The Stages Of Recovery After Being Cheated On

Photo: Shutterstock

Photo: Shutterstock

It’s funny what your brain chooses to remember. Typically, the details you actively hoped to banish to the depths of your mind forever are permanently engraved in your memory. Like the embarrassing, illegible drunk texts you sent on Saturday night (#oops), or the awful fashion accessory you tried to make happen (RIP my love of denim handbags), and the moment you learned you’d been cheated on (twice).

His name was Ludwik. We had dated for a year in high school and he was my best friend, an artist who drew cartoons of me as Super woman, who held my hand in the hallways and introduced me to techno music; we claimed each other in our MSN screen-names and our weirdness paralleled. “Kocham Cię, Wiewiorka,” he would tell me in Polish. I love you, squirrel (a lovely nickname I attained from his grandmother, in reference to my chubby cheeks).

Her name was Anne. She had pale skin and rosy cheeks with long brown hair. It was a snowy Friday in the spring and I knew it was coming. I had a crush on someone else, another friend, who I still hang out with from time to time. He would eventually take me to the prom and we would make-out afterwards at a hookah bar. But, still, it stung. Luddy cried when I cried and we silently acknowledged how our relationship was over. I have a letter from him resting in my wallet because even today it makes laugh and cry and nostalgic for that kind of friendship. A guy who would always be there for me even after I “find some super cute stud muffin…from planet blah.”

More recently, when my ex cheated on me, I wasn’t prepared. Our relationship was more serious than a high-school sweetheart, there was no one else, and the details are equally as prominent, yet much more painful. Anyone who has been cheated on before by someone they are madly in love with can attest that there are five stages of recovery that repeat viciously, like the buzz of a hangover headache.

1. Relief.
First, there’s an overwhelming, unexpected sense of total relief. RIP crazy paranoia, it’s finally freaking over. Maybe I wanted to break up, too. Wow. I feel great. Suppressed denial, perhaps? I’m going to be over you in like thirty seconds. Also, I was totally right. I knew you were into her. This calm is so refreshing and strange. You are no longer my problem, whoo-hoo.

2. Depression.
Reality check. The realness of the situation sets in. Maybe it hits you when you change your Facebook status, or when you see his sweatshirt in your closet that you can no longer wear, plus there’s that framed picture of the two of you, happily in love, that’s now complete bullshit. Cue best girlfriends, sugar, sweatpants and booze, depression has officially launched. These tear ducts are made for crying!

3. Independence.
Ahh, I’m one of the single ladies, inspired to take on the world. And go out to a club. And dance with hot strangers. Pathetic and sad? Not this chica! I am free to do whatever [whomever] I please.

4. Anger.
WTF. Feelings of intense rage surface. What an asshole. Seriously. I can’t believe he did this to me, to us. Ew. She’s not even that cute. Why didn’t I bitch him out? I hate him.

5. Depression, round two, with a hint of nostalgia.
Wahh. I miss [insert jerk's name here] and reference said kid in every conversation. I can’t sleep alone. We used to watch this show together. This is his favorite fruit. Once, we kissed at this very spot. That’s his uncle’s cousins name! Tomorrow would’ve been our 21-month anniversary.

And the cycle repeats, often, multiple times. The silver lining is that two of the five stages involve ice cream, girlfriends and alcohol. Until finally, this stage: acceptance and remission, which feels incredibly liberating, you survived!

Share This Post:
    • Amanda

      You guys should do an article on overcoming these stages while still being with the person! I’m in a kinda shitty situation right now – I’ve been with my boyfriend for over 5 years and a few months ago I found some inappropriate comments to another girl by complete accident on his phone. He swears up & down it wasn’t him – “it must have been his friend” – and I can’t exactly prove it was him, but I’m not stupid. Its all written in the same exact phrases he uses and the same way he types (he’s awful at grammar). I gave him the benefit of the doubt because he has never done anything to me before to make me suspicious, and hasn’t done anything since then, but I can’t get over it. I love him to death, and I don’t want to leave him, but I find myself getting jealous MUCH more easily now and getting angry at him sometimes when I talk to him. I think about it and it puts me in an awful mood and makes me so bitter and angry. I don’t know how to handle it or get over it.

      • Amanda Lee

        It was not his friend. It was him. His friend will cover for him if asked. My ex pulled this exact same crap.

      • Amanda Lee

        He’s manipulating you, btw.

      • Lindsey Conklin

        I can totally relate to this. I wish I had solid advice, but I think it varies from person-to-person, relationship-to-relationship. it does sound a little sketchy to me, but I also do believe in second chances. I do know that those feelings of jealousy and stress are miserable so I think you have to consider is it worth it to stay and feel this way, or would you feel better walking away.

      • alliebally

        I was in the exact same situation as you but rather than not admitting to it he told me it was for her self esteem. I kmpow for a fact they never met up because she lives in a different state but I still struggle to believe his excuse. I believe in second chances though so we’re still dating but I made sure to let him know how bloody miserable and angry he made me. He was entirely apologetic though and made sure to asasure me it wasn’t my fault and that he didn’t realize setting was cheating (something a lot of guys claim actually) and he bought me dresses and slathered me with affection, giving me the password to all of his technology and asking me to check it whenever I want. Its been 6 months and I’m mostly over it but there’s a layer of suspicion constantly whenever he’s texting or skyping someone.
        Tbh though I think I only got over it because he’s always been so good to me and has been so open about what he says to people now and hell he was my main source of comfort in getting over it. To be able to stay with a cheater I feel like you really need a situation like mine… Openness and the underlying threat that you will leave him if he ever does it again.

      • alliebally

        *sexting wow. Autocorrect.

    • Sashka

      Wait so ludwik cheated on you? This is a little confusing

      • Amanda Lee

        I THINK that’s what she’s saying.. Like, it happened first with her high school love and then recently with her current ex.

        I skipped the Independence stage and am currently in the Anger and Depression Round 2 stage. Hopefully the independence ” Oh him? I don’t give fuck about him anymore” stage comes last for me.

      • Lindsey Conklin

        yes sorry! he did, but it didn’t hurt the way it did with my recent ex