not consciously think about it, but different people have different definitions of cheating. For some people, even flirting with another person, however innocent, is cheating.
That betrayal has nothing to do with how she feels about him drinking, but it has everything to do with the fact that he violated her trust.
Figure out what it was that you felt betrayed about. Did you ever explicitly tell her that she couldn’t do what she did, or was it just implied? If it was implied, do you think it was a natural implication? Sure, most people assume they shouldn’t have sex with other people if they’re in a monogamous relationship, but that doesn’t always translate to sexting or flirting with other people.
Draw these boundaries firmly, and do it on your own right now. When you come back to your girlfriend, you can have an outline of exactly what cheating is to you.
For some, it goes even further; they may not even be comfortable with their partner spending time alone with someone of the opposite gender. On the other end of the spectrum, there are people who have established that their partner can flirt online or even sext as long as the two don’t meet up in person.
All that to say, it’s complicated. In fact, if I were to ask where exactly you would draw the line, you might not be able to immediately give an answer. You just knew when you saw what happened that you felt betrayed.
That betrayal is what cheating really is. Cheating isn’t just when your girlfriend has sex with someone else. Cheating is when she betrays your trust in the relationship.
Each relationship has different rules and there are no objective rules what kind of behaviors are better or worse. That is something which needs to be understood and agreed between both partners. You had trust that she wouldn’t do something specific, and when she did it, you felt hurt when you discovered the truth through a catch a cheater app or get to know it from her.
Betrayal can ruin other parts of a relationship, too. Married couples and even some long-term dating couples have to share finances. If a wife finds out her husband is secretly getting money under the table and spending it at the bar, she’s going to feel betrayed and hurt, and it’s going to have an impact on their relationship.
Does her betrayal mean that she doesn’t love you or that you suck in bed?
People are simply wired to cheat. Biological evidence, including research on biology and reproduction, indicates that long-term monogamy is difficult for humans to achieve. Complete faithfulness is NOT impossible, but very difficult. And it applies to both sexes.
Cheating is a threat that can happen in every relationship. People get bored and curious. No matter how much you love her or how great you are in bed, sex for the 673rd time with the same partner probably won’t be as exciting as forbidden first-time sex with a stranger you met while travelling. We are all human, after all.
Why do women cheat on men?
Women cheat because they are sexual beings, just like you are.
Conventional (and let’s face it: outdated) wisdom says that women are hard-wired for monogamy and that guys are the ones who can’t keep it in their pants.
As women become financially and socially more independent, they are beginning to cheat more like men. In 2016, you can no longer claim that any behavior is strictly masculine or feminine, but, in this case, you can attribute certain behavior to humanity as a whole. When it comes down to it, females have the exact same tendencies to cheat, just like men.
The reasons for their betrayal may differ, though. Many women tend to look for an emotional connection to accompany sex, even if it’s supposed to be just a quick fling. They crave the boost of oxytocin, the hormone which makes humans feel connected to another person and improves our moods.
While men tend to categorize their affairs as “just sex”—women often become more involved in them.
When should you forgive your girlfriend?
Whenever you hear you inner voice telling you to do so.
Trust your guts. If you feel that letting her go will be the biggest mistake of your life, maybe it will.
If you feel that she is sincerely sorry and you believe that this was a one-time thing, maybe it’s worth trying to stay together and work out a solution.
Breaking up with someone you still love is not necessarily the best option, especially if she still claims to love you back.
Figure out WHY she did it
It’s definitely worth talking about. Figure out WHY she did what she did. Maybe you didn’t realize that, over the years, you went from a caring boyfriend to a self-absorbed workaholic?
Or the opposite: From a passionate, impressive, and challenging man, you became a guy who gave up on his passions and his own life, focusing on her and becoming too clingy?
Don’t get me wrong. The last thing I want is for you to take the blame. It’s still her fault. My point is that it’s worth trying to understand her motives and to observe your own role in the relationship using a cold, objective approach. These types of things are rarely black-and-white.
Try to understand her point of view
When it comes to a mature relationship, honest conversations, before making any serious steps, are indispensable. Don’t let your damaged ego blur your vision.
I know that right now you feel offended and talking about it makes you sick. Even if you want her out of your sight, if you truly love her, you should give her a chance. Listen to her arguments. Be willing to actually understand what happened and why.
Consider a non-monogamous relationship
Maybe her betrayal could be treated, not like the end of your relationship, but the first step toward something new? Admit it. You love her, you really do, but sometimes you also like some . . . variety.
Life is short and everyone should live it to the fullest. Not every relationship needs to be monogamous. Enjoying the opportunity of a company of different people (also naked) can be the way to go. After all, being with the same person for 60 years can get boring.
David Barash, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Washington, says “There are a wide variety of open-relationship models out there, and they can vary drastically from one couple to another.” Adding that, “having an open relationship can work really well for some people”. Maybe instead of cutting it off altogether, changing the terms of the relationship is the way to go.
Now, the most crucial part. Do you still love her?
Is There Still Love in the Relationship?
