Should you ever forgive a cheater? Can you? With your friends all telling you to throw the dude out, and your heart breaking, it’s hard to know the right thing to do. The right thing for you, of course; not for your cheating boyfriend, or your friends.
It’s easy just to say “never forgive a cheater”, but when it’s your relationship, it becomes more complicated. How important is it to you to try to save it? Did you have any suspicions about your boyfriend before you found out about his affair? Or did you think your relationship was happy? Were you already aware of having other problems?
First, The MOST Vital Question
Before you go any further, ask yourself one vital question. Did your relationship begin with cheating?
If it did, then the pattern is obvious. Your boyfriend is either incapable of monogamy, doesn’t believe it’s necessary, or else he’s the kind of man who likes to have his next girlfriend lined up before he dumps the current one – you.
You should also ask yourself why you thought you would be happy with a man you had every reason to know was a cheater.
Of course, there are relationships with begin with cheating for all sorts of reasons, but still go on to be happy. You weren’t inevitably doomed from the start. But when you see your boyfriend repeating a familiar pattern of behavior, you have to face up to some very harsh truths.
Unless you are already sure you want to end things, you will need to talk to your boyfriend before you can decide. To forgive a cheater is a lot to ask. You need to find out the truth about his affair, and you need to discuss your relationship.
Questions About His Affair
Finding out the intimate details of his affair may be painful, but there are things you need to know. You can’t see the picture clearly without knowing the when, how and why.
2. How long ago did it happen?
Finding out about an affair long after it was over isn’t the same as discovering one that is still in full spate. You can argue that cheating is still cheating, but you should consider the circumstances at the time.
Were you going through a rocky patch? Were you spending a lot of time apart? Has your relationship improved or deteriorated since? Or did it happen at a time when you thought you were happy?
It’s easier to forgive a cheater if it happened a long time ago, and your relationship wasn’t at its best at the time.
3. How long did it last? Or is it still going on?
If the affair is over, then at least you have a clear space in which to rebuild your relationship. But if you have discovered your boyfriend in flagrante, then a separation may be necessary, at least temporarily. You will need space in which to lick your wounds, and to think about what you want to do next.
A one-night stand is easier to forgive as it was probably opportunistic and didn’t involve emotions. It’s the ongoing secrets, lies and deceptions that make long-term affairs so destructive.
4. Has it happened before?
If this isn’t the first time your boyfriend has cheated, then you must either accept his tendency to stray, or end the relationship. You are very unlikely to reform a serial cheater.
If he insists he wants to change; then he will probably need professional help to resolve the issues that make him cheat. This is a good measure of his resolve, but you are taking a big risk by putting your trust in him again.
5. Is he in love with his new woman, or it is it just physical?
This is a crucial question. If he is in love with her; then she will be the primary focus of his thoughts and dreams, at least for the time being. Those feelings will probably lessen with time, but meanwhile you have put your sanity on the line while you wait for it to happen.
He may still love you, but he’s in love with her. Even if you forgive a cheater who’s in love, he’s still emotionally committed to another woman. She’s not going away any time soon.
This is the best reason of all to leave.
6. Is he still seeing her?
There’s not much hope for your relationship if he’s not prepared to end the affair. But what if she’s someone he sees regularly?
If she’s a work colleague; is he prepared to do his best to find another job, so that he doesn’t have to see her every day? Can he move within his current job to a position where he no longer works alongside her? Find out exactly how he proposes to solve this problem. It’s a good indication of how determined he is to make it up to you.
If she’s a friend of yours, then you might find this double betrayal impossible to forgive. Two people you trusted have conspired behind your back to betray you. To forgive a cheater in those circumstances would be beyond most women – and understandably so.
7. Did he confess, or did you find out?
If he volunteered to tell you about a recent affair; that infers that he feels both guilty and regretful. This is a good start from which to rebuild your relationship.
But it depends on why he chose to confess. Was he afraid of being found out? Was his ex-lover threatening to come over and reveal all? Or does he hope to heal something damaged in your relationship, and make it better?
If the affair happened a long time ago, it can be nobler to bear your guilt in silence, as a penance; rather than absolve your conscience by confessing to your innocent girlfriend.
Sometimes it’s better not to know the truth.
8. Is he genuinely sorry?
If he values your relationship, then he will be abject with remorse that he has hurt you like this. Genuine penitence is impossible to fake; you should feel his compunction beyond just his words. But if his apology is little more than synthetic, then either he’s really not all that sorry, or he just doesn’t think it’s all that important.
9. How is he going to reassure you that it won’t happen again?
Apologies are essential, but you need more. Merely suggesting that you should trust him is not enough, especially when he has just disabused that trust. He needs to have some idea about how he plans to ensure that there are no repeats. This should include things he does himself, along with ways to bring you both closer so that he is not tempted to stray again.
Take time to consider your boyfriend’s answers. There might be good reasons not to junk an essentially good relationship because of a one-night stand from years ago. But what if your boyfriend is caught up in an ongoing affair?
Does he want to rebuild your relationship?
Has he given you the answers that you needed to hear?
Are you prepared to forgive and move forward?
Questions About Your Relationship
If you hope to rebuild your relationship, you need to be quite sure it’s robust enough to withstand the shock is has just sustained. You and your boyfriend both need to believe that your relationship is something worth saving.
10. So how good is your relationship?
Was something missing between you?
Sometimes people cheat just because they are in a bad relationship. To forgive a cheater is hard; so there’s no point in putting yourself through that unless you have something genuinely worth saving.
Do you like, as well as love, each other? It’s not easy finding someone that compatible, so if you work well together and enjoy each other’s company, then you may have a relationship you still want to save.
Was your boyfriend happy too? Did he find the relationship satisfying and fulfilling?
If he was having a long-standing affair, then he was probably looking for something he wasn’t getting from you. Most likely it is admiration and appreciation, something he will find almost impossible to tell you.
Use this as a chance to tell your boyfriend what you want from him too. That way it can be a two-way dialog, and he can take some of the responsibility too.
11. Does he want to save the relationship?
Sometimes men cheat as a get out of jail clause. He can’t face telling you directly, so he hopes that by finding him cheating you will end the relationship yourself.
If he was practically dropping hints about his extra-curricular activities in the hope of you catching on, then this was probably the explanation.
12. Can the relationship ever be as good again?
Seismic events like cheating change people; and when people change, their relationships change too. So your relationship is going to be different, but will it be worse, or better?
That really depends on how good it was before; on your ability to forgive; and on your joint resolve to do better in future. Plenty of people have rebuilt their relationships after cheating so that they become better than they were before.
So Should You Forgive a Cheater?
But you have to face the truth about yourself. Having gone through these questions, are you still capable of trust, of looking forward to better times?
To forgive a cheater takes a great leap of faith, and only you can decide whether your boyfriend, and your relationship, is worth it. Even if you thought everything was perfect before, you know now that it wasn’t. Can you live with that, and still be happy?