Regardless of its magnitude — whether your partner sexted with some rando once or had a full-blown secret years-long relationship with someone — being cheated on is arguably one of life’s most gut-wrenching problems.
Following it, many people feel humiliation, loneliness, heartbreak, confusion, anger, insecurity, and sometimes even depression. Often, these things lead to trust issues, obsessive thoughts, sporadic urges to check up on a partner, unnecessary fights and arguments, and an unquenchable thirst to control them.
Look. I get you’d love to rebuild trust and mend and improve your relationship now that you got your ex back. And in this article, I will share how to do it and prevent future betrayal. But before I get into that, you must understand the following.
From now on, everything will be different.
This can be both a positive and a negative thing. On the one hand, betrayal can demolish trust and completely erode the connectedness you shared with your partner. On the other hand, it can force you to learn where you both went wrong and make you grow from the experience.
Let’s hope the latter is what hits your relationship.
Why Do People Cheat
The cheating algorithm is a well-known theory in self-help and modern psychology. Originally coined by the author and blogger Mark Manson, it delivers a solid understanding of why people cheat. Below is my interpretation of it.
Starting with the algorithm: SELF-GRATIFICATION > INTIMACY = CHEATING
To go a bit deeper: self-gratification is the need to do something selfish that feels good in the moment (i.e., indulge in good food, get lots of sleep, work very little, have good sex, etc.), and intimacy is the need for closeness, connectedness, familiarity and being loved.
With this in mind, the cheating algorithm reads: when someone’s need for self-gratification outweighs their need for intimacy, they will likely cheat.
In other words, if a person prioritizes self-gratification over intimacy in their relationship, they will stop sacrificing for it and thus probably cheat. Whereas if a person prioritizes intimacy over self-gratification, they will willingly sacrifice some of it to remain faithful.
This brings us to why your partner cheated in the first place. Stemming from the theory above, there are two reasons. The first is because they’re a shallow and selfish person that needs to be gratified constantly. The second is because your relationship failed to provide sufficient intimacy.
Reason 1: Oversized Need For Self-Gratification
This simply means your partner favored banging someone else over deferring their gratification in favor of having a committed and healthy relationship with you.
The self-gratifying cheater comes in two types:
1. Those who always focus on their own gratification because they feel so miserable about themselves and their life that they need to make themselves feel good to cover it all up. For example: deadbeats, losers, slackers, drunks, druggies, and social parasites.
2. Those who always focus on their own gratification because they are in power and have no one to say “no” to them. Just note that this could but doesn’t always relate to social power. We can also plop someone with complete control and authority in their romantic relationship in this category.
Reason 2: Lack Of Deep Intimacy
The more miserable your relationship feels for your partner, the more likely they will cheat. The problem here is awareness; most people don’t know they cultivated a miserable relationship — instead, they feel as though everything was fun and fellatio.
Here are two examples of this sort of relationship:
1. A relationship where one partner feels as though they “do everything” for the other partner — they take care of them, give them everything they want, perhaps even support them. While you may think you’re being a decent, healthy partner doing this, you’re actually being toxic. Because when you take care of all of your partner’s problems, you show them that there are no repercussions for their actions. And if there are no repercussions for their actions, no matter how disrespectful they are toward you, you’re just inviting (in psych term “enabling”) them to give you more of the same shitty treatment.
2. A relationship that is riddled with possessiveness and jealousy. If you always nagged your partner about giving you their phone or even looked through it without permission, or you demanded they tell you where they are going and with who they are meeting up all the time, or you got pissed if they didn’t return your call the same day — these are all instances of possessiveness and jealousness. And it’s these instances that make certain people cheat. I mean, you’re already treating them like they have cheated in this case.
How To Mend An Infidelity-Ridden Relationship
Below are 10 ways to rebuild trust and mend your relationship where there has been betrayal involved. As you’ll find out, most fall under the category of common-uncommon sense. Some of them are easy to pull off, while others will make you question whether reconciliation is something you’d even want to attempt.
1. Overcome Your Emotional Shit
Everything starts with the relationship you have with yourself. If you’re needy, controlling, obsessive, jealous, or full of debilitating anxiety, anger, resentment and other emotional baggage, you likely won’t mend your relationship and just create more unnecessary stress for yourself (and your partner).
