There are many things our partners can do that can cause us to question ourselves. However, few things cause this to happen more than cheating. Dealing with a cheating spouse is difficult enough -- the hurt, pain and betrayal can be nearly unbearable. But the almost automatic response to question ourselves, wonder if we did something to make them cheat and if it’s somehow our fault, just makes it even harder.
When dealing with a cheating spouse it's normal to ask how and why this happened, and in trying to answer those questions to assume that it has something to do with us. This line of thought, asking what we did wrong to cause the cheating happen, can take us down a bad path though if we're not very careful.
Feeling Like You Caused Your Spouse To Cheat
When our partner chooses to be with another person, feelings about our own inadequacies are understandably triggered. Unfortunately, most of us already have insecurities about our self-worth that when we're cheated on only becomes worse. After this happens we assume that we’re not enough – not attractive enough, or smart enough, or interesting enough. And that our failings are what sent them into someone else’s bed.
Take a look at the following social media post I wrote about how to deal with cheating and one woman's reaction to her cheating boyfriend.
If you've been cheated on by your spouse, you can probably relate in some way to the above woman's repeated questioning of her self-worth by her asking over and over, "What's wrong with me, what's wrong with me?"
The feelings of rejection that come with being cheated on are horribly hurtful. No question. And they are for nearly everyone but the most hardened of hearts. But when this pain gets mixed-up with our self-worth it multiplies how hard it is to deal with a cheating spouse.
A Cheating Spouse Isn’t Your Fault
As I wrote in the above post, when someone cheats on us, it's more about what's wrong with them than it is about what's wrong with us. Cheating is a choice. Even when things are bad and temptation is great, we all still have free will and the ability to say no.
This doesn't mean we haven't have played a part in the cheating happening. Typically cheating happens in relationships that are already hurting, dysfunctional or disconnected, and often times partners don't even recognize what their relationship has become. In such relationships, both partners share responsibility for things being in a less than healthy state. Being responsible for the health of the relationship doesn't mean you're responsible for your spouse choosing to cheat though.
A crucial key to properly dealing with a cheating spouse is recognizing and accepting the truth that your partner having cheating on you has nothing to do with your value. There is nothing wrong with a person that causes their spouse to cheat. There may be things you can improve about yourself and your relationship. That's true of everyone, including me. But cheating doesn't happen because there's something wrong with us.
Asking the question, "What's wrong with me?" when you've been cheated on is the wrong question to be asking. The correct question is, "What's wrong with my partner?" that led them to cheat (especially if married). Another important question to ask is, "What's wrong with my relationship?" that caused this to happen.
Finding and understanding the answers to these questions is the first step in repairing your relationship. And yes, it can be repaired. Cheating is generally a symptom of other things that have gone wrong. If both partners are willing to put in time and effort, you can get past the damage cheating has caused and bring your relationship back to a healthy state. Time and effort are the key words to understand though. Once your relationship has gotten to this point turning things around doesn’t happen overnight or without work.
Recovering from a spouse cheating requires the right kind of effort. It takes much more than just talking about the affair. In order to truly recover and prevent cheating from happening again, not only must the destruction it cause be addressed, like destroyed trust, but also the pre-existing relationship problems that led to it. This work can be very difficult to do on your own without help from a professional counselor.
Be sure not to confuse being cheated on with your self-worth. Spouses cheat because they choose to go outside the marriage to get their needs met rather than figure out how to get them met within. There are many possible reasons why your partner chose to do this, and some of them could have to do with you, but it's not because you aren't good enough, adequate enough, lovable enough, or whatever other value-related negative belief you have about yourself.
Dealing with a cheating spouse in a healthy way requires asking and answering some very tough questions, but we must ask ourselves the right questions. And if we want to rebuild the relationship we have to answer these questions honestly -- there's no place for our insecurities about our worth to enter into the discussion. So don't let your self-doubts creep in.
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Editor's Note: This post was originally published December 06, 2014. It has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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