Once you've been cheated on, it's hard to learn to trust someone again. If you're brave enough to give love another chance after a breakup or divorce because of infidelity, how do you put your heart in someone else's hands? How much should your past experience color your new relationship? How can you let go and feel safe again with the memory of betrayal fresh in your heart and mind?
I talked with family counselor Dr. Laurie Moore for advice on navigating a new relationship after infidelity. There are some surprisingly simple ideas that can help you work through all your complicated feelings. Moore offered six tips for how to love again after cheating.
1. Learn from your past experience. It's never your fault if someone cheats on you. But you can use that experience to be more cautious in the future. Maybe we've been too open and trusting and we need to get wiser. Now maybe you'll see things and say, "Oh, I know what that is, and I can stop it now." Dr. Moore says people who heal from infidelity will say to themselves, "What can I learn from this so I'm not carrying it around as something that hurts me forever?"
2. If you have feelings of suspicion or distrust, find out their source. Do you really have a reason to doubt your new partner's fidelity, or are you just dragging baggage from your past into your new relationship?
3. Make sure you fully get over your previous relationship. Dr. Moore says if your cheating hunch comes from "deep in your body" and "has the same flavor as that from your previous relationship," it's most likely residual emotions from your past -- not some sort of intuition that he's cheating. (OMG, light-bulb moment!) If that's the case, get some counseling or other help. And be honest with your new partner about the healing you're still doing.
4. Ask questions. On the other hand, if your qualms feel fresh and seem to come from a legitimate place, they might be related to your new relationship, Dr. Moore says. In that case, you should follow up and ask your partner some questions. Notice if you have a tendency to fill in the blanks for your partner. Find out if you're in a relationship with someone you can really trust or if you've picked another person you can't trust.
5. Look at yourself and make sure you're being truly trustworthy. Preemptive cheating is never a good idea! "People who aren't completely trustworthy tend to attract others who will synchronize with that energy," Dr. Moore says.
6. Think about how your childhood could be influencing things. Dr. Moore says that if you find you keep falling for guys who cheat on you, it could be because of how you were "wired" growing up. "Sometimes people pick up on things from their family environment that feel familiar. They have a magnetism to that familiarity." It seems counter-intuitive. No one goes looking for a relationship that will hurt them. But sometimes we're drawn to certain feelings even if they hurt just because they feel like something we belong to. But you don't belong to hurt.
If you're starting over with someone new, they deserve a clean slate. And you owe it to yourself to use your past experience to be more observant and wiser this time. It's a balance. But the key to making it all work (or not work, if he's a bad apple) is making sure you've healed from your past hurts. After all, if you're with someone who's true, you both deserve the best of you.
Do you feel like you keep getting stuck with cheaters, or have you found happiness after a marriage ruined by infidelity?
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