When you are observing from the outside and a partner cheats then it can seem like what to do is obvious. Most people will say end it and walk away because once someone cheats, they will do it again. Still, those who have actually experienced infidelity know it is not always this easy. If you do choose to stay, and forgive, your relationship can return to normal.
Infidelity is complex with numerous causes, lasting, painful effects, and future possibilities that must be considered. For many, it is important to discuss these issues with someone who can truly understand the complex issue, but others will talk to any and everyone. The point is that if you have been cheated on, you are entitled to your reactions and feelings, no matter what they are, even if you wish to reconcile. Many marriages do manage to rebound after infidelity, though there is no way to predict what the future holds. The one thing you can be certain of is that you are in pain and your trust and loyalty are feeling shattered. If you are to recover, you need something to light the path.
Can You Truly Forgive?
Forgiveness will be necessary if you are to ever move past infidelity, but you must decide if you want to hold on to that person and if they have true remorse for their actions. Sometimes you will not be able to forgive. If you can, then a great relationship may be able to recover from infidelity. However, both partners will need to work together and understand how much the relationship is really worth. When you believe your relationship is worth fighting for then you can find strength.
How to Forgive
As mentioned, forgiveness is key to healing. This starts with the steps below.
- Address the Situation – Address your partner directly and lay out the facts with the partner filling in all the blanks. Stay calm while doing this and choose a location where you will not be distracted or have a way to avoid the conversation.
- Therapy – If you want to stay together then seek professional help. You will need to learn to rebuild trust and navigate the future.
- Rebuild Trust – To do this, you must openly communicate feelings with one another, especially the one who was cheated on. There will be a period of grieving over the lost trust. You must show empathy to one another to create a future of unconditional love and acceptance.
Below is a list of when it is safe to forgive a wayward spouse. It was created with some basic assumptions that you must also keep in mind. These include that your partner has made a series of horrible mistakes, but they can change to keep the marriage alive; that the changes are difficult and professional help is necessary; and that the efforts to change will be obvious because they are so difficult. Keep that in mind while deciding whether a cheater can be forgiven.
Signs It Is Safe to Forgive
- Partner is Serious About Reconciliation – Only if the cheater understands the gravity of the situation and is willing to do the hard work, is forgiveness and moving forward possible.
- Partner Does Self-Work – Constructive actions to address internal issues that led to cheating are necessary and will be proof your partner cares.
- Not Defensive – Your partner should display sincere remorse and regret for the cheating, not just for being caught. They must assume full responsibility for their actions.
- No Blaming – Your partner will accept their actions and want to repair the damage without placing blame on you for their decisions.
- Attentive and Communicative – They will be open to discussing and focusing on the process, but not become consumed or try to rush the process.
- Understanding Why – Both you and your partner will have a decent idea of why cheating occurred. This will be discussed and help the same issues from occurring again.
- You Are Forgiving – You have the compassion and desire to truly forgive.
- Growing Communication – Prior to infidelity, you were likely losing a connection, but after your communication and connection should grow if you are on track.
- Believe in Your Vows – If you are recommitting to the marriage, you need to ensure that you still believe in your original vows to make sure it is worth the effort.
- Transparency – Cheating breaks trust, so they need to be willing to be as transparent as necessary to rebuild that trust. This includes in person and online.
- Time to Process – This is a terrible experience and you both need to be able to talk about your feelings with friends, a therapist, and family as needed.
- A New Leaf – You need to see their actions as a renewed dedication that makes you both grateful for your marriage.
- Relief – As you return to your normal routine, you should feel some relief free from resentment for your partner.
- Realistically Envision a Happy Future – Your vision for your future marriage is crucial as you recover. If you do not see it as happy, then you are not really ready to forgive.
Dealing with the aftermath of infidelity should be done in the open. Stay vigilant and get support as needed, but make your own choice as to whether to forgive and reconcile or move on. Not knowing what your partner feels in their heart is worse than the infidelity, so find out and then make an informed decision.