Finding Forgiveness: Should You Forgive a Cheating Partner?

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Discovering your partner has been cheating on you can be a gutting experience. It can feel like you’ve had the wind knocked clean out of you before feelings of intense resentment kick in. Many times, we find that we blame ourselves in these tricky situations. If I had been more loving or available, maybe this wouldn’t be my reality. This is normal, and everyone responds to being cheated on differently. There is sadly no instruction manual that tells us what to do in these situations, how could there be? Everyone’s relationship is different and the right move for one person is not necessarily the correct one for the next.

But what happens after the fact? What are you supposed to do when the person you love betrays your trust in a potentially irreparable way? Do you take the scorched earth approach or err on the side of forgiveness?

Take Some Time To Process

It’s important to take a beat after discovering the heartbreaking revelation that a is partner stepping out on you. You will be hit with a wave of emotions that you cannot possibly predict. You may feel immediately enraged, you may feel stupid, blaming yourself. It’s possible that the grief and sadness over the crummy situation will register first. You have to let yourself process the information, and you do not need to make any huge decisions regarding your relationship until you’re ready. It is expected that you will be struck by overwhelming confusion about how to move forward and making life decisions in this state is not recommended.

This can be tricky, especially if you live with your cheating partner. If you’re under the same roof, it’s essential to get a little space from each other. You do not need to be sharing cold cuts or laundry detergent with the person who has just been caught cheating on you. Whether it’s you who leaves for several weeks or the cheater should be up to you. Maybe it’s time to capitalize on those PTO days that have been batting their eyes at you. Can you get some much-needed sunshine with friends? If this doesn’t apply to your situation either financially or because you have children who need you at home, it might be time to ask your partner to leave for a few weeks while you make up your mind.

Will They Change?

It’s important to ask yourself: is my cheating partner capable of changing? Once a cheater, always a cheater is not necessarily true. There are plenty of couples who have gone through a rough patch where one partner cheats and through therapy and rebuilding of trust, they have been able to restore their love with an even greater foundation. Sometimes conflict, though painful, is a recipe for regrowth in a romantic relationship.

If this is a repeated offense, however, you may be sharing your heart with a serial cheater. There are some individuals who are incapable of doing the work that is required to stop cheating. Sure, they likely come by this pathos honestly, but it doesn’t mean you have to stick around and take the abuse. A serial cheater is someone who habitually cheats on a partner, many are sex addicts, similarly to an alcoholic who struggles to “put the bottle down”, a sex addict may be incapable of change until they do some rigorous self-discovery and get to the root of their issue of needing this attention.

If you have reason to believe your partner is unable to change their cheating ways, you should plan an exit strategy quickly. The longer you linger in delusions that you’ll be the person who can make them change their ways, the harder it will be to get out. It’s normal to fantasize about being the person someone will change for, and it’s painful when we discover that this is simply not how the world works. But there is power in remembering your agency— you have more of this than perhaps you’re aware. Use it to your advantage and make the mature choice to not forgive a person who is a serial cheater.

Reclaiming Your Agency

You probably have more power in your relationship than you think. But using it might take getting comfortable with the notion of being alone, getting into therapy, talking honestly and openly to your friends, and addressing the root of your own trauma. You just might have some work to do on yourself, and that could include recognizing what you can do to create healthier relationships in the future.

There is no shame in getting cheated on, but there is something to be said for doing the work that aligns you with a stand-up partner for your next relationship.

Don’t Take All the Blame Yourself

This being said, it’s important to give yourself bucketloads of grace after you’ve been confronted by the earth-shattering realization that a partner has been unfaithful. For some people, our tendency is to blame ourselves for this subpar situation. Do not beat yourself up. Cheating is more common than you think, and it does not point to any inadequacies of your own.

If you are with a partner with whom you share a full life and a deep love, it may be worth considering sticking around after you discover they’ve cheated. Again, this is a deeply personal decision and not one that should be taken lightly. This may depend on several factors, like was this a one-time situation or a full-blown affair? It can be more difficult to forgive in the instance of an extended affair because the intimacy breached can feel too intense to overcome. A one-time thing is way different than an extended betrayal.

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If You Choose Forgiveness

If you decide to take the route of forgiveness, this is big of you. And, it is also important to remember that you need to actually forgive. Let it go, providing space for new memories to be made. There is no sense in staying in a relationship with someone if the resentment becomes too overwhelming. If you are unable to forgive, you would do best to cut this one loose. People make mistakes and do bad things, and these bad things don’t make them a bad person. It’s also an option to forgive your cheating partner and decide to move on, these are not mutually exclusive things, in fact, this is a powerful option. But to constantly beat your loved one up for their transgressions will not benefit either of you in the long run.

It doesn’t get more personal than figuring out how to proceed after discovering infidelity. In these cases, the most important thing to consider is how you will be able to live a fuller life— is it with your partner who has made a big mistake, or flying solo for a bit? Only you know the answer to this question but we wish you only grace in your process of making it.

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