Should You Forgive a Cheater? How & What To Do Before Making Your Choice

Do you think you could forgive a cheater? It’s a personal deal that falls down to the individual. But, it’s possible to forgive with a lot of hard work. 

forgive a cheating partner

Firstly, let’s get this out of the way – there’s absolutely no excuse for cheating. If a partner cheats on you, you have every right to walk away if you choose to. But, if you choose to try and forgive a cheater, know that it is possible with a lot of work and understanding on both sides.

The circumstances around an episode of cheating can vary from person to person. While you often hear the phrase, “once a cheater, always a cheater,” there’s no way to know if that’s true. You also have no idea how you’ll really react to being cheated on unless it happens to you.

If you’ve been cheated on and you’re unsure what to do, take some time to consider things carefully. Learning to forgive a cheater is a long road, but it can be done if that’s the route you choose. [Read: 18 ingenious ways to catch a potential cheating partner in the act!]

A big betrayal of trust

An affair tears your world apart. And there’s no nicer way to put this across. No matter what you do or how you choose to look at it, it’s a fact that will never be forgotten. You can choose to overcome it but it will always be in the back of your mind.

In every relationship that involves a cheating partner, the affair is the elephant in the room. You don’t talk about it, but it always makes its presence felt behind awkward pauses and painful stares.

An affair takes several months, and often, several years to heal. And yet, the scar never fades.

That’s the most important truth you need to know about deciding to forgive a cheater. [Read: 16 signs to know if your partner is cheating on you]

Do you want to walk away?

The very moment you find out that your partner is cheating on you or has cheated on you, every cell in your body tells you to walk away for good. And you know what, that’s the best thing you can do. After all, the one person you trusted blindly with your life has just tossed your love, respect and trust into the garbage, by cheating on you.

But once the maddening rush of adrenalin and rage calms, let’s try to think again. Do you really want to end it all and walk away, especially with the history you share? Could you harden your heart and watch your partner groveling on their knees, begging you to forgive them, without giving them a second chance? [Read: Why do men cheat? – 3 really big reasons and 27 more!]

It’s always easier to assume you know what the right thing to do is, until you’re forced to experience it yourself.

If you can walk away from a cheating partner, that’s the strongest and the safest thing you can do. But on the other hand, if your mind tells you to leave the relationship, but your heart wants to forgive your lover in the hope that they’d never hurt you again, well, read on. [Read: 25 truthful reasons why women cheat so damn easily!]

Can a cheating partner change for the better?

Humans are one of the few species that can learn through others’ experiences and judge right from wrong without having to experiencing something themselves.

If a person wants to cheat on their husband or wife, or their boyfriend or girlfriend, why get into a relationship in the first place, you may ask. But that’s the problem with being human.

We always question ourselves over every decision we take, even after we take them. And to make things worse, humans suffer from the annoying addiction of always wondering if there’s something better out there. [Read: The truth about true love and promiscuous love in today’s world]

Before you start wondering should you forgive a cheater, it’s important to question whether they’re able to change their ways. Was it a one-off or something more prolonged? Do you think they’ll ever succumb to the temptation again?

The bottom line is you’ll never truly know for sure, but you should listen to your gut on this one. Yes, people do make mistakes and perhaps it was something your partner regrets completely. But, some people are serial cheaters who cannot be trusted.

So, while a cheater can change because they regret their actions, some people never will. That doesn’t make deciding should you forgive a cheater any easier, but it’s the painful truth of an even more painful situation. [Read: Dealing with heartbreak – 18 steps to do it the right way]

Should you forgive a cheater?

We know you want us to give you a firm yes or no on this, but it’s simply not possible. There are so many variables at play in regard to cheating, only you can assess the situation and follow your heart. But, we can give you some guidance.

Before you make your decision, follow these steps. [Read: 6 tips to react better to a confession without losing your cool]

1. Take some time for yourself

The first thing you need to do is to breathe and center yourself. You will not be able to get any of that done if every glance at your spouse makes you want to fly into an unholy rage.

Pack an overnight bag and stay with someone you can trust. Be it with a friend or family member, make your way to a calm and safe haven. Check into a hotel if you have to, just do not stay put and fight it out.

