Should You Forgive A Cheater? 8 Factors To Consider

Infidelity | | , Writer & Editor
should you forgive a cheater

Imagine this: Your partner cheated on you with a coworker. You came to know about it much later. They claim that they ended the affair but needed to come clean. And beg for your forgiveness. But you still can’t come to terms with the situation. You keep wondering should you forgive a cheater? Can you, really? Is it weak to forgive someone for cheating? How does one decide when to walk away after infidelity? Are you confused about the equation between cheating and forgiveness?

Well, there are no easy or straightforward answers to these questions. You see, cheating can be of many sorts, emotional or sexual, for instance. The impact of cheating on a relationship can depend on its nature, to a large extent. Factors like the state of your own relationship, how much you have at stake, and your partner’s remorse for betraying your trust also determine whether or not forgiveness after infidelity is an appropriate choice.

What’s important is to know whether you’re ready to forgive and go back to your partner or move on without them. In this article, we will get a low-down on the pros and cons of forgiving a cheating partner and the factors to consider while forgiving a cheater. With the help of our expert relationship counselor Ruchi Ruuh (Postgraduate Diploma in Counseling Psychology), we’ll also look into a few tips to deal with such a situation. So, if you’re wrestling with the dilemma, “Can you forgive someone who cheated on you?”, let’s begin…

Cheating And Forgiveness: Pros And Cons To Consider

Well, before we dig deeper into the answers to the question, how do you forgive someone for cheating, let’s begin by the impact of cheating on the betrayed partner. Ruchi says, “Cheating, be it financial, emotional, or sexual, brings in an emotionally charged reaction. The one who’s cheated on becomes very confused, trying to grapple with the betrayal, hurt, and trauma. Plus, their self-esteem goes for a toss.”

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Thinking about forgiveness after infidelity can be hard. While there may be a desire to forgive one’s partner, especially if it has been a long-term relationship, there’s also a desire to protect oneself from harm. Ruchi feels, “Cheating and forgiveness aren’t a good match. When you’re trying to determine should you forgive a cheater, it’s important to remember that there’s no need to rush the process. One should let forgiveness come at its own pace.” She also points out the pros and cons to consider when contemplating forgiveness after infidelity:

Pros of forgiving a cheaterCons of forgiving a cheater
2. One of the possible advantages of forgiving a cheater can be an opportunity for trust-building and of strengthening communication. While partners go through tension, forgiving offers an avenue to repair the relationship and understand what it needs1. Forgiving can always be a risk, as there’s no guarantee that the cheater will change their ways and not cheat again. When someone’s trying to rebuild the relationship, another case of cheating may lead to further hurt and betrayal
2. One of the possible advantages of forgiving a cheater can be an opportunity for trust-building and strengthening communication. While partners go through tension, forgiving offers an avenue to repair the relationship and understand what it needs2. A lot of people don’t forgive their cheating partners because they don’t want to be emotionally vulnerable in front of the very person who’s hurt them. The fear of being hurt makes them avoid talking about their weaknesses
3. It can lead to personal growth. Forgiving a cheater also allows for introspection and a greater awareness of your own needs. The compassionate and empathetic experience can also lead to spiritual growth. Those who had been ignoring themselves before start investing in their own growth when they decide to forgive their cheating partners3. There’s always scope for loss of self-respect. When someone is rushing to forgive their cheating spouse, it may be an act of betrayal to themselves. So, while they forgive or pretend to forgive their cheating partners, on many occasions, they don’t actually forgive and feel inadequate within.
4. When you let go of the grudges and resentment, the conflict dissipates, and harmony seeps in. 

Now, forgiving a repeated offender may not be a good thing, but if your partner genuinely is trying to make amends and is apologetic, it may be a good decision to forgive and reduce the conflict
4. Forgiving doesn’t erase the root cause. Without acknowledging the real issues, or sitting down, talking, and resolving them, forgiveness has no meaning. 

For instance, if someone cheated because they weren’t feeling emotionally supported at home, forgiveness after your partner’s infidelity alone is not enough to bring the relationship back on track

Should You Forgive A Cheater? 8 Factors To Consider

Is it weak to forgive someone for cheating? How do you forgive someone for cheating if you’re sure they will cheat again? Is your relationship worth saving? And how can you forgive a cheater if they’re a long-term spouse? More importantly, should you? Here’s what a Reddit user had to say about whether they would forgive a cheater, “In a long-term relationship, yes. Sh*t happens and sometimes communication breaks down. But I’m not gonna walk away from a 12-year relationship if she’s willing to cop to it and wants to talk about how to fix it.”

So, if you’re still undecided on whether to forgive your cheating spouse and are confused about how to go about it, read on. And before we get to the tips on forgiving a cheater, first let’s find out what factors you should consider before you decide to let go of the hurt and betrayal and embrace harmony. Ruchi helps us with a few factors that one should think over before answering the question, should you forgive a cheater? So, if you’re wondering when to walk away after infidelity and when to hold on, or are confused about how to forgive a cheating partner, read on:

Related Reading: What Is Not Cheating In A Relationship? These 10 Things

1. The extent of the betrayal

Taking back a cheater needs a lot of thought. Is it a financial, sexual, or emotional betrayal that your partner has put you through? Ruchi says, “It’s crucial to note your definition of somebody disrespecting your boundaries of fidelity and gauge the damage realistically.” So, instead of getting swayed by an apology, try and weigh the extent of the harm done and then proceed. This is exactly what to do when your partner cheats on you.

