When we’ve committed wholehearted and invested emotionally in a relationship, we expect the same amount of dedication from our partners. However, there are cases where our trust may backfire. It is only natural to feel hurt when we realize we’ve been cheated on by someone we saw a future with.
Let us make sense of the emotional roller coaster we are on. According to the ‘Five stages of loss’, most people go through the cycle of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance when they experience a loss. While the concept was written for those who have experienced the passing of a loved one, it is also very applicable to those who experienced betrayal or have fallen out of a relationship. Unlike a linear cycle, we may go through the stages in different sequences, or even experience more than one cycles at the same time.
1st stage – Denial:
Photo: Vozes Encarnadas
When we first experience a loss (in this case, it may refer to the loss of a partner or the loss of trust in the relationship), denial is the most common coping device we activate. It helps us restrict the amount of emotions we can handle, while we set off on a journey to heal our broken hearts. We may coax ourselves into believing that “He/she will never do this me” or find excuses for our partners to make sense of their betrayal. However, it is important to remind ourselves that denial is not a long-term solution, and when prolonged, would only worsen the situation.
2nd stage – Anger:
Pain leads to anger, and while we have all been socialized into thinking that “anger must be held in as much as possible”, the expression of anger is beneficial in the process of healing. Anger gives us a strength and direction, which is especially useful when we feel lost and aimless. However, always remember to stay clearheaded in this storm, and never do anything impulsive which you may regret later.
3rd stage – Bargaining:
This is where some of us begin to attempt at resolving the broken relationship. Our strong desire to restore our relationship makes us identify and admit to our faults (be it deserving or not). We think of the “what ifs” and “if onlys”, while we try to negotiate the outcomes of our relationships.
4th stage – Depression:
Probably one of the toughest out of all the stages, this is when we feel the most miserable and lost. It feels as though our world is ending, and there is nothing we can do to feel better. It is only natural to feel heartbroken and dejected, and this shows how emotionally invested we were in our relationships. Accept your emotions and allow yourself to feel the loss. Ignoring them would only intensify the agony in your heart.
5th stage – Acceptance:
Do not confuse acceptance with recovery. We may come to terms with the situation, but our wounds never truly heal. Even after a decade has passed, it is possible to feel the pain when we look back on our relationships. However, when we acknowledge the fact that life will never be the same again, we gain strength to face our new reality. Cheating occurs and hurts like hell, but it is up to us to decide how we want things to proceed from here on. We can accept the fact that our partners have cheated, and still continue to stay in the relationship with him/her. We can also acknowledge that things did not work out the way we expected them to, and decide to leave the relationship. There are many other methods to readjust yourself to the new reality, but finding acceptance means that we no longer try to replace what has been lost. Instead, we grow from the pain we felt and begin to live again.
It is an internal battle when dealing with the emotional pain of a broken heart. You do not have to face all of this yourself. Sometimes, it is necessary for us to lean on others, such as our friends and families. Finally, always keep in mind that only by accepting the situation and coming to terms with the emotions you feel, will you emerge victorious from this battle.
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