Forgiving a Cheater – Can You Do It?

Relationships A-Z
12 Aug 2023
14 min read
How to Forgive a Cheater - 7 Steps If You Want To

How many songs have been written about a cheating partner? Too many to count. Some of them are woeful and sad; others are angry and defiant. But all those dealing with this experience have one thing in common – a romantic relationship’s foundation has been majorly cracked. You need to make some decisions to restore that healthy relationship you used to have. Ultimately, it’s your call to choose how to forgive a cheater and try to repair the broken relationship or how to end it and move on.

Let’s see your options in this post.

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6 Types of Cheating

While most people think that a partner’s infidelity means a sexual relationship with another person, cheating includes more than that. Under two major categories – physical and emotional – there are 6 types of cheating and different reasons why people cheat in each scenario. Each type is unique and fills a need that your partner has.

1. Romantic Cheating

When your partner creates a romantic connection with someone else, this can be both physical and emotional cheating.

When your partner does not have the emotional intimacy they once felt for you, it hurts. It feels like the love is gone. And it’s even worse when they don’t leave you for someone else, staying committed to your relationship/marriage and planning to stand by that commitment. It’s like a long-term slow torture that ruins your self-esteem and ability to feel yourself as a sexual goddess.

In many cases, your current partner’s affair may not last all that long, but chances are there will be more to come. If they have already become a serial cheater, the solution will not happen overnight, not by a long shot, and can be incredibly difficult.

When the romantic relationship is no longer there on your partner’s part, it will be difficult to get that back. If both of you agree, finding a relationship therapist may help to bring up the reasons they have lost their romantic feelings and how those might be remedied if both agree to really work on them.

Related reading: Psychology Behind Cheating and Lying

Cheating partner types

2. Opportunistic Cheating

So, your partner travels for work a lot. And they may find themselves in another city with a co-worker or with someone attending the same event. There is a physical attraction, and, in the course of an evening, they have a few drinks together. Inhibitions fly out the window, and they end up in bed together.

Does this mean your relationship is shot? Probably not. This may have been a one-time fling; your partner may feel guilty and doesn’t really have an emotional connection with his cheating partner. You may be feeling angry; you are probably feeling hurt and other kinds of negative emotions.

The healing process will require some very honest conversations and a plan to prevent this in the future. But this type of cheating can be overcome. It’s not fast, and it will require that you regain trust in your partner.

3. Emotional Cheating

Here is a complex type of cheating. It’s not a one-time dalliance. Your partner has emotional needs that are not being met, for whatever reason. While the relationship is not sexual, it is still terribly damaging, maybe more than a sexual one.

Your partner feels lonely for some reason, and only honest communication will bring out those reasons. This is not an easy fix, and an emotional affair can become a sexual one too. Many people who suffer through this type by a cheating spouse or partner often say it is worse than if it were just sexual cheating.

Related reading: 9 Things You Can Do When You Are Feeling Lonely in a Relationship

4. Cyber Cheating

This is also known as an online affair or “mini cheating,” but it can be just as devastating to you and can damage any relationship. They are conducted in chat rooms, via texting, emails, or private social media messages. A research study conducted by Dr. Aimee Adam at Indiana University Southeast, in fact, concluded that cyber cheating is quite harmful and can trigger insecurity, jealousy, anger, and a sense of betrayal.

You can look for signs that your partner is engaged in cyber infidelity – they spend more time on their devices; they set up security “walls” on their devices; they use their devices in isolation.

5. Obligatory Cheating

This may be more common among men, but women may engage in it as well. Basically, there is a “good ole boys” club of co-workers or buddies, all of whom are boasting about their sexual conquests. In order to be a part of the “group” and boost their own self-esteem, the person will begin to have hookups that have no romantic relationship meaning at all.

Related reading: Is Sexting Cheating? It’s Complicated

6. Conflicted Partner’s Infidelity

You may have a partner who loves you but someone else at the same time. They may love each of you for different reasons and don’t want to give either of you up. Of course, this sounds pretty selfish, but if your partner is in this type of cheating situation, the prospects for a happy resolution are mighty dim.

