Rebuilding Your Self-Esteem After Discovering Your Partner Cheated

Updated on January 23, 2018
Shirl Urso-Farmer profile image

Shirley is a freelance writer who loves making desserts. She lives in Michigan with her family, and her black German Shepard, Tess.


Healing the Open Wound

You've found out that your significant other has cheated, and you've taken a direct hit to your self-esteem. After the shock has worn off, one of most painful after-effects is feeling as if you're not attractive, intelligent or interesting; your self-confidence - that was in good shape the day before the discovery - is now shattered. But you can and will feel whole again; remember that you're the same amazing person now that you were before the discovery of the affair, and with extra self-care, you'll be back in good shape again. Some work on your ego is definitely in order though, and with these simple tips, you'll be looking in the mirror and smiling at the awesome person who overcame this painful, bump in the road of life like a champion.

Step 1: Remember that You're not Alone

Finding out that your partner cheated can make you feel rejected and isolated, but you're definitely not, and the statistics show that you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who hasn't been cheated on. Just knowing this may give you some type of comfort because you're one in millions of people across the world who are dealing with this situation everyday. Surprisingly, the numbers also show that both men and women run neck in neck with regards to infidelity:

  • Men and women both play the cheating game, with 57% of men admitting to infidelity and 54% of women admitting to the same.
  • 74% of men and 68% if women say yes, they would have an affair if they knew they'd never get caught.
  • Amazingly, 56% of men and 34% of women say they'd cheat even thought they're happy in their current relationships.
  • There's no direct link between being unhappy in a marriage and cheating.
  • The tendency to cheat may be genetic, and is linked to alcoholism, and gambling.
  • 41% of marriages have either partner admitting they cheated emotionally or physically.
  • 30% to 60% of married individual admitted to cheating, but that number may be low considering the fact that the very nature of infidelity is to be dishonest, and some people will be deceitful in studies conducted about being deceitful.

Step 2: Stop Your Inner Critic

Unfortunately, everyone has an inner critic, and it can say the most brutal things when you're at your lowest. You may not even notice when your critic starts talking because you've gotten used to the constant, negative background noise as you go about your day. Thoughts like; "I'm ugly," "I'm fat,' and "I'm no good," are your inner-critic's voice, and it'll keep with the same, ugly talk until you put a stop to it. Take these steps to put an end to it and take your precious self-esteem back:

  • As soon as you realize the negative talk has started, mentally yell "Stop!" Then make a concentrated effort to shift your focus onto something positive like; "I'm going to have a great time at the party next week!" Another line of thinking could be a reward-based thought; like, "I've worked so hard all week and I loved those silk pajamas I saw at the store, I'll buy them tonight because I deserve it!" Make a habit of taking notice when the put-downs start and you'll be on your way to ending the negative criticism all together.
  • Give the bully a fitting name; refuse to sit quietly and listen when you hear the hate-speech start by rolling your eyes and saying, "Oh, it's Big-Mouth again," or "Here goes the Jerk yet again." Putting the mental-demon in it's place with an appropriate name will give you a feeling of control and eventually make the critic throw his hands up and go away.

The Damaging Effects of Self-Criticism:

Continuous self-criticism is directly linked to anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue, physical pain, eating disorders, bipolar disorders and suicide.

Step 3: Know that it Probably had Nothing to do with You (Really)

The tendency to ask yourself 'Why?' and desperately look to yourself for the answers is common among people who've been cheated on. Many times, the injured partner will reason that it's somehow their fault; "If only I looked different," "If only I had more money," or "If only I had acted differently." Being vulnerable and picking yourself apart to find answers will damage your self-esteem even more, when the truth is, there's no rhyme or reason for infidelity. Beautiful, successful people like Jennifer Aniston, Halle Berry, and supermodel Christie Brinkley have all reportedly been cheated on. And people that you come in contact with every day; your ultra-confident boss, your friendly bank teller, the supermarket clerk with the perfect figure and your neighbor with the best social skills could be going through relationship infidelity. When you stand back and look at the commonality of cheating in relationships, you'll see that cheaters will cheat; they'll cheat on anyone, no matter what their significant other looks like, what their employment status is or what they did or didn't do in the relationship. You're okay the way you are, and the chance that the cheating didn't have anything to do with you is extremely high.

It's Statistically True:

Most cases of cheating are just simple, bad choices that a partner has made because the time was right, and the opportunity was there.

