Self, Sex

How To Move On After You've Been Ruthlessly Cheated On

Photo: Photo by Tengku Razaleigh on Unsplash
move on after breakup

A client comes into my office and relates an all too familiar story, "My partner and I have been together for 10 years and I just found out about an ongoing three-year affair. This wasn’t the first time, there was an incident when we first dated, but I thought we had dealt with that and I’d forgiven. I mean that’s what you’re supposed to do, right?"

"How did you find out?" I ask.

"I went on the internet and figured out a way to break into their texting account on his phone. I’d been suspicious for some time and couldn’t stand it any longer. As I read through months of texting, I saw that my partner had been lying about almost everything — business trips that were really long weekends in the mountains, late evening 'meetings' at posh restaurants, sudden trips with friends that were actually romantic forays into the city, sexual liaisons for lunches…"

RELATED: 5 Ways You Can Learn To Trust Again After Infidelity

Beginning to cry, my client went on, "All of the places that the two of them went were our favorite places to go when we started dating. The things they talked about doing sexually made me sick — I’d always wanted to do those things but we’d never gotten close enough for me to feel comfortable. I found out that they had sex in our bed, our car, on a plane, in our Jacuzzi."

I ask, "Did they at least have protected sex?"

"Well, my partner says that they did, but I have herpes now and I didn’t when we first met. I am sure it’s a lie too. I feel like my idea of trust has been totally and completely shattered. I’ll never be able to trust again, my heart is broken."

As terrible as this seems, it is an unfortunate, common occurrence. As a licensed psychotherapist for many years, I have seen the devastation that these sorts of affairs cause. 

Many of my clients have had some counseling around the grieving process and yet by the time they are referred to me, they feel as though they are still dealing with the lack of trust — many avoiding intimate connections or having unfulfilling or short-lived relationships. 

They describe their lives as destitute and fruitless and are desperate to regain their spark.

What is the solution? How do you learn how to trust again, to move on and heal, after so many a broken heart?

RELATED: How To Rebuild Trust Again When Your Partner Broke It

Upon further review, most of these clients would describe, as many of us would, that when they met the person that eventually lied and cheated on them, they’d felt as if they were whole, complete, and finally mattered. This troubled me as I struggled to help them move past their devastation.

Science says when we first meet someone and fall in love, that we do feel as if we are whole and important, it’s a euphoric feeling. 

This is called "other validated intimacy", and it can be risky.

From the time the sperm and the egg come together until late teens, we are dependent upon others for our nurturing, value, security — indeed our very life. 

If we had good enough parents, we may have been supported to grow our own sense of well-being and worth, separate from others, but for the rest of us, we graduate to adulthood unconsciously trying to fill the bottomless pit of trying to feel like we matter. 

Unfortunately, other validated intimacy is mostly short-lived, and not a dependable means of self-worth. Read: it’s not worthy of being trusted as the source of our worth, security, or emotional well-being.

Once the wonderment of falling in love wears off, it must be replaced with "self-validated intimacy" meaning we must be the source of whether we matter or not.

In the cruelness of the cheating comes a pearl of life force — you may not be able to trust others, but you can build the character to learn how to trust yourself as the source of your worth.

In my world, trust is not about someone else, it’s about knowing if the best part of you can trust that you will pay attention to it and do what it says on a more regular basis.

With some work on becoming more accountable for a dependable relationship with yourself, you will begin to come alive once again, and that is the only true way to move on. 

RELATED: 7 Ways To Really, Truly Trust Someone Again After Divorce

Steven Keeler, international psychotherapist, consultant, and bestselling author, is an expert in the field of human potential and transformational change. His successful private practice A Better Life through Therapy and Healing has helped thousands of people, as well as multiple organizations, around the world, including more than 23 different military assignments. Want to connect? Contact Steven at