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How Getting Cheated on Can Be a Traumatic Experience

This article is from the writer’s own perspective/experience. This does not speak for everyone who has been through the same or a similar experience.

In my recent counseling meeting, we talked about dating. My counselor asked me if there was ever a time in my life where I experienced something traumatic that wouldn’t necessarily be seen as so.

I could tell she was trying to guide me through this discussion. I told her about my grandmother dying, and how that was a very emotional time for me. But, I wasn’t alone in it. So, was that traumatic? Not necessarily. I was able to mourn alongside my loved ones.

I guess that leaves us with the question of how do we know it’s a traumatic experience? For me, it was because I could not stop dreaming or writing about it. It was constantly weighing on me, like a warm jacket on an extremely hot summer day. Even when I didn’t feel like it was bothering me, it was still there. All of it.

It lowered my self-esteem

When it happened, I felt ugly. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror because it reminded me of what had happened or what didn’t happen, and I couldn’t help but dislike everything about myself. Even the parts of me that I did like. I just didn’t want to be me anymore.

I couldn’t stop dreaming about it

Despite when I was feeling okay, I would still dream about it. Even if it was just replaying the events in my head or events that didn’t happen. I would wake up and feel sick to my stomach because somehow I was living through those feelings/emotions all over again–even subconsciously.

I wanted to heal right away

I tried to force recovery. I wanted to get over it since I was now able to live more freely (I didn’t have to worry about anyone’s feelings but my own). And I guess that wasn’t the case. I tried to open myself up to new possibilities and opportunities and, in some ways, it worked. But I realized that while I was experiencing a whole new life of my own, I was shoving back the events and the memories of what happened until they were waiting to be released.

The term ‘trust issues’ is on a whole new level

I mean, it’s a given. You think “oh, I’ll never trust anyone ever again” and there’s that. But it’s SO much more. The “trust issues” gets integrated so deep inside you, you don’t even realize that it’s controlling your life and your decision making. It’s like you are subconsciously trying to protect yourself from getting hurt so you step back, and let those “trust issues” do all of the talking for you. Personally, I think this is very lonely and difficult to overcome.

I’m still working through this one, though. It takes a lot of strength and will-power to be able to trust anyone. And even though it’s hard and annoying, I have to remember to be gentle with myself.

Relationships look different now

For a long time, it was hard for me to look at other couples in a positive light. Not that I was jealous of them! I just wanted to go up to them and tell them to be careful. I kept doing this inside my head, wanting to approach them and warn them before something bad happened. I think this has been my way of wanting to gain control over what happened to me.

I’d like to say that I’m no longer weary like that, but it still happens. I often hold myself back from opportunities due to the fear of something bad and unexpected happening. Again, I think this goes back to not being in control of someone else’s actions and how that now plays a big part in how I approach people and situations.

Yes, I have anxiety and don’t know what is real anymore

As someone who already has anxiety, getting cheated on just enhances everything I already go through. I started questioning what was real and what wasn’t. I obsessively thought about things that I should have done or would have happened. In some ways, I was creating this fictionalized world in my head, filled with the events of what did happen and what wasn’t said or what I didn’t do or did do.

How I am now

I can proudly say that I have fully healed from the experience. Before, I was trying SO hard to heal as fast as I could, and that was rushing the process. It wasn’t until I wrote a short creative writing piece about the experience and got feedback from my professor when I was able to feel all of that weight lift right off my shoulders. It was magical, really. I didn’t know his words were what I needed at the time. He told me that everyone has a different way of processing grief and sometimes language is inadequate when it comes to that grief.

All in all, let yourself heal the way you need to heal. It will take a while but let the healing process do its thing. Don’t rush yourself. Let yourself feel so you can move on. You deserve it.

Mackenzie (Kenzie) is the Campus Correspondent for Her Campus @ RIT. She is studying English and Creative Writing, with a minor in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Kenzie's goal is to become an editor in the Young Adult publishing scene and to provide more accurate representation of intersecting identities.
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