Can You Forgive Your Partner After They’ve Cheated? Here’s How, According To Experts
It’s hard to describe exactly what being cheated on feels like, but to no one’s surprise, it can be decently summed up with this: It f*cking sucks. No matter how long you and your partner have been together or how serious your relationship seems, people are always human, which means they make mistakes. But if your love is still strong, and you want to forgive your partner after they’ve cheated on you, can you still make it work?
Forgiveness is no easy feat, especially when it comes to cheating. Forgiving someone for almost anything else is probably easier than forgiving them for cheating! Jealous of an ex? I can forgive you. Went through my phone? Eh… I can forgive, I think. Went behind my back and messed around with someone else?! It’s not that easy to forgive something like that. It’s normal to feel betrayed and hurt and lied to, but sometimes, if there is still a lot of love between both people involved in the relationship, it may be worth fighting for.
If your partner has been amazing up until this point, and they’ve never made a mistake like this one, you might consider working through the problem instead of ending the relationship. Sometimes, the cheating is a reflection of a bigger problem that’s already in place. If your partner has apologized profusely, and you’ve worked through the hows and whys of their cheating, there might be hope. However, the dynamic of the relationship needs to improve, and you should consider really thinking long and hard to figure out if you can forgive your partner. Look into yourself, reflect, and see if actual forgiveness (as in, the kind where you don’t hold your partner’s mistake against them for the rest of your lives) is a possibility.
Elite Daily spoke with relationship experts to find out if forgiveness after infidelity is really possible, and how you can achieve it.
1. Accepting It Is The First Step
According to Texas-based marriage and family therapist Nicole Richardson, you’ll have to accept what happened in order to forgive. “Acceptance and forgiveness are not things that happen overnight, and both parties should be patient,” Richardson tells Elite Daily. “Forgiveness and grief are similar as there are stages, and you may move from denial to depression as new information or hurts arise.”
Comparing forgiveness and grief is an interesting concept, especially when you think about the phases involved in both. Usually, when you grieve, you’re mourning something, hopefully in order to move on with your life when the grieving process is over. But, you don’t get whatever you lost back. With forgiveness, you’re also consciously mourning something (in this case, being cheated on and losing what your relationship once was). However, should you feel comfortable with it, at least you have the possibility of mending your relationship and getting it back. You should really think about whether or not you want to put in the work to try to get your relationship to go back to the way it was. And if the answer is yes…
2. Get Brutally Honest With Each Other
Learning the tiny details about your partner's affair isn’t pleasant, but it’s necessary in order to have a clearer picture of what happened. “It starts small, with transparency,” Richardson says. “If your partner is sincere about making amends, they will need to be uncomfortably transparent with you.” She also says it may be necessary for them to show you texts or social media messages where they corresponded with the other person. Knowing the nitty-gritty details might hurt, but if you want to forgive and move on, consider the benefits that having all the information offers. For example, knowing when your partner's affair started might help you pinpoint what the state of your relationship was at the time. Knowing what kind of infidelity your partner engaged in might also help you measure the extent of your hurt.
"There are different kinds of cheating," Richardson says. "Emotional, sexual, a combination of the two. What kind is most hurtful to you? Do you feel like you could or would want to trust your partner again?"
Dating coach Monica Parikh of School of Love NYC suggests considering how you found out about the infidelity as a factor in whether or not you can move past it. This could speak to your partner's honesty and whether or not they're apologetic because they mean it, or because they got caught. “Did he come and tell her, or was she snooping around and she found something?” Parikh tells Elite Daily. “I think you should ask yourself his response [to that question]."
3. Look At The Relationship And See Where It Went Wrong
Before we get into this particular “step” of forgiveness, it’s extremely important to remember that your partner’s infidelity was not your fault. You didn’t do anything wrong, nor did you do anything to deserve what happened. You are not to blame.
That said, it is worth taking some time to consider that, if your partner was unfaithful, it may be because your relationship wasn’t as solid as you might've thought it was. Parikh calls this “an opportunity to examine where in the relationship things may not have been going well.”
“It could be emotional disconnection, it could be varying sexual desires, it could be not enough time or energy spent fostering a relationship,” Parikh says, “and so you really have to delve into what was going on underneath the infidelity, and are you, as a couple, willing to do the work to heal that. Once you’ve done that work, you actually may have a much stronger partnership.”
4. Think About The Person On The Other Side
It’s easy to think about your relationship as just that — a relationship. But it’s equally (if not more!) important to look at your partner as a person, and evaluate whether or not they are someone you can forgive.
“I think fundamentally, you have to ask yourself, ‘Is this a good person?’” Parikh says. “Are they trustworthy? Do they have friends that support the relationship? Are you always going to be peeking over your shoulder, or do you think this is a blip in time over a long period of time in a relationship?” She makes a good point. If your partner is someone with whom you can really envision building a life, and you honestly see their infidelity as just a bump in the road of a long life together, then maybe working on the relationship is worth it, as long as you're both committed to it.
“I think you have to take a very mature attitude about relationships,” Parikh says, “I think you have to understand that, in every relationship, it takes two people to make it and to break it. So, if you have someone there beside you willing to do the work, and you’re willing to do the work, part of that work is looking at yourself.”
5. Take Your Time
True forgiveness doesn’t happen overnight. It may take months, or even years, for you and your partner to get back on the same page and strengthen your relationship. In order to achieve real forgiveness — the kind of forgiveness that involves totally putting this affair behind you and letting go of resentment— you need time.
“If you are intent on punishing your partner, you will both suffer,” Richardson says. “If your partner is in a hurry for you to ‘get over it,’ the resentment will likely stick around. If you both see it as a test to your bond that you want to try and overcome together, your relationship could survive.”
6. Realize That Forgiving Your Partner Doesn’t Mean You'll Stay Together
Even if it is possible for you to forgive your partner, you might not be able to stay with them romantically, and that’s OK! That doesn’t mean that you didn’t fight for your relationship, or that you gave up on it. Forgiving is hard enough as it is, and being able to do just that is a huge accomplishment. You can forgive your partner completely and be totally emotionally healed from their infidelity, but not be able to continue your romantic relationship. The goal is forgiveness, and achieving that is crucial to your mental and emotional wellbeing. Once you take that step, you’re free to do whatever you want to do, whether it’s get back together or peacefully let go.
“Forgiveness does not necessarily mean staying together,” Richardson says. “If you are wondering if you should stay with a partner who has cheated, your gut is telling you what to do.” Listen to your gut! Only you know what is best for you, and if you think you can forgive them and stay together, more power to you. If your gut is telling you that the best thing would be to walk away, listen.
This post was originally published on March 2, 2018. It was updated on Sept. 6, 2019 by Elite Daily Staff.