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How to Forgive a Cheater

Two Methods:Reflecting Before You ForgiveForgiving Your Significant Other

If your spouse or significant other cheated on you, then you must be feeling hurt, overwhelmed, and unsure of how to proceed. If you'd like to continue the relationship, it's time to get in touch with your feelings and take stock of the bond you and your significant other have developed, and to work to move forward. Forgiving a cheater will never be easy, but following these steps can help you get through it.

Method 1
Reflecting Before You Forgive

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    Decide whether you should forgive the cheater. This is the most important step. Before you try to make things work, you have to decide whether it's worth it. No matter how much you love your significant other, you should know that forgiving a cheater may be one of the toughest, most emotionally taxing things you will ever have to do. But if you really want to see if you can make things work, then these are some potential reasons that you could forgive a cheater:
    • If it was a momentary indiscretion. Maybe you got in a big fight, maybe there was alcohol involved, or maybe he met someone who he thought was really, really special...for a moment. Though there are no great reasons for cheating, if it really, truly only happened once, then you may be able to move past it.
    • If your significant other is truly sorry. This is a big one. Is your significant other extremely sorry, depressed, emotional, and doing everything he or she can to show you that he or she is devastated by his own behavior and will never do it again?
    • If you feel like you're giving up if you don't work it out. If you know you have something special and that walking out will feel like calling it quits, then you should try to hang in there to see if you can make it work.
    • If you have had a long, healthy, intimate, incredible relationship. Though your relationship may not feel so great after you found out your loved one has been unfaithful, if it has been otherwise strong throughout the course of the relationship, then it may be worth saving.
    • Don't forgive a habitual cheater. If your significant other has done this before, it's time to bow out. Even if you have a home, kids, and a life together, it's just not worth it. What if this is the only time you found out about the cheating, but you've suspected he's cheated a few times before? Then you were probably right.
    • Don't forgive a cheater at the beginning of a relationship. If you just started dating someone and he already cheated on you, then your relationship's foundation is way too rocky for you to make it through. Feel relieved that it happened early, when it wasn't as hard to let go.
    • Don't forgive a cheater if the cheating is a sign of a doomed relationship. If you think the cheating happened because you and your significant other have nothing in common anymore, are barely attracted to each other, and are completely failing to make it work, then look at this as an excuse to let everything go.
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    Take time to cool off. No matter how much you want to talk to, yell at, or even hurt your significant other, don't do it right after you find out about the cheating. If you already had a blow-out after you found out, it's time to sit back and take a breather. If you found out about the cheating, but your significant other doesn't know you know, then you should take some time to reflect as you figure out what to say.
    • This is a difficult step. You may feel that the sooner you talk about it, the sooner you can start figuring out what to do, but this is not the case. If you jump into a conversation or an argument too soon, you will actually make things worse.
    • Spend some time going for a walk, working out, or just crying in your room. Do whatever you have to do to release some of your emotions and help yourself think a little bit more rationally.
    • This can even mean taking a few weeks to spend time away from your significant other. If you live together, this may be especially tough, but if you need to leave, try to stay with a friend or family member or even at a hotel if it's necessary.
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    Don't blame yourself. This should be a no-brainer, but it may be one of the hardest parts of the process. Don't think that your significant other cheated on you because you aren't attractive enough, because you aren't communicative enough, or because you're too busy with work or raising your children to take time to focus on your relationship.
    • Your significant other cheated and that's his or her fault, and nothing you have done should have warranted that (unless you were unfaithful first, but that's another story.)
    • You should never blame yourself for your significant other's cheating ways, but you can certainly think about ways that your actions have contributed to slowing down the relationship when you take time to reflect on the relationship as a whole.
    • Furthermore, don't ever let your significant other blame you. If that happens, walk out the door.
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    Take stock of your relationship. Once you feel more levelheaded, you should think about your relationship with the person who cheated on you. How does the other person make you feel? Can you imagine a future without that person? Has this been a great relationship, or are you just afraid to let go? Here are some more questions to ask yourself:
    • What is special about your relationship? Are you willing to forgive the person for cheating because you truly want to save the amazing relationship, or because you're afraid to be alone? If you can't think of reasons why your relationship is special, then you should move on.
    • How would you describe the trajectory of the relationship? Have things been good for a long time and then have suddenly soured, or has your relationship been slowly spiraling downward? Try to think of the reasons that the relationship has been moving in a certain way.
    • Can you think of how the relationship led your significant other to cheat? Remember, this is different than blaming yourself. Try to think what it is about the relationship that could have made your significant other cheat, whether it's the fact that he's jealous because you're experienced, or because you've been together since high school and ten years later, he's feeling like he settled down too soon.
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    Make sure your significant other is committed to making things work. Once you've decided that you want to forgive your significant other for the right reasons and that your relationship is worth saving, you have to make sure that your significant other is feeling the same way before you commit to months — or even years — of hard work.
    • Make sure your significant other is truly sorry. There's a difference between saying sorry and truly being sorry.
    • Make sure that your significant other is not only sorry, but also committed to moving forward with you.

