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Sex + Relationships

He Cheated…Now What? The Dos and Don’ts of Dealing with Betrayal

Nothing will right the wrong of your boyfriend cheating on you. Not a stack of classic chick flicks. Not a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. Not even a best friend stroking your hair saying, “He didn’t deserve you.” We can’t begin to answer the burning question of whether you should take him back or dump his sorry butt. But, with the help of Dr. Carole Lieberman, author of Bad Boys: Why We Love Them, How to Live with Them, and When to Leave Them, Her Campus brings you the dos and don’ts of dealing with betrayal. Read on to find them out!

DO take time for yourself
Whether he fesses up or not, your guy is likely to hound you with hundreds of flowery comments, seeking your forgiveness. Chances are, if he’s begging for you to take him back, he means them despite his infidelity. That doesn’t mean you need to accept them right then and there, though. Take a day, a week, a month to think about what’s gone down, what you want out of the situation, and how you’re going to make that happen. “You will feel much better if you make yourself take a ‘time out’ away from him, to do something fun with friends like going camping for the weekend, or to do something soothing for yourself, like having a spa day,” adds Dr. Lieberman. Plus, once you’ve given a little time for the wound to heal, we’re betting you’ll be able to look at the situation a bit more objectively rather than as the spurned and bitter girlfriend.
…but DON’T overthink things.
We fully advocate you taking as much time as you need for yourself. That being said, the longer you draw out that process, the more prone you are to unnecessarily escalating the situation. “The sad trap that women fall into when they find out that their guy cheated on them is to start obsessing about what they did wrong or what they could have done to make their guy not want to cheat. This becomes a never-ending downward spiral of self-doubt. When you do confront him it has to be from a position of strength not desperation,” says Dr. Lieberman. In order to come away stronger from your time apart, be sure to use it productively. Critically assess your relationship, rather than falsifying every detail of the tumultuous affair you assume your guy was having.
Live by it: “I broke up with my boyfriend a few months ago because of cheating. I found out right after winter break, and my first reaction was to tell him to burn in hell and never speak to me again. After a couple of days and I had cooled off, we talked and he convinced me to work things out.Taking some time apart definitely helped. I usually am very rash about things like this, but for once I actually took the time to think. The fact that I only took a few days helped, too. If I had waited longer, I would most likely have over-thought everything to the max.” –Krista, Simmons College

DO get mad…
News flash: he cheated on you and for that you’re allowed to be angry. Instead of bottling up your feelings and frustrations, let him into how you are feeling. “The one thing you don’t want to do is to be so scared of losing him that you pretend you’re not mad that he cheated,” says Dr. Lieberman. “He may escalate his cheating to greater heights in order to get a rise out of you so that he can prove to himself that you do really care.” We can bet that’s exactly what you don’t want to have happen. Your guy needs to be privy to your feelings, whatever they are.


…but DON’T get revenge.
Taking a Louisville slugger to both of his headlights, as Carrie Underwood so eloquently put it, won’t release all of your anger or solve your problems. “Getting revenge may feel good for the moment, but it seals the deal, making it so that he will never come back begging for your forgiveness. Not only will he now see you in a very unflattering light, but he will never forgive you for doing something worse than what he did in order to try to hurt him more,” warns Dr. Lieberman. Two wrongs definitely don’t make a right in this situation. Much as you may want to, resist the urge to take a bat to all of his property, leaving behind a wake of destruction.
Live by it: “I was cheated on and I told him it was over, if he hadn’t already figured it out. I contacted the girl to tell her what the situation was. She told me that he told her that I was a crazy ‘ex.’ I was so mad I just ignored it.I’m glad that I did get mad and not let it boil up, though. I could have sought revenge, and I really did consider it. But, one thing I’ve learned is that revenge gets you nowhere and karma will do justice in the end. And it did, a few years later. I feel it was worth the wait. Clearly this person is not worth your energy to seek revenge. It’ll come eventually.” –Nicole, University of Iowa

DO forgive…

We know this may seem like an impossible task, but holding onto anger will greatly hurt any future relationships you have. Yes, he made a mistake. Yes, he may have hurt you more than anyone else ever has. Yet, if you still love him and are willing to take him back, allow his apology to count, and eventually forgive him. “In general, the younger a man is, the more tempted he is to cheat,” says Dr. Lieberman. “Think about how you feel when you walk into a room where there is a splendid buffet laid out in front of you. It all looks good. You may start out with the shrimp, but then you see the roast beef, and you need to save room for dessert. That’s how young guys feel when they enter the dating world.”
…but DON’T forget.
Even if you do forgive him, cheating –like any other traumatic experience –is not likely to be forgotten. “If your guy cheats, you need to at least hold yourself back from him for a good while. His cheating indicates that he still wants to sample more of the buffet,” says Dr. Lieberman. “Let him do it, while you go on to date others, or do things you’d put off in order to spend time with him –like a hobby or a campus activity that you’re passionate about. Don’t sit home waiting or blaming yourself. Go check out the buffet!” But, if you two do eventually get back together, bear in mind that you forgave him. Hurling the indiscretion in his face every time you two argue, will not allow your relationship to move forward.

Live by it: “I found a text on my boyfriend’s phone that he had sent to a girl he had hooked up with a few times before dating me. I was a mess, but in the end I decided to stay with him. In previous relationships, jealousy had never been an issue for me, so I blame my shaken trust on his cheating. Sometimes I am irrational because I trust now that he wouldn’t cheat on me, but that doesn’t stop me from getting upset when his actions are borderline questionable. It scarred me for a long time to be told that someone loves me and then to have them screw it up, though hopefully not forever.” –Patricia, Columbia University

So, once a cheater, always a cheater? 45 of the 90 college girls we surveyed think so, while 45 of them believe a guy can change! What do you think?

Dr. Carol Lieberman, author of Bad Girls: Why Men Love Them & How Good Girls Can Learn Their Secrets
Krista, Simmons College
Nicole, University of Iowa
Patricia, Columbia University

Sarah Weinberg is a student at San Diego State University, Class of 2012. She is attempting to overcome her aversion to multitasking as she pursues courses in Liberal Studies, Spanish, and Journalism. Sarah has always been interested in the “behind-the-scenes” aspects of the fashion and lifestyle industry with journalism being a prominent prospective path. Now, much of the time that she should spend working on homework and writing papers is instead spent pouring through magazines and lusting over ridiculously priced shoes, impeccably styled pictorials, and the glamorous lifestyles of the cover models. It isn’t unusual to find Sarah baking (anything with a large amount of chocolate), traveling (last stop: summer abroad in Granada, Spain), playing in her closet (never too old to play dress up), or hanging out with friends and family (how cute and cliché). She is currently a Style Guru for CollegeFashionista.com and is thrilled to become a writer for Her Campus.
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