How to forgive a cheater (or not)

7 Steps to Forgive a Cheater (If You Want to)

People cheat for a variety of reasons, and their partners have a variety of reactions:

  • They may do nothing and simply live with it
  • They may immediately end the relationship or marriage
  • They may decide the partnership is worth fighting for by finding a relationship and/or family therapist and getting their partner or spouse to agree to do this.

But while you and your cheating partner are in therapy, there is this question of forgiveness. How to forgive a cheater wholeheartedly and overcome the pain? The answer is not easy and will vary depending on each player, both the cheater and the cheated upon. But it’s always a process.

Let’s unpack 7 steps you can take on the path to forgive someone who cheated on you.

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Step #1. Assess How and What You Are Feeling

Examining all the complex emotions inside of you is the first step on the road to forgive a cheater. Be ready to embrace them all.

There are a bunch of emotions running through you because of this painful experience. After all, it is a huge betrayal. So get in tune with your feelings – they will probably run the entire gamut – hurt, anger, sadness, pain, loss of feelings of self-worth, and a new sense of insecurity. Dredge up each feeling, paying attention to how strong it is within you.

If you intend to forgive someone who cheated on you, you will need to get these emotions under control. It’s hard work, and no one can tell you how long that will take – a few weeks, a few months, or longer. Only you can decide when you have these emotions under control and have reached a state of calm and acceptance of them.

Step #2. Recognize You Are Not Alone

People cheat. It’s gone on as long as there have been relationships. While your own relationship is the most important issue right now, it does help to know that experiencing infidelity in a relationship is common.

Recognizing this and perhaps joining a support group will help you gain clarity and comfort. Having a support system, whether from a group, a friend, or a family member can do wonders for your mental health during this tough time. You can’t begin the work of forgiving your partner until you are feeling grounded and somewhat at peace.

Related reading: 11 Common Relationship Issues And What You Can Do About Them

Step #3. Decide What Your Life Will Look and Be Like During This Process

Your boyfriend or girlfriend cheated. And you do want to work on forgiveness and repairing the relationship. While you are working on this, you need to set rules that are comfortable for yourself. Here are some things to consider:

  • What will your physical life look like with your partner?
  • Will you still sleep together?
  • Will you still have sex?
  • Will you move into separate bedrooms?
  • Maybe a full separation is best?

Some of these answers, of course, will be determined by the level of cheating. Was it a one-time thing or have there been multiple times involved? And what type of cheating occurred? All of these will figure into what you want right now. Make your own decision, and don’t listen to what others say you should.

Step #4. Have the “Talk”

Open communication with someone who cheated on you is not an optional matter if you want a path to forgive a cheater. But there are some “rules” here:

  • Choose a place that will be comfortable for both of you
  • You cannot begin the conversation(s) until you are calm, have restored your mental health from the trauma, and are certain that your partner is ready too.
  • Never begin the conversation without having thought through what your goals are. Concentrate on addressing only problems your cheating partner has caused for the relationship.
  • Your partner cheated; you did not. But this is not the time to launch into a tirade about how he hurt you and damaged the relationship. The operative term here is calm discussion. And the real goal is to figure out how both of you will move forward.
  • Part of that moving forward is your understanding of why they felt the need to cheat. You want and need the reasons. And part of your ability to rebuild trust in this person and the relationship is their complete honesty. Make certain the person understands this and agrees.

The other thing to remember here is that all of this may not be accomplished in one sitting. If you feel that you are getting emotionally flooded or that the conversation is going down a negative path, cut it off. Your well-being and comfort during these conversations must come first.

Couple's therapy is a good tool to deal with partner's infidelity in a broken relationship

Step #5. Consider Couple’s Therapy

If you do not feel that you can do this on your own or that your conversations are not effective and productive, getting professional help may be a good move.

