At least 1 in every 3 couples has had to deal with an affair. That’s a lot more pervasive than our society would like to admit. In turning a blind eye to the true extent of affairs, we’re also not paying due attention to what happens after an affair.
Many people choose to stay with their partner after an affair, but this decision can come with a long road to affair recovery. Along this journey, one of the most important steps is regaining self-respect.
After an affair, both the cheater and the cheated may feel terrible about themselves and, as a result, value themselves less. But, by providing insights into affairs, this article offers tips to help you regain self-respect and rebuild your relationship.
Why Self-Respect Gets Lost
The problem starts when one partner feels undervalued by the other. Maybe your partner’s wants and needs aren’t being met, they’re facing emotional abuse, there’re problems with communication in the relationship, or, in the worst of cases, the other partner has an affair.
Self-respect is typically lost when a partner begins to value the relationship, and keeping the status quo, above their own needs. They may start to think their partner doesn’t care for them or they don’t deserve to have their needs met, when it is often the case they just haven’t communicated properly with their partner.
Losing Self-Respect After an Affair
You can lose self-respect after an affair by blaming yourself for your partner’s cheating. While it’s worth looking at all the factors that might’ve led to the affair (regardless of whether it was physical or emotional), doubting your self-worth is never the answer.
Your value as a person does not change, no matter what mistakes you’ve made in your relationship. Instead, you can acknowledge your value and what you deserve while, at the same time, objectively looking at your shortcomings.
How to Get Self-Respect Back in a Relationship
After a physical affair, you may start respecting your body less. You may wonder, “If I were more attractive, would this have happened?” After a digital or emotional affair, you may wonder if you’re interesting or cool enough to keep their interest.
All of these feelings can chip away at your self-esteem, but they don’t reflect the truth. However, sometimes it can be hard to internalize that the affair doesn’t have anything to do with your value, so it is important to learn how to heal after an affair. Here are some tips to start you on your healing journey.
Understand Why People Cheat
The best place to start is understanding why people cheat. In most cases, people don’t cheat because they found someone hotter. Usually, affairs happen when both people in the relationship are unhappy—and usually both partners have contributed to this unhappiness.
After an affair, genuinely ask your partner why they cheated. Learn together what made you both unhappy enough that they were willing to jeopardize the relationship by cheating. Don’t let them tell you they cheated because you weren’t enough. Yet, be prepared to learn about things you were doing (or not doing) that drove them away.
Don’t Blame Yourself
While it’s important to learn the underlying cause of the affair, you should not blame yourself for the affair. At the end of the day, it was your partner who made the choice to cheat on you and hurt you. They could’ve chosen instead to communicate about their problems and work toward a solution with you.
Blaming yourself is a sure-fire way to lose self-respect. It is possible to recognize where you failed your partner while holding them accountable for their actions. The best thing you both can do to get self-respect back in the relationship is to resolve to do better.
The aftermath of an affair is horribly uncomfortable, and you may feel disconnected from yourself. You’ll definitely be feeling insecure and unhappy. Now more than ever is the time to practice self-care.
Do what makes you feel attractive and pampered. Spend time meditating, working out, taking baths, singing, and wearing your favorite clothes. Whatever makes you feel good is right for right now.
Though self-care can be indulgent, the best self-care is still healthy. Get the best sleep and nutrition possible. Try journaling and meditation for a healthy mind. The goal is that, when you come out of affair recovery, you’ll feel even better about yourself than you did before.
Paranoid often follows the decision to stay with a partner who’s cheated. Especially after a digital affair, you may feel tempted to snoop on your partner’s social media accounts, but this will only deepen your distrust.
Rebuilding trust is the only way to get your relationship back to normal. And, to rebuild trust, you have to practice it. Trust with abandon. Most importantly, don’t assume without evidence they’re cheating again.
If signs of an affair present themselves, approach your partner with understanding and curiosity, not accusations. If they feel understood, they’re more likely to open up and help you both prevent another affair, making huge leaps on how to get your self respect back in your relationship.
Be More Aware of Your Best Qualities
The soul-searching work needed to figure out why the affair happened may be bringing to the surface all your worst qualities. While it’s important you and your partner learn how to do better, constantly looking at the bad can make you question if you’re a worthy partner.
It’s worth taking the time to acknowledge and love your best qualities. Take note of the things about yourself you find most physically attractive. You can even ask your partner to name what they find attractive about you.
Also, write down your best personality attributes. Think about all the things that make you a good friend and partner. Think about all the things you’re really good at. Think about all your achievements and how hard you had to work for them.
Most importantly, practice accepting and believing compliments from yourself and others, and you’ll soon find your confidence improving.
Identify Wants and Needs in Your Relationship
Most people cheat when they feel their needs are not being met in the relationship. To recover after an affair, one of the best things to learn is then how to communicate about each other’s needs.
This is a time for both of you to express what you need from the relationship. Do not withhold your partner’s needs, even if you are mad at them.
You may discover an agreed-upon frequency would help you both with physical intimacy. You may find you express love and intimacy in different ways and, as a result, need to work harder to ensure the messages you are sending them are received in the right way. Your partner may need help with domestic work or more alone time.
This is a time to listen and to lovingly give your partner what they need.
Spend More Time Doing What You Love
Similar to self-care, spending more time doing the things you love can improve your self-respect after an affair.
Engaging in healthy activities you enjoy will increase your serotonin and dopamine—chemicals in the brain that lead to happiness. Happier people have more self-esteem. You can hardly care what others think of you when you’re doing what you love.
If you don’t have any personal hobbies, now is the time to explore what’s out there. It’s even better if you can find an outdoors or sports hobby to improve your physical health. You may even feel sexier, which will be a huge boost to your self-esteem, especially after an affair.
Know Your Identity Outside of Your Relationship
Sometimes we lose our identity in a co-dependent relationship. Especially after an affair, you’re forced to reckon with who you are outside of your relationship.
You can take this time to identify your own values. Read philosophy and fiction to find out the morals and values you most relate to and cherish. Find hobbies that don’t necessarily include your partner. Is there an activity you’ve always wanted to try but your partner isn’t interested? Now is the time to do it.
Finding yourself outside of your partner may sound like it will separate you, but often it does the opposite. You’ll have more personal identity and value to bring to the relationship. You’ll also have more to talk about as you can inform each other of who you are as individuals.
Affair Recovery That Really Works
Both emotional and physical affairs can damage your self-respect and make you question if you’re good enough for your partner. But there is affair recovery that really works. Most importantly, you have to learn about and cherish your best qualities and learn how to improve the overall happiness of your relationship.
Do you think your relationship could benefit from counseling? Take a look at our affair recovery counseling.