Reinventing Romance: Is There Love After Betrayal?

Love after cheating: over-40 relationship expert Sherry Amatenstein explores dating again after infidelity

By Sherry Amatenstein

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Three years after discovering her husband with another woman, that mantra still rules Lisa’s dating life. The 46-year-old Vermont artist recalls ruefully, "Ed had pulled the wool over my eyes so successfully — I’d thought he was the world’s only monogamous guy! — that I’m petrified to be played again. So petrified that if a date goes down the block for cigarettes, the second he gets back I’m ready to accuse him of having a secret assignation with another woman. Not surprisingly, my dates don’t hang around too long."

While Lisa’s behavior is understandable, it certainly puts a crimp in her goal of finding love again. According to California-based marriage and family therapist Stacy Kaiser, "The most important thing to remember is that not every man is the man who hurt you. Everyone deserves to be treated as his own person."

True. But for a mature, accomplished woman who’d believed she had a good grasp of the way the world operated, being cheated on can elicit the feeling that her sense of judgment is holier than Swiss cheese. Thus, she sees potential betrayal lurking in every corner.

"You become a little more hardened. You’re not the same person," explains Sheila, 42. "After someone betrays your trust so brutally, you no longer take things at face value. Your innocence is gone." Today, the New York banker is ensconced in a new relationship — but it was a long, rutted road to her present happiness.

Learn to Trust Again After Infidelity

After crying mountains of tears, throwing truckloads of pillows at the walls (a crucial step — it’s important to discharge anger in a way that won’t net you a criminal record), and basking in the support of loving friends and family, try to understand why your partner betrayed you. "This doesn’t mean liking his motives or agreeing with them," assures Terri Orbuch, PhD, Detroit’s "Love Doctor" (www.detroitlovedr.com) and creator of the 3-CD audio set, Relationship CPR: Passion, Trust, and Conflict. Orbuch continues, "Understanding his perspective helps you let go of the emotions connected to the betrayal, emotions that are keeping you from moving on."

An even more difficult task is to look at your possible role in his actions. Danine Manette survived relationships with not one but two cheating men — the latter, her husband. The 40-year-old Californian and author of the book Ultimate Betrayal (www.ultimatebetrayal.com) admits, "I went from the immaturity of young love to marriage with a man who had glaring character flaws — including unfinished business with his ex. But I thought I could change him, so I married him." Four years and one child later, Danine’s husband committed adultery with his ex.

Danine left instantly, taking their son. Time and a lot of therapy helped her realize that while her ex-husband Keith bore the brunt of the culpability, she hadn’t been 100 percent blameless. "I asked myself how I could have ended up in this situation a second time. Sure, I was older and wanted kids, so I overlooked signs that were obvious. But I also came to realize that feeling unloved as a child led me to not treat Keith with as much love and positive attention as he needed."

Another mistake she’d made was rushing into the marriage so soon after her first breakup. It’s wiser to take time to mourn and assess before jumping back out there. Then, once you’re ready, meet a lot of people. When you finally start zeroing in on a relationship candidate, listen to Danine’s hard-won wisdom: "Look for signs that he’s a cheating risk before the first orgasm."

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