Should You Ever Forgive a Cheater?

One of the reasons I enjoy writing about love and relationships here at Babble is because I’ve got a lot of varied relationship experience to draw from. I’ve been a young single girl, a young married girl, and now I’m a young divorced woman trying to date as a single mother. (The key to romance: never get old.) One thing I have no experience with, however, is cheating. I’ve never cheated on anybody I’ve been in a relationship with, and I’ve never (to my knowledge) been cheated on.

Because of that, I have no solid opinion about how to proceed when infidelity rears its ugly head in a relationship, especially a marriage. I know there are people who have repaired relationships after an affair who believe they did the right thing, but I’m curious to know what readers think.

Should you ever forgive a cheater?

The writers at Cosmopolitan magazine seem to think there are times to forgive and times to forget when it comes to cheating. They’re of course looking at this through the lens of men cheating on women, but I’m interested to know if you think the same rules apply when women cheat on men, or if these procedural rules are accurate at all. Let me break their strategy down for you:


Before a Major Transition

According to Cosmo, many guys react to moving in together or marriage by taking a step back and cheating. “When a man feels his sense of freedom slipping away, he may cheat. It’s very common for a normally faithful guy to panic and do something stupid before some sort of commitment,” says Scott Kudia, PhD, author of If This is Love, Why Am I Unhappy?

If He Confesses Before You Catch Him

“Guys almost always keep these sorts of things a secret,” says Kudia. “The fact that he’s confessing is a huge sign. And a very good sign. View it as a cry for help.”

If It’s Totally Out of Character

“Slipups happen, but the good news is that when they truly are slipups, they’re survivable,” says William July, PhD, author of Confessions of an Ex Bachelor. In order to salvage your twosome, it’s important to resist the urge to get revenge, make him angry, or feel anxious every time he doesn’t call, according to July. If you’re capable of forgiving him and moving on, do just that.

If He’s Going Through a Tough Time

Cosmo says, “You know how when you feel stressed, you deal by watching trashy TV with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s? Or surrounding yourself with 17 of your closest friends? Well, some men handle it by straying.” They quote July as saying, “Guys are more likely to cheat when under great stress, because they have fewer tools in their emotional tool belt. Their self-expression is often limited to anger and sex.” Carolyn says: Ummmmmmmm, no. Go to therapy. Learn how to express yourself with your mouth, not your penis.

If He Was Drunk and It Wasn’t Emotional

Cosmo says, “He takes a few too many shots, temporarily forgets he is attached, and makes out with whatever girl is at arm’s length in the bar. Not cool. But also, not the worst thing that can happen.”

Carolyn says: Of the five responses above, the only one I feel truly comfortable with is the second one, and only if it’s in combination with the third. I’m sorry, but if you cheat the night before our wedding, I will pull a Carrie Bradshaw and go take a nap in Mexico for two weeks. If you cheat because you were drunk the night before our wedding and you’re going through a tough time? I got engaged to the wrong guy.


If he got it on with an ex.

Carolyn says: Noooooooooo… ex-sex is bad!

If it was a full-fledged affair.

Carolyn says: If you’re married, save the evidence. You’ll need it.

If he didn’t apologize.

Carolyn says: Lack of remorse is a huge red flag and remorseless people will never awaken to feeling no matter how much couples counseling you try. In fact, they may just become more manipulative with therapy.

If you just started dating.

Carolyn says: Ding ding ding ding ding!

If he’s a repeat offender.

Carolyn says: Duh. Yes. Run, don’t walk.


What do you think? Is it ever wise to forgive a cheater? Have you done it successfully or forgiven only to be burned again? Does being married make a difference regarding whether or not you’d forgive? Share your experience and wisdom in the comments!

Photo credit: iStock

Article Posted 5 years Ago

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