The pain of cheating is not due to the liaison itself, but broken trust. Can you forgive a partner who has cheated on you? We’ll show you how.
Few things compare to the deep, searing pain of betrayal. When you catch someone you love cheating on you, your whole world bursts into pieces. That nice, warm, safe haven you have built together, out of love, seems to turn into a big lie, and you are left wondering where you went wrong. Deeply hurt, broken, and even traumatized, you may find it hard to figure out what to do with the relationship and your life.
Should you forgive a cheater? Should you trust that person again, even after they have lied, connived, deceived, and manipulated to hide their infidelity throughout the course of the relationship? Does that person deserve a second chance? What if you have fears, yet you still love the person? What if they do it all again?
These are all hard questions. Should you decide to stay together, the relationship will never be the same. Underneath all the questions, uncertainty, and confusion, there’s only one question that is crucial in allowing you to move on, with or without the person: how can you forgive a cheater?
Below, we give a guide that will tell you if it’s really worth forgiving your partner after cheating on you. Answer these questions for yourself to find out if your partner deserves forgiveness and a second chance.
Do they deserve a second chance?
#1 Why did they cheat? Some people cheat due to a certain vagueness in their relationship. Perhaps something has changed, and they don’t know how to define the relationship anymore. Others may stray because of a lull in a relationship—especially once the honeymoon phase is over. They may look for other people to shake things up a bit, just to feel that they are still attractive. They may also cheat because they are filling a void in the relationship, such as an inadequate or unfulfilling sex life, or even emotional disconnection. [Read: The reason behind why people in happy relationships cheat]
#2 Have they cheated in the past? Some people develop bad habits just because they’ve found they can get away with them. It is easier to forgive a one-time cheating incident than a string of affairs—or worse, a serious, long-term affair. If someone is repeatedly cheating on you over the course of your relationship, chances are they will continue to do it over and over, taking advantage of your emotional leniency and—maybe—your gullibility.
#3 Did they show remorse or regret? You, of all people, know your partner. If they sincerely regret what they did, you would know it. Are they remorseful about what they have done and are they trying hard to earn your trust again or get you back? Take their actions and reactions into consideration. Are they completely erasing the other person from their lives, or do they still communicate? Are they willing to patiently and openly answer your questions, just to give you assurance and peace of mind?
Some cheaters tend to only be sorry for being caught and not for hurting their partner. They should, in fact, be more miserable about hurting you than you are and, beyond their words, their actions should convey genuine remorse and misery. [Read: 8 sure things you have to do before forgiving a cheater]
#4 Are they blaming you for cheating and are you blaming yourself? Being cheated on can be a big blow to your ego and self-confidence. Often, one of the initial reactions of a victim of cheating is self-blame. You may think that you may have done something wrong, have shortcomings in the relationship, are not spending enough time with your partner, are not being emotionally available to your partner, are not being more in tune with their sexual needs, or are not attractive enough.
Your partner may then feed off this self-blame and continue putting salt on your wound by blaming you for their actions. If this is the case, then simply walk out the door. Your partner is responsible for their actions, and blaming you will only justify what they have done. [Read: 8 strong ways to confront a cheater who plays the victim card]
#5 What if it happens again? Are you sure that your partner will not cheat on you again? What are they doing to assure you that, this time, they’ll be loyal and it’s just going to be you? If things don’t change in your relationship, it is going to be more likely that your partner may cheat again, as having an affair can be a sign of an underlying problem in the relationship—or your partner. However, it takes two to tango, so if your partner is intent on being true and making the relationship better, then they should be doing their part, and so should you. [Read: The step-by-step path to ending an affair and getting over it completely]
#6 How was your relationship when you found out? How was the aftermath? Are the two of you embittered? Are you both miserable? Is your relationship worse, as you always remind them of their cheating behavior in every fight, big or small? You can look at this as a wake-up call to make your relationship better, or as a red flag to finally throw in the towel—it’s all up to you.
Finding out about an affair can make it hard for you to look at your relationship and the other person the same way. It’s going to be hard to trust in and be secure about the relationship again, and this can take a great toll on the relationship. However, if they are able to change their ways and win you back, while you also come to terms and accept the situation, then it’s more likely that you can eventually come to forgive your partner.
#7 Do you seriously think things can go back to the way they were? Having delusions and fake security in your relationship prior to finding out about cheating can be hard enough. If you continue to think that the relationship can go back to the way it was, it’s time for a reality check. Harboring false hope and expectations about your loved ones can bring in more heartbreak for you, if they come up short of your idea of “happily ever after.”
If your partner is promising you that things will be back to the way they were, but is apparently all about lip service, then this is also a problem. To be able to wholly forgive a cheater, you must be able to realistically look at the situation and acknowledge that they may cheat again, or that the relationship could go downhill. [Read: 9 practical ways to rebuild trust in the relationship after you’ve cheated]
#8 Is the cheating partner emotionally involved with the one they cheated with? It’s one thing to have a momentary slip-up, and it’s another thing to be emotionally involved with someone. Before you even consider giving your partner another chance, find out if your partner is in love with or emotionally invested in the one they cheated with. After all, they may be considering leaving you for good while sleeping around with a third party. If this is the case, chances are, the relationship has already died a quiet death and you didn’t even know it. [Read: Emotional cheating and 10 bad things it can do to you]
To forgive someone who cheated, you have to be strong and brave enough to trust again. You must be able to get past the hurt, betrayal, humiliation, and anger to be able to have acceptance and compassion.
As you accept your partner into your life once again, you must exercise zero tolerance and lay down ground rules for your partner to work on and earn your trust again. Meanwhile, your partner must learn from their mistakes and deliver and commit to making amends, consistently and unequivocally.
Commitment entails that you choose the person you’re with over and over, even in the face of the greatest temptation. However, humans are imperfect and we make mistakes. It’s up to you to be the bigger person who forgives, or to see this as a way to finally say goodbye. Either way, ask yourself these questions before you forgive a cheater and take them back.
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Tiffany Grace Reyes
Tiffany is a wordsmith who has played with words ever since her letter-to-the-editor was published nationally at the age of 9. Since then her writing has gone f...