Having your partner fall for someone else is a nightmare-turned-reality scenario. You can never be prepared for the emotional shock of it, but if it does happen, here are a few steps you should take to make sense of the whole thing without losing yourself in the process. After all, just because he’s in love with someone else doesn’t make you any less lovable.
Address it head-on.
Once you know or suspect that your partner has fallen for someone else, you must be direct with him. There is no point in making excuses in your head about what might be happening or why. If you don’t talk with him and establish what is actually going on, you will inevitably misunderstand the nature of his attachment to the other person and create an escalating series of worst-case scenarios in your mind that will make you even more upset.
Do not blame yourself.
Before you try to understand his perspective, you must first recognize that you are not to blame for the situation, nor does it reflect your worth as a person or a partner. Relationships are complicated. People cheat, neglect each other, lose their way, forget why they fell in love, or simply grow apart. What you’re experiencing is painful, but not unique. Don’t ask him why you weren’t enough. Ask him why he betrayed you.
Don’t demonize the other woman.
It’s easy to channel all your pain and anger into “The Other Woman.” You still love your partner and don’t want to believe that he is capable of actively pursuing someone else. It is much easier to explain away their behavior by placing all the blame in the other person. You’ll tell yourself that the other woman seduced your partner and manipulated him into cheating. But this is not fair, nor healthy. Your partner is the one who cheated on you, not the other woman.
Understand why it happened.
While cheating is rarely justifiable, it is worth listening to your partner’s side of the story before you decide what to do. He may have felt that you were drifting apart, or that you didn’t love him anymore. He may simply not have respected you or felt that he was entitled to pursue anyone he wished. His perspective is important because it allows you to determine whether or not you can forgive him.
You may know that you’re going to leave him the moment you learn that he’s in love with someone else. His betrayal may be so irreparable that you can’t imagine ever trusting him again. If this is the case, end things as quickly as possible. Don’t wait around for his input or give him a chance to make it right. If you know you can never feel secure with him again, there is no reason to delay your exit.
Determine whether or not the relationship is broken.
Sometimes you won’t know right away if you can repair the relationship or not. In some scenarios, you’ll realize that the relationship was over long ago and that neither of you could face it. But it is also possible that his actions represented a rough patch, and that you can move past it if you’re ready to commit the time and emotional stamina.
Ask yourself whether you’re prepared to take him back.
Perhaps the most important question you should be asking is whether you are willing to put the necessary work in to heal your relationship. Having your partner fall in love with someone else is heartbreaking and traumatizing, and you may feel that you can never trust him again. No matter how much he wants you back, you have to prioritize your own needs.
Articulate your requirements.
If you do decide to take him back, you’ll both have a lot of parameters to set. How long are you willing to wait for him to extricate himself from the other woman? What kind of proof or actions do you need to feel safe again? How will the two of you work together to move forward into a new phase of your relationship? All of these questions will need to be answered before you can decide to recommit to each other.
Give yourself a time limit.
Deciding to heal your fractured relationship is just the beginning. The recovery process will be lengthy and emotionally draining. And once you start, you may both realize that it’s a lot harder than you anticipated. If this happens, don’t cling to your decision to fix things. Give yourself a solid deadline, and if things haven’t gotten better between the two of you by then, it’s time to end things once and for all. It’s not worth putting yourself through pain if the outcome isn’t worth it.
Start couples therapy.
If you really want to speed things up and determine whether your relationship is fixable, couples therapy is your best option. This is especially true if you and your partner are struggling to work through your emotions in a productive way but are equally committed to moving forward. Couples therapy can be pricey and emotionally triggering, but it will help you resolve your issues in a mediated environment and help you see things more objectively.