If that someone who cheated on you is not willing to go this route, accept that. But nothing says you can’t get professional help on your own. Do it if it feels right for you. Find a relationship and/or family therapist you are comfortable with and work on healing yourself. You deserve a better life and finding your own relationship foundation.

Step #6. Focus on Yourself During This Time

Forgiving a cheating partner is not the only thing going on in your life right now, and it shouldn’t be. Part of gaining some perspective pursuing other aspects of your life that are important to you.

Here are some things worth considering:

  • Socialize with friends, family, and co-workers
  • Take a weekend getaway trip
  • Focus on career growth
  • Take a class.

What happened with your relationship is just one thing. While painful and traumatic, it does not define everything you are and every aspect of your life.

Step #7. Set Boundaries and Expectations

Often, cheaters feel guilty and want to know what they can do toward rebuilding trust and repairing the relationship. Even if the person does not verbalize this, be ready to set your expectations and boundaries for what must and must not happen. Here are some examples:

  • Your partner will delete and block all people they have engaged in cyber cheating with from their email and social media accounts and will disengage from all chat rooms in which they have been involved.
  • They will take off all of the security locks on their phones and other devices.
  • If you’ve caught a cheater, put some strict limitations on when this person goes out without you, who they will be with, where they will be, what time they will be home, and how they will keep in touch with you. While this may seem a bit controlling, cheating partners need to realize that trust must be rebuilt in this relationship. How serious is this person about that? You can see.
  • Decide what constitutes acceptable or unacceptable behavior regarding flirting with others when you are out somewhere together.

Note: these are only examples. You have to set boundaries you are comfortable with. Some of these may seem a bit extreme. And if you need to set really controlling boundaries, you may not be ready to forgive a partner who has cheated on you. And that’s okay. If you’re not ready, then acknowledge that and take all the time you need.

5 Bonus Tips as You Deal with Your Cracked Relationship

Getting your peace of mind back is tough, and you may not be able to forgive someone for cheating ultimately. But you deserve a proper healing anyways. Here is what you can do:

  1. Don’t bottle up your emotions: You have every right to every emotion you are feeling. Don’t bury them inside yourself. Let them out. You can’t figure out how to forgive someone until your emotions are out, dealt with, and you are calm and rational.
  2. Be around those who love you: You need support and people to vent all your emotions. It’s not about saying empty words like, “You’ll be fine. Just get over it and move on.” You’re dealing with traumatic experience, and you need full recognition and presence from the one who listens. Seek fo that among people you love.
  3. Accept that you did nothing wrong: It’s easy to feel insecure and wonder what’s your fault. But listen up. If your partner had issues in your relationship, it was up to them to bring it up for resolution. Instead, they made a conscious decision to cheat. And if they were cheating to “earn their stripes,” shame on them.
  4. Do what makes you feel good: When you feel good about yourself, your self-confidence grows. So do it: paint a room; go for therapy; get a new hairstyle; even listen to music about cheating if it works for you! Then, you’ll be ready to think about what you need and if to forgive someone who cheated on you.
  5. Take your time: Don’t rush to forgive a partner right away. “Victims” need time to decide if they even want to forgive a partner and stay in the relationship. You have all the rights to say no. That is your life and your relationships.
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No One Is Perfect

And no relationship is perfect either. You’ve had a painful and traumatic experience, and you are more than a little vulnerable right now. Do you want to mend the relationship and forgive your partner? The process in not an overnight one, and it will take work. Do couples survive infidelity? The answer is up to you only, we’ve just gave you the direction.

The cheating happened and can’t be undone. Maybe your self-esteem has been damaged. But while your entire relationship on shaky ground, only time will tell if the relationship is worth saving. Give it a try, and don’t blame yourself if you have to give up. It’s OK to move on and not forgive.

Love&Sex Expert
Cherie Hamilton
I’ve always been inspired by women who are outgoing, very sure of themselves, and not afraid to be who they were, including their sex lives. Under their tutelage, I gradually shed my old self, hung out and socialized with them, and, over time, became the empowered, self-confident, and sexual woman I am today. Happy to share my insights with other women today!
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