Think of it this way: following the cheating algorithm, there’s a 50% chance you got cheated on because you have emotional issues (the other 50% falls under the “your partner favoring self-gratification to an unhealthy degree” umbrella).
Therefore, if you overcome and learn how to manage your emotional issues better, you’ll have a better chance of a) mending your relationship and b) avoiding being cheated on again.
And besides, if you want a decent relationship with anyone, you first have to cultivate a decent one with yourself.
2. Be Brutally Honest With Each Other
Despite the pushback you’ll feel, you and your partner must be 100% willing to give and receive input from one another honestly and transparently. Without the willingness to do this, there is no hope of mending a relationship.
You must find the time to have heartfelt conversations about why you feel as you do, how the betrayal has challenged you, and what it means for the future of your relationship. Further, you must have these conversations imbued in respect — and you should never let them tumble and turn into arguments.
Or, worst of all, arguments about betrayal. I’ve seen many couples who had betrayal in their relationship, and pretty much all of their conversations eventually wind up back to that subject in a matter of days or weeks. Obviously, things never ended well.
On a final note, don’t shy away from seeking the support of a friend, family member, or expert. You will have an easier time mending your relationship if you talk to someone trustworthy you can vent to and get guidance and advice from.
3. Open Up About Your Secrets
When there’s been betrayal, there have been secrets. And to mend an infidelity-ridden relationship, you’ll have to address them — you’ll have to bring the bitches out in the open and talk about them — despite the uncomfortable awkwardness shrouding them.
For instance, if your partner had a secret phone or social media account through which they talked with the person they cheated, ask them to show it to you. Then browse their conversations, ask them questions about them, and discuss the whole thing. Don’t be shy: they brought this upon themselves.
Don’t judge, hold grudges, or blame the other person for anything. Simply discuss why they’ve done what they’ve done, what you can do better to prevent it from happening again, what they can do to embolden trust and respect in your relationship, and what you can learn from the experience.
For how long should you continue with this scrutiny? As long as it is necessary. As long as trust needs to be rebuilt. As long as it takes for your partner to rebuild their reputation. Sometimes this will take only weeks or months. Other times it may take years — or forever.
Occasionally, your partner will retaliate or fight against this scrutiny. Maybe they’ll think it’s uncalled for, undeserved, or simply too much. If that happens, and your partner isn’t willing to change their mind about it, leave them. For such an attitude makes for unfruitful grounds for a proper relationship to blossom from.
4. Be Ready For The Worst
Sometimes, your ex’s betrayal will be far bigger than you thought. Maybe they tell you they only kissed the person they cheated with when in reality, they fucked their brains out. Or they tell you they only had sex with this person once when in fact, they had a secret relationship with them for years.
In other words, your ex might tell you only a part of what happened and leave the majority of the story and details out — or even lie about them.
Notice these things and respectfully challenge your ex on them. Approach your conversations with genuine curiosity and love and make the “vibe” feel inviting, like when you visit a therapist.
All of this is hard as nails, yes. But it’s through these tiny behavioral changes that one mends their relationship. And If your partner isn’t willing to help you out and go forward with the plan, you might as well end things — because they sure as shit won’t go far.
5. Drop Your Entitlement
You may think that since you’ve been cheated on, you have the right and power to start pointing your finger at your partner and dictate what they need to do to move the relationship forward. It’s the mindset of, “Okay, now let me tell you how things are gonna go here. You’re going to XYZ, and I’ll do ABC.”
Obviously, this sort of attitude won’t help you improve your relationship. What will, however, is its polar opposite: setting aside your urge to call the shots — the entitlement and self-absorption. It’s only when you approach mending your relationship from a helpers or givers mindset that you stand a chance at succeeding.
This doesn’t mean that you don’t have a voice. It simply means letting go of your need to control your partner and the flow of future events tied to your relationship. It means growing the fuck up.
6. Establish Freedom
On the one hand, we need openness tied with strong accountability in our relationship after betrayal ensues (See points #1 and #2). But on the other, we mustn’t fall into the trap of monitoring every move our partner makes and repeatedly reminding them of what they’ve done. This only creates a cooped-up, claustrophobic feeling that feeds a sense of rebellion. After all, no one wants their personal freedom stifled.
