Whether you’ve been dating for three minutes or three years, getting cheated on is never something easy. Aside from probably ruining your relationship, your girl probably just blindsided you with a blow that didn’t just bruise your ego, but may have also left you with some baggage.

It’s not easy, it’s not fair, and you definitely don’t deserve it (no one does), but it happened.

So what do we do? It’s super easy for me to sit here and say, “Fuck it, burn the house down and get the fuck out of there,” but deep down, everyone knows that’s the wrong approach—and one that’s clouded by anger, jealousy and hurt. So instead, let’s talk about the practical approach. What is the best way to move forward and learn from being cheated on?

What not to do:
Before we get down to the nitty gritty of what you should do when you’ve been cheated on, let’s go through some of the common mistakes people make when they find out:

Don’t get angry or try to seek out a reason why it happened. Of course, me sitting here and saying things like, “Don’t get angry” is probably only going to make you angrier, but the truth is, nine times out of 10, when people cheat on their significant others, it’s because they have some issues of their own going on. You sitting there and trying to make it about you is only going to make it worse. Trying to figure out why she did what she did is going to drive you crazy, because you’ll likely come up empty-handed, or with a completely wrong reason.

Don’t do anything stupid. I shouldn’t have to say it, but I’m going to anyway because if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that my heart turns my brains into complete and utter shit from time to time. Don’t get violent with anyone, don’t try looking for the dude, don’t confront strangers, don’t jump off a bridge, don’t hit the bottle hard (that shit only works in the movies)—just don’t. She’s just a woman. There are over seven billion people on the planet, and at least half of them are women. You’ll find someone who doesn’t suck.

Don’t let it get the best of you. You’re a man. I’m not asking you to internalize everything that’s happening, but I am asking you to not let it affect your work, your personal relationships or your responsibilities. Show up for work, go to the gym, talk to your friends and try to be as normal as you can.

What to do:
Now that we have the hard stuff out of the way, let’s get down to the bottom of it:

Give yourself time to process everything. Hey, man, no need to play the tough guy bit here. You’re hurting, you’re confused, you’re upset—all of those things are OK to feel right now, and rather than running into it gun blazing, don’t be worried about having to take some time to step back from the situation and take care of yourself for a minute. Just take a quick breather before you get back in there and take care of business—whatever that business may be.

Understand that this likely had nothing to do with you. People cheat for all different reasons, and it’s never going to feel good or get easier for you. The only thing you can do is constantly remind yourself that this wasn’t your fault. By truly allowing yourself to understand that,  you’re shifting the blame from yourself to where it needs to be—on her.  This isn’t about your ego; it’s about your mental health. Don’t let this experience affect you more than it needs to.

Move on. Period. Relationships are complex, and it’s really tough bringing the brains and hearts of two people together in one equal space. For some relationships, the word “move on” means to break up and go separate ways. For others, “move on” means proceed together to work out the differences you’re having. It’s neither my place nor the place of any others to tell you how to proceed with your relationship. The important thing here is for you to be mature enough to know what you want, and whether or not that’s still attainable after these new circumstances.

If you decide to go, then leave. Say your goodbyes, don’t let her convince you otherwise, and roll. That one is simple.

If you decide to stay and work on things, proceed with caution, but try your best not to upset over it. Your relationship is going to be different now—at least for a while. You’re going to be suspicious, you’re going to feel a little insecure, you’re probably not going to trust her as well as you have before. The dumbest shit is probably going to set you off. But the idea here is that it’s understandable, and that you’re processing this the way you need to. The only thing you have to ask yourself is if you can move on without feeling anger and hate toward her all the time. If you can’t, then it’s probably best to walk away and look for something new.

Oh, and a quick note: I’m not saying you don’t already know the particulars, but make sure your facts are straight. Sit down and get the story directly from your partner, and make sure you know what happened. A lot of times our suppositions about certain situations and circumstances are wrong, especially when they’re fueled by emotions.

Photo: iStock/elenaleonova