Infidelity Insights: Forgive A Cheating Spouse? Maybe, Here’s How
Discovering you’re involved with a cheating spouse can leave you devastated, hurt and shocked. Maybe you never thought infidelity would happen to you; that the person you trusted the most has let you down, embarrassed you, and hurt you to your core. But if you haven’t already packed your bags and left your cheating spouse, you may be wondering whether you should end the relationship now or give your partner a second chance.
According to psychiatrist Dr. Scott Haltzman, 4 in 10 marriages are challenged by affairs of cheating spouses and out of that (maybe surprisingly) more than half of American marriages survive the affair. If you decide to try and work it out, you may end up in a better marriage than you had before, with some studies indicating that couples who save their marriage after infidelity report the highest satisfaction levels.
If you’re considering whether your marriage is worth saving, read on for expert tips on why, how and if you should forgive your cheating spouse.
Do You Stay?
When infidelity hits your relationship, the betrayed has two choices: Walk away or try to make it work. Most likely, your mind and emotions tell you to hate, punish and never forgive your cheating partner. After all, they committed the ultimate betrayal. So why in the world should you forgive them? Forgiving a cheater does not mean promising him or her you will forget about the infidelity. It doesn’t involve condoning or excusing the cheating, or even staying in the relationship if you don’t want to. Forgiving them is solely for your benefit.
Experts say the first step in deciding whether to stay after an infidelity depends on the cheating circumstances. “I ask couples to figure out whether the cheating episode is a mistake or a crime,” says Dr Shefali Batra, a psychiatrist. “For example, if one cheats on his/her partner repeatedly and makes a habit out of it, then it’s a crime and its best to steer clear of the relationship as one cannot forgive a repeat offense. But if it’s a mistake and a one off thing which the cheating partner feels very guilty about, then you can perhaps choose to work on the relationship.”
Andrea Brandt, Ph.D. explains at Psychology Today that forgiveness is the capping off of your emotional turmoil: “Forgiveness puts the final seal on what happened that hurt you. You will still remember what happened, but you will no longer be bound by it. Having worked through the feelings and learned what you need to do to strengthen your boundaries or get your needs met, you are better able to take care of yourself in the future.”
How To Forgive And Repair
So, you’ve decided to give your partner a second chance—you may have your work cut out for you. “If you thought starting a new relationship is tough, reconciling with your partner after infidelity is even tougher. The trust that you once had will not be rebuilt in a day. Take baby steps instead of giant leaps. A partner is likely to come to terms with the incident at his/her own pace. Don’t expect things to normalize immediately,” points out psychiatrist Dr. Shefali Batra.
While it only takes one person to forgive, the work to repair a relationship after an affair takes efforts from both sides. Psychotherapist and relationship coach Toni Coleman explains, “If a significant other wants the marriage to survive and thrive, he or she will need to work towards and find forgiveness — because without it, a couple’s intimacy, trust and friendship will be forever negatively impacted.” “Infidelity is never excusable, but in some circumstances, it may be forgivable-depending on the attitude of the cheater about the cheating. There must be genuine remorse about the infidelity, about having hurt one’s mate (not remorse that the affair was discovered, “says infidelity expert Ruth Houston.
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Lastly, remember: “When you forgive, it doesn’t mean that nothing happened,” explains Lesli Doares, marriage coach and author of Blueprint For A Lasting Marriage. “It means that you have chosen to move past the offense. A sincere and clean apology is extremely helpful to the process. It is important to have your pain acknowledged and redress made but you can choose to forgive without those things — and that’s because forgiveness is for you, not them.”