8 Fundamental Ways Being Cheated On Changes You

You can either let it change you for the worse or for the better.

Last updated on Apr 24, 2024

Disassociated woman in bathroom with hand on chest, unable to look at herself after being cheated on Gabriel Ponton | Unsplash

Catching your husband or wife cheating on you changes everything about your relationship. How could it not? As Jay Kent-Ferraro, Ph.D./MBA, explains: "The psychology of infidelity is quite complex, much more than the current moralistic conversation about it where people are 'good', 'bad' or 'flawed', therefore dismissed as damaged goods attempts to dispel the cliché myth that 'once a cheater always a cheater.'”


If you want to fix your broken relationship and save your marriage, it is possible. The path back to a healthy relationship begins with each partner seeking to understand both the cheating spouse's reasons for having an affair, as well as how the betrayed husband or wife has been changed forever as a result. By taking such an approach, couples can reach a place of healing — and even redemption — with insight and wisdom, regardless of whether or not they ultimately stay together. The ways infidelity changes you depend not only on who you and your spouse were before the affair, but who you are both committed to becoming once it's out in the open.


No matter what circumstances led to the affair, no one in its wake will be left unscathed. Yes, that goes for the cheating wife or husband, as well. There are always reasons, not excuses, why men and women cheat. If you have been betrayed by your spouse, you're painfully aware of the many ways their infidelity has changed you already. But if you are the betrayer, you may not have thought through full full impact your actions would have on your spouse and your family, let alone the lasting consequences you'll face throughout your own life. The effects of infidelity run the gamut from emotional to physical to neurological. The agony of a broken heart and broken trust isn't only in your head — it lives and breathes in your body, too.

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Here are 8 fundamental ways being cheated on changes you:

1. Your self-esteem and self-worth are shattered

You wonder why you weren’t "good enough" and why someone else was "better." Because your self-esteem is destroyed, you start looking for things you may have done to cause your cheating wife or husband to stray. Surely, you believe, it must have been something you did or didn’t do.

2. You feel stupid

You start wondering how you didn't see the affair coming, and how you can ever trust your instincts again.


3. You lose your ability to trust

The affair is always in the back of your mind. Even if you stay together, your trust isn’t as unencumbered and naturally given as it once was.



RELATED: Getting Past The Pain Of Betrayal Requires This Subtle But Dramatic Shift

4. You’re afraid to love again

The prospect of either falling in love again with someone else or staying with your spouse is frightening. You never want to give your power to someone again. Because you're afraid to let your guard down, the world becomes a less happy and promising place in which to live. Holding onto the notion of love is a challenge because you now associate it with unbearable pain.


5. Your brain takes a beating

Neuroscience has shown that the rejection of infidelity has both short and long-term consequences for brain chemistry. Since feelings of love activate the release of dopamine in the brain, causing "a pleasurable experience similar to the euphoria associated with the use of cocaine or alcohol," being cut off by the dagger of infidelity may impact neural pathways in similar ways.

6. You experience physical pain

Referring to the same neuroscience, breakups, and betrayals activate parts of the brain that respond to physical discomfort. The emotional experience becomes integrated into the physical experience, and you hurt ... everywhere.



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7. You can’t stop obsessing

Studies show that women are more prone to rumination than men, constantly replaying all the possible causes, scenarios, and consequences of the affair. They are also more inclined than men to feel somehow responsible for trouble within romantic relationships in general.

8. Your eyes are opened

Despite how infidelity changes you negatively, it also affords you clarity after the shock and anger are mitigated. You begin to see what you may have ignored and learn how you make choices in mates. Research has shown that this is likely to lead you to make better choices in future relationships. According to Craig Morris, research associate at Binghamton University and lead author of the study: "Our thesis is that the woman who 'loses' her mate to another woman will go through a period of post-relationship grief and betrayal, but come out of the experience with higher mating intelligence that allows her to better detect cues in future mates that may indicate low mate value. Hence, in the long-term, she 'wins' ... The 'other woman,' conversely, is now in a relationship with a partner who has a demonstrated history of deception and, likely, infidelity. Thus, in the long-term, she 'loses.'"

Ultimately, how your partner's infidelity changes you is, of course, your decision. There are plenty of individuals and marriages that heal and become stronger and more vital than they were before. That’s not to say that infidelity is a viable consideration for marital improvement and personal growth, but recognizing the many ways infidelity can change your will can help both spouses recover from the painful aftermath of an affair. And, hopefully, greater awareness up front will take the consideration of infidelity off the table altogether.


RELATED: How To Get Over Being Cheated On In 5 Easy(ish) Steps

Dr. Karen Finn is a divorce and life coach. Her writing on marriage, divorce, and co-parenting has appeared on MSN, Yahoo, Psych Central, Huffington Post, Prevention, and The Good Men Project, among others.