Should You Forgive A Cheater?

by Kahlia Meeuwsen, Relationships Columnist


Published in Relationships on 23rd August, 2018


Unfortunately, cheating is one of the more common serious problems that can occur in romantic relationships. On top of that, it can be so hard to decide whether or not you should forgive your partner for cheating. There are so many variables and feelings worth considering before making a decision.

should you forgive a cheater

When you're considering your options, there are some questions that it's incredibly important to think about with regard to your unique situation. Few things in a relationship are black and white, and that includes cheating. Consequently, thinking about how these questions apply to your circumstances is an excellent idea.

When Does Cheating Happen?

There are plenty of reasons why cheating can happen. The simplest is that the partner who did the cheating just has low impulse control, lack of loyalty or respect for their partner, or simply don't value the relationship. In this instance, it's typically far better to break away than to try to change the person.

when does cheating happen

However, there are other situations that can lead to cheating. Relationship issues such as a lack of intimacy, dead bedrooms and partners drifting apart can lead to this issue. If one partner is feeling like they aren't getting what they need from the relationship, they may result to satisfying their needs with another person.

While it's a poor way to handle the situation, in some cases the partner may feel like it's their only choice. They may not want to leave the relationship, but also need more intimacy than they're getting. However, this doesn't mean it's the non-cheating partner's fault entirely.

Why Did They Do It?

If your partner cheats, one of the most important aspects is knowing why they did it. In many cases, this is the first thing to learn before you can make the decision about whether or not to leave the relationship.

There are many cases in which the partner who has been cheated on doesn't care to know the reasons why, and may simply leave as soon as they find out. Because cheating is such a large breach of trust, that partner has every right to do so for the sake of their own emotional health.

However, if you want to know the reasons, then they can be helpful in clarifying exactly what situation you're dealing with. If it's due to intimacy problems in the relationship, you can then choose to seek out some help, while if it's due to a lack of value for your relationship, you'll know clearly that it's time to leave.

What Was The Frequency?

Another important factor is to consider how many times the cheating happened, and for how long. This gives you an idea as to whether it was a single slip-up or a longer-term choice that the cheating partner is making.

how to spot a cheater

If it was a one time thing, there's more of a chance that the relationship can heal from the experience. When one partner feels trapped, it may be an impulse that comes on suddenly and is immediately followed by intense regret. In these instances, some relationship counseling may be able to help.

That said, if it's something that has gone on for months or longer, or involves multiple people then the chance that the cheating partner doesn't care much about your relationship is much higher. As a result, it's worth knowing this variable so that you can determine how dedicated your partner is to the relationship.

How Did The Cheater React?

When you're dealing with a partner who has cheated, it's important to consider how the cheater reacted to you finding out. This can give you a good idea about whether or not they regret the decision, or are more concerned about being caught than about hurting you.

If you find out because your partner tells you they cheated, it's a good sign that they feel guilty about it. This is compounded if they tell you not long after it happened, or appear to be very upset with themselves about what they've done.

However, if you find out through other means then there's a good chance they don't feel bad enough about it to tell you themselves. They may be more concerned about hiding it than about the pain it causes you. It's important to keep a close eye on their reactions to determine how they may feel about the situation.

What Does Forgiveness Mean?

Before you decide to forgive someone, for any reason, it's important to know what forgiveness really means. It doesn't mean that you'll "let it slide" or "forget it happened". It most certainly doesn't mean that everything is better because you decided to forgive the person.

a cheater

What it does mean is that the relationship can be healed, given that both sides put the required effort into rebuilding the relationship. It also means that in time, you'll be able to let go of resentment towards your partner for the mistake they made.

Remember that you don't owe them forgiveness. You also don't have to stay with that person as a requirement for forgiving them. Forgiveness is for yourself and your feelings. It isn't a way to allow the cheating partner to release their guilt or condone their behavior in any way. Consider your mental health first.

How Can It Help?

If you refuse to forgive the other person, it can allow resentment and anger to brew within your own psyche. This can become exhausting and it can keep you from living your life to the fullest extent. It's normal to be angry at someone for cheating, but letting it go on forever is unhealthy.

Once you let go of the resentment toward that cheating partner, you'll have an easier time allowing yourself to trust someone in a relationship again. Even if you have chosen to move on from the relationship, it can keep you from getting stuck in a thought process that everyone will cheat.

Finally, the anger and resentment can build up and cause you stress. Over time, that stress can effect how well your body functions as well as how you feel. Letting go of those negative feelings will allow you to live a happier, healthier and more relaxed life.

How Do You Feel?

This is the most important aspect to consider. After all, it's your relationship. It's extremely important that the relationship you're in is one that makes you feel loved, respected and supported. If a cheating partner doesn't make you feel that way, you have every right to leave.

forgive a cheater

Even if the relationship seems like it could be saved on a logical level, you don't have to stay in it. If you feel that you aren't going to be able to get past even a single instance of cheating, then you don't have to. If you aren't happy in your relationship for any reason, you have every right to end it.

On the other end of the spectrum, you don't have to leave a relationship if you don't want to. In the situation where cheating is the issue, it's often much more healthy to end the relationship than to stay. However, there are exceptions to both sides.

Is It A Positive Relationship Otherwise?

Think about the relationship as a whole. Does your partner treat you well, respect you and make you feel loved? Generally speaking, is one instance of cheating the worst thing your partner has done? In this case, it may be possible to heal the situation.

However, if it feels like one of many issues in the relationship then it may not be worth staying with that person. Each person deserves to be treated as an equal, and as a human being in their relationships. If you are disrespected, abused or otherwise unhappy, it may be best to move on.

What Does Starting Over Look Like?

As mentioned earlier, forgiving a partner doesn't mean that everything is fine. It can often require serious work to bring the relationship back to a healthy, happy place. This may include marriage or couples counseling and months or even years of effort on both sides.

Healing from such a painful mistake can be a difficult process. An apology often isn't enough, and the slate may never be fully cleaned. However, it is possible. It requires both partners to focus deeply on how much they value the relationship and their partner, and really put the effort in.

Should You Forgive Them?

Overall, whether or not you choose to forgive a cheater is completely up to you. Thinking about the variables listed here is just a start to help you get an idea of what you want to do. Make sure to consider each aspect carefully, and make the choice that feels right to you.

Another helpful tactic can be to seek out therapy for yourself while you make the decision. It's perfectly okay to ask for some space from your partner while you decide your own feelings. Just take it one step at a time and make sure to place the primary focus on your needs.

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