If you’re wondering how to forgive a cheater, well, you might be in luck. Just kidding, you are in luck because you landed in the right place!
I hope I made you laugh at least a little because that’s exactly what you need right now (and lots of warm hugs too).
Sadly, I cannot hug you in person but I can send you one BIG virtual hug and I can help you learn how to forgive a cheater.
Sounds like a good deal, right? Right.
Now let me guess how you are feeling.
You trusted them with your life. You never thought that this would happen to you but it happened.
They disappointed you, hurt you and broke your heart.
They cheated on you even though you trusted them and loved them (okay, maybe you still love them).
You feel helpless, lost and confused. You have no idea what to do next or what the right thing to do is.
You have no idea how to forgive someone for cheating on you but you’re willing to do it because you owe it to yourself.
And that’s why you’re here today and it is good that you are. I will not tell you whether you should forgive them or not but I will help you decide.
We will go through some important questions that will help you understand the nature of cheating, when you should forgive them, the pros and cons of forgiving, steps to forgiving them and many more.
Yup, that’s a lot of things to think about so without further ado, let’s buckle up and get ready!
Why Do (Some) People Cheat?
This is definitely one of the most enigmatic questions out there. Why do people cheat? Why did your partner cheat on you?
Of course, the first reasons that come to mind are selfishness and carelessness.
While this is true to a certain extent, the real truth is somewhat more complicated but I’ll try to explain it in the simplest way possible.
We human beings have basic needs and some of them are the need to feel desired, wanted and loved.
According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, love and belonging are on the third level of our needs and intimacy and a sense of connection are an important part of our daily life and healthy functioning.
When some of those needs aren’t met, we feel dysfunctional and like something is missing in our life/our relationship.
And that is how the act of cheating happens.
A person who cheats doesn’t decide to cheat just for the sake of doing so but in the majority of cases, it is a process.
If one partner is feeling undesired, if there is a lack of a connection or intimacy in your relationship, they will either start ignoring all that or decide to find it somewhere else.
Basically, it is not about hurting you but about deciding to meet those needs elsewhere.
It usually starts with an emotional affair and over time, it progresses into something more – a physical affair.
It’s when one partner is seeking comfort, understanding, intimacy and the feeling of being desired someplace else.
Instead of focusing on working on their relationship and fixing things, they decide to take a shortcut and focus on meeting their needs with someone else they find approachable.
Some partners decide that their relationship is not worth fighting for and they start seeking an affair partner before breaking up with their significant other.
This is because the urge to meet their basic needs is strong in them.
They are too cowardly to break up with their partner because they’re afraid of causing heartbreak and all those negative emotions that come in a package with breaking up.
So, they consciously decide to become a cheating partner instead and involuntarily hurt their loved one.
Perhaps they will say to themselves: It’s just a one-time thing and it’s not a big deal.
Well, usually it is not a one-time thing and it is a big deal but they realize this too late.
When Should You Forgive A Cheater?
You’re probably having doubts about whether you should forgive them or not and you yourself know that you are the only person who can decide that and I’ll try to help you with that.
First, understand that you don’t need to give them a second chance if you don’t want to.
You can forgive them without staying together with them.
But since letting go is a tough decision for the majority of partners who have been cheated on (and everyone in general), they often decide to give them another chance.
Even though it hurts like hell, you probably still have feelings for them and because of that, you want to try again.
You’re not ready to discard your efforts or time invested in your relationship but you want to see if things will work out and you hope they will.
Still being in love with them is a good reason to forgive them but you also need to consider if the following things happened as well:
They cheated on you with their ex
They cheated on you in the early stages of your relationship
They did it multiple times
It was a long-term affair
They haven’t apologized for doing it (or shown remorse)
They have a history of abusive behavior
Before deciding to give them a second chance, think about the above reasons first and you will know whether you should do it or not.
In other words, make sure to forgive them for the right reasons.
Every relationship can be fixed but the real question is: Is it worth fixing?
When deciding whether you should forgive someone who’s willing to cheat, you should focus on your own happiness and well-being.
Think about how you will feel if you give them another chance or if you break things up.
If you’re going to forgive them, then do it for the right reasons.
YOU SHOULDN’T GIVE THEM A SECOND CHANCE JUST BECAUSE:
You’ve been together for a long time (but there are no feelings involved)
Regardless of whether you’ve been together for a long period of time or not, staying in a relationship just because you don’t want your efforts or time to be wasted is not a valid reason to do so.
Why? Because you won’t be happy and such relationships don’t last.
You also cheated on them or hurt them in one way or another
We hurt those we love and we don’t do it on purpose. Just because you did it once to them, this doesn’t mean you should give them a second chance as compensation for it.