If you cannot control yourself, then go right ahead and fly off the handle, but ensure that you leave right after. You need to reflect on everything that has happened and to decide on what you want to do next.

Yelling and fighting is not going to change anything, and as much as you may be itching to hash it all out there and then, save it for some other time. [Read: Reasons it’s okay to take a relationship break]

2. Reflect on the relationship

Once you are away from your spouse, spend as much time as you need to reflect on your relationship. Clear your mind and focus on what happened.

You also need to think about how you feel about your spouse. Will you be able to forgive? Do you want to forget? Are you both willing to undergo couple’s therapy? Weigh the pros and cons of staying and going.

Once you’ve more or less planned what’s going to happen next, you will find that you’ll feel a little more secure about the future. Being cheated on can feel like the floor has shattered beneath you. Reflecting on your relationship allows you to gain a foothold and get back up. [Read: 3 big steps to building trust in a relationship]

3. Never place blame

Of course, it’s easy to blame the cheater, but at the end of the day, was your relationship so rocky to the point that it was inevitable that someone was bound to stray?

Whatever happens, never ever blame yourself. Even if your relationship was a tumultuous one, it is no excuse for cheating. It was your partner’s fault for not coming to you first and trying to work it out. Your spouse was the one who could not resist temptation and chose to do it.

You did not push them into the arms of another. [Read: Playing victim – 13 signs and reasons why it makes your life way worse]

4. Accept how you feel

You’re going to feel pretty battered and bruised emotionally for a while and that’s normal. Accept how you feel and allow yourself to go through the grieving process. Because that’s really what it is – you’re grieving the fact that your partner has betrayed you in the worst possible way.

Don’t be tempted to push your feelings to one side, you have to accept them and understand them in order to move on, no matter what your choice is. [Read: Achieving self-acceptance – 10 little steps for one big change]

5. Talk it out

Once you have had time to calm down, sit down with your partner and have an honest conversation. If you can, do it on neutral ground. A public yet quiet place like a park or a coffee shop would be ideal. This will prevent both of you from making a scene.

Discussing what happened is the best way to move on. Before the meeting, gather all the information you have, and keep in mind all the questions you want to ask.

You also have to remember to read between the lines. You should know your spouse better than anyone else, so you’ll be able to tell if they’re lying. If you sense something is off, press harder and you will get the information you need.

You also have to discuss their reasons for cheating. This allows you to pinpoint where your relationship took a turn for the worse. This may lead you towards finding a solution for your problems. [Read: How to communicate in a relationship – 16 steps to a better love]

6. Don’t become obsessed with the details

It is natural to want to know everything such as where this person is from, what they look like to what your partner liked about this person, and so on. But, remember that the less you know, the better it is for you.

Keep this person on the outside and try not to personalize or connect with them. Also, never ever compare yourself with this person. There is no reason why you should feel bad about the way you look, dress and feel. [Read: 25 most common reasons why women cheat]

7. Think of those who are affected

Obviously if you have kids, they should be the ones you think about first. Worrying about how it is going to affect them should you break up with your spouse is normal. Worrying about how it is going to affect them should you stay with your spouse and be unhappy is also normal.

When deciding whether to stay or go, your children are the main priority.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to how both of you are going to get over this hurdle and what sort of setup you will have for your kids. As hard as this is, staying or leaving should only be determined once you figure the pros and cons out together. [Read: Child of a narcissist – 16 lasting effects you just can’t ignore]

8. Ask yourself if you can live with it

Something else think about is whether you have the capacity to forgive your partner for cheating. If you decide that you can live with it, then you have to realize that rebuilding the trust is not going to happen overnight.

Some people still struggle with it years later. If you know that forgiving and forgetting is not in the cards, then leave now and do not prolong it. [Read: How to rebuild broken trust in a relationship]

9. Prepare for change

The final thing that you have to do when deciding whether to stay or go is to prepare for change. No matter what you decide, things will be different.

Whether you are going to move out and have to adjust to the change of living somewhere new, or if you stay and have to prepare for a strenuous time rebuilding the trust, expect change to happen. The silver lining is that you know it is going to happen so you can prepare yourself for it. [Read: Should you ever forgive a cheating partner?]

10. Don’t play the revenge game

it’s very easy to think that getting even will make you feel better. It won’t. Don’t stoop down to their level.

