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How to forgive a cheater: Everything you need to know

How to tell if someone is lying

There are few feelings more painful than finding out that your partner has cheated on you. Out of nowhere, you are thrown into a tornado of conflicting questions and unwanted realizations.

You become filled with anger, despair, sadness, desperation, rage, emptiness, and the one person you love and trust more than anyone else – your partner – is the exact person who caused your pain.

Your Partner Cheated: What Now? 

Whether you like it or not, the moment you discover that your partner has cheated on you, you are now on a new path – a path of forgiveness.

We understand: the idea of forgiving them right now seems incredulous. Maybe they haven’t even truly apologized to you; maybe they’ve shown no signs of remorse or regret.

There will be long nights of fights and discussions; perhaps the relationship will come to an end.

But at the end of this path, as long and hard as it might be, there must be forgiveness, and that forgiveness must come straight from the heart.

Why? Because the pain they caused you shouldn’t define your life.

You must go through the hurt and the sadness and come out the other end as a better and bigger person.

It’s not about saving the relationship; whether or not you and your partner wish to continue the relationship is another issue.

Forgiveness is about letting go of this chapter of your life and showing the memory of this infidelity that it’s buried and done.

Forgiveness is about healing and letting yourself breathe without pain once again.

The First Step – It’s Not Your Fault, But Hear Them Out

No one deserves to be cheated on, for whatever reason.

Cheating is the ultimate betrayal – we place all our love and time into the person we choose, and they pay us back by deceiving us, lying to us, and giving part of themselves to another person.

When you first confront your cheating partner, they will instinctively try to defend their actions. They will blame their infidelity on you.

They will say things like…

  • “You stopped listening to me!”
  • “You stopped taking care of yourself!”
  • “You stopped making an effort!”
  • “You never think about what I feel!”
  • “You don’t spend enough time with me!”

None of these are reason enough to justify their actions, and if they were a truly mature adult, they would have confronted you with their concern instead of going behind your back and finding someone else.

But at the same time, listen. Truly listen to what they say.

Is there a basis behind their accusations?

If it’s the first thing they think of when they try to defend themselves, then there might be some reality behind it, even if it isn’t as exaggerated as they might be describing.

Remember: relationships are a two-way street.

There must be a give-and-take going in both directions. When that breaks down, your partner can feel betrayed as well.

And it is much more difficult to confront the realities of a relationship that have slowly broken down over an extended period of time.

Don’t blame yourself. But hear them out, too.

There are many cheaters out there who cheat just for the fun of it, with little to no remorse for their loyal, caring partner.

But some cheaters have more of a reason and justification for their actions. Although cheating is never right, sometimes it’s not as wrong as you might think.

Does Your Cheating Partner Deserve a Second Chance? Knowing When to Forgive

You can forgive your partner without offering them a second chance, and simply letting the relationship end.

But for most people who find themselves cheated on, you won’t want the relationship to end.

It will hurt for a long time, but your partner is still the person you fell in love with. So do they deserve a second chance at the relationship?

Consider the possible red flags first before deciding to give them a second chance:

  • They cheated on you with an ex-partner, meaning there were some old feelings involved
  • They cheated on you in a long-term affair rather than a one-night stand
  • They haven’t exactly apologized to you, and haven’t shown any true remorse
  • They cheated early into the relationship
  • They have a history of controlling, abusive, or jealous behavior, meaning they have been projecting themselves onto you
  • This isn’t the first time they have cheated or lied to you

Every relationship can be saved, but the question you have to ask yourself is: does it deserve to be saved?

Your sanity and happiness are more important than your relationship with your partner.

Don’t forgive them for the wrong reasons, or else you will find yourself living in a state of unhappiness for years. Some of these wrong reasons include:

  • You want to forgive them because you’ve been together for so long. This is called the “sunk cost” dilemma – you don’t want all the time you’ve spent together to be wasted, so you would rather stay together instead of throwing the relationship away.
  • You want to forgive them because you’ve also cheated on them, or hurt them in other ways. While this can certainly influence your decision on whether to forgive them or not, it shouldn’t be the only factor. Do you really want every part of your relationship to be solved in an eye-for-an-eye scenario?
  • You want to forgive them because you have kids. You love your kids, and the last thing you want to give them is a broken home. But if the alternative is an unhappy set of parents, is that really better?
  • You want to forgive them because your social circles are tied together. After years of building lives together, all your friends know you as a couple. You are afraid that if you broke up, you would force all your friends to pick sides, or worse, you would lose all your friends. But that’s just a chance you might have to take.

