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How to recover and move forward after being cheated on

I saw a fairly memorable side ad on Facebook this weekend.

I saw a fairly memorable side ad on Facebook this weekend.

Below a post about photo editing software was a PSA warning young professional women in Philly that a "cheater" was moving to the area.

Supposedly taken out by at least one wronged woman, the announcement featured a guy's headshot, full name, place of employment, and a brief story about "all the trappings of a perfect gentleman" and "a web of lies of omission."

It seemed too dramatic to be real and my first assumption was that it was a guerrilla marketing campaign for some product. But a cursory search yielded evidence that the man was, in fact, a very real person.

But this article isn't for him; it's for the person who took out the ad.

Being dumped or cheated on is terribly painful. The series of resulting emotions (including denial, anger, bargaining) are similar to experiencing a death. It can be embarrassing, hurtful, and prompt a protracted episode of depression. But it's also an opportunity to learn about yourself, why you're drawn to certain partners, and how to look out for unhealthy patterns in your next relationship.

Here's a guide on how to move forward.

There are two really big problems with seeking vengeance.

First, it's wasted energy, keeping the focus on your ex, so you can avoid the hard work of actually dealing with your feelings. Unconsciously, many people seek retribution because it means continued (albeit negative) contact.

Second, there's a good chance of negative repercussions. In the case of property damage (or harm to reputation like in the Facebook PSA I saw), the payback might feel great in the moment, but get really expensive. Even if everyone you know thinks your ex "totally deserves it," no court in the land will let you get away with smashing car windows or burning clothes. Save your work's personal days for trips to the beach, not sentencings or restraining order hearings.

If you have to vent your frustrations: Write them in a letter, address it to your ex and then destroy it. Closure is entirely an internal process, not something granted.

Processing what happened is very important.

Not only is it part of healing, but also it allows opportunities for insights about yourself and your dating patterns and illuminates things to look out for in the future. Write in a journal, make art, talk to your friends or a counselor to express your feelings.

However, as cathartic as it might feel to post the gory details of a breakup on social media, don't do it. Like getting revenge, it'll feel good for a second but it opens your private business to scrutiny and makes you less appealing to those who might've otherwise been thinking about being your next boo. Whether it's overtly bashing your ex or posting vague, faux-Zen sayings about forgiveness, it'll be read as dramatic immaturity.

Publicly posting also limits your learning: Taking a public stance invests you in a particular narrative. Sure, they wronged you; but making it about your ex is an obstacle to uncovering the reality of why you were drawn to them and what you contributed to the dynamic. Being able to declare one person to have been the villain is easy, but it allows you to skip crucial introspection and soul-searching, which means you'll almost certainly repeat the same patterns again.

After the trauma of a breakup, staying busy is vital.

Devote time to projects, find a new hobby, get back in touch with friends. Launch into dating immediately.

Research shows that rebounds help the process of moving on: They boost confidence, keep you occupied, and are usually a lot of fun.

Use frustration and anger as motivation to get things done and improve yourself. Hit the gym, go back to school, fix up the house. Generally channel the energy into something productive. Even if, on some level, you're doing it because you think it'll win your lover back, the end result is a better you.

It's important to add that cheating doesn't have to mean the end of a relationship. Not all infidelity is one person's selfishness. Look honestly at what happened, what the actions meant to each of you, and what you really want. There could be a catalyst for profound change, not just a death sentence.

But sometimes there's no fixing broken trust.

They absolutely could have been more respectful by breaking things off in a direct way. Well, they didn't. Possibly because they suck.

But the result is the same: You're now free of that toxic commitment.

It's frustrating to realize you've been driving in the wrong direction, but now you can get on the right road.

Appreciate the opportunity to start over with more wisdom and experience, assured that you will do better to your next lover than this one did to you.

Physical strength is built when the body repairs places where the muscles have been damaged. Emotional strength works in the same way.  Give yourself space to recuperate and go back out into the world, stronger, smarter and better able to love.

Dr. Timaree Schmit earned her Ph.D. in Human Sexuality from Widener University, where she now trains future sexologists and clinicians. Her passion is bringing rational, empirically-based, sex-positive information to the world, empowering others to celebrate their bodies, build intimacy and experience pleasure. 

She has an award-winning podcast, "Sex with Timaree", and hosts a BYOB sex ed, comedy/game show "DTF: Darryl and Timaree Fun Hour" which can be seen every second Friday at the Franky Bradley's (1320 Chancellor St.)