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Your partner cheated on you… and it feels awful.
But somehow, in your heart of hearts, you want to forgive them.
You’ve thought long and hard about whether you should forgive them for their cheating…
…but the fact that you have found yourself reading this article means you’ve already answered that question in your mind.
The next big question is how.
How do you forgive a cheater?
How do you move past their infidelity and save your relationship?
This article will look at all of the things you’ll have to think about and do in order to finally forgive your partner.
The first step is to…
1. Commit to forgiving them.
You have decided to forgive them, and you can strengthen this commitment by communicating this decision with your partner.
