How Do I Control My Cheating Partner?

Do you feel compelled to control the healing of your partner and relationship after discovering that they cheated?  Even if the relationship ends, we still want to control them. Why do we do this?

Do you want to control your betrayal pain by controlling your partner?

 I know that I struggled with how do I control my cheating partner. In truth, I wanted to control what they did and what they said.  Yet want I really wanted was to control my betrayal pain. Being cheated on is one of the most painful experiences to suffer. So wanting to control our partner or ex-partner after they cheat is a normal response. Yet sadly, we soon discover that no matter how much we attempt to control them, it doesn't work.

The other day as I was cleaning my office workspace, I discovered the following quote written on a scrap of paper.

"If someone shows you who they are, don't try to repaint them."

This quote took me back to the days after infidelity when I tried to control my pain by controlling my partner. I did that by trying to paint them into the picture I wanted. Today I want to share the journey I took to let go of managing my betrayal pain by controlling them and how I learned to keep the focus on me. After being cheated on, letting go of repainting them was an important step in my healing.

"I am only in control of myself. I cannot control my partner, and they can't control me either."

We always hear that we are only in control of ourselves. Yet knowing this truth and doing it are two different things, especially after discovering our partner cheated. But at the end of the day, focusing on ourselves frees us from trying to control them. It's hard to let go of trying to control their actions and healing after they have cheated. Somehow, just like the quote above says, we need to find a way to keep our paintbrushes away from our unfaithful partners and on our paintings. We control ourselves by focusing on our canvases, not theirs!

I know you are in pain, and it's natural to feel that if you control your partner, you will control your pain due to their cheating. Sadly, it doesn't work and can take away from what you both truly need to heal.

Suppose you take responsibility for your partner or ex-partner by attempting to control their behavior or healing. In that case, you risk robbing them of building the character to become responsible for themselves. It limits their ability to be the partner and/or parent they want to be. We just mess up their life picture with the colors we think they should use, and they ultimately resent us for doing it. Attempting to repaint our partners instead of letting them learn to paint for themselves undermines their growth and ability to learn from their mistakes.

My unfaithful partner has a sixth sense when it comes to control; he smells it a mile away. And while my controlling actions or motives came with the best intentions, like to reduce our collective pain, it just created more shame in him. I sent my partner the message that he was not doing it right and was not enough. Then I was shocked by him getting overcome with shame triggers and acting wild or withdrawing himself from me! My partner and I were negatively impacted when I attempted to control or repaint him.

If we want to say anything about a situation, it's best to keep it all about ourselves. 

We all know that to be relational, we need to use 'I statements' and to keep things about ourselves. But it is so hard when we're triggered not to control our cheating partners. We tell them their faults, what they must do, and how to do it.

Infidelity, that great, big, ugly life reset button, eventually taught me to focus on myself. Not immediately, because initially, I felt justified to give in to venting all over my partner, pointing out how they were wrong or what they should do. And I had many false starts before 'I statements' became a better way of communicating with my partner.

My need to control hurt us both.

It finally sunk in one night during dinner as I felt myself becoming thoroughly triggered by my partner's thoughtless comment on something. (I can't remember what! But they suffer from foot'n'mouth disease, especially when walking on eggshells to please me or dancing around their shame!)

I knew I wanted to handle this differently because I couldn't control my pain by controlling them. So I chose not to share how triggered I was by the comment immediately. Instead, I did my healing work about why I was triggered. I felt and processed my pain and saw parts of myself that wanted healing. I kept it all about me and didn’t let myself make it about my partner!

Later that night, I returned to my partner and stated, "Tonight at dinner, I let my insecurities get the best of me." That statement was true for me, and it felt very vulnerable instead of controlling. A prideful part of me thought my partner would laugh at me or be sarcastic and shame me. I sat with those feelings too!

But my statement was honest and free from control, resentment, or judgment. I had no attachments, no expectations, and I kept it about me. It felt good to talk about my pain this way. It was authentic and, dare I say it, grown-up even!

I used to hate the term, put on your big girl panties! Now it seems I have an entire drawer full of many colors too! Letting go of controlling my cheating partner was like putting on my big girl panties. It wasn't fun, but it was practical and did the job!

Letting go of controlling my cheating partner took time and practice.