Give yourself time to heal
Give yourself time to heal | Source

Step 4: Give it Time

It's difficult to feel any relief from the intense pain of being cheated on you until some time has passed. To help you get some perspective, think back to any past relationships that have ended - no matter the reason - and the tremendous heartache you felt at the time. Do you still feel the same devastation and pain? Although you still might feel some twinge of pain, it's probably not the anguish you felt at that time. The cliche that 'time heals all wounds' is fairly accurate, and when that time is spent giving yourself extra self-care, the heartache you're in now will eventually ease up; just like all the other heartaches you've recovered from in your life. Trust in your heart's ability to recover in it's own time, take a deep breath, and begin the process of recovery with baby steps.

Step 5: Love Yourself the Way You Are

After finding out your partner has cheated on you, you might start noticing all of your mistakes and faults more, even ones that aren't real. Suddenly you may feel that your hair is too curly, your hips too big, or your nose is too small. Don't get caught up in the trap of the disillusionment; it's self-destructive and provides nothing for your healing process. You might also think that everyone see and judges little mistakes you make like forgetting someone's name or making a mistake at work, and suddenly you feel even more insecure. Give yourself some slack and realize that at the end of the day, your uniqueness and beauty are all your own, and no one can take that from you.

If You Think Everyone Sees Your Faults & Mistakes:

It's a fact: People spend so much of their time thinking about themselves that they're rarely concerned (or remember) what other people are doing or saying, or have done or said.

Step 6: Think Constructively and Neutralize the Negatives

Magnifying things you'd like to change about yourself and turning them into put-downs like; "I'm fat," or "I'm stupid," leads to more self-esteem damage that you can't possible benefit from. Categorize things that you'd like to improve and turn them into goals. Some examples are:

  • Instead of "I'm fat," say, "I'm going to join that gym and lose five pounds by summer."
  • Turn "I'm stupid," into "I going to enhance my computer skills by taking a computer class this fall."
  • Make "I'm a slob," into "I'm going to organize my closet on Saturday."
  • Instead of "I'm ugly," say "I'm going to pick out a new hairstyle and have it done next Friday."
  • Be your own best friend - take "I can't do anything right," into "Really? That's a big statement from someone has a job, owns a home, helps support a charity and is an awesome cook!"

By neutralizing the negative talk, you'll not only get the critic off your back, but you'll get your mind on more constructive thoughts, get a realistic perspective on situations and gain more self-esteem when you achieve the goals you set for yourself.

Step 7: Remember that the Other Person Isn't Perfect Either

Comparing yourself to the person your partner cheated on you with will only lead to feelings of inadequacy and frustration. It'll help to remember that what you think you see in the other person isn't really the truth at all; it's your low self-esteem and jealousy talking, and neither your partner, or anyone else that knows that person thinks that they're the perfect specimen of a human being. Don't waste your time thinking about them; think about healing yourself and making at least one good thing come out of situation; if not several good things, like some of the suggestions that follow.

Jealousy - The great exaggerator.

— Johann C. Schiller
Give your courage muscle a workout!
Give your courage muscle a workout! | Source

Step 8: Give Your Courage a Workout and Take a Risk

Do something that you'd like to do, but hesitated to do in the past (as long as no physical harm is possible). Whether you succeed or not isn't the point; it's the actual self-esteem that you'll get from having the courage to try something new and knowing that you did your best. You'll be surprised at the confidence-boost you'll get from having the courage to try something new, whether it be on the small scale or large scale. Some things you can think about doing are:

  • Wear a bold color of shirt or outfit that you wouldn't normally wear
  • Go out of your way to start a conversation with someone
  • Go back to school or sign up for a class to learn a new language, a hobby or a new skill
  • Try a slightly different hair color
  • Take a hot-air balloon ride
  • Go camping by yourself for the weekend
  • Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper about an issue that you feel passionate about
  • Start a blog
  • Take yourself out to dinner and a movie

Staying in one's comfort-zone for long periods of time is linked to low self-confidence

Step 9: Help Someone

Reach out and give of yourself in whatever capacity you can. Let someone who has fewer items than you do go ahead of you at the checkout; tell your coworker how much you love their hairstyle; donate to a charity, or spend a weekend morning working at the soup kitchen. When you do for others, (especially if they can't repay you) you raise your self-esteem and you feel valuable to the world and the people in it; giving you a sense of power and self-worth. And, who knows; you might form some valuable relationships along the way.

Chin up, shoulders back and hands on hips for a shot of confidence!
Chin up, shoulders back and hands on hips for a shot of confidence! | Source

Step 10: Chin Up and Shoulders Straight for a Boost of Self-Confidence!

