If you ask eagle-eyed social media followers and Kardashian fans, Khloe Kardashian's two very significant Twitter “likes” all-but-confirmed the rumours that Tristan Thompson cheated on her with Kylie Jenner’s best friend Jordyn Woods. (Not to mention that Khloe Kardashian removed all of her photos with Thompson from Instagram, Kim Kardashian unfollowed both Thompson and Woods, Woods is rumoured to be moving out of Kylie Jenner’s house, and the Kylie Lip Kit named after Woods just went on sale.)
Khloe Kardashian is going through a tough time, if the quotes she shared on her Instagram Stories are any indication. And that’s understandable. Discovering that a partner has cheated on you is always difficult experience to go through — especially if your partner cheated with someone close to you.
When the infidelity is a shock — as it appears to be for Kardashian — your brain immediately goes into “a state of primal panic” or “survival mode,”says Amy Chan, founder of Renew Breakup Bootcamp. “Even though it’s infidelity, it’s not a tiger coming to kill you, your body is still processing it as danger and rejection,” she explains. “Not only are you feeling mental pain, you’re also feeling physical pain, because the same part of your brain is activated."
And yes, the pain will be worse if your partner cheated with someone close to you. If the rumours are true, Kardashian is dealing with betrayal not only from Thompson, but also from Woods, who has been Kylie Jenner’s best friend since middle school and is close to the entire Kardashian-Jenner family. “You’re dealing with betrayal now with two swords. One is the jab from your partner, and one is the jab of someone that you trust,” Chan says. “There’s going to be a double whammy of healing that needs to be done."
People who struggle with self-worth, the fear of abandonment, or have an anxious attachment style — meaning they tie a lot of their identity to their relationship — may also experience a greater hit to their self-esteem after being cheated on. “Not only are they mourning their relationship and the betrayal, they’re also enduring the pain of believing that ... they’re not good enough or [the belief that] they’re going to be abandoned is confirmed,” Chan explains.
One of the hardest things about experiencing infidelity, Chan says, is that the person you would usually go to for comfort is now the person who is causing you pain. She compares the desire for dopamine and oxytocin — the ”feel-good” and bonding chemicals that are released when you’re with your partner — to an addiction. As a result, Chan recommends a period of no contact. “If Khloe was a client of mine, I would tell her to at least commit to 30 days of complete no contact and really cut off everything,” she says. “Get rid of any reminders, stop looking at text messages, block their phone number so you’re not wondering, Are they texting me or are they not texting me?”
During this period of no-contact, it’s important to replace these harmful behaviours with self-care activities. “Instead of checking his social media, you go, Okay, right now my brain is craving a feel-good chemical, how can I get this another way? I know, I can connect with my girlfriend and go for a walk, or I can write down three things I’m grateful for," Chan says. “There’s all these things you can do for self-care to get your dopamine in a healthier way.”
If you’re not able to go completely no-contact, Chan recommends keeping communication brief. “I would limit the contact to only the things you need to do together in terms of co-existing for the children, or whatever logistical things that need to be done,” she says. “But what you don’t want to do is continuously go to that person as a source of comfort or a source of drama."
After some time has passed and you're moving out of "survival mode," Chan recommends a period of reflection in which you consider both your dating history and how you will approach your next relationship. Chan says she suggests her clients look back their relationships “with an investigator hat rather than a victim hat,” and in doing so, ask, “Why did I choose this person? Why did I stay in the relationship? Why did I lose my power? Why did I over-give?" Often, Chan says, ending the relationship is the catalyst you need to make other changes in your life.
But is breaking up the only healthy way forward? Chan says no, but if you do decide to stay together — or break up and then get back together, as Kardashian and Thompson did the last time cheating rumours swirled — the relationship needs to change drastically. Moving forward in a healthy way is possible only “if the two people are on the same page of wanting to invest the commitment to work it out,” Chan says. “Infidelity is not the end all of the relationship. It could be the opportunity for chapter two of the relationship.”
That said, sometimes breaking up really is the best response, and if Kardashian does decide to end the relationship, the Bachelorette is waiting.