He doesn't have to touch you to hurt you.
When someone has been unfaithful to you, it is a blow to your relationship unlike any other you will ever experience.
When the truth of his infidelity becomes known, you will have to make one of two possible decisions — and NEITHER of them will be remotely easy.
Do you do the substantial and difficult work of building your relationship back up over time?
Or, do you leave?
Unfortunately, if you stay, there is no guarantee that your partner will never cheat again.
Rebuilding your relationship from scratch the first time is one thing, but having to do it over and over again begs an important question: When does infidelity become abuse?
If you find yourself in the painful situation of trying to figure this out about your own relationship (and I'm so sorry if that's what brings you here today), here are 5 signs that his cheating has become abusive behavior.
1. When there's a cycle
Cycles are easy to spot in domestic violence. There is a period of tension that continues to build up, often followed by an outburst, which is then followed by an apology and a promise to change.
Rinse, wash, repeat.
When cheating is an isolated incident it can be a mistake or an opportunity to rebuild the foundations of your relationship over time.
But when his cheating becomes a cycle like this, that's when infidelity becomes abuse.
2. When he gaslights you
A man who cheats will do anything to get away with this behavior.
One of the worst things a man can do in this situation is to lie in the face of evidence of his affair as presented by his partner.
"You're crazy," he might say. "This is all in your head." This attempt to undermine you and your feelings, to make you feel crazy, is called gaslighting.
Making you doubt yourself, and making you feel like your thoughts and feeling aren't valid repeatedly and deliberately so that he can engage in behavior that violates your relationship agreement is when infidelity becomes emotional abuse.
3. When he betrays you casually
The actions of an unfaithful man involve directly violating the trust you two have established.
Knowingly doing this can cause the same feelings of panic, shock, and terror that a victim of abuse might feel.
He is knowingly taking a sledgehammer to your love, and it doesn't get more emotionally abusive than that.
4. When he crushes your self-esteem
Women who have been in long-term relationships with cheating men often demonstrate the same symptoms of domestic violence sufferers once they get out of the cycle of infidelity.
His cheating can cause panic attacks, self-hatred, fear, recrimination, and in some cases PTSD.
He may not have ever directly attacked you with his fists, but he HAS directly attacked your relationship with his actions time and time again. That's when infidelity becomes emotional abuse.
5. When he blames YOU
If your man blames you for cheating, he is wrong, wrong, wrong. Whatever he motivations for cheating, it was his decision to pull the trigger and violate your relationship agreement.
A man who cheats and tries to turn it around on his partner is no different from a man who hits a woman and then says "you made me do that!" It makes just as little sense and it's just as abusive.
If you or someone you know is stuck in an emotionally abusive relationship, contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-787-SAFE.