How To Show Up For Your Friend Who's Been Cheated On (Even If They Stay With Them)

Being cheated on is an earth-shattering experience. When someone finds out that their partner had been seeing someone else behind their back, they're suddenly burdened with a deluge of complex emotions that is hard to navigate, and even more challenging to rise from. There are waves of debilitating loneliness that can lead to deep sorrow and isolation. So, when you're friend is the one that's been cheated on, it's so important to show up for them.

As devastating as cheating is, it's surprising to find out that it's quite common. According to YouGov, over half of Americans, about 54%, say that they've been cheated on. Their definition of cheating may vary, but the point still stands: it can happen to anyone. It may not happen to you, but it's likely that it will happen to someone close to you. And if it does, you have to be prepared on how to help them move forward.

For someone that's been cheated on, their support system of friends and family is vital. But even when people have their best interests at heart, some of them ended up saying or doing the wrong things during a tough time. To help you steer clear of doing that to your friend, here are some tips on how to be supportive.

Make it a point to validate their feelings

If your friend comes rushing to you to drop the news that their partner had cheated on them, it's likely that what follows after is a rollercoaster of emotions that they may face difficulty handling. They may scream out of extreme rage now, and then cry their heart out the next. At this point, your best course of action is to be a safe space for them to wrangle with their conflicting emotions and remind them that what they are feeling is valid.

It may be your first instinct to tell them that there's no point in weeping over a cheater, but remind yourself that cheating is one of the gravest forms of betrayal in relationships, so your friend's grief is warranted. You don't want to do anything that will push them into a deeper state of misery. As a friend, what you can do is offer them space and time to process the devastating thing that just happened. You can also gently provide some suggestions that can help alleviate their pain just a tiny bit, like maybe watching a movie, or grabbing a pint of their favorite ice cream. Doing these things will definitely not solve their problems, of course, but it's best to do what you can to offer some relief.

Avoid passing judgment or coaxing them to leave

Phrases like, "Once a cheater, always a cheater," and "There is plenty of other fish in the sea," are statements that are often bandied about to people who have been cheated on. And your friend is probably tired of hearing them. The last thing they want is for those things to come out of your mouth, too.

You may be tempted to show tough love and tell them they deserve better, or maybe even encourage them to leave their partner, but resorting to this route may only cause your friend to feel more shame, especially if they had been planning on staying. At the end of the day, you're still an outsider in the relationship. Even if you are close to your friend and are far too familiar with their relationship with their partner, you may still not know the full picture of their dynamic, and there may be a number of factors that would render them unable to separate for the time being — or maybe ever. You don't want to alienate your friend by passing judgment, even if it's coming from a place of love.

Your duty as a friend is to trust that they will eventually make a decision that feels right for them. There's nothing wrong with voicing your opinion, but don't impose it on them, either. Unless your friend is in harm's way, allow them to arrive at the best decision for their situation on their own.

Just do what you've always done

Your friend doesn't need your pity, nor do they want you to treat them differently. Sometimes, the best thing to do is Don't make them feel worse by acting as if they're a fragile thing that needs to be coddled. They may be in a vulnerable spot, sure, but they won't appreciate people walking on eggshells around them.

Instead, show them that you're always there to lend a shoulder to cry on or function as a listening ear when their emotions get the most of them and all they need is someone to vent their feelings to. If you want to be more helpful, maybe you can take an extra step by encouraging your pal to engage in self-care activities with you so they can take the edge off. Have a night out, go shopping, host a pamper day with the rest of your friend group — the whole works.

When they're ready to face their emotions head-on, do your best to be supportive of their decisions, even if you may not necessarily approve of them. And always give them a sense of empowerment, reminding them that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that they will be able to move on in one way or another.