To Forgive or Not to Forgive? The Forgiveness Questionnaire

When you are deciding on whether or not to forgive your partner for cheating on you, there are 10 important questions you have to ask yourself. These are as follow:

1) Has your partner apologized, and was their apology sincere?

2) Does your partner truly understand how much hurt they have caused you?

3) Is this the first time your partner has cheated?

4) Do you believe you could ever trust your partner again?

5) Will you truly forgive your partner, or will you remind them of the infidelity whenever you have a disagreement?

6) Is there anyone else that depends on your relationship? Kids, family, friends?

7) Are you and your partner both willing to put the work in to resolve your conflicts and fix whatever led to the cheating?

8) Who did your partner cheat on you with? Was it a one-night stand, or a long-term affair with an ex?

9) Has your partner accepted their unfaithfulness towards you?

10) Can you ever be happy with your partner again?

Five Truths About Forgiveness To Make Forgiving Easier

Forgiveness can be a tough pill to swallow. When you have just been betrayed and hurt by the person dearest to your heart, the last thing in the world you want to do is forgive them.

But forgiveness is growth, and the only way to truly move forward from this difficult chapter in your life.

It doesn’t matter if you stay with your partner or not – you don’t have to love them again. You just have to learn how to forgive them, whether that takes a month or a decade to learn.

Here are five ultimate truths about forgiveness that you must embrace to make taking that step towards letting go of the pain and the grief easier:

1) Forgiving Doesn’t Mean Forgetting

Your pain is real. Every minute you spent grieving your relationship and feeling sorry for your aching heart was real.

Forgiving the person who hurt you doesn’t mean you have to forget what happened. Never forget – it’s a part of you, like an unwanted scar.

Forgiving isn’t the promise that you will never remember what happened; it’s simply the promise that what happened will no longer hurt you the same way.

2) Forgiving Doesn’t Have to Be For Your Partner

We think of forgiveness as a way to make other people feel better. When a friend does something wrong to us and apologizes profusely, we forgive them so that they will feel that sense of relief, that what they did has been forgiven.

But forgiving your cheating partner isn’t about making them feel better; it’s about you, and allowing yourself to release the pain you’ve been keeping inside.

3) Forgiving Doesn’t Mean You’re Letting Them off the Hook

You can forgive your partner, but you don’t have to continue loving them. You don’t even have to continue liking them.

They caused you pain, and if you so decide, that pain was enough for you to call quits for your relationship.

If you never want to see their face again, that’s your decision, and it’s absolutely in your right to choose that. Forgiving gives you the chance to truly be done.

4) Forgiving Doesn’t Make You a Victim

Many of us are afraid to forgive those who have wronged us, especially in the situation of cheating partners.

We don’t want them to have that power over us; we don’t want to forgive them, because it would acknowledge that they have hurt us, and they have turned us into their victim.

But forgiving doesn’t mean you were ever a victim. It means you have the courage to look at what happened, grieve, and move past it.

5) Forgiving Isn’t a Sign of Weakness

You are not weak just because you forgive. Holding grudges and being angry for the rest of your life isn’t a strength.

Related post (article continues below)

Your heart might convince you it is, but ask anyone around you, and no one will agree.

The weakness is letting a single part of your life define the way you feel for the rest of your days. Forgiveness is a strength not everyone can muster.

Signs You Aren’t Ready To Forgive

Just like everything in your relationship, forgiving is a process. You can’t force yourself to forgive your partner if you are simply not emotionally and mentally ready to overcome this hurdle yet. 

Even if you convince yourself that everything is okay, there will be clear indicators that you aren’t ready.

At the end of the day, your actions will speak louder than your words.

There are only so many times you can say “it’s no big deal” before you breakdown and realize that it is a bigger deal that you imagined. 

Are you ready to forgive or are you still in the process of healing? Here’s how you know:

1) They Annoy You Quickly 

To make amends, your partner is doing everything they can to get back into your good graces. It’s perfectly normal if you’re not reciprocating their advances, but what isn’t a good sign is you being irritated by every single thing that they do. 

Instead of your usual candid appreciation for each other, you notice yourself being annoyed by the little things that you used to like about them.

Sometimes you even get aggravated by their complete niceness, as their attempt to win you over starts to feel a little bit like overcompensation. 

These complicated feelings ultimately mean you’re not ready to spend time with this person yet.

Instead of hurting each other, it might be best to take some space to let some of the negative feelings dissipate. 

2) You Question New Friendships 

Cheating shatters whatever solid foundation you had in the relationship. More than anything, it affects the way you see this person and poisons the trust you had in them.  

