Trying to forgive a cheater will challenge every part of your relationship. Rebuilding trust through honesty and commitment is possible, but difficult. Here are 8 steps to help.
Figuring out how to forgive a cheater can be one of the most difficult processes to go through in a relationship.
Many people live with a strict no-cheating policy.
In a lot of ways this makes things a lot easier. If your partner cheats – they’re out.
No questions, no hesitations, no looking back.
There are always cases, however, where the cheated partner really does want to make things work.
Maybe there’s enough of a positive history to justify working through the cheating. Maybe the ‘level’ of cheating was less severe (Facebook flirting vs. hotels and sex-toys).
Whatever the reason, forgiving a cheater is a long and complicated process, but there are 8 key areas to work through before you can heal.
1. Nothing is Given
Understand that your situation is your own, as are your reactions and choices. While this and other articles try to give helpful advice, there is no ‘right’ way to forgive a cheater.
You might have outrageous demands, wild bouts of crying, anger, depression, or any other response. You’re allowed to feel however you want, but at the end of the day you’ll have to decide if this relationship can be fixed, and if you even want it to be.
There is no right choice, and above all make sure you’re being true to yourself.
2. Fool Me Once
If you take your partner back after cheating, you are teaching them that, at least this time, that cheating was OK.
Unless you want this to happen again and again, the first thing you have to do is make it absolutely clear that this is the ONLY time this not destroy the relationship completely.
That’s why, in no uncertain terms, something along the lines of “If ANYTHING like this EVER happens again, we’re done.
No begging, no apologizing, no excuses, no anything, we’re done.”
You’re going to be demanding a lot from your cheating partner. One of the main things is full responsibility for whatever happened.
Don’t mistake guilt and apologizing – this just means they got caught and are embarrassed and want to forget everything.
Listen carefully for excuses. “It wasn’t my fault, it just happened, I drank too much”. Anything that deflects responsibility means your partner doesn’t understand the severity of their actions.
As well, someone who can’t control themselves against external circumstances can’t be expected to change right?
4. Fixing Faults
Often times with cheating there is a surrounding cause that helped facilitate the circumstances that allowed the cheating to happen. [Read – Why Do Men Cheat – Understanding Why Men Lie and Cheat]
If your partner spends a lot of time on Facebook and reconnects with an old fling, this can often lead to a reunion ‘for coffee’ that quickly turns romantic.
If one of you works late with a very helpful intern, this can quickly lead to ‘grabbing a quick drink to say thanks for the hard work’.
Make no mistake, these are not excuses for the cheating, but if your partner has a real or quasi addiction to Facebook, this is a problem aside from the cheating that has to be fixed.
If your partner drinks socially and often ends up doing things they normally wouldn’t (including cheating), then drinking is a problem they’ll have to solve.
As part of your forgiving your cheating partner, issues like this MUST be solved. If your partner denies completely that their behavior leading up to the cheating was a contributing factor, you should be very skeptical that things can be fixed.
5. Showing Commitment
There is no greater breach of trust than cheating, and a simple “sorry, it won’t happen again” is not enough.
For you to know that your partner is sincere, they should do SOMETHING to prove their ongoing commitment to you and your relationship. [Read – 6 Never-Failing Steps To Get Your Man To Commit]
Only you can judge what this is, and when it’s sufficient. Maybe it’s spending more time at home, starting some projects together, or anything else that helps re-establish your bond.
6. Honesty is the Best Policy
There is no question that you’re going to be hurt by your partner’s cheating. When forgiving a cheater, you can’t keep things bottled up or unspoken.
Make sure your partner knows how you feel hurt, betrayed, worthless, ugly, old, boring, or whatever it is you’re feeling.
Now is not the time to preserve feelings. This is a huge challenge for your relationship – you might as well lay everything out on the table.
7. Resentment Will Destroy You
One of the reasons honesty is so important when forgiving a cheater is what happens when things are left unsaid.
Resentment builds up if the cheated partner feels the cheater isn’t sorry enough, got off too easily, pretends it didn’t happen, makes excuses, or any other number of reasons.
If you find resentment building (probably slowly), there is something you haven’t dealt with properly and eventually you’ll reach a breaking point and the relationship will end then.
You’re already going through the difficult process of forgiving a cheater and rebuilding trust, there’s no point if things are going to crumble later on.
Pay close attention to your emotions. You have every right to be angry at what happened, but constant underlying resentment means there’s no trust, no respect, and no hope for the future.
8. Forgive and Forget(?)
Regardless of how you go through this process, forgiveness has to be the goal. Forgiving this kind of betrayal has to come with a ton of honesty on your part.
If you find yourself saying things like “it was just a mistake, he didn’t mean to, she was just angry, etc.”, you’re just making EXCUSES to avoid the real issues.
Forgiveness comes from a deeper place.
Forgiveness is saying –
You screwed up and almost ruined what we have together. I believe that you’ve taken responsibility and I’ve seen how you’re trying to rebuild my trust. I’ve seen you make changes in your behavior and I don’t hold any resentment towards you – even though what you did hurt me like crazy. I will NOT be able to forget what happened, and this is not about trying to ignore the past. But I believe in our future together and want to keep working towards that with you.
If you can say or think this with conviction and no hesitations, than you’ve truly forgiven a cheater and your relationship has a chance of succeeding.