Your worst nightmare has come true. Your partner is cheating on you. You've read the signs and confirmed the betrayal. Now what? How do you deal? How do you move forward? Once you've made a decision to confront them, you need to think about the ways to confront your cheating partner. Because there is certainly more than one way, and there are certainly ways that are generally viewed as better than others. Not that any confrontation is ideal, especially when dealing with something so unsavory.
When you find out your partner is being unfaithful to you, everything feels broken. On top of that, there's the anger. How do you confront your partner without going off the rails? Is it even possible to remain calm and coherent while telling your partner what you know? It is, with a certain amount of practice. I spoke with relationship counselor and psychologist Elisabeth Graham to get her advice on how to tackle such a messy situation.
"The most important thing you can do, is to take your time processing your emotions," Graham says. "There's no prescribed resolution for the betrayal you're feeling." She goes onto say that everyone and everyone's relationship is different, and that it may take longer than expected to heal from such a trespass. She advises to take your time, and explore your options, on top of the seven steps below.
1. Assemble The Evidence
Unless you have solid proof, confronting your partner could be a mistake. "Cheaters are well practiced liars," Graham says. If you don't have proof? Don't bother. Chances are high that your partner will weasel their way (or at the very least try) out of your confrontation. "Confrontation is innately uncomfortable," she says. "The steps leading up to confrontation will likely be just as uncomfortable, but the more prepared you are, the better chance you'll have at initiating a successful communication session with your partner."
2. Write It All Down
When in doubt? Write it down. "Writing down what you're feeling is a practice I have my clients do often, not just when they're facing a situation involving infidelity," Graham says. "Writing down the emotions you hope to convey helps people feel as though they have a net of support to rely on when confronting a partner."
3. Figure Out What You Want
What's the end game here? Do you want to end your relationship? Do you want to fix it? Graham advises, different outcomes require different methods of confrontation. "You approach people differently when you want certain outcomes from them," Graham says. "Deciding the goal of your outcome will deeply effect the way you approach your partner."
4. Set A Time Frame
Once you've decided you're ready to approach your partner, carve out a specific amount of time with them to discuss the matter. "Putting a time limit on the initial confrontation helps you stay on track," Graham says. Stick to your questions, keep your written dialogue with you, and keep an eye on the clock. Graham even recommends setting a timer. "You're not going to come to an emotional resolution during your first conversation, and it's important to recognize that." Creating a time limit helps prevent the conversation from spiraling out of control.
5. Stay Calm
This is easier said than done, but stay calm. Yes, you're allowed to be angry. Yes, you're allowed to be sad. Yes, you're allowed to cry. But staying calm is key. "If you want your questions answered, staying calm with your partner is important," Graham says. "There has been a deep emotional betrayal in your relationship, calm is not the first emotion people reach for." In order to facilitate a beneficial communication session with your partner, however, Graham says that calm is key.
6. Get To The Root
"Most scorned partners want to know why," Graham says. "Why your partner would betray you is almost always at the top of my clients' lists of questions in these exercises." Getting to the root of the betrayal may take more than one confrontation, more than one conversation, but if it's important to you, it's important to get there. Often times, when couples decide to move forward after one has strayed, it takes multiple conversations to not only facilitate healing, but to find out why one partner strayed from the other.
7. Consider Counseling
Graham says there's no shame in reaching out to a counselor to help facilitate these communication sessions. "If you're dedicated to moving forward with your partner, a counseling session can go a long way," she says. Having an outside third party to assess each partner's emotional state, and to help move the conversation forward can be paramount in repairing a couple's trust.