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To The Girl Who's Been Cheated On

Self-respect is about valuing your own judgment.
PHOTO: istockphoto

You’re in a relationship with someone you love—the man who’s so much better than the one you could only dream of, the smart and funny guy you didn’t know you wanted. Or you’re dating someone you love; he loves you too; the relationship can be pretty toxic, but both of you weather that. Regardless of what kind of relationship you’re in, finding out your partner cheated on you devastates you. You begin to question everything, like who you are, what kind of person your partner is, what kind of relationship you had, what you know about trust, and where you’ll go from the mess.

You distance yourself from your partner or you break up with him. But he repents and begs that you two rebuild the relationship.

Should you? What does it say about you if you get back together with a cheater? A loving, forgiving woman? Or a woman who has no self-respect?

Some might consider the answer to be a case-to-case basis: If you and your partner are married, it’s okay to keep the relationship. Not just for the kids, but also because you and your partner might have goals to achieve, like the Underwoods in House of Cards, or because you both sincerely want to fix what’s broken and move on, perhaps like Beyonce and Jay-Z.

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But if you’re in your 20s and not yet married, people are likely to tell you to have some self-respect and date a man who’ll treat you better. They’ll say you’re bound to find that person, even if you think you won’t as you’re still reeling in from the devastation.

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If you give your relationship another shot, for sure people will think that you don’t value yourself and that you don’t see your worth.

It may seem that self-respect has a lot to do with thinking you’re better off on your own, or that you don’t deserve to be treated badly. But that has more to do with self-esteem than self-respect. Self-esteem involves regarding yourself highly because of your accomplishments, killer looks, or what-have-you.

Respecting yourself is about accepting yourself, period. It’s not about catering to what other people think of you or their approval of your decisions. Any self-respecting person can do without people’s opinions of them. That’s because self-respect has nothing to do with other people and it has everything to do with you: having your own standards of what’s right and good and believing you conform to that, trusting that you’re capable of thinking and choosing wisely, and letting yourself be the active force in your own life. Of course, it’s not bad to ask for advice, especially when you feel torn and lost. What’s not good for yourself is adhering to other people’s words to impress them or make them think a certain way about you.

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Exhibiting self-respect then involves getting answers from the person who cheated on you and observing his behavior. What made him cheat? What was going on? Was it a one-time kiss or did they carry out an affair behind your back? Does he regret what he did? If yes, how?

Answering these questions will help you assess if your partner is an asshole—in which case the course of action is clear—or if he’s a good guy who made one bad decision—in which case getting back together is understandable if you can forgive him and promise yourself to put what happened behind you.

Having self-respect also involves knowing and accepting the risks that come with the options you have, because it’s not as if your actions don’t have consequences.

The risk of getting back together with someone who cheated on you? Being betrayed again.

And there are hardships that come with rebuilding a relationship too, like confronting the underlying issues, which can be painful, and keeping your promise of leaving the past in the past (unless he cheats on you again, of course). But it is possible to have a better relationship after the incident.

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The choice between calling it quits for good and getting back together with the guy who cheated on you is entirely yours to make. Whichever you choose, people will talk, so there’s no point in fussing over their opinions of you, especially if you’re gathering all the information you can get to help you choose wisely and you’re looking the facts straight in the eye. What’s important is that you respect yourself enough to make informed decisions.

As for making the wrong choice, well, you’re making them if you’re blind to the risks or compromise your own standards.