End the affair

We’ve all heard that most men don’t forgive cheating — it’s not that they can’t but prefer not to because...(wait for it), how dare they betray their own egos! However, if you’re still interested in rebuilding your relationship, the first thing you should do is cut ties with your side guy. Also assure your partner, the best way you know how, that the affair is over for good, Venter suggests. She also warns ending the affair might be harder if romantic feelings are at play.

“The most common misconception is that an affair is just about sex, yet you’re likely to develop feelings for the person you have an affair with. Humans are capable of loving more than one person, and this causes deep anxiety and depression when you’re caught up in an affair,” she says.

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Forgive yourself

This could be the toughest stage to deal with as some women who’ve stepped out on their partners may feel unworthy of forgiveness and go on to drown in self-blame, because of the humiliation attached to women who cheat. Yes, you made a terrible mistake but you shouldn’t wallow in guilt and taunt yourself forever.

The first step to healing this wound is by forgiving yourself, says Shelley Lewin, a relationship coach. Guilt and shame are normal emotional responses after being caught cheating. “These emotions show you’ve violated a critical standard you hold for yourself. Most of us are highly self-critical and personal forgiveness is usually the toughest,” Lewin says.

Even with the amount of self- shame you may be feeling, don’t beat yourself up too much as that won’t do you or your relationship any good. But, this is not to say you should also act without remorse. Most importantly, no matter how guilty you feel about messing up your relationship, never fall into the trap of believing you deserve to be abused — both physically and emotionally.

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Self-assess

Examine your reasons for cheating, Lewin suggests. Ask yourself: “How did I breach my own standards? Did I do it out of revenge? Did I want to hurt someone? Was it purely for selfish pleasure? It’s important to understand the reasons that drove you to betray someone’s trust. Even if the cheating was warranted, it helps to understand your motivation.”

Infidelity studies often cite emotional or sexual disconnection, and incompatibility as the leading reasons for women cheating. Lewin says it’s better to leave than cheat if the relationship is toxic. “Never sacrifice your own dignity, integrity and self-respect for another person. It’s important to be able to look at yourself in the mirror and respect the person you see. Bringing in a third party will worsen matters. You’ll become the bad guy even if you feel your reasons were valid,” Lewin says.

Seek help

Talking to a professional is good to work through guilt and shame, helping you to step back into a healthy relationship. If your partner forgives you, then demand better behaviour from yourself, Lewin says. This includes communicating if you’re unhappy, a willingness to work hard at regaining your partner’s trust and always insisting on finding solutions together.

Venter says therapy is usually only effective for those open to discussing and identifying problems in their personal life and relationship. She says couple’s therapy can “help a couple step out of trauma into connection, make sense of the hurt and disappointment, create a new relationship and learn new ways of talking about what happened.”

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Family drama

Most times when it’s the woman who cheated, the story will be told for generations to come. Yet a man’s infidelity is usually swept under the carpet. In worst-case scenarios, if the woman is married, she’ll be thrown out and her children taken away.? “Family members should be encouraged to avoid giving advice, shaming and choosing sides. Affairs are complicated, and never a case of just one person cheating. The family could support by respecting the space and asking the couple what they need rather than just jumping in,” Venter concludes.