7 Critical Things to Do After You’ve Been Cheated On

Being cheated on is like getting punched in the soul. It hurts more than words can possibly describe. The closest I can come is to say that I’d rather be punched in the face a thousand times by Mike Tyson than be punched in the soul just once by someone I love.

If you’re here, you’re probably feeling about the same. Like your soul is hemorrhaging out all over the damn place. But unfortunately, you can’t go to the hospital and just get it stitched up. Souls require a bit more care.

If I could, I’d wrap you up in a warm, soft cocoon, stick you in one of those sling baby carriers, gently hold you in it while traveling to a deeply peaceful forest, then plant you in some soft, nurturing soil where you could hibernate until you’re ready to emerge as a kick-ass butterfly.

Since I can’t do that (Imagine being caught burying a bunch of sad women in the forest. “But they’re gonna turn into butterflies, officer!”), I created this list of really important things to do in order to get through the initial weeks or months of awfulness after you’ve been cheated on. You may just want to crawl under a rock and die, but I promise, you will get better. And these are the first steps to healing.

1. Get Safe

First, you have to get safe. Not your kids, not your dog, not your mom. You. Without you, none of those relationships exist. So get yourself safe first.

If that means staying with a friend or family member for a few days or weeks, do it. If it means getting a hotel room for a bit, do it. If it means going to a mental hospital, DO IT!

You have done nothing wrong and have nothing to be ashamed of. Something traumatic has happened to you, so it’s normal to not be fully functioning and to need help. If you need help right away, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline or SAMHSA’s national helpline.

2. Get an STD Test

This is going to be uncomfortable, but you must get it done if you’ve been cheated on. There are so many STDs that can be treated easily and painlessly if they’re caught early. But if you wait, you may be dealing with a whole ‘nother layer of shit.

Tip: There’s no need to feel embarrassed or like there’s something wrong with you for needing this medical service. Most gynecologists have seen plenty of other women in your position (it’s horrifically common).

3. Make a List of People Who Have Your Back

This list will have different layers – from the BFF who would literally lay down her life to help you to that random coworker who seems pretty cool. Add your therapist, your mom, your sister, your cat, your favorite post office employee – anyone who offers you anything at all.

These are the people you will contact when you need help. And help can mean a lot of different things. You don’t necessarily have to talk about the shitstorm you’re in with all of these people (although you should have at least one person you can talk to about being cheated on).

I had a friend who would simply text me pictures of her cats. Those texts reminded me that someone in the world cared about me, that not all people are assholes, and that cats are ridiculous and awesome.

You must reach out to the people on your list when you need support. It’s hard, but you won’t get better in isolation. So ask your coworker to send you funny memes. Ask your mom to make your favorite dinner. Ask your mail carrier to kick rocks with you. The more you ask, the more you will receive.

4. Make a List of Your Favorite Grounding Techniques

You probably feel about as emotionally stable as Fabio on a roller coaster – not only are you experiencing some major ups and downs, but you also might get smacked in the face by something totally unexpected at any moment.

When you start to feel like you’re losing it (either going waaaaay up or waaaay down), quick! Use a grounding technique! Here’s the science of how they work and a list of 10 different types. You’re welcome.

Keep a couple of these in your back pocket so you can bring yourself back down next time you feel like becoming the next Lorena Bobbit.

5. Make a List of Ways to Care for Yourself

Okay, this is a lot of list making, but I’m a firm believer in putting things down on paper (or in my phone) in order to free up space in my brain for important things like the lyrics to the song from the 1996 Bagel Bites commercial.

But really I like making lists because I am rather forgetful and lists help me do better with that. They’re also very helpful when your brain isn’t working right, like after your (former) favorite person in the world suddenly punches you in the soul out of nowhere.

So, self-care. If you’re like me, you’re probably sick of hearing about self-care for busy people and self-care for moms and self-care this and that and blah blah blah. But seriously, self-care is critical after you’ve been cheated on. You have just been run over by a truck. Don’t expect yourself to simply get up and walk away.

You need lots of rest and support and all the random things you do to take care of yourself. This could be taking long, hot baths, or spending a couple of hours reading in bed, or puttering around in your garden, or playing with your pets, or whatever brings you a tiny sliver of joy. If you have a hard time thinking of ways to take care of yourself, check out this crazy long list of self-care activities.

6. Consider Your Future

When considering your future, you may feel like you need to make a decision RIGHT NOW about whether to stay with the person who cheated on you or go out on your own. But it’s okay to be unsure. You are in a time of great transition. This quote by author Ann Patchett does a great job of describing this transitory time:

“There are a few times in life when you leap up and the past that you’d been standing on falls away behind you, and the future you mean to land on is not yet in place, and for a moment you’re suspended, knowing nothing and no one, not even yourself.”

This can come across as either really bleak or really exciting. Kind of like this:

Your life is totally up in the air so you might as well dream big about who you want to be and what you want your future to be.

Have you always wanted to live in a cottage in the woods with a bunch of chickens and goats and stuff but your partner was all about that city life? Or did you always wish you could start a cat retirement home but your partner was like “hell no”? This is the time when you can set aside everyone else’s wants and needs and think about what YOU want for YOUR future.

Tip: Make a Pinterest board or a real life vision board to get clarity on what you want your future to look like.

If you’ve been living with the person who cheated on you, your home probably doesn’t feel very safe or peaceful right now. You may feel like kicking them out and never speaking to them again.

If you’re 100% certain that’s what you want, go right ahead and do it. But if you have any uncertainty (which is super common), consider a therapeutic separation. This means putting an agreement in place that outlines exactly what needs to happen before you can live together in a safe and healthy way again.

And separation doesn’t have to mean separate homes. Sometimes one person moves into a spare bedroom and the couple coordinates separate times to use areas like the kitchen or living room. Whatever works for you, just make sure it’s all in the therapeutic separation agreement.

7. Get a Qualified Therapist or Coach

It’s a good idea to find a therapist or coach with experience in this kind of stuff, but what’s even more important is the relationship that develops between you and the person you choose. Seriously, studies have shown the therapeutic relationship to be the primary factor in whether someone improves in therapy or not.

If you don’t feel a connection or bond or whatever by the third session, find someone else. I know it’s hard to start all over with someone new, but it’s better than throwing your time and money away with someone who’s not really helping.

Conclusion

Remember, it will take time to heal after you’ve been cheated on. You’ve been hit by a truck for goodness sake (and maybe set on fire a few times for good measure), so be patient with the healing process. You’re basically in the ICU right now.

So gather your supports, wrap yourself up in them, and, most importantly, be kind to yourself. Seriously. Treat yourself the way you treat your favorite pet. Lots of fresh water, plenty of snuggles, regular feedings, and lots of naps.

If you’d like to schedule a session to talk with me about self care, getting punched in the soul, or anything else, reach out.