Stop Trying to “Win” Your Cheater Back

In the iconic show Gossip Girl, there was a season where the character Serena was involved with a married man. There was also a season where Nate was involved with a married woman, and Chuck himself was involved with a different married woman…I mean honestly the whole show is a train wreck of different relationships you shouldn’t emulate.

But the outfits are fantastic and we all live for drama, so I stand by watching it.

Anyway, back to Serena and her married man. Their affair is the classic tale of “we shouldn’t do this” and then “oh but our chemistry is soOoOo strong” and I’ll save you a couple episodes and let you know that they end up having a full blown affair, this guy is a politician, he keeps saying he’s going to leave his wife, and then the wife finds out about the affair (I think because the politician and Serena get into a car accident together. See? I told you it was drama filled).  

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Anyway, the wife ends up talking to Serena, and telling her that she’s never going to divorce the politician. I think there was a quote in there about how the wife is Jackie O, and Serena is Marilyn. Anyway, she tells Serena you better stay away and that you’ll always be just the mistress, and meanwhile Serena is like well I’m never leaving him and he loves my 19 year old self so eat it, lady!

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Yes, she was 19 when this happened. This show is wild.

Point being, Gossip Girl is normally far from reality – but this scene weirdly enough is dead on. Our first instinct when we’ve been cheated on (or I suppose, when we’ve been the other woman) is some form of shock, anger, and sadness. But then, human nature weirdly enough tells us I gotta win that son of a bitch back.

It’s not outright, and it’s not obvious. You might not even realize that it’s happening.

Maybe it’s an unconscious competitive streak, or maybe it’s just the biological fear of losing a ‘mate’ that we’ve spent so much time with and invested in. I don’t know where the hell it comes from. Chumplady coins it “the pick-me dance”.

If you’re in the large percentage of the population who doesn’t leave their cheater immediately after discovering their cheating, you are now in the pick-me dance. (Also, as a side note, you should check out the Chump Lady blog because it’s just fantastic. My post doesn’t do it justice – check it out.)  

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You will unconsciously start doing a variety of things to keep your cheater with you. Maybe you guys had a dead bedroom, so he took up a very sexual affair with someone else. Even though this guy just cheated on you, and you’re devastated, hurt, and the last thing you want to do is have sex with this asshole…you’ll start fucking him again regularly. Because you want to keep him around. Subconsciously, you want to win.

Maybe you’ll find out about the affair partner and emulate them – or be great in areas where you know they fail. Maybe you’ll start trying to bring romance back into the relationship. Maybe you’ll take him to couples therapy and really work at it. Maybe you’re hurt, and devasted, and want to talk about the affair – but every time you do he shuts down and “feels bad”. So you push aside your own feelings, and pretend like you’re not completely devastated because you want to make your cheater feel comfortable. You want to keep him around. You want to, basically, win the pick-me dance.

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Instead of leaving, you stay. Instead of lashing out at the cheater, you comfort him. Instead of telling him how he ruined everything, you tell him that you can make it work. Instead of punishing him, you reward him. You want to win the pick-me dance.  

So here’s a mental exercise I want you to try if you’re currently a player in this dance. Imagine for a second, that you’ve won.

Let’s say the affair partner died haha. Let’s say you moved to a new country. Let’s say couples counseling really worked and he’s going to be faithful to you forever! Imagine that the game is over. He tells you, “I want to be with you forever, and I swear this won’t ever happen again. I’m yours for the rest of your life.”

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Odds are, you don’t feel better. You might actually even feel a bit sick, or a pit in your stomach.

Congratulations – you’ve won a cheater. You’re going to be with a man forever who is going to have you constantly anxious. You’re going to be nervous every time he picks up his phone and walks into the other room to answer a text. You’re going to keep having the nightmares that he’s cheating on you – because so long as you’re with him, they don’t go away. You’ve won! But your prize is a shitty individual who fills your life with self-doubt and anxiety.

I think being cheated on is a traumatic, painful thing. Infidelity fucks with people a lot more than Hollywood makes it out to be. Some people develop PTSD from it. It’s deeply devastating.

So when it happens to us, we go into strategy mode. Brainstorming. Making a plan to survive. We’re in shock. We don’t have time to remove ourself from the situation, and think, holy shit, because my cheater did x, y and z, this mean he’s a different person than I thought he was. I don’t like the person he is, or has been for however long this has been going on for. I don’t like him. I don’t want to be with him.

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Serena was 19, so we can’t really blame her for being an idiot. But now when I watch the show, I’m like Jesus Christ what are you doing, baby girl? You’re 19, and you want to fight for a cheater who slimily hits on and fucks interns that are working on his political campaign? That’s who you want to risk it all for? You want him in your life forever?

And this married lady, I’m just like Maureen, you’re hot. And you have Vanderbilt money. Why do you want to fight tooth and nail to keep a man who constantly disrespects you? Every night when he’s working “late” in the office you’re never going to know if it’s truly work he’s doing, or if he’s balls deep in an Upper East Side teenager! Why not divorce him, take half of his Upper East Side money, and move to Brazil to live on the beach with a latin lover? Your adrenal glands will thank you.

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I understand that every cheating situation is its own circumstance. Don’t take my Serena or Maureen advice for yourself – you have to figure out on your own what you want to do.

But give my mental exercise a think. Imagine a world where your cheater comes to you and promises faithfulness, and to be with you forever. The guy who stuck his penis in however many people, for however long, while lying to you about it and then getting into bed with you…that guy. He’s now in your life forever! And he’s promised faithfulness! I mean…he did before, and then he cheated, but now he’s promising it for real this time.

Do you feel better? Is that a scenario you want?

I hope the answer helps you! It’s definitely helped me.

Hug and kisses,
S