It’s like walking on a tightrope across a volcano opening. Lean too much on either side, and you’ll fall to a fiery death.
Here’s how I’d approach this conundrum: keep your partner accountable and concurrently communicate that freedom is a part of your relationship.
Your partner should be able to freely choose what they’ll do, where they’ll go, and who they’ll meet. But they should also be fair enough to show proof that they didn’t do anything shady in the background.
They shouldn’t present this proof because you forced them to do it, of course. They should present it because they genuinely care about you and want to help mend things. They should present it out of love and respect, not fear or guilt.
7. Your Partner Has To Change
Here’s a bitter pill: your partner will likely cheat again. There is no going around it. Statistics proved time and time again that this is the reality. Once a cheater, always a cheater…
…That is, if the person never changes. But if your partner does, things can turn for the better. But for them to change this way, they’ve got to start questioning their values, beliefs, past decisions, and who they are as a person.
They’ve got to start asking:
- Who Am I really?
- Am I somebody that wants to be lying and deceptive?
- Do I believe in the concept of commitment?
- Do I believe in the concept of goodness and loyalty?
- What do I believe?
This is a scary concept because you have absolutely no control over it. Sure, you can inspire or encourage your partner to be a better person. But you can’t force, cajole, or manipulate them into changing in this profound, deep way. You can only surrender to the uncertainty and hope for the best.
8. Enforce Healthy Boundaries
Since I already wrote an in-depth guide on boundaries, I won’t go far into it here. But I will say this.
Enforcing healthy boundaries means declaring what is and is not acceptable treatment in your relationship both for yourself and your partner, and sticking by those declarations and following through on them. In other words, stand up for yourself — even if it means ending your relationship and walking away.
Your partner is not responsible for your happiness, and you’re not responsible for theirs. They don’t have the right to demand certain things from you, and you don’t have the right to demand certain things from them. They must take accountability for their struggles without you trying to always fix them, and you must take accountability for your struggles and not allow them to always fix them.
The true purpose of a relationship is having two loving individuals unconditionally support each other as they handle their own problems together.
9. Develop Good Relational Habits
One of the most important yet overlooked ways to mend an infidelity-ridden relationship is focusing on the little things like:
- Saying “I love you” before heading to work.
- Grabbing your partner’s hand while on a stroll.
- Having regular date nights.
- Helping with household chores.
- Doing each-other favors.
- Making time for sex even though you’re tired.
The true beauty of these simple habits is that they add up over time and progressively embolden trust, respect, and affection in one’s relationship.
10. Manage Grief Well
While you may think a breakup differs from a betrayal, it doesn’t.
A breakup signifies the death of a relationship; a betrayal signifies the death of purity and commitment in a relationship. Both incidents lead to bottomless grief and heartbreak. And both demand a person to process these emotions and heal from them.
Therefore, be prepared to go through a lot of hurt moving forward. You’ll likely go through the identical stages a person enduring a breakup goes through: shock, rumination, confusion, emotional chaos, wanting your ex back, ambivalence, and acceptance.
Mend The Relationship Or Break Up?
Healing from a betrayal will take months or even years. Expect this. And turning around your relationship despite it, fuck… that’s likely going to take even longer — and you’ll probably fail miserably. For the most part, rekindling infidelity-ridden relationships simply doesn’t work out often. In 9 out of 10 cases, you should break up.
This is the sad reality of the situation.
That said, if you do decide to go down the shit-stained road of mending things, apart from heeding the advice in this article, heed the following: always be willing to end your relationship and walk away.
If you’re an avid reader of my blog, this insight comes at no surprise. One of the healthiest and most empowering mindsets a person can cultivate in their life is the willingness to leave relationships behind if they aren’t satisfied with them.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t try to make it work. I’m not saying you should desire to leave. I’m not saying the grass is always greener on the other side.
All I’m saying is, be better. Have higher standards. Have more self-respect. If you’re in a relationship that’s making you sad, dejected, perhaps even miserable or depressed, stop being a fucking pussy and pull the damn plug.
Bury your old world and make a fresh canvas for constructing a new, better one.
Previously Published on maxjancar.com