A man sits wrapped in a duvet representing how to stop overthinking after being cheated on

As a longtime marriage counselor, I know that many people struggle because they don’t know how to stop “overthinking” after being cheated on. And understandably so. It’s bad enough that their partner betrayed their trust, but the months or even years of obsessive thinking that can follow make it hard to heal.

It’s common for the betrayed partner to come to affair recovery counseling wanting desperately to get over the affair and move forward, but not know how to stop thinking about why this happened to them, and whether they can ever feel safe in their relationship, or any relationship, again. Rumination is a normal response to trauma (and betrayal is a form of relational trauma), but getting stuck in rumination can be incredibly painful. 

When I help these clients dig into the obsessive thinking, there is one story that comes up again and again. By listening to the story you’re telling yourself and making the choice to change it, you can make space for the healing process you need to pass through in order to stop overthinking and begin recovering from infidelity.

Why You Can’t Stop Overthinking after Being Cheated On

Much of the “overthinking” people experience after being cheated on has a theme: If only I had done/not done [fill in the blank], then this wouldn’t have happened to me.  

If only you had asked the right questions. Been more supportive when they were going through that hard time. Lost weight. Had more sex with them. Been more vigilant. Put a stop to their after-work hangouts with that coworker. 

Or, maybe you’re blaming yourself for missing the signs, ignoring your gut, being a poor judge of character, or not reading your partner’s mind and knowing that they were unhappy enough to cheat.

Your brain is on a mission to figure out what you “did wrong,” because once you know that, then you believe that you will be able to keep this from happening to you again. As bad as it feels to beat yourself up for your partner’s cheating, it still feels easier than the alternative: accepting that something truly awful has happened to you and that you had no control over it. 

If you are the problem, then you can be the solution, and there’s safety in that kind of thinking. But your partner’s actions are about them, not you. Really you know that, which is why you can’t mentally close the case, even after coming up with a thousand things you regret doing or not doing in the run-up to the affair. 

Your partner’s decision to cheat points to a failure in problem solving on their part. There was something they needed — often it’s an ego boost, a distraction, or an escape — and they tried to meet that need in a way that was dishonest and destructive. But so many people who’ve been cheated on start to claim the credit for their partner’s actions without even realizing it. This misplaced sense of responsibility can fuel “overthinking” after being cheated on, and keep you from truly accepting reality so you can begin to heal.

Here are a few of the signs that this is what you’re doing: 

  • You’re trying to figure out what you need to change about yourself to save your relationship.
  • You feel like you’re in a competition with the Other Woman or the Other Man. 
  • You feel ashamed of what your partner’s cheating says about you. 
  • You feel like it’s your job to fix or heal your partner’s “issues.” 
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  • You’re thinking about ways you can prevent them from ever cheating on you again. 
  • You’re thinking about all of the things that you did or didn’t do to deserve this (literally no one deserves this).

True Responsibility Helps You Stop Overthinking after Being Cheated On

The problem with this kind of codependent thinking is not only that it keeps you trapped in a painful, self-esteem crushing cycle of self-blame, but also that taking responsibility for your partner’s cheating allows you to evade your true responsibility — the one that you have to yourself. 

You are responsible for taking care of your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. You are responsible for your own personal growth and for setting boundaries in relationships that help keep you safe from harm. You are also responsible for making choices about which relationships you will participate in and under what circumstances. 

You are responsible for healing. That will require you to grieve the relationship you thought you had, which ultimately means accepting the things that you can’t control. If you’re suffering from betrayal trauma, as many people do after infidelity, healing fully may require you to seek help from a good, trauma-informed therapist. 

I can’t tell you whether you should fix your relationship or walk away after being cheated on. I can tell you that many couples are able to heal and move forward together, often in relationships that are better than before. But if that’s the outcome you want, there are certain things that have to happen, and blaming yourself isn’t one of them. In fact, making what they did about you will only block you from forgiving and recommiting to your partner, healing your emotional bond, repairing trust, and re-establishing emotional intimacy. It will keep you and your relationship stuck. 

When you have grieved the affair, and either ended your relationship or rebuilt it from the ground up, then your mind will stop returning to the scene of the crime. You will stop looking for reasons to blame yourself, stop overthinking after being cheated on, and start living again. 

Support for Overthinking after Being Cheated On

Infidelity is painful under any circumstances, but when you can’t stop ruminating about what happened, that’s a sign that you need the support of a good therapist. 

Working with an infidelity recovery counselor or individual counselor can help you shift unhelpful thought patterns so you can stop ruminating and start healing. 

If you’d like to do this valuable work with a counselor on my team, I invite you to schedule a free consultation

With love, 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

P.S. — For more advice on healing your heart and your relationship after an affair, see my heartbreak recovery and affair recovery collections of articles and podcasts. 

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