Straightening your posture creates chemical changes in your body that will give you an extra boost of self-esteem within three minutes!. When you physically make yourself larger by raising your chin, straightening your spine and bringing your shoulders back, you mentally feel bigger and more important. This position, called the 'power-pose', raises your testosterone (confidence hormone) level by 20% and lowers your cortisol (the anxiety hormone) levels by 25% - higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of cortisol leads to higher levels of self confidence. Give it a try right now and feel the power!

Step 11: Get Moving!

Exercising for just thirty minutes, three times a week can have a noticeable, positive impact on your self-confidence. Breaking a sweat for that little bit of time also causes the release of beta-endorphins (feel-good chemicals) and lowers those nasty cortisol levels (anxiety hormone) making you feel better in general. If you'd like to lose weight, your self-esteem will also increase when you lose those extra pounds, but the feel-good chemicals are released regardless of why you're exercising. The only variance is that aerobic exercise - especially when it's done with other people - tends to have more of an impact on self-esteem, possibly because of the emotional support from others. It doesn't even have to be a high-intensity workout; thirty minutes of moderate exercise will do the trick, and if you're already exercising, increasing your time by a few minutes will provide an added boost in self-esteem.

Write down your accomplishments - big and little!
Write down your accomplishments - big and little! | Source

Step 12: Write About Your Achievements

Get your pen and paper out and write down all of your accomplishments, big and small, for at least ten minutes a day. You can list everyday things, like "I finished painting the living room today" and the big, life-changing things, like "Bought my first home in 2014" Doing this will remind you that you that you have an important place in this world and also make you proud of all of your achievements, past and present.

Think often about your potential!

Studies show that people with high self-esteem think more about growth and achievement, and people with low self-esteem think mostly about not making mistakes.

Step 13: Talk Positively About Someone Everyday

The words you speak aren't 'just words,' they actually have an effect on your self-esteem and mood. Studies show that speaking well of someone will cause a 5% increase in your self-esteem, and speaking negatively about someone will cause a 34% increase in your negative feelings.

And that's not all: doctors have found that just one negative or positive word can have a positive or negative reaction in your brain. Also, just thinking (and focusing) on a positive word can cause physical changes in the brain; effecting the way you see yourself and the way you see those around you. More than enough reasons to speak, act and think in a positive way as much as possible!

Words - The most powerful drug used by mankind.

— Rudyard Kipling

Step 14: Lastly; Turn Up the Volume!

Have you ever noticed that the type of music that you're listening to has a direct effect on your mood? There's nothing wrong with listening to songs of heartbreak, and they may help you flush out some of your grief, but to get the feeling of overcoming no matter what the situation, listen to these to these uplifting songs:

  • It's Not Right But It's Okay - Whitney Houston
  • Fighter - Christina Aguilera
  • Perfect - P!nk
  • All Fired Up - Pat Benetar
  • I'm Still Standing - Elton John
  • Stronger - Kelly Clarkson
  • Don't Stop - Fleetwood Mac
  • Fighter - Christina Aguilera
  • Higher Ground - Stevie Wonder
  • Simply the Best - Tina Turner
  • Roar - Katy Perry
  • What Have You Done for Me Lately - Janet Jackson
  • The Climb - Miley Cyrus
  • Firework - Katy Perry
  • Lose Yourself - Eminem
  • We Will Rock You - Queen
  • Girl on Fire - Alicia Keys
  • I Won't Back Down - Tom Petty
  • Uptown Funk - Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars
  • Born This Way - Lady Gaga
  • Control - Janet Jackson
  • Baby I'm a Star - Prince
  • Since You Been Gone - Kelly Clarkson
  • Blow Me - P!nk


A safe kind of high.

— Jimi Hendrix

Did you end the relationship after discovering your partner cheated?

See results

You Want to Give Your Partner Another Try? Here's What the Most Successful Relationships Have in Common:

  • Being and speaking optimistically
  • Getting out of the rut and having new experiences together
  • Have sex 2 - 3 times a week
  • Congratulating each other on victories, large and small
  • Participating in activities that are outside of the relationship.
  • Having friends and activities that are outside of the relationship
  • Sharing chores
  • Communicating constructively instead of playing the 'blame game'

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Shirley Urso-Farmer

    Have You Ever (Eventually) Been Glad that Your Past Relationship Didn't Work Out?

