What Getting Cheated On Does To Your Mental Health

When my last partner cheated on me, my mental health went straight to the pits. The effect that his betrayal had on me ran deep and it was a lot to try and recover from. The toll that unfaithfulness has on us as human beings is complex and difficult. Here are just some of the ways experiencing infidelity can impact your mental health.

  1. It impairs your ability to trust (other people and yourself). The ultimate thing that is shattered after a partner cheats is trust. It’s essential but it’s fragile and when you’re cheated on, it completely shatters. You start to wonder, “If I couldn’t trust this person, who can I trust? Does everybody possess the ability to lie to me like that?” The line between what was real and what was fake will appear blurred. You’ll begin to question your own judgment. What’s worse than being untrusting of others is not trusting yourself.
  2. You can experience physical pain. Any type of heartache can, in fact, induce physical pain. Heartbreak activates the same parts of our brains that react to physical discomfort. Betrayal, rejection, and breakups affect both our hearts and our brains (quite literally). Because of this, we can feel it physically when we experience it. And let me tell you, it hurts like hell.
  3. It makes you wary of commitment. After being so disrespected by a partner, you’ll be iffy about any future commitments that are available. Putting yourself in another position where you can end up hurt is a terrifying experience. I lost faith in love and I didn’t think that I would be able to settle down with anyone else ever again. I didn’t trust that someone would commit to me loyally. It becomes really difficult to re-enter a new committed relationship. You harbor a lot of that fear moving forward.
  4. You experience withdrawal. It’s possible to experience a type of withdrawal from people. You were used to having your partner’s energy around. When that energy is suddenly gone, your body reacts. The anxiety you experience from being cheated on tends to have physical symptoms that manifest as migraines, stomachaches, IBS, nausea, loss of appetite, or overeating. Your environment and circumstances have quickly shifted and you’ll feel it like withdrawals.
  5. You’ll find yourself ruminating. Getting cheated on is not easy to just get over. The thought of your partner having sex with someone else is an imprinted visual that’s nearly impossible to erase. Your mind will play it back over and over again. You’ll find yourself having a lot of obsessive, intrusive thoughts regarding the situation. You’ll uncover more and more things to get upset about. It becomes immensely difficult to get off your mind. Get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable because those ruminations will linger for a while.
  6. You’ll be unable to regulate your emotions. I found myself oscillating between numb and rageful. Unfortunately, I sometimes couldn’t put a cap on my fits of rage. I exploded. I was suddenly unable to contain my emotions about the situation. My outbursts toward him seemed valid considering what he had done. In the moment, and for some time after, you won’t be able to stop the intensity of what you’re feeling. Remember that you are valid in how you feel. It’s important to try and find an outlet to express yourself so you don’t end up in unsafe or toxic situations as I did.
  7. It’ll make you hyper-alert. To avoid getting hurt again, you’ll be on the defense in every situation. You’ll be hyper-aware of what people are doing and if they are doing you wrong. All of a sudden, you’ll feel that people have an ulterior motive, that they’re doing something sneaky, or that they’re going to betray you. This is simply your brain’s way of protecting you. To avoid the feeling of betrayal, your brain will be on high alert to avoid those types of situations – getting cheated on, being lied to, being disrespected, or being made to feel like a fool.
  8. You’ll be scornful of your own thoughts. With all those intrusive thoughts, you’ll find yourself getting angry at the things that pop into your head. Whenever I started to miss my ex, I would immediately yell at my brain for daring to miss someone who was so nasty to me. My mind felt like it was being pulled a million different directions, and it just wouldn’t shut up. Keep in mind that it’s normal to think contradicting thoughts when you’re processing an unfaithful ex. You’re allowed to feel love one moment and disdain the next. You experienced betrayal from a person that you cared highly for, and it’s impossible to just turn off that love no matter how severely they hurt you.
  9. Your self-esteem will suffer. While you may know that a cheating partner is no fault of your own, it’s difficult not to think like that. When you cannot pinpoint the reason that it happened, you will tie it to your self-worth. You fill in the blanks. “Why wasn’t I good enough” is one of the most common questions we may ask ourselves after we’ve been cheated on. I started comparing myself to other women. I started hating my body and wearing excessive amounts of makeup just to be able to look at myself in the mirror. I started wondering if I had changed since we first started dating and if he didn’t love me anymore because of that. I started wondering if I was good enough in bed. Getting cheated on makes you question your self-worth, and it takes a lot of self-care to try and remember your value. More often than not, though, cheating comes from a place within the cheater, not their partner.
  10. You’ll grow a disdain for sex. Sex – an act that I very much enjoy – all of a sudden seemed malicious to me. Anything sexual made me think of my boyfriend cheating. I didn’t want to be touched. All men seemed like players and all women seemed like hussies. I was detested by the thought of sex. Hell, I still can’t even watch some porn without thinking of my ex with other women! Sex seemed less of an expression of love or energy exchange, and more of a disgusting primal desire. After you have experienced it as an act of distrust and disrespect, it’s hard to think of it any other way.
  11. You’ll lose your motivation. Through your grieving process, depression will inevitably set in. After putting your all into building something meaningful that all fell apart so instantaneously, it feels like picking yourself up and starting over is just a moot point. It will feel like there is no use in trying anymore. It seems impossible to see a light at the end of the tunnel. But time is a true, resilient healer. The pain lessens as time goes on. I promise you that with time, support, and some major self-love, healing will come.
I am a 29 year old writer from Milwaukee, WI. Currently living a life of freedom in Tucson, AZ. Virgo, wine-drinker, lover of bad dancing. Insanity and getting into trouble are my fortes. Writing is my medium.