Cheated On? Here’s The WORST 5 Things You Can Do

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Every week, I counsel men and women heartbroken over infidelity.

And every week, I try to prevent those people from making big mistakes. If it’s already too late, I help people deal with the consequences of their big mistakes.

Frequently, nearly everyone in the Betrayed’s life is encouraging them to make big mistakes. That can even include their therapist. It most certainly includes the internet and social media.

Most Betrayeds have been through infidelity once, maybe twice, occasionally three times. In 42 years as a therapist, I’ve been through infidelity cases hundreds of times. And when talking with a dejected or enraged patient, I also have the advantage of not being in pain myself. So I have two resources that Betrayeds lack.

That’s why you should believe me when I say that here are the worst things people do in response to infidelity.

1) Make any big decisions

Which do you think people should do after the revelation of infidelity: quit their job? Buy a new car? Tell their child he’s adopted? Rob a liquor store?

If your answer is “none of the above,” you’re right. No one should make a big decision when they’re really upset.

And yet, every day people in agony about infidelity make major decisions. They “know” they want a divorce. They “have to” tell the kids. They “can’t help” but contact the wife of the ‘other man.’ They “owe it” to their in-laws to “be honest” about the betrayal. It “feels right” to call an ex-lover or go to a bar for revenge sex.

After infidelity is revealed, emotions naturally run very, very high. That does not create an emergency requiring immediate decisions. If this isn’t a good time to make any important decisions—don’t.

2) Use the internet to find “support” from millions of aggrieved people

I’m certain that the number of websites claiming that men are lying dogs waiting to betray any trusting woman far, far outnumbers the websites suggesting patience, curiosity, and forgiveness. Particularly online, angry people are more motivated to vent than happy people are to share their good news.

Some people in pain want a reason to be optimistic. But many others want to hear stories of other people in pain—and the internet is full of them. People who overcome infidelity are too busy living their lives to obsessively tell their story 24/7. But people who can’t or won’t overcome infidelity have plenty of time to crusade against those who hurt them—and those who will hurt you too, they insist.

Infidelity can be so destabilizing that the Betrayed often looks for an explanation to help them understand it (as if it were a disease). Websites that appear to make sense of infidelity with long discourses on “cheaters,” “manipulators,” and “emotional abusers” (not to mention “men”) are like stale emotional bread to starving Betrayeds—not ideal, but seemingly better than nothing.

These websites discourage every Betrayed, regardless of circumstances, from trusting their partner, or any impulse to listen to, understand, or forgive the Betrayer.

3) Demand unlimited, ultimately trivial information

This mistake has the blessing of too many therapists.

Of course the Betrayed wants to know what the Betrayer did—an emotional affair or a series of one-night stands? Two visits to massage parlors, or dozens over several years? Have you stopped or not? Do you want to stop?

The Betrayed needs to know such things so they can start asking questions, assessing the relationship and thinking about what they want. The Betrayed does not need to know which massage parlors, which websites, which music, restaurants, and lingerie, or exactly how many times and in which positions.
Yet this “radical full disclosure” is now in fashion among therapists and ghoulish bloggers who feed on the suffering they encourage. Demanding such trivia is like wanting to know the color of the wrecked car everyone gapes at on the freeway shoulder.

It’s empty calories.

Demanding it, especially backed up by the righteous indignation of a therapist, can provide a cheap thrill. Seeing the Betrayed squirm when she or he genuinely can’t remember a meaningless detail can be a form of punishment—which the Betrayer can deny is their intent, of course.

Radical full disclosure doesn’t build trust—it creates an adversarial dynamic that prevents trust.

4) Demand the Betrayer enter a “sex addiction” program

I’ve heard it too many times: “Herman, if you’re an addict with a medical problem I’ll stick with you until we lick this, but if you’re simply a selfish bastard who broke my heart, I want a divorce right now.” I’ve had Betrayers beg me to “diagnose” them as “sex addicts” so their wife/girlfriend (men rarely claim that cheating women are sex addicts) wouldn’t leave them.

The results of entering a sex addiction treatment program are predictable:
a) Everyone who enters is immediately dubbed a sex addict.
b) Other mental health challenges (Aspergers, bipolar disorder, etc.) are ignored.
c) Since there’s no cure, the addict is expected to be in recovery life-long.
d) The wife/girlfriend is indoctrinated into the mysteries of sex addiction—and is encouraged to be suspicious, wary of sex that “enables” the addict. She now has a new source of power in the relationship.
e) Sex is off the table for a while; when resumed, it is supposed to be vanilla. Porn use is demonized and discouraged; in some programs, “sobriety” even means eliminating masturbation.
f) Prepare to spend a LOT of money
g) Marital dynamics will be ignored or distorted
Since the Betrayed in these programs is typically a female, she’s the actual customer—so programs are incentivized to demonize the guy and succor the poor, suffering woman. The woman’s contribution to a dysfunctional relationship—e.g., being uninterested in sex—is typically ignored. That’s also true for non-sexual marital dynamics.

5) Assume your cheating spouse doesn’t love you, or that “everything was a lie”

Here’s two things you won’t read on the internet: Most unfaithful people love their mate. And most people who lie about infidelity tell the truth about most everything else.

If these aren’t both true, your unfaithful mate may be a psychopath.

Once infidelity is exposed, there’s a powerful instinct to demonize the Betrayer—to decide they’re “a liar” (an innate quality, rather than a behavior) and to simplistically strip any caring or authenticity from their every past behavior.

This is much easier than trying to sort out love from betrayal, everyday commitment from betrayal, and confusion, depression, or crisis of faith from betrayal.

But doing this creates terrible, unnecessary suffering for the Betrayed. Instead of dealing with a complex situation in which someone loves you and betrays you, in which someone has participated in your life in meaningful ways and then betrays you, you decide you were never loved, you were fooled a million times on a thousand different days, and that nothing, not one single thing, is the way you thought it was.

This is far, far crueler than the betrayal itself.

Meanwhile, therapists, social media influencers, friends, and talk shows cheer this strategy on, oblivious to the damage it does.
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