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      • Shirl Urso-Farmer profile image

        Shirley Urso-Farmer 5 weeks ago from Michigan

        "New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings" - Lao Tzu

        (This has been the truth in my life)

      • Shirl Urso-Farmer profile image

        Shirley Urso-Farmer 5 weeks ago from Michigan

        Lisa, I am so sorry that you're going through this crap. I know it hurts - I've been there - but there's a point when you need to decide that you're worth far more than the way you're being treated! Accepting this behavior from him is your way of saying that you think you're not worth anything better..that being said, I would really love to hear that you've called a therapist and made an appointment to talk with them about your self-esteem issue...that's what I eventually did, and I'm so happy that I made the call! Please get back with me and let me know how you're doing, I really do care.

      • profile image

        Lisa 5 weeks ago

        I just can't seem to let go. I think about him when ever i sit down. I keep myself busy and that helps. But what about when I'm not.

        I question myself is this love or is it what I've been so used to for so long.

        I went from a confident outgoing funny lady. To a very insecure and jealous lady.

        He had cheated on me several times.

        I took him back each time because I couldn't bare the thought if him being with somebody else. And I hate the fact I allow him back in to my life each time. I know deep inside he is no goid for me. So why can I not let go. If I am going to forever be treated this way.

        I said the last time I let him back in that this would be the last time I was gonna try work this marriage out.

        And I think I made the right choice after finding out hed been lying and seeing another lady. Asking him to leave. He couldn't wit to get out the door.

        And that hurt too.

        How long do I feel these mixed feelings I am feeling.

      • Shirl Urso-Farmer profile image

        Shirley Urso-Farmer 6 weeks ago from Michigan

        asweaney, you just made my year! I'm so glad that this article has helped you in your healing, Lord knows we need all the help we can get when we've been hurt so badly.

        Thank you again for your comment, I appreciate it so much, and it was extremely kind of you to leave it :)

      • asweaney profile image

        asweaney 7 weeks ago

        This page is amazing. When I was feeling down, I clicked on the link and read. Just reading the article made me feel good and has brought me through more steps in the process of healing.

      • profile image

        A nony mouse 7 weeks ago

        Hey, you missed a couple off the playlist: Alanis Morissette - You Oughta Know and Queen - I want to Break Free.

        But, seriously those who cheat in one relationship, often go on to behave badly in subsequent relationships.Its as if these people get a buzz from knowing that they have more than one person on the go. Its an ego rub and you are better off without that sort of person.

      • kenneth avery profile image

        Kenneth Avery 3 months ago from Hamilton, Alabama

        Hi, Shirley -- thanks for chatting with me, but it was YOUR comment that was so Special. I am resting today. Going out in a bit and just taking life as it comes.

        You stay cool and sane.


      • Shirl Urso-Farmer profile image

        Shirley Urso-Farmer 3 months ago from Michigan

        You're awesome comment on my hub made my week...I'm working on staying sane, but I can't promise anything...don't work too hard :)

      • kenneth avery profile image

        Kenneth Avery 3 months ago from Hamilton, Alabama

        Hi, Shirley -- I received your sweet note of Following me. That made my weekend. I will be looking for you. I am planning to send you via email, my personal Thank You from me, but I am behind in my work with HP, so be patient.

        Stay sane and write me anytime.

      • Shirl Urso-Farmer profile image

        Shirley Urso-Farmer 3 months ago from Michigan

        Thank you so much for your gracious acknowledgement Kenneth! I do hope this article will help people who are hurting, and that they'll realize that the pain can be overcome.

      • kenneth avery profile image

        Kenneth Avery 3 months ago from Hamilton, Alabama

        This hub is nothing short of amazing. You covered the tent poles of a shattered relationship (not destroyed--big difference) and you wrote this so both women and men could receive help. Great work.

        If I can be of help to you, just let me know.

      • profile image

        Cindy Hect 17 months ago

        I think this article is very well written, it gives us all something to think about. Good work.

      • profile image

        Grand Old Lady 17 months ago

        I think this is a very good article, and that there is nothing wrong with giving someone a second chance. However, I would like to point out that there's a difference between someone who will cheat once, and someone who is a consummate cheater. In the latter case you have to be aware that you can expect this in your married lifetime. And there is always the chance that he may eventually find someone he loves enough to leave you for her. If you think it is worth the risk, good for you. What is important is knowing what to expect with the choice you make.

      • Jodah profile image

        John Hansen 17 months ago from Queensland Australia

        This article is simply packed with great advice for someone who has been cheated on. The statistics are very interesting and surprisingly high for both sexes. This should be essential reading for anyone suffering the infidelity of a partner and would certainly help them get their life on track. Great work.


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