Revenge never works out well and only complicates waters that are already extremely muddy. Instead, focus on yourself and work through the situation, taking all the time you need. [Read: When people hurt you – How to deal with the pain and respond to them]

11. 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. [Read: Serial cheat code – 9 reasons why cheaters can’t help themselves]

12. Are they showing remorse or regret?

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]

13. 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]

14. 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]

15. Are they emotionally involved with the person 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]

16. Are they blaming you for their actions?

It’s vital that your partner takes responsibility for their actions. If they start to turn things around and blame you for their actions, it’s time to show them the door.

A person who is truly sorry and remorseful will show you via their actions. They won’t try and deflect the blame and shrug it off. They need to accept what they’ve done, understand the consequences and be willing to work on themselves to earn your forgiveness and trust.

17. Take it slow if you choose to forgive a cheater

If you choose to forgive a cheating partner, you have to understand that it’s a process that takes time. You need to take thing step by step and don’t assume things are going to feel anywhere normal for a while.

You might even feel like you’re playing a part for a while. All of this is normal, but after an amount of time has passed (varying between couples), things should start to feel more comfortable again. [Read: Alone time – Why you need it, how it helps and how to make the most of it]

18. Seek help if necessary

It may be that you and your partner need to seek professional relationship therapy to overcome the cheating episode. In that case, do it. Couple’s therapy is a very worthwhile and effective route and may give you the tools you need to work through your issues.

It’s also very likely that you’ll need to rely upon friends and family for your own emotional stability at this time. Don’t be afraid to talk about how you feel – it’s the only way you’re going to overcome what you’re going through. [Read: Relationship counseling – 10 signs you need it to save your love]

19. If you’re going to forgive a cheater, you cannot hold grudges

It’s vital that if you choose to learn how to forgive a cheater, you leave the episode where it is – in the past. You cannot drag it up in the middle of an argument in the future and throw it back at your partner.

You’ve chosen to forgive and that means moving on. Yes, they made a huge mistake, but if you’re going to try and work on your relationship, it’s vital that you do not hold a grudge.

20. Work through the insecurity and learn to love yourself

When a partner cheats, it’s always going to make the other person feel insecure. They’re going to wonder what they lack and what caused their partner to cheat.

Do not allow these thoughts to occupy your mind. You have to work through your insecurities and know that you did nothing wrong. Love yourself and everything will fall into place. [Read: Sense of self – 26 steps to raise it and feel like a million bucks]

21. Rebuilding trust takes time

You’re going to have niggling doubts occasionally and that’s because it takes time to repair broken trust. Just as we said you have to avoid holding grudges, you also have to avoid holding onto broken trust too.

As terrifying as it is, you have to blindly trust that your partner means what they say, if you choose to take them back. You cannot follow them around and watch them all the time. You’ll drive yourself crazy if you hang on to trust issues.

Know that it takes time and trust the process. [Read: How to face relationship challenges and overcome them as a couple]

The ‘what if’ will always exist

When a partner cheats, it sends you into a spiral and a world of ‘what ifs’ occupy your mind. Don’t assume that by choosing to forgive a cheater, that’s not going to happen. It will and it will be there for a while.

For a short while you’re always going to worry that they might cheat again. They may. They may not. But you have to make your decision based on the information you have before you and the points we’ve talked about above.

You shouldn’t forgive a cheater if you believe they’re going to cheat again, but it’s rarely that cut and dried. If you feel like you deserve better, they’re always blaming you for their cheating, or you’re always reminded of the cheating episode, it’s not worth trying again.

But, if you feel things may get back to some semblance of normal in the future, and perhaps bring you closer, then by all means, give it a try. [Read: The right way to end an affair and get over it together]

Should you forgive a cheater? The final decision is yours

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.

[Read: 14 very effective ways to survive infidelity without tearing apart]

It’s always hard to trust someone who betrayed you and broke your heart. But if you choose to forgive a cheating partner and want to give them another chance, make sure it’s the last chance you’ll ever give them in their lifetime!

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Sophia Strutt
Sophia Strutt loves staring into the mirror, not because she’s a narcissist but because the mirror is the one thing she can rely on to smile back at her, even...
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