2. Is the apology genuine?

How can you forgive a cheater who’s not true to their intentions? Ruchi says, “In order to be forgiven, your partner has to be genuinely remorseful. Forgive them only if they’re committed to changing their behavior and are taking responsibility in the relationship.” Here’s what you should not tolerate:

  • They make you feel bad about your reactions
  • They gaslight you into believing you misunderstood them
  • They put the blame on you
  • There’s no true willingness to change their ways
when to walk away after infidelity
Before you forgive a cheater, you need to check if they’re genuinely apologetic

3. Their cheating history

So, should you stay with a cheater? It’s very important to consider the history of cheating behavior if you’re considering making the relationship work. Ruchi says, one should ask the following questions:

  • Does your partner have a consistent pattern of cheating on you?
  • Is this a one-time mistake?
  • Have you always ended up forgiving them in the past?

She adds, “If cheating on you is part of a larger pattern, it needs to be understood that it’s time to let go.” Can you forgive a cheater who is habituated to cheating? Definitely, not!

Related Reading: Trust Issues – 10 Signs You Find It Difficult To Trust Anyone

4. Has there been a communication break?

A lot of people withdraw into a shell after a cheating incident. But what they don’t realize is that forgiving in such cases requires a lot of healthy communication. Ruchi says, “Partners need to have a lot of information on each other to decide whether to stay or move on.

“For instance, how the cheating incident has impacted the romantic relationship between the two of you. One must understand that feeling comfortable with each other is a very important part of forgiveness. You will need to understand their point of view and make them understand yours. This however doesn’t mean that you should let complacency rule the relationship.”

5. Do you have a solid support system?

Ruchi says, “Your friends, family, and relationship therapists can help you a lot in dealing with your partner’s infidelity.” Should you stay with a cheater? The answer isn’t simple. In fact, forgiveness, in such cases, shouldn’t be rushed. One should be able to take into consideration multiple points of view (that of your close friends or your counselor) to reach a decision.

Related Reading: We Both Have Trust Issues In Our Relationship And Don’t Know What To Do

6. What does your gut feeling say?

At times, you should trust your gut feeling. Ruchi says, “You will eventually know when to forgive them when you listen to the emotional and physical responses in our system.” Ask yourself if it’s right or wrong or if you’re ready to forgive at all. This is what to do when your partner cheats on you.

7. Are there healthy boundaries in your romantic relationship?

Ruchi says, “Healthy boundaries are very important and should be a crucial factor in your decision of whether to forgive your partner.” For instance:

  • If you’ve asked them for time away, to focus on yourself, meet other people, and focus on self-care, and they’re not ready to give you that, consider not forgiving them
  • If they’re coaxing you into forgiveness, that too is a red flag
  • Cheaters often come back (call it cheaters’ karma) but are still not respectful of your needs. That again is a situation where you shouldn’t forgive them

Related Reading: 5 Women Reveal Why They Have Forgiven Their Cheating Husbands

8. Your own feelings

Taking back a cheater needs a lot of introspection. Ruchi says, “It’s important to reflect on your own feelings, needs, and values.” So, ask yourself questions, such as:

  • What does this forgiveness mean to you?
  • What are your expectations from this act of forgiveness?
  • Are you extending your values or compromising on your moral compass by forgiving them?
Taking back a cheater
Taking back a cheater is tough

For instance, one of my friends, Trish, was shocked to learn about her husband’s emotional affair with a coworker. They had no sexual contact, not even sexting, but often exchanged normal messages about their lives, at odd hours. While Trish’s value system said this was a major act of cheating, as she valued emotional loyalty, her husband believed this wasn’t a big deal. So, their values clashed. Forgiveness in such a situation isn’t the best bet.

How To Forgive A Cheating Partner: 7 Expert-Backed Tips

So, you’ve decided you wish to forgive your cheating spouse. But the big question now is how. Forgiveness doesn’t come easy in the wake of infidelity. On this, a Reddit user has a very simple logic, “I wish I could tell you how to forgive, but I don’t know the answer. Just remember that forgiveness doesn’t mean staying with or forgetting — forgiveness is powerful for yourself, that way you stop holding on to the anger and resentment. I forgave my husband the first time and moved forward, though things were never the same. 6 years later, he did it again but way worse.”

Related Reading: When Forgiving An Affair Stopped Me From Killing Myself

As you can see, the road to forgiveness after infidelity can be fraught with doubts, insecurities, and the fear of having to live through the same nightmare again. However, if you do wish to walk this road and give your relationship another chance, there are ways of forgiving a cheating spouse truly. Ruchi helps us with 7 actionable tips on how to forgive a cheating partner:

1. Feel your emotions

So, how do you forgive someone for cheating? Ruchi advises, “Allow yourself to feel and process the range of negative emotions, be it anger, sadness, or dejection. Ignoring those feelings is a huge mistake and can get in the way of your decision to forgive your cheating partner.” This is because sorting your emotions out is the first thing you should do before making such a major decision of mending your broken relationship.