There are other, more important, reasons that should be crucial for your decision of whether to stay or go.
Your best friends are theirs and vice versa. Your connections are tied together and you know that once you break up, it will be awkward and your friends might be forced to pick sides.
Again, this is not about your friends but about your well-being and happiness, so you should focus only on that and everything else will follow.
You have kids
You’re afraid that your kids will be unhappy if you opt for a divorce but do you know what?
Your kids will definitely be unhappy if they continue living in a toxic environment with unhappy parents.
Happy parents = happy child(ren). Happy child(ren) = happy parents.
It is okay to forgive a person who cheats and give them a second chance if you genuinely want to stay together because you still have feelings for them.
It is also okay to forgive a person who cheats if you want to start the process of healing (and you don’t necessarily need to give them a second chance, as already stated above).
See also: 13 Obvious Signs Of Guilt From Your Cheating Husband
What Does It Mean To Forgive A Cheater?
Here’s another even more enigmatic question. Now, truly, what does it mean to forgive someone who hurt you?
Do you just wake up in the morning and decide that you will no longer feel hurt about it, life goes on, etc.?
Nope. To forgive the one who cheated on you means a lot of different things.
Actually, it is not really about forgiving them but about releasing yourself.
You can FORGIVE but this doesn’t mean you need to FORGET.
You can forgive your cheating boyfriend/girlfriend or spouse but this doesn’t mean you need to forget what they did.
You’ve probably heard that popular saying: Forgive but never forget.
Well, even if you want to forget it, it won’t be that easy or, should I say, possible.
You cannot just decide to pretend that nothing happened and continue living your life in bliss.
This happens only in movies and not in real life.
Real life is more complex and that’s why it’s called real in the first place.
You can acknowledge everything that happened and how they hurt you and you can forgive them but you don’t need to forget their actions.
Forgiving is about freeing yourself.
Forgiving is not only about making your partner feel good about themselves.
Forgiving is about understanding that we all make mistakes and your partner’s infidelity is not your fault.
Forgiving yourself will be the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do but you’ll need to do it for the sake of your mental health.
The only way to free yourself is to accept what happened and forgive.
Thinking about what-ifs and blaming yourself for not noticing all those red flags will not free you. It will imprison you even more.
When someone cheats on you (especially for the first time), dealing with it requires hard work because forgiving yourself is harder than forgiving others.
Forgiving doesn’t mean you need to continue loving or liking them.
Many people think that if they forgive their partner for infidelity, that automatically means they are still in love with them or that they like them.
You can forgive them but this doesn’t mean you need to continue having feelings for them or be in a relationship with them.
You can forgive them and move on or you can make things work and get out of a rough patch. As always, the choice is yours to make.
Forgiving doesn’t make you subordinate.
Realizing that your partner cheated on you can significantly decrease your self-esteem, especially if you’re blaming yourself for it.
But keep in mind that forgiving them doesn’t make them superior to you and it doesn’t make you subordinate to them.
This doesn’t mean that they are right and you are wrong. Acknowledging that they have hurt you doesn’t mean that you’re weak. On the contrary:
Forgiving is a sign of strength.
The ability to forgive someone who hurt you is one of the most beautiful things in the world.
It requires true bravery, strength and understanding.
To forgive someone means to accept the past, focus on the present and look forward to the future, with or without them.
Not forgiving means dwelling on the past and keep thinking about what you could have done differently in your relationship and this isn’t something you should be worrying about at the moment.
The only thing you should focus on is forgiving yourself and them for the right reasons:
a) Because you deserve to free yourself.
b) Because you still love them and both sides are willing to make things work.
c) Because you’re strong.
d) Because you feel it is the right thing to do.
The Benefits And Drawbacks Of Forgiving A Cheater
To help you decide whether you should forgive someone who was willing to cheat on you and give them a second chance, here are some pros and cons of each decision:
The Benefits Of Forgiving A Cheater
Letting go of negative emotions
Without a doubt, the biggest benefit of forgiving a person who cheated on you is letting go of the past and all those hurtful emotions.
As already stated, the act of forgiving is about freeing yourself.
The longer you’re thinking about what happened, the more negative emotions you will accumulate in your body and mind.
In order to start living a happy and healthy life, you need to get rid of them.
A sure-fire way to get rid of them is to forgive the one who hurt you.
Once you do that, you will feel ten times lighter and you will be proud of yourself.
Remember that anyone can hurt but it takes a strong person to forgive.
Forgiving is the ultimate sign of inner strength and willingness to move forward in life.
