Discovering that a partner has cheated on you can be a crushing revelation. Dealing with the difficult emotions associated with infidelity, even if you’ve already decided to leave the relationship, isn’t easy. Once you’ve processed your feelings about the situation, you may wonder if you'll ever be able to let go of your pain and forgive. But, can you truly forgive an ex who cheated on you? Unfortunately, the answer to this question is far from simple.
I spoke to LA-based relationship therapist Dr. Gary Brown to get his take on whether or not forgiving an ex for cheating is feasible. According to Dr. Brown, the circumstances surrounding the incident can have a huge impact on someone’s ability to move past the betrayal. “In certain situations, I do believe that you can forgive an ex for cheating,” Dr. Brown tells Elite Daily. “Some factors are whether or not they feel sincere remorse if it was a one-time occurrence, and your ability to forgive in general.”
Even though being cheated on is always a painful experience, sometimes it’s the specific details of the situation that can push things into “unforgivable” territory. “In other situations, depending upon the circumstances, it may be virtually impossible to forgive your ex for cheating,” explains Dr. Brown. “This would be especially true if they had an affair with someone you know who’s close to you; promised you they wouldn't do it again and did, and certainly if there were multiple affairs.” Fortunately, deciding when and if you can forgive your ex for doing what they did is an extremely personal decision, so there’s absolutely no reason to succumb to any external pressure to do so.
Dr. Brown also points out that there is a big difference between forgiving and forgetting when it comes to an unfaithful ex. “You may be able to find it within yourself to forgive, but the vast majority of those who have been cheated on report that they can't forget the fact that they were cheated on,” says Dr. Brown. “That’s because cheating is a major breach of trust and it’s going to have an impact going forward in your life.”
So, what if you’re considering forgiving your ex and giving the relationship another shot? If the transgression was a one-time thing, then it is possible to rebuild the trust if both you and your partner are willing to put in the time and effort to make it happen. However, if they've cheated on you multiple times and show little signs of changing, then it may be better to go your separate ways. “If they're a serial cheater, you're much better off without them,” says Dr. Brown. “They may be suffering from sexual addiction and until that is dealt with in an effective way, the odds of them continuing to cheat are very great.”
On the other hand, if you feel like what happened was genuinely a one-time indiscretion, and you still want to give things with your ex another try, it’s important to take your time thinking through it and fully processing your emotions. “You will also need to ask yourself, was the relationship worth saving?” explains Dr. Brown. “If this was otherwise a wonderful relationship, you may or may not want to consider reuniting. This idea is extremely difficult to contemplate during the immediate aftermath of an affair. Some can do that, but others simply cannot and need to move on as the broken trust did too much damage.”
Although moving past this pain can feel impossible in the beginning, it’s important to remember that with time, you will be able to recover. “This [pain] doesn’t mean that you can't move forward and enjoy a wonderful and fulfilling life with someone else,” says Dr. Brown. “It does mean that this is now part of your life experience and you have to ‘park it’ in your memory and move on with your life.” Thankfully, there’s absolutely no rush, and at the end of the day, forgiving your ex doesn’t mean you have to be friends. All it means is that you are allowing yourself to let go of the resentment and keep moving forward. And that, in itself, is so worth it.