12 emotions you go through when you’ve been cheated on – and how to handle them

affairs article cheating relationships Mar 11, 2021

12 emotions you go through when you’ve been cheated on

– and how to handle them

Here is an article that I wrote for OK Magazine

Discovering a betrayal can be a huge trauma where your world changes cataclysmically all the way down to, almost a sense of relief, that suspicions have been justified.

The emotions, their intensity and length vary significantly depending on the individual, the previous quality of the relationship and the context. 

After discovery there are three fundamental options:

  • Stay together and try and get the previous relationship stabilised
  • Separate
  • Take the opportunity to create a new and better relationship with your partner.

I find that an affair normally happens in a relationship where the couple have drifted apart and where the affair fills an unmet need. It is a harsh wakeup call that can allow a couple to address what was wrong in their relationship and work to create a new and better one.  They can end up happier and stronger as a result.

Here are 12 of the most common emotions that people go through when they discover they have been cheated on; what these really mean and how to handle them. People will go through them at different rates and, as with the Kubler Ross grief curve, may go back and cycle through them at different stages.


This can’t have happened. We were in a good relationship and I didn’t see this coming? 

This is understandable and a necessary stage to go through.  Allow the shock to dissipate as reality appears.  Look after yourself, find comfort and make sure you eat well, sleep, exercise and find a friend who can be there for you. 


 No; it can’t be true.  I don’t believe what I have seen or heard. 

Find out the truth by asking your partner as calmly as you can. Tell them you want to hear the whole truth. Trust not just what you hear but also what your heart and gut are telling you. You will not be able to move forward until you know as much about what happened as you need to.


My world and everything in it has been rocked; I don’t know who they are any more.  I’m drowning and I don’t know which way is up. 

Hold onto those things that you can depend on, that give you stability.  This might be a place, friends or family. Know that you are moving through a rollercoaster of emotions and it will end.


But we had such good times together; I just want to rewind and change history.

You cannot go back to before.  What you have seen and heard can never been forgotten but the impact they will continue to have on you can diminish.

Hold onto the good memories and allow them to nourish you. Look in more detail at the past and understand where the relationship could have been better and the part that you might have played in that.


I feel deeply wounded that he/she could do this to me.  It feels like a knife in the heart.

That hurt will go.  Let it flow through you rather than holding on to it.


They told me that they loved me and would be with me for evermore.  How could they lie to me and destroy my life?

Yes, they did, and they probably meant it when they said it.  Maybe the affair was unplanned, and they were vulnerable.  There will be a way through this. 


I want to punish them., to make them feel worse than they’ve made me feel. I will tell the children, friends, family, their work.  They are going to suffer.

Anger is understandable and necessary.  Find ways of letting this out that will do the least harm to you and those around you. Maybe go for a walk to somewhere safe and private like a beach or woods.  Shout your anger out to the wind.  Or just write your thoughts, non-stop, on paper for 15 minutes. Take a break, read through what you have written and then burn the paper.


I can’t cope.  I don’t know what to do.  My future has been destroyed and I have no energy.  I just want to lie in bed and cry

Finding solace and comfort is good.  Crying is a good way of setting your emotions free.  A duvet day and a bottle of wine is also good, but they should not become a habit.  You have a choice of how you want to feel in the future.


I have lost my marriage, my relationship, my lifelong partner. It will never come back.

Some, if not all of those have changed. Focus on the possibility that through this trauma, something better could emerge.

Letting Go

I now realise that all of the past has ended.  There is nothing that I can do to change that.

If you decide that you have to separate, then let go of the old relationship as it is no longer there.  If you both decide to try and create a new and better relationship, then focus on that.


I need to let go of the past and all those feelings so that I can move forward.

Start to let the hurt and anger gently go because they will be a barrier to the new relationship and a better future. Learn what lesson you need to learn from the old relationship and focus on what you need to do differently in the future.


I have to move forward, either to create a new relationship with my partner or to find a new partner. The future could be good. 

Create the vision of the future relationship that you want and focus on what you need to have happen to achieve that.



Neil Wilkie is a Relationship Expert, Psychotherapist, author of Reset  and creator of the Relationship Paradigm  www.relationshipparadigm.com