I was scrolling through Facebook the other day when this post popped up:
“Drove over to my boyfriend of four year’s house early this morning to surprise him with a Starbucks. As I round the corner to his house, the door opens and another woman comes out disheveled and still putting on clothes. My boyfriend gives her a big kiss and, still not seeing me, happily waves goodbye and shuts the door.”
This is not a good way to start the morning. My heart broke for this woman and the pain she is now dealing with. As a survivor of an adulterous ex-husband (whom I still co-parent with and have a strong and healthy post-divorce relationship with), here is what I would advise:
Assess The Damage
I’m guessing the kiss and the trailing clothes gave it away that this woman wasn’t the boyfriend’s sister. But before you react and go cray-cray, make sure you have all the information straight. Once you can speak without spitting nails, sit down with your boyfriend or girlfriend and ask for an explanation. If at all possible, try to simply listen and not get defensive or reactive. This is your opportunity to hear the truth and get clarity. Once you have a better understanding, tell your significant other you need some time and space to consider what the cheating means to you and the future of your relationship.
Understand Your Part
It’s easy to point fingers and blame the other person for acting out, but in all relationships there are two parties, and you play a part in the relationship, too. Determine what broke down between the two of you. What parts of your relationship were left wanting? Was it a lack of communication, intimacy or fun? Is this an integrity issue and a repeat of past unfaithfulness or a reaction to a void in your own relationship? These are questions you need to explore and reflect on as you consider your fractured relationship.
Calculate The Risk
Whether you decide to stay and work on the relationship or you choose to end it, there will be a cost. Either decision will have ramifications, so get counsel and wise guidance from mentors as you move forward. Choosing to stay with a person who cheated is the harder path. You will want to pursue counseling and you will have to embrace forgiveness, deal with daily insecurity and the broken trust. In order to move forward, you can’t hold the breach over the other person’s head—a difficult thing to do in the aftermath of such a breach of trust.
On the flip side, it may be the best decision for you to walk away and stop wasting your time on a person who treats you poorly. In the case of my Facebook friend, a four-year relationship with no commitment is a red flag in itself. This guy was clearly not going to marry her and was obviously taking advantage of her. Time to let that loser go and learn to choose healthier men who value her worth and heart.
Now is the time to schedule a final meeting with the other party and present your decision. If you are moving on and breaking up, discuss any personal items that need to be returned or any financial commitments you have made together. If you share a dog, this is the time to figure out custody. Come prepared to find a resolution and make a clean break. Say goodbye and walk away with your dignity intact.
If you choose to stay in the relationship and try to make it work, create a plan to tackle your relational issues as a team. The most critical part of dealing with a cheating partner and moving forward in confidence is making a decision you can live with and embracing that decision wholeheartedly.
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