ASK COUPLE: HOW DO I APPROACH DATING AFTER BEING BETRAYED?
Bouncing back after being cheated on takes time, trust, and a healthy dose of self-love
Q: Hey, Couple. Could you share some advice on how to approach dating after being betrayed by a former partner? Six months ago, I discovered that my boyfriend of five years had been cheating on me for at least two of them. To say I was shocked and heartbroken is an understatement, and it took me several months to accept that the life and love we shared was a lie. Though I’m feeling a bit more centered now, the idea of dating fills me with terror. Any tips for how to navigate dating after getting cheated on? How do I get over my intense fear of being hurt and betrayed? – JB, 29
Penelope's advice: Give yourself time to grieve before dating again
Oh, JB. I’m so sorry that you’ve had to endure this experience. Getting blindsided by betrayal is a pain I wouldn’t wish on anyone, and the journey from heartbreak to healing is never easy. But know that you’re not alone. Recovery post-cheating is a path that many have walked before (including yours truly), and rest assured that you will find fulfilling love on the other side of this.
The truth of that matter is that six months is a mere blink in the shadow of a five-year relationship, and the fact that you’re currently terrified of dating makes me wonder if you’ve given yourself enough time to heal. Make no mistake: your fear of being hurt again is normal and justified. But its overwhelming presence may suggest that you’re still too raw for romance.
The first step in navigating dating post-breakup is to give yourself ample room to reflect and grieve. The unexpected end of a relationship can be incredibly traumatic -- especially when infidelity is involved -- so don’t underplay your pain or rush the healing process. Seek closure in the form of therapy, journaling, or discussions with close friends. Lean on your support system. Explore your feelings. Give yourself grace. Trust me: entering the dating scene with unresolved heartache may only ensure more of it, so take the time you need. Good luck, JB. Sending you healing vibes and lots of love.
M.J.’s advice: Practice self-love before looking for a new partner
JB, I second everything Penelope said, and I’ll add this to the “wait until” column: before seeking love with someone new, take time to affirm the love you have within and for yourself. Practice self-compassion by acknowledging your worthiness of happiness and healthy relationships. Treat yourself with the same kindness and care you'd offer to a close friend. Not only is this paramount to healthy healing, but when you love and respect yourself, you’re also better able to recognize partners who mirror that same level of care.
I realize that sometimes “self-love” is easier said than done after a partner does you dirty. Infidelity can erode your self-esteem and self-worth, so it’s important to engage in activities that boost your confidence and remind you of your strengths. Pursue hobbies you're passionate about, treat yourself to some pampering, and surround yourself with positive influences. A strong sense of self-worth will guide you to choose partners who appreciate and value you when you feel strong enough to date again. Here’s to you, JB.
Andy's advice: Know that learning to trust again will take time
I know I’m preaching to the choir, but the hardest part of dating after getting cheated on is learning to trust again. Trust – in both yourself and others – is a fragile commodity after betrayal, and opening your heart to new possibilities requires a vulnerability you may not have capacity for right now. You may question your ability to read people (why didn't I sense that my ex was unfaithful?) as much as you now doubt others’ intentions (how can I know that someone means what they say?).
JB, if you find yourself in this self-doubt spiral ... frankly, it’s too soon to date. You need to rebuild your faith in yourself before offering it outward.
How? Well, first, you need to truly accept that you were not at fault for what happened to you. This ugly situation is aaaall on your ex, so don’t internalize a damn thing. Second (and what may seem contradictory), reflect on what happened in order to identify red flags you may have missed initially. I’ll reiterate: there’s no shame or fault in having misread your ex in the moment. NONE. But hindsight can be revealing. Sure, some people are so good at deception that no amount of red-flag radar would have been sufficient to suss them out, but it’s still a worthwhile exercise. Exploring and learning from your past can help you regain trust in your intuition.
Trusting others may take even more time, not only because you fear getting hurt, but also because your past experience may have cultivated unrealistic fears or expectations about new relationships. It can be difficult at first to remember that the opposite of betrayal is not perfect devotion; you don’t want to expect too little or too much from a new partner. Instead, approach dating with an open heart and realistic expectations, and be on the lookout for the green flags that signal a trustworthy companion, such as mutual interest, open communication, and a desire to share experiences.
Starting to date again after being betrayed is a brave step towards reclaiming your happiness, but it may take longer than expected. In the meantime, do "test runs" by going out in groups, playing wingman, or checking out online singles events like we host here at Couple.
Whatever approach you take, it's important to remember that your past does not dictate your future, and with an open heart, you can find a love that enhances your well-being rather than detracts from it.
JB, as you embark on this new chapter, trust your intuition, listen to your heart, and above all, nurture your own self-worth. May the next love story you write be one of resilience, empowerment, and enduring happiness. Cheers from your friends at The Vibe and Couple!