There are few things in life as hurtful as being cheated on by someone you loved and trusted. It can make you lose your faith in love, people—even yourself. Worst of all, the impacts can live on long after you’ve dumped that D-bag and the relationship is over.
☝️Those are some of the main things to remember when dating someone who’s been cheated on before. But even if you’re the most thoughtful partner who would *never* be unfaithful, you could still end up accidentally hurting your S.O. who’s still healing from their past.
Here’s what NOT to say to someone who’s been cheated on when navigating a new relationship with them:
“You’re projecting your insecurities onto me.”
It can be hard for a person to move on from the feelings they’re carrying after infidelity, says Cristina M. Konior, LMHC. And projecting them onto you is def not fair.
At the same time, if they’re afraid to express their emotions or fears around you (even if they could be a lil irrational from your perspective), that’s also unhealthy. Instead of accusing them of projecting, ask how you can best support them or make them feel more secure. It could be as simple as sending a little text update when you’re out for the night or inviting them to hang when you’re out with your coworkers.
If you feel like you’re constantly walking on eggshells, reevaluate the relationship by focusing on your needs and wants as well as what your partner is realistically able to give to you right now.
“It’s none of your business.”
If your partner asks where you’re going or what you’re doing and you give a vague response, be prepared for some deeper questioning. According to Liza Moskowitz, a therapist who specializes in relationships, “anything interpreted as secretive behavior could be a trigger” of their previous relationships.
Having regular discussions about expectations and the people or activities that are important to you can also be helpful in building trust.
“I’m not like them, I won’t do that to you.”
Ughhh, this one. While hopefully true, this statement ignores one glaring truth: Most people who cheat say that they would never do it! It’s also likely that their ex once said the same thing too. So just don’t say this.
“You’re being paranoid” or—much worse—“You’re being crazy.”
Okay, this is probably one of the worst things you can say to someone who’s been cheated on. When you invalidate someone’s feelings or the red flags they’re seeing, it can make them feel as though their past trauma is their fault, which can re-traumatise them. No bueno.
The only exception is if your partner is, say, distrustful of every opposite-sex friendship that you have, or always assuming you’re cheating if you don’t pick up your phone for a few hours. If this is the case, a serious conversation needs to be had about how you can reassure them that you are committed to them, while still being able to have healthy boundaries. You should never have to sacrifice your friendships or life outside of the relationship because your partner is worried you’re going to stray.
“I’m not getting into this again.”
Honesty is key. If you get into a fight with your partner about something that comes up frequently, remember that getting defensive can cause the other person to shut down and feel as if you’re hiding something, according to Cronier.
Instead of being frustrated and avoiding a repeat convo, break down the real insecurities your partner has and any patterns you’ve seen. Do they only feel concerned when you hang out alone with a certain friend? Or work late three nights in a row? Digging deeper into the root of the problem will help both parties feel closure.
“You need to let go of the past.”
In order to truly move on after being cheated on, they need to talk about the experience, not pretend it was a simple blip in their history. According to Moskovitz, it’s best for them to communicate their hurt with you so you both can be on the same page about potential triggers. No one can let go of the past without fully coming to terms with its impact on their future.
This post first appeared on Cosmopolitan.com