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Got cheated on? Here's how to soldier on, according to an expert

By NICK GARCIA Published Feb 17, 2023 2:03 pm

February is the month of love indeed, but it shouldn’t only concern the lovey-dovey couples and their grand gestures à la romantic movie, smooth-like-butter sweet nothings, and hot-blooded sex. It should also acknowledge the self-loving singles (by choice or otherwise) and the heartbroken denizens (who got dumped, friend-zoned, ghosted, or cheated on).

Among them is Carlo, a 29-year-old Quezon City resident, who’s navigating the life of singlehood anew after breaking up with his boyfriend of nearly three years—and coming to terms with getting cheated on for the fourth time in the six relationships he had.

Carlo told PhilSTAR L!fe that he and his former partner decided to live together 10 months into their relationship, so certain that they want to settle down. It came into fruition at the onset of COVID-19 lockdowns, and they stayed under one roof for nearly two years.

But alas, things didn’t go as planned when unfaithfulness has already become part of the equation.

Carlo said he coped with the first few days of the breakup by crying all day long. He also went on a dating spree with several guys in an attempt to disprove questions in his mind like, “Am I not good enough,” “Am I unattractive,” and “Am I not deserving to receive the kind of love I’m always willing to give,” among many others.

Such coping mechanisms, however, didn’t suffice in providing the answers he was seeking—and filling the void in his heart.

“When I started getting the kind of validation from the people I met, I thought that it’s healing me, that it makes me whole again,” he said, taking note of over 500 matches he got across multiple dating apps.

Honor one’s emotions

Psychologist Riyan Portuguez, a.k.a. Your Millennial Psychologist who hosts the Kapwa Club podcast on Spotify, told PhilSTAR L!fe that there’s no other way to move forward but honoring one’s emotions.

“Kung nakakaramdam ka ng sakit, it's normal. Kung galit ka, it’s valid. There's no need to deny it,” Portuguez said, pointing out that pretending to be fine only delays the healing process further.

When I started getting the kind of validation from the people I met, I thought that it’s healing me, that it makes me whole again.

One must also have a strong support system through their family and friends, she said, as talking to them would help process the aftermath of the relationship gone sour.

Seeking professional help is also most welcome since getting cheated on is difficult, so much so that there are others who lose their self-esteem, become diagnosed with mental illnesses, and worse, resort to self-harm. To add fuel to the fire, Portuguez said Filipinos tend to invalidate others’ feelings and would drop lines like "Marami pa namang iba diyan” and “Mag-move on ka na lang.”

Individuals who are dealing with heartbreak, especially those who got cheated on, should learn to stand up for themselves.

“Di dahil mahal mo ang isang tao ay dapat kang mag-stay at mag-suffer (sa relationship),” Portuguez said. “Oo, mahal mo nga, kaso dini-disrespect ka na, walang changes sa behavior, di marunong mag-sorry.”

While easier said than done, Portuguez advised those coming from a breakup to pursue their interests and hobbies and navigate a life of being alone. Though the pain won’t go away easily, she said time will help make things more manageable.

“Minsan nakakaadik maging single, marami kang pwedeng gawin. I-enjoy mo lang,” she said.

Second chances?

If the one who got cheated on somehow believes in second chances, Portuguez warned that they must not deny themselves the luxury of time and space first. If they’re going to rush the process by trying to fix things with their partner immediately for fear of abandonment—without taking the necessary steps to self-healing first—chances are things will implode further.

“May iba natatakot na baka pag lumayo sila, feeling nila tuluyan na silang iiwan. Kung ganoon man at nakahanap na agad ng iba, ibig sabihin lang noon ay 'di siya tama para sa iyo,” Portuguez said. “Sa panahong wala siya, doon mo siya lalong makikilala.”

Otherwise, she’s strongly advising against getting back to the person, especially if they brought so much pain and suffering.

“You have to think multiple times lalo na kung talagang significant ang ginawa sa iyo,” she said, adding that one must discern whether one still loves the other or merely loves the idea of love. “May iba na kahit niloko na sila, tanggap pa rin nila dahil understanding sila. Pero kung ang pagiging understanding ay wala nang boundaries, lethal iyan.”

In the event that the cheater seeks reconciliation, they must keep in mind the adage that the first step to solving a problem is first acknowledging the problem, i.e., their actions. Before they ask for their partner’s forgiveness, they must also forgive themselves first.

“The best apology, really, is to change for the better,” Portuguez said, adding that the cheater must still face the consequences. “They cannot expect their partner to go back to them after what they did. Kung kutyain man sila ng iba, kailangan din nilang tanggapin iyon.”

Cheaters may also find it best to seek professional help, Portuguez noted, because like any other person, they still deserve services that will keep their mental health in check.

“Nakakatakot at nakakahiya magsabi sa ibang nagloko ka, pero when it comes to professional help, there are no judgments. Iwo-work out ang issues mo.”

Kung nakakaramdam ka ng sakit, it's normal. Kung galit ka, it’s valid. There's no need to deny it.

But after all that’s been said and done and the partners are willing to let bygones be bygones, Portuguez said they must work together harder than ever.

“Love is a decision. Being in a relationship isn’t easy,” she said, noting the partners should be more open to each other, learn to call out each other's mistakes, give each other enough space, still maintain their sense of individuality, and support each other though some of their interests may be different.

“Forgiveness is also key,” Portuguez said. “It should be something na di niyo na ilo-look back parehas, lalo kung nagbago na siya at kung napatawad mo na rin.”

Alone for the better

Realizing that he inadvertently impedes his path to self-healing, Carlo already did away with burying the pain through constrained and rushed connections in dating apps. He has decided to be on his own for now.

He said he chose to stay where he and his ex lived together. Though his family told him to stay somewhere else, he said he’s determined to “not delay the process.” He found it necessary to overcome his inner demons, he said, by acknowledging—and being in—the place where he and his ex once built their dreams together, where each corner had a unique memory, and where they made several promises to each other.

“With much courage, I did it,” he said. “And man, it wasn’t easy at all.”

Carlo said he also let the anger, sadness, and loneliness flow while in solitude, crying and crying until he got tired.

He pointed out that healing isn’t linear, as there are instances in which he feels he’s at his lowest point anew though he’s supposedly okay already in the days prior.

“Allowing myself to feel all the pain made me reflect about my self-worth,” he said, adding that living alone for over a month reinforced the idea that though family and friends are there, it’s still ultimately up to one’s self whether concrete actions will be taken to address personal problems.

Living alone also made Carlo realize that certain aspects in his past relationship sort of robbed him of his individuality.

“Ginawa naming mundo and isa’t isa,” he said, noting how being in a relationship made him forgo certain things that are supposedly doable even for singles, such as paying the bills, spending time with loved ones, or simply chilling by his lonesome.

Carlo said he was surprised that he’s able to enjoy a karaoke session with his family, reunite with his high school friends after three years of missing each other, and work out in the gym all in one day recently.

Minsan nakakaadik maging single, marami kang pwedeng gawin. I-enjoy mo lang.

He’s also eating healthier food and focusing on graduate school these days, as well as planning to travel to several domestic destinations this year. Moreover, he said he also booked consultations with psychologists and has been endorsed for an appointment with a psychiatrist.

Carlo said he tried meeting someone again recently, but is now more mindful than ever especially that he’s not yet ready to enter another relationship again. For him, so long as he’s able to spend more quality time with his family, friends, and himself, meeting “the one” someday could just be a cherry on top.

“I shouldn’t have changed these parts of me because I am in love,” Carlo said. “This recent heartbreak taught me many things about myself—and what I truly need.”