This is the absolute most important part of the whole issue. Is there still love on both sides?
First off, does she still love you? Although many affairs are driven by the person feeling emotionally unfulfilled in their relationship, sometimes it’s just that they don’t feel the spark anymore, but they don’t want to officially leave. If you found out on your own, or she seemed cold and distant when she told you, the spark is probably gone. As much as it hurts, you may need to come back to her, tell her you understand, and part ways.
If she came to you and told you about the cheating, or you’ve noticed a sad and heavy change in her demeanour before you found out about it, she might still love you. It’s easy to say that cheating means you don’t love the other person, but that’s just not true. It means you were willing to break their trust in order to achieve something. Essentially, she may love you, she’s just missing something in your relationship.
Think about it hard. You’re sad, you’re angry, you’re upset, but underneath it all, do you still love her?
Forgiveness is, more often than not, better than anger. If she’s expressing remorse for her actions and you still love her, you may be willing to give things another chance. If you think you may have had boundaries that weren’t clearly expressed, so she unintentionally trespassed on those boundaries, you may want to go back and set those boundaries up in stone for the next pass.
Are You Being Hypocritical?
This is a tough one for everyone, but it’s especially tough for men. The numbers don’t lie — men do tend to cheat on their partners more frequently than women do. Obviously, not all men have cheated in the past, and it’s completely possible that you’ve never cheated on her or any other girlfriend. But if you have, you need to be frank with yourself.
If you have cheated on someone, even if they never found out, recognize that this is how they would have felt if they did find out. Sometimes, it’s easy to be the one who’s cheating in a relationship, but that feeling swings tremendously when you’re the one being cheated on.
Think about why you cheated when you were doing it. Did you feel like your girlfriend didn’t care about you? Did you think she might have been cheating on you, so you felt like it was okay to do as well? Did you want to have sex more often than your girlfriend did? These are all very, very common reasons to cheat on your partner, and they’re potential reasons your girlfriend’s cheated on you.
If you’ve never cheated on a partner, congratulations! You’re in the minority. It may be that you have a very strong moral compass or just that you’ve never seen a reason to cheat. In this case, it’s honestly going to be harder to understand why your girlfriend’s cheated on you. After all, you may think, if I’ve been able to do it, then what’s her deal?
“Her deal,” more often than not, is that she doesn’t feel certain about the relationship. Remember, cheating is nothing more than a betrayal of trust. If she doesn’t have any trust in you, she doesn’t have any trust on her end to betray. If she’s already left you in her mind, she won’t have any reason to stay with you in person.
It’s hard to see it from her perspective, but you have to. It leads to the next point, which is the crux of the entire issue.
You may want to also discuss changing the boundaries. It’s a bit scary and strange to think about, but an open relationship may be the way to go. Relationships don’t have to be completely open or completely closed; in fact, it’s very common for people in “open relationships” to actually have some things they would consider cheating. Work out for yourself what you would be okay with.
These new boundaries could be as tame as saying that you’re okay with her flirting with people online as long as it’s passing and she doesn’t use dating apps. It could be as open as saying that you’re okay with her having sex with other people as long as you know about it. It’s entirely up to you. If this is the idea you’re pursuing, write down where you’re completely comfortable with setting boundaries, then determine where you would be okay if she’s really insistent on it.
Love is the key here. You have to maintain love as the center of your relationship. Put forgiveness out there, and if she wants it, she can take it.
So, What Should You Do?
After you find out that your girlfriend has cheated on you, you’re going to feel that almost insurmountable wave of emotion. Hopefully you’re rethinking that emotion and considering a gentler option.
At the end of the day, you can’t focus exclusively on your girlfriend’s mistakes, the same way you wouldn’t want her focusing exclusively on your mistakes. It’s a big mistake, and if it was intentional, it may not feel like anything you’ve done measures up to what she has. But forgiveness is about being the bigger person, letting love guide you, and understanding that people can change.
Whether you decide to give it another shot or you have to put down this relationship for now, you can do it with confidence. It’s not easy to handle the aftermath of this situation, but you need to address it head-on. Think about what you want, what she wants, and what’s going to be best for you both.
Making an important decision immediately after she tells you is not the way to go. Give yourself some time to think about it. Also, don’t listen to your “bro’s,” or whoever can confuse you. It’s your life and your choice.
If you can, take some time for yourself (maybe a day or two off work so you can spend some time on your own and think). That might be the best thing to do.
After processing your fear and sadness, you can honestly ask (and answer) these questions:
Can I trust her in the future?
– Should I break up with her?
– Was this relationship really nourishing for me or did it cost me a lot of effort that wasn’t reciprocated?
– Could I forgive her?
– Do I really love her?
Whatever you decide, make sure that the decision you make is yours and yours alone. Trust your guts, because that’s the best decision-making compass you have. The only direction you should take is what makes you happy.
Make the final decision
Being betrayed feels like shit. There is nothing to discuss there. You have every right to feel devastated and disappointed.
There is no golden rule about how you should act in that situation. If you feel that being with her will make you a happier person than being without her, maybe you should consider staying together.