The prospect of meeting new people might have never seemed like a big deal before, but now hearing about their new work acquaintance or a new friend makes you feel uneasy.

Even though you want to trust them, there is just a small voice in your head that says “Get out. He/she is going to do it again”. 

In order to move forward, you need to be able to trust your partner all over again. And if you can’t do that right now, it’s a good sign you’re just not ready to let bygones be bygones. 

3) You No Longer Do Small Kind Things

Again, actions speak louder than words.

If you catch yourself telling your partner (and yourself) that all is forgiven, but shy away from the little actions that do say “I love you”, consider the fact that you’re nowhere near the road to forgiveness. 

Relationships are all about the small, unconscious acts of love we do for our partner.

Sometimes they’re even more meaningful than the grand gestures precisely because they’re automatic – you don’t think about giving the person you love small bits of affection, you just do it for the sake of doing it. 

So if you notice that you no longer engage in these small romantic acts, take a step back and ask yourself why you’ve become uncomfortable.

Chances are you’re going to tell yourself that you’re simply not ready for things to get back to normal, and that’s completely fine. 

4) The Sex Feels Weird 

Reigniting physical intimacy is crucial to repairing a broken relationship. It’s a great way to literally bridge the gap and help both of you become familiar with each other again. 

However, sex won’t help if you’re constantly being bombarded by mental images of your partner sneaking around with another person.

Sex is supposed to be scared and private; if all you can think about is how they have done it with someone else, it’s probably best to postpone sleeping together.

Your sexual willingness is very telling of whether or not you’re ready to forgive.

You can always tell your partner that you’re ready to forgive them, but your body will instinctively react against their touch if your heart and mind are not in it. 

5) You’re Wary When They Go Out

You want to trust again. You tell yourself you’re ready to trust again. But how come every time they go outside without you, you feel that urge to jump on social media and snoop around?

Snooping around your partner is a clear indication you just don’t trust them yet.

Even after everything they’ve done to make you feel good about the relationship, you still get a little voice in your head that tells you something will inevitably go wrong. 

Instead of living in trust, you live in fear.

You’re no longer confident about your partner and the choices they will be making. You’re constantly worried that something is happening again to the point that you expect it. 

It’s not fair to your partner, especially if they have done everything they can to make amends. If you feel this constant twitch every time they walk out the door without you, talk to them about it and consider putting some space between the two of you.

There is only so much they can do about the cheating; at this point, it might be best to regroup with your own thoughts so you can be a more stable partner again. 

6) You Instigate Fights

Fighting is a normal phase in the forgiving processes.

As you air out dirty laundry, you start saying things you’ve never said in the past and bring more issues out into the light, instead of burying them like before.

What isn’t normal is instigating fights out of nowhere.

Sure, qualms about going out and hanging out with coworkers and friends are understandable; but more often than not, you’re fighting because of reasons that have nothing to do with the cheating. 

From buying the wrong brand of shampoo to spilling something on the table, everything they do now is being inspected under a microscope.

You can’t help but yell at their simple mistakes, no matter how small or insignificant they are. 

What this is is simply a manifestation of your anger.

Instead of redirecting it to your everyday life, accept the fact that you’re not ready to resume your regular roles.

If you willingly start fights out of nowhere, it’s probably because you want to secretly punish your partner for cheating, which isn’t healthy for both parties. 

What To Do If You Can’t Move On 

Days, weeks, months have passed and you still can’t forgive your cheating partner.

Even after having a sincere conversation and opening your hearts to each other, you still can’t go over the fact that you’ve been cheated on. What now?

If you can’t see yourself moving forward after the cheating, make a decision about your relationship.

Sometimes you can’t move on simply because you’re not ready; other times you can’t move on because you can’t go back to the way it was before. 

Remember that moving forward doesn’t necessarily have to be with your partner. If you find yourself more comfortable with the idea of being alone, go with your gut and let your partner go. 

There’s no point holding on to something that won’t work anymore. If you stick around hoping to wait out the storm, your resentment will only grow and snowball into something worse. 

Moving on after being cheated on is delicate, but the first step is to always give yourself some space.

With so much negativity in your head, the cheating incident can easily shape the way you feel about who you are. 

Your insecurities become magnified and you start calling into question every relationship you’ve had and your whether or not you have been a good partner.

Protecting yourself from these negative thoughts should be your main priority.

Regardless of your decision, it’s important now more than ever to make yourself your priority.

Decide in your head whether you want to move forward with this person or not. Only then can you start taking the right steps to move forward. 

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Lachlan Brown

Written by Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 6 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.

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