Method 2
Forgiving Your Significant Other

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    Validate your feelings. It's important that your significant other recognizes your feelings. He or she may be sorry, but that's different from understanding the pain, heartache, and confusion you're going through. Tell your significant other how you really feel, and make sure he or she acknowledges everything that is going through your head.
    • Your significant other should completely understand that he has put you in a terrible position before you can move on. He may be in a tough position too, especially if he had to end an affair, but he should be understanding of your feelings for it to work.
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    Have an honest conversation. Have an honest conversation about what happened is the only way to move forward. You should plan a day and time to sit down with your significant other and to talk about what happened. You may have already shouted or argued about it, but this is different from breaking down what happened in a rational way. Here's what to do:
    • Ask your significant other what happened. There's no need to get into the nitty-gritty of what exactly happened between him and the other woman. Just get the facts. How many times did they meet, and when did it happen?
    • Ask how he feels about the other woman. Best answer: "I feel absolutely nothing for her." Worst answer: "I don't know." Your significant other should not only say he's attached to the other woman, but he should truly feel nothing for her. You will have to pay attention to see what he's really feeling.
    • Ask him if this has happened before. Though there are arguments against revealing past dalliances or insignificant mistakes to your long-term significant other, since you already know the score, you might as well get as much information as you can so you can make the best decision.
    • Ask how he's feeling about the relationship. Find out why he cheated, and how he feels about being together.
    • Tell him how you feel again. Though you should have already communicated and validated your feelings, you can be firm about how you feel once he tells you his side of the story.
    • Discuss what you can do to make things work. You can be business-like about it and take notes. What will you do to make sure your relationship is stronger and that the cheating won't happen again? Will you spend more time together, be more honest with each other, or find a completely new relationship routine? Will you see a relationship therapist and talk to friends about the problem, or will you try to figure it out by yourselves?
    • Set rules. If the woman is a coworker, does your significant other have to quit his job? Many relationship therapists say yes. Does he have to communicate with you every hour when he's out? This may feel humiliating for him, but remind him that you're the one who feels humiliated.
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    Work on having open communication. Once you've had an honest conversation about what happened, you can work on making honest communication a part of your daily lives. You should make a point of being open and honest with each other, and of taking the time to listen to what the other person has to say. Here are some ways to work on having open communication:
    • Make time to talk every week. Be open about what worked in the relationship that week and what you can do to make things better. This shouldn't feel too forced, but like a necessary step.
    • Make a point of telling each other how you feel. Though you may feel closed off after you found out you've been cheated on, you should work on talking about your positive and negative emotions when you're ready.
    • Don't be passive aggressive. If you're mad mad about something, then mention it when the time is right.
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    Work on improving your relationship. Unless the cheating was truly an anomaly and everything is perfect between you and your significant other, you need to work on your relationship. There are many things you can do to help build a deeper connection and to try to start fresh. Here are some things to try:
    • Pick up a new hobby together. Both of you should try something you have never done before, whether it's rock climbing or ceramics.
    • Try to share more interests. Maybe you've grown distant because you feel like you have nothing in common and nothing to talk about. Make a pact to read the same book each month, or to watch a new television show together. Even sharing a few little interests can make a big difference.
    • Work on compromising. Don't let your significant other always get his way, and know that you shouldn't get your way all the time either, even though you're the one who has been cheated on.
    • Go on a vacation together. Doing something completely new together will give you a breath of fresh air. While a vacation is not a good long-term solution, it can help you feel more of a distance from the cheating. You should only do this once you've had some time to reflect and feel that you want to spend a lot of solo time with your significant other.
    • Stop blaming your significant other. This may sound impossible, but if you really want to work on your relationship, you can't mention the fact that your significant other cheated every two seconds. You can bring it up when you're communicating about your feelings, but casual jabs about your significant other's cheating behavior will only make things worse.
    • Minimize your significant other's groveling. Though you may be enjoying the constant compliments, flowers, and shoulder rubs, try to be on even footing as much as you can. Though your significant other is truly sorry, he or she can't spend the entire relationship groveling or trying to assure you of his or her love. It's exhausting.
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    Don't obsess over the other man or woman. This is the easiest way to drive yourself completely insane and to ruin your relationship. If you know who the woman or man is or if you're unlucky to have met her or him or to even run in the same social circles, do everything you can to avoid contact with this person. It's natural if this feels completely impossible, but tell yourself that you should focus on your own relationship, not on what some other person is doing with his or her life.
    • Don't compare yourself to the other woman. Don't let her make you feel bad about yourself or inadequate in some way. You don't know her situation. Maybe she has fallen for your significant other, or maybe she had no idea he had a girlfriend. Just don't even think about it.
    • Don't stalk the person your significant other cheated with on Facebook and other social media. Don't search through his or her profile, looking for clues about what that person has that you don't.
    • Don't stalk the person in real life. Obviously.
    • Don't talk about the other person to your significant other. Focus on your relationship instead of dwelling on the past.
    • If you're really obsessing over the other person, you can talk to a friend about it, but you can only take that so far.
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    If you still can't forgive your significant other, then let go. If you have tried everything and are still filled with anger and resentment and can't possibly find a way to move the relationship forward, then it's time to end things. If you can't stand the sight of your significant other, let alone his or her touch, or if you're filled with paranoia any time your significant other is around a member of the opposite sex, it's time to call it quits.
    • It's much better to end the relationship than to force yourself to stick around in something that isn't working. Your resentment may only grow, and you could end up hurting the other person by cheating, or grow so emotionally distant that communication is impossible.
    • Remember that even if the person has tried incredibly hard to be the best significant other after he or she cheated, it may have just been too late. Just because the person is trying hard now doesn't mean you have to stick with it if you're just not feeling right.
    • You can feel proud that you tried to work through something incredibly difficult even though it didn't work. That still took a lot of courage.


  • Don't let financial dependence force you into staying with your significant other. If you're certain that you'll never be happy with your cheating significant other, no amount of money is worth staying in a toxic relationship.
  • Forgiving a cheater is even more complicated when there are children in the mix. You need to think about what would be best for the children as well as what would be best for you; would you rather stay in a less-than-ideal situation because it's better for your children, or do you think that doing what's best for you will also be the best for your kids in the long run?


  • Remember that the cheater may cheat again. If it happens again, it's probably a good time to break up or divorce.

Article Info

Categories: Cheating Spouses