To process your emotions, you can try:

  • Journaling
  • Talking
  • Opting for therapy
what to do when your partner cheats on
To forgive a cheater, you need to process your negative emotions

2. Engage in honest communication

So, can you forgive someone who cheated on you? Definitely, yes. But you need to be able to communicate with them, honestly and openly. Ruchi feels, “Fearless and open communication is the best tip to go through this extremely difficult phase of forgiving after cheating.” So, you can talk about:

  • How it impacted you
  • What you need to do to move on
  • Where your partner is in terms of moving on
  • What are your goals, values, and perspectives, and where they clash with your partner’s

Related Reading: Confessions Of Five Women Who Say, “My Husband Cheated But I Feel Guilty”

3. Establish boundaries

How do you forgive someone for cheating if they don’t care about how you feel? Forgiveness is only helpful if it helps you feel more respected and valued. Ruchi says, “The only way forgiving a cheater can make you feel good is if your boundaries are respected. You need to communicate clear and healthy boundaries if you think the relationship is worth fighting for.”

Here’s what some boundaries look like:

  • Setting the standards of communication: Make it clear that they need to respond to your calls and texts, and be available for a healthy conversation when needed
  • Being clear about the level of transparency: Make it clear if you want them to stop texting their exes or random strangers on social media. Share passwords or social media messages, if needed
  • Arriving at a mutually agreed-upon definition of fidelity: What’s your definition of fidelity and what do you consider cheating as? Is that what your partner thinks too? Talk and set some boundaries

4. Seek professional help

Rebuilding trust is a key component of deciphering how to forgive a cheating partner. However, it’s not easy, especially if you’re doing it by yourself. That’s why seeking professional help and going into therapy is always the best option when you’re clueless about how to forgive a cheating spouse and are worried about your mental health.

Related Reading: 20 Shocking Things Cheaters Say When Confronted

Ruchi says, “A neutral third party, especially a professional relationship therapist or counselor, can always offer valuable insight if you’re wondering how to forgive a cheating partner. Apart from the support, they offer a safe space to gain perspective during the healing process. So, go ahead and opt for couples counseling.” So, if you need help working through the blow of infidelity and finding a path to forgiveness, don’t hesitate to reach out to Bonobology’s counseling services.

5. Focus on the present

Yes, we get it! It’s hard to move on from a cheating incident and let go of the past. How long does it take to forgive someone for cheating? Months, or maybe years! Thoughts may keep coming back to you. What if you face a similar situation again? To counter this, Ruchi advises, “If you’re planning to forgive your partner, focus on the present and make an effort to move forward together, without dwelling on the past. That’s the only way this is going to work.”

6. Practice self-care

Ruchi says, “A lot of times, people give up things they enjoy when they feel betrayed in a relationship. But healthy emotional and physical well-being is very important if you wish to forgive your partner.” So, try these tips of self-care and self-discovery:

  • Exercise
  • Hang out with friends
  • Take up a new hobby or practice one you had forgotten about
  • Take long walks
  • Go on a holiday

Most importantly, do whatever makes you feel good about yourself and understand yourself better, helps you take care of your mental health, or speeds up the forgiveness process. This way, you’ll be able to go through challenges effectively.

on cheating

7. Be patient

How long does it take to forgive someone for cheating? Ruchi says, “The healing process isn’t linear. It takes years and sometimes, even a lifetime, for people to forgive their cheating partners. At times, they can’t even forgive completely.” So, remember, forgiveness takes time and patience. Don’t rush. Be gentle and heal at your own pace. Don’t shame or pressure yourself. Honor your own pace of forgiving.

Key Pointers

  • Some pros of forgiving a cheater are personal growth, release of the emotional burden, and the opportunity to build a healthy relationship
  • Some cons of forgiving a cheater include a lack of guarantee that it won’t happen again, the emotional vulnerability of the cheated partner, and the scope for loss of self-esteem
  • Should you forgive a cheater? Some factors to consider when deciding if you should forgive a cheater are your feelings, the genuineness of the apology, and your support system
  • Some tips to forgive a cheating partner are establishing boundaries, practicing self-care, and being patient

Though cheating and forgiveness aren’t the best pair, we hope you now know the answers to questions such as, “Can you forgive a cheater?” If you’re experiencing infidelity, remember, at the end of the day, what matters is whether you’re fine with your decision of forgiving your cheating spouse and if you’re ready to rebuild trust. Nobody else, neither your friends nor your therapist, can decide it for you because you know yourself the best. 

So, go ahead, make that call! But make sure you aren’t putting up with abuse or bad behavior. This is when to walk away after infidelity. Reach out to people who can help. And don’t hesitate to end things if you’ve reached a dead end. We hope this article helped you decide if you should let go or forgive your partner. Either way, here’s to moving forward.

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