It will help you target underlying issues in the relationship
If you continue ignoring the one who hurt you, you will never address all those underlying issues in your relationship.
Infidelity is not only a matter of meeting basic needs somewhere else, as there are more things connected to that.
Perhaps you forgot how to show affection to each other, you took each other for granted or you had some other issues that resulted in infidelity.
If your intention is to stay together and work on your relationship, then forgiveness is the first step.
Addressing the underlying issues is the second step.
Communicating about your relationship, visiting a marriage and family therapist or attending couples therapy will surely help you fix things and save your relationship.
It will help you establish trust once again
You cannot trust them if you’re not ready and willing to forgive them. In such situations, trust and forgiveness are two interconnected terms.
If you want to be able to trust them again, you need to forgive them first for hurting you.
Also, they need to apologize and be willing to work on your relationship.
Forgiveness is a process.
They cannot say to you: Now you can trust me. I will never hurt you again. Simply saying that doesn’t mean anything.
They need to show you with their actions and efforts.
Forgiveness is about giving and receiving. You give forgiveness to yourself and them and they give you a promise that you can trust them.
See also: 7 Things To Do After You Catch Him Cheating
The Drawbacks Of Forgiving A Cheater (And Giving Them A Second Chance)
They might hurt you again
“Once a cheater, always a cheater.” I think that saying exists for a reason.
No matter how many times they have repeated to you that they will not do it ever again, there is still a chance that they might repeat their sins.
There will always be that sentence hovering above your head: They might hurt me again.
Once they lose your trust, establishing it again takes time and true commitment.
If they’re not ready for that and if they give you mixed signals, your trust levels will decrease accordingly.
You can never be 100% sure that they will not hurt you again but one can hope.
Perhaps this quote by Bob Marley speaks the truth: “The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for.”
Now, the question is, are they worth suffering for?
Being surrounded by hurtful reminders
Let’s say that you forgive them and decide to give them another chance.
This doesn’t mean that all those hurtful reminders will somehow vanish into thin air.
They will still be there around you and it will be hard not to pay attention to them.
Whenever you see them constantly texting someone and smiling in the process, you might think that they are doing something behind your back.
You will be aware of their every move on their social media captions or profiles and subconsciously looking for clues of potential infidelity.
Even their clothes will remind you of those past times when they were lying to you, when they said they always had overtime, etc.
The most irrelevant and trivial details can become hurtful reminders.
You cannot be in control of them because it is not something you can influence but it happens on a subconscious level.
Those reminders work as triggers and they can evoke suspicion, distrust and excessive worrying.
The fact that you deserve better
Staying with someone who’s willing to cheat on you means accepting the fact that they might do it again and ignoring the fact that you deserve someone who will not be unfaithful to you.
People often ignore all that because they are convinced that things will change and everything will go back to normal.
Maybe things will change but it will take a lot of time and hard work to restore broken trust in a relationship.
If you don’t succeed with it, your time will be wasted and you could have spent it with someone whom you can trust completely.
When one door closes, you will realize how many options and opportunities you have at your disposal.
Sometimes, we’re too busy fixing one thing and investing all our energy into it only to realize that it was all in vain.
Sometimes, we ignore the fact that we deserve better because we’re convinced that such a thing doesn’t exist.
But it does and if we don’t close that one door, we will never know for sure.
See also: To All The Cheaters Out There: Karma Is A Bitch
10 Steps Toward Forgiveness
Decide Whether It’s Worth It
Deciding whether it’s worth it is probably one of the hardest steps in a relationship manual called How to forgive a cheater or How to forgive cheating.
As we already discussed above, you need to forgive them for the right reasons.
If you need a reminder of it, feel free to again check the section on when to forgive the one who cheated on you, which will help you decide whether it’s worth it.
Also, listen to your gut. Many of us rely only on facts and reason but forget to listen to our gut.
What is your body, mind and that little voice in your head telling you?
Should you forgive them and move on or should you forgive them and give them a second chance? Should you forgive them at all?
Accept what happened
Once you’ve decided whether you’re ready to forgive them, you need to learn to accept what happened.
As always, acceptance is one of the most important aspects of forgiveness.
In case you’re wondering why this is so, the answer lies in our coping mechanism.
The more we suppress our feelings and try to ignore the fact that we’re hurting, the more we feel miserable and hurt.
When you feel that way, you cannot forgive easily.
In order to truly forgive, you need to accept what happened; what it is that you are forgiving them for.
Accept the fact that they hurt you, they did something terrible behind your back and that it is okay to feel the way you’re feeling.
Don’t run away from your feelings because that means running away from yourself.
