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What to Say to a Partner Who Cheated...

Updated: Mar 31

by Kimberly Delarosa

Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

Cheating in a relationship is a sensitive topic. Many couples and individuals have mixed feelings about affairs within committed partnerships. However, the one thing we all can agree on is that cheating on you’re partner or spouse can make you feel awful. You never go into a relationship with the thought that one day this person, who you’re madly in love with, might one day ruin the relationship by having an affair. The feelings of anger, shame, and pain overflow as you realize the loss of what you once had. In a way, it can feel like the ultimate betrayal, and now you’re put in the position to navigate this devastating reality.

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Among Americans, an estimated 90% view infidelity as immoral, while 65% see it as an unforgivable act. Once you’ve experienced this in your relationship, it can be a lot to process. You have so many emotions and so many things you want to say. You might be so wrapped up in emotion you forget to get down to the root of the issue. The questions will help you see why this happened and what to do about it. Here’s what you need to say to your partner once they’ve cheated:

Why? What compelled them to cheat?

“One of the main questions to ask a partner who cheated is why they cheated,” says licensed professional counselor Amanda Levison. She’s the founder of Neurofeedback and Counseling Center, based in Pennsylvania. “When you ask this, be open to understanding why it happened and what led to it.”

There’s a reason for every action, even the ones that are damaging. This response is from something deeper – a lack of love, connection, recognition, desire, or attention. Something is lacking or missing, which compelled your partner to do something without thinking about the consequences.

And in turn, it made them feel unloved for them to go and search for it somewhere else. Is that an excuse? No. But the more you can find out why the more you can begin to heal yourself and possibly the relationship.

How long has the affair been going on?

This question might sound painful, but it’s always best to know when the infidelity started. It can make you backtrack to what was going on when it started, and depending on how long the infidelity was, it’ll show when they decided to end the relationship.

Levison states that “about 22 percent of men and 14 percent of women admit to cheating on their partner.” Being honest about everything that has happened is the key to understanding the betrayal. The moment your partner cheated is the moment they gave up on the relationship. Use this to learn and to better prepare yourself for the next relationship or to solve the issue of your current relationship.

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Where do we go from here?

This is a tough one. It’s a question not only addressed to him but yourself. Chris Seiter, relationship coach and founder of Ex-Boyfriend Recovery, suggests to make sure whatever decision you make that you and your partner are on the same page:

“If you are choosing to be together, be sure that you take some time to make this decision and that you’re doing it for the right reasons, not just because it’s what you both think is for best. Often people decide to work through things and stay together because of families, or fear of being alone. This is something that may take both partners some time to be sure of, but you both need to accept a decision from either partner if they choose to walk away.”

If you’re willing to forgive and see how you can mend the relationship, understand the work it will take. Trust needs to be rebuilt again, and that can take some time. You both have to be willing to learn from the past and let it go. However, if you feel that you cannot forgive them or cannot get past the resentment, then all the trust is gone, and there is no hope in moving forward.

At the end of the day, the ball is in your court.

You have the ultimate decision of what will happen next. “For some people, finding out that their partner has cheated is an instant deal-breaker,” says Megan Harrison, a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMT) and founder of Couples Candy located in Tampa, Florida. “The truth is that it’s often very hard to change instantly from love to hate because of the emotions involved.” Whether you decide on working it out or calling it quits, remember that this is your decision. Make sure your choice is what’s best for you, not what others say. Friends and family mean well and will offer all kinds of advice. However, it’s your life and what you decide.

From personal experience, I know how it feels to have you heartbroken by the ones you love. It hurts like hell. So, give yourself the time you need to do it all: process, cry, question, chocolate, heal. I’m so sorry that you are going through this but know that the pain is temporary. It will pass, and you will become stronger from this crappy experience. It might not seem like it now, but I promise this will make you stronger. And whatever you do, never let someone take away your faith in love.