Donna Barnes, Life and Relationship Coach, Heartbreak Coach, and Founder of Donna Barnes Dating, offers ways to make your relationships healthier and, more importantly, how to tell when things have gone bad. She is a regular guest on Good Morning America, and Nightline, she was an expert for three season's on ABC's What Would You Do? series, and numerous other television programs. Donna is the author of Giving Up Junk-Food Relationships, the first book in the Relationship Recipes series.
Monday, August 12, 2013
My Partner Cheated On Me…What Do I Do Now?
In the wake of the Anthony Weiner sexting scandal and my appearance on GMA, I’m getting frequent questions about how to handle staying with someone who cheated on you. To make it work you have to be able to forgive completely. If you can’t then you have to get out.
Forgiving completely means that you do not nag and you re-establish trust. Unfortunately, after being betrayed most people have a hard time controlling their anger, and they feel insecure. They want to punish their partner for hurting them, and they want to supervise their every move.
The problem is that nagging will never help you. Consistently throwing past mistakes in your partner’s face can only produce negative results. If you choose to do that, you will actually be destroying any love he or she feels for you. You’ll be making yourself the enemy. How could anyone feel safe to tell you their feelings (to rebuild emotional intimacy) while you’re criticizing, scolding and checking up on them?
Most importantly, harboring negative feelings will punish you much more than it will punish your partner. If you are reading their emails and texts, and monitoring all social media communications your suspicious actions are only feeding your own anxiety.
You may think it’s helping you be able to trust again, but I have to tell you that isdestroying trust. The tighter you try to hold on to someone the more you push them away. Conversely, if you maintain your power, knowing without a doubt how valuable you are, your partner will have incentive to love you exclusively again.
Now, I am certainly not implying your partner gets a free pass for being dishonest and unfaithful. I’m trying to help you see that how you behave is equally as important as what he or she does; and that you cannot control anyone but yourself. When a couple chooses to stay together after such a betrayal there is a lot of hard work to be done for each of you. You have to focus on what you truly want, and not just give in to venting your hurt feelings. Venting is actually perpetuating your negative emotions. Your goal is to make your relationship better.
My favorite saying is, “Nothing changes if nothing changes.” It’s so simple yet so true. Sometimes cheating is a wakeup call that things needed to change. If you genuinely loveeach other and want to be together then your relationship can become better than ever, your emotional intimacy can actually become deeper.
We are all creatures of habit. As you move forward you need to create new habits for behavior; it’s much easier to replace an undesired habit with a desirable action rather than just try to stop it. So the next time you get the impulse to nag, pause, ask yourself what is the vulnerable feeling underneath your anger, and share that with your partner instead. I think you’ll find you’ll get a much better response.
Immediately after learning you’ve been cheated on you start the grieving process.Grief has five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. Everyone goes through them at a different pace and in a different order. Give yourself some timeand space to grieve before even trying to make your relationship work. Keep your thoughts in the present; try not to look back.
After that if you cannot truly forgive and move forward, then you need to leave the relationship and let go. A good relationship will nurture your self-esteem and make you happy, a bad one drains your energy and causes you stress. How does your relationship make you feel?