Initially, I needed to leave the room after making an "I statement" to my partner, so I wasn't tempted to add more... and more... until I had worked myself into an argument with them and attempted to control them again. Leaving the room was a way I kept myself safe and was a powerful self-care tool.

Now I can sit with my silence after dropping my truth; it just slips out naturally these days without me needing to leave the room. But it took time, practice, and consistent self-care to get to this place. And it's a comfortable place to rest now. It's relational. I don't want to repaint them anymore. Instead, I'm sharing my picture and giving them space to see it. When I am not controlling, it also allows them to share their picture with me.

At first, it was tough to be silent or to walk away, especially when it looked like my partner wasn't doing anything with what I said. But it was a far healthier way because it left them to take responsibility for themselves and their healing. In truth, I didn't know what was happening inside my partner when I left the room. How could I? I'm not able to read minds. Therefore, I had to stop guessing or allowing my insecurities to run amuck. I let go of the controlling dialogue in my head and used my self-care instead.

It was more important that I focused on my issues and paint myself into the life I wanted to live.

When I stopped trying to control our healing and focused on self-care, I discovered that I was coloring my life with self-respect. The impact of that self-respect extended beyond me in the form of beginning to feel some respect toward my partner. Respecting their space and allowing them to be the color and "hue" who they were! Self-respect is a powerful color; we both need it in our lives.

Yes, they had painted outside the lines when they cheated, and now their picture looked different from what I wanted it to be. But it was their picture, and it was unfinished. My partner had their life journey to paint, and I needed to give them the space to do it. Healing myself with self-care from their unfaithful actions was my job to focus on.

We can't control or heal our partner's flaws or fix their issues; that's their job. 

Yet we can support our partners if they ask for support, so long as it doesn't cross our personal boundaries. We can express how we feel without pointing our fingers with blame or shame at them by keeping our thoughts and words about ourselves. It takes time and self-care to learn what we need to heal from. Trying to control or heal our partner distracts us from our healing and keeps us focused on the wrong things, things we can't control.

So how do we control our cheating partners? We don't. To heal the pain of their cheating, we withdraw our paintbrushes from their canvas...and paint our own masterpieces in life instead! Maybe our picture won't be filled with magical rainbows, or perhaps it will! But it will be our own!

I don't believe a woman is more beautiful than when she lives her own picture, being everything she's created to be and loving her life! Unashamed, authentic, and free! Getting cheated on resets everything in our lives. With all the work it takes to heal betrayal pain, let's focus all our energy on that rather than wasting our time trying to control or repaint our partners' lives. They cheated, and it is on them to heal their broken bits. We have enough work by painting our lives with the things we love in our pictures.

Life is about change, sometimes it's painful, sometimes it's beautiful, but most of the time it's both!

Today is a good day to look after yourself by letting go of the burden of trying to fix your partner's picture. Why? Because we never could control our partner, and they proved that when they cheated on us. If you want more support on letting go of controlling your partner or help with your healing journey, please accept my gift of a free call with me.

After experiencing the healing benefits of self-care in my own life, and the lives of the other betrayed wives I shared the self-care techniques with, I created an 18-week Self Care After Infidelity Course. The course is designed to give you, as a betrayed wife, more support, love, and care as you travel through this painful healing journey after being cheated on.

Self-care is the correct use of control. It is controlling the only person we can control, ourselves. When we feel in control of ourselves, we lose our need to control others.

You know you are worth the effort it takes to heal! Learn to paint your own life as a masterpiece through self-care.

Much love,

You may also find these helpful:

How to Feel Safe After Being Cheated On: A Betrayed Wife’s Guide
The Crazy Things We Do After Being Cheated On Checklist
Infidelity Grief: Surviving the Trauma of Betrayal and the Loss of Innocence
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About the Author

I am a certified life coach and relationship facilitator with a passion for supporting women who have been impacted by infidelity. Drawing on my personal experiences and deep insights, I am dedicated to helping my clients heal from the trauma of betrayal and reclaim their lives.

Through one-on-one coaching, I am committed to providing a safe, supportive space for women to process their emotions and move forward after infidelity. You can find me in my vegetable garden or taking long walks in nature with my dog when I'm not working. Read more about  the betrayed wife's personal infidelity story...