Love Hurts: The Science Behind Why It’s So Hard To Break Up With A Cheater
You want to stay but know that you shouldn't . . .
When your significant other cheats on you, it seems like the obvious choice would be to leave them. But sometimes this decision is a lot harder than it sounds. Despite such a betrayal of trust, there are actually many nuanced reasons why someone might find it hard to break up with a cheater. Here’s why:
NOSTALGIA CLOUDS YOUR JUDGEMENT
It can be easy to replay a highlight reel of your relationship, only focusing on all the good times and reasons why you should stay together. It’s a lot harder to remember and relive all of the bad times. This puts your S.O. on a pedestal, making it that much harder to leave.
According to marriage therapist Carrie Krawiec, “Mixing facts and feelings is a losing proposition. They are a volatile compound that will inevitably lead to catastrophe. So, the wounded party must have the opportunity to express their hurt, disgust, anguish, etc. . . . We must feel safe to express ourselves, especially in situations where we feel out of control. Once the emotional roller coaster takes place, it is essential to then attempt to regain a sense of control. We typically do this through collecting information and grasping the situation for ourselves. The wounded party must find out what they need to find out within reason."
YOU DON’T WANT YOUR TIME TO HAVE BEEN WASTED
Whether you were in a longterm relationship for years or only dated for a few months, giving up on your man can seem like your entire time together was a total waste. Rather than thinking this way, try to look at it as a learning experience. Everyone you meet — even the bad apples and cheaters — can teach us lessons about who we are and what we want out of life.
YOU’RE AFRAID TO BE ALONE
According to therapist Tina Tessina, "Because you feel betrayed, your first impulse is usually anger, and wanting to leave — fight or flight," Tessina tells Bustle. "But, after you calm down, you realize there's a lot you'll lose, and you may have children to consider. Don't make an instant decision you may regret later, after the damage is done.”
The thought of being single and having to date again can be daunting. Your man clearly has his faults, but you could be overlooking them for fear of never meeting someone “better." Remember that there are plenty of fish in the sea and plenty of men who would never betray your trust.
YOU NEED CLOSURE FIRST
According to Dr. Ramani Durvasula, “Cheating in most relationships is a breach of trust and in an intimate space. Obviously, the nature of the infidelity matters, too (one night stand? sex worker? your sister? emotional cheating and your partner has fallen in love with someone else? ongoing pattern?)."
Sometimes all you want is answers about why your S.O. cheated, whom he cheated with, how long it’s been going on, etc. Until you hear his reasons, you might find it extremely difficult to let go.
YOU BLAME YOURSELF
Maybe you blame yourself for not being a “good enough” girlfriend or for not seeing the warning signs so you could try and stop it from happening in the first place. Maybe your cheating S.O. is gaslighting you and projecting all of his guilt onto you so you seem like the one who made him cheat. Know that no matter what went wrong in the relationship, you didn’t deserve to be cheated on. If your man was unhappy, he should have communicated with you to work things out or gotten out with a clean break.
According to dating coach Laura Yates, "People shouldn't blame themselves, try to justify why their partner might have cheated, or beg their ex for answers (the answers are in the act of the cheating), or worse, say they'll take them back out of fear of losing them. Regardless of the situation, cheating is wrong. It's fine to want to be with someone else, but you have to go about that in an honest and respectful way.
Of course, it's hard to not take cheating personally, but the best possible way you can look at it is to see it as a clear exit out of something that wasn't right for you. Ask yourself honest questions like if red flags might have been ignored? Were things glossed over? If so, that is something you can work on as an individual to choose differently next time."
YOU STILL LOVE YOUR S.O.
Chances are your deep feelings of affection aren’t going to disappear overnight, no matter how badly he betrayed you. You not only have to mourn the loss of the jerk who cheated on you, but also mourn the loss of the partner you thought they were. All the trust and love you gave to to them can make it extremely hard to say goodbye. But you have to remember that you only loved the idea of him, not the real him who was capable of breaking your trust and heart. Only after you realize this will you be able to move on.
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