Instead, face them. Accept them. Only then will you be able to wholeheartedly forgive the one who hurt you.
Have an open and honest conversation about what happened
If you want to learn how to forgive emotional or physical cheating, you need to learn the art of open and honest communication.
Many couples have a problem with this and instead of exchanging ideas and talking about their feelings, they end up blaming one another.
You shouldn’t do that.
Avoid these sentence structures:
You hurt me!
I will never forgive you.
How could you do that to me?
Did you think that I would never find out?
You’re so mean.
Instead of blaming them for what happened, talk about it. The emphasis is on TALKING and not ARGUING.
I understand that it will be hard for you to hear all those details of the affair but it’s the only way to forgive.
Trust me, you will never be able to forgive them if you don’t know exactly what happened or how it happened.
You don’t necessarily need to go into all the details if you don’t want to but the more you know about it, the easier it will be for you to forgive them and understand what happened.
Cool off and spend some time alone to reflect on it
You can do this before or after the conversation with your partner.
If you’re feeling distressed and you don’t think that you will be able to talk to your partner without blaming them, it’s better to take some time to cool off and then talk to them.
Go for a walk, visit your safe haven (a place where you feel comfy and secure), spend time in nature, observe the sea, watch the sunset, stargaze…
Spending some time alone will help you reflect on what happened. This is an important part of affair recovery.
It will help you relax and collect your thoughts. Think of it like a hurricane.
The moment you realized that they were unfaithful to you was the moment when you felt like you’d been swept away by an imaginary hurricane.
In order to deal with the consequences and the damage of that hurricane, you need to spend some time alone to soothe and heal yourself.
This will help you bring about the right decision and forgive them for the right reasons.
The easiest thing you could do is just yell at them and blame them for it but it takes real bravery and strength to reflect on it.
Remember that IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT
Usually, after infidelity, the partner who was cheated on is convinced that everything that happened is their fault.
They blame themselves for not noticing all those red flags, changes in their partner’s behavior, for not addressing the underlying issues in their relationship and similar.
Let me tell you this. Even if you noticed all those red flags in time, it would probably be too late to do anything about it.
You cannot influence their decision to cheat on you.
Regarding the underlying issues, even if you were aware that they existed, there’s nothing you can do about it if your partner is not willing to cooperate.
It takes two to work on improving your relationship, so learn to forgive yourself because it’s not your fault.
Their decision to cheat on you is an outcome of so many factors that you can’t influence only by yourself.
Don’t think that if you changed your appearance or acted differently, they wouldn’t have done that to you.
Keep in mind that a relationship is not a one-person job. It takes mutual effort and dedication to create something meaningful.
See also: 14 Frustrating Things Cheaters Say When Confronted
Re-evaluate your relationship
By re-evaluate, I mean focus on your relationship weaknesses because these are the things that need to be improved upon.
Was one of the two of you controlling in the relationship?
When was the last time you showered each other with affection or made one another feel special?
When was the last time you went on a date? Do you think that your relationship lacks passion?
These and similar things can be improved upon but that is the next step.
In order to improve them, you need to re-evaluate your relationship so that you encompass everything that needs to be fixed.
I would like to accentuate the following: Just because they are the one who cheated on you in the relationship, this doesn’t mean that they are the only one who needs to work on themselves.
Undoubtedly, they need to work on themselves but you also need to participate in making your relationship better.
Both partners need to be willing to make an effort and make the best out of their relationship.
Make sure they are also willing to work on improving your relationship
When forgiving a person who cheats, pay special attention to this: Are they truly sorry for what they did to you and are they willing to work on improving things?
Now, the next question is: How can you know whether they are truly sorry or not? Easily.
If they apologize to you openly and honestly and if you can see it in their eyes that they are truly sorry for everything, then you know they are.
If you don’t have to ask them to apologize but they do it on their own because they genuinely feel like it, then you know they really mean it and this is connected with being willing to work on improving things.
When a person is truly sorry, they are perfectly aware of what they did to you and your relationship.
In other words, they are ready to make things right and work on improving every aspect of your relationship so pay attention to that.
If you notice that they are avoiding apologizing to you, then you know they don’t really understand how you’re feeling and they’re not aware of what they did to you, which means they won’t be ready to invest their time or energy into fixing things.
Don’t obsess over or compare yourself to the other man/woman
No matter how tempting it is for you to compare yourself to the other man or woman, don’t do that. Why? Because it’s not healthy and it will get you nowhere.
Keep in mind that they didn’t cheat on you because the other man or woman is more handsome or prettier than you.
I’ll repeat again. The act of cheating depends on so many factors and physical appearance is almost irrelevant in that chain.
Yes, the other man/woman attracted them with their looks but the reason why they attracted your partner is because there was something lacking in your relationship, which has nothing to do with them being hotter than you.
So, don’t compare your personality, appearance or any other aspect of your life with any of the other person’s.
You are a unique human being with your own set of flaws and habits that make you truly special.
Your partner fell in love with you for a reason, so don’t try to change who you are.
Instead, they need to change their mindset and remind themselves of what an amazing man/woman they have in their life.
When deciding to forgive someone who’s willing to cheat and give them a second chance, remember to set boundaries.
Let them know that your decision to forgive them doesn’t mean that their actions are justified or that you will forgive them anytime for their future infidelity.
Tell them openly that if they do it again, you will not tolerate such behavior.
This reminds me of Stephen King’s powerful quote that goes like this: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times, shame on both of us.”
If they hurt you once, it is their fault but if they hurt you twice, it is your fault because you knew you couldn’t trust them.
For that reason, setting boundaries is necessary.
Once you let them know that you won’t forgive them twice, three times or more for the same thing, they will be more cautious of their actions.
They will not take you or your forgiveness for granted.
They will work hard to win your trust once again and prove to you that they have changed.
When a person knows that they can easily lose someone or something if they don’t cherish it, they become focused on giving their best to preserve it.
If you’ve tried everything and you still can’t forgive them, then let go
One of the worst things that could happen to you is forcing yourself to forgive them when you know you can’t no matter how hard you try.
Every individual has different levels of their capacity to forgive.
Also, everything depends on how long you’ve been together, how it all happened and all the other details regarding the act of infidelity.
Sometimes, you just need more time to be alone and reflect on it.
The main reason why you still can’t forgive them is because you haven’t accepted what happened.
I see it like this. If you don’t accept what happened, your mind will be filled with confusing messages like: Yes, you should forgive them. No, you shouldn’t because they don’t deserve it.
Again, if you decide to forgive them, you shouldn’t do it because of them but to free yourself and get rid of negative emotions.
Forgive them for the right reasons and if you can’t, then let go.
How Long Does It Take To Forgive A Cheater?
How long does it take to forgive a cheating spouse or significant other?
Truth be told, this is probably the first thing that comes to every person’s mind when they’ve been cheated on. And here’s the answer:
Forgiving a person who cheats is an individual thing.
Some partners forgive instantly, some partners forgive after a few months, some after a year or two. Also, some never forgive (to the fullest).
The ability to forgive a person who cheats depends on the following factors:
The strength of your emotional connection
The stronger your emotional connection, the easier it will be for you to recover from what happened and start building trust again.
You can boost your emotional connection by dating, engaging in couple activities, having deep conversations, cuddling, lovemaking and so on.
Basically, whatever you do as a couple strengthens your emotional connection.
How remorseful they are
Let’s say your partner doesn’t show any signs of remorse and he doesn’t even apologize to you or he apologizes but just because he feels forced to do so.
This will directly influence your ability to forgive them. I mean, how can you forgive someone for something they don’t feel sorry for.
Forgiveness is not only about you deciding to forgive them but it is also about their ability to show remorse for their actions.
The severity of their cheating
Have they been doing it for a long time now, have they done it multiple times or did they do it once?
Is this the first time you caught them or have they been doing it for some time behind your back?
Some people are ready to forgive even if they’ve been cheated on multiple times, while others cannot do so even if it happened only once.
Again, every person experiences it differently.
If they have done it before
Is this the first time they cheated on you or did they do it with other people in the past and you had no idea about it?
Realizing that they cheated on you once with this one person is enough to feel hurt but realizing that they’ve been unfaithful for a long time now (I’m talking months or even years) might influence your ability to forgive them and prolong the time needed to do so.
How soon after/if you asked for professional help
The sooner you seek professional help, the sooner you will be ready to forgive them so you should take into consideration how soon after/if you went for counseling.
Counselors will be able to help you with their coping techniques for overcoming negative emotions, they will teach you how to accept the situation and improve your relationship.
Each session will teach you something new that you can implement in your daily life and relationship.
You will learn both to forgive yourself and the one who hurt you.
“Forgiveness isn’t approving what happened. It’s choosing to rise above it.” – Robin Sharma
I hope you enjoyed our journey called How to forgive a cheater and that you found the above tips helpful.
Remember that forgiving them doesn’t mean that the person who cheated has won.
It means that you have won by rising above it. T. D. Jakes explains it perfectly in the following words:
“I think the first step is to understand that forgiveness does not exonerate the perpetrator. Forgiveness liberates the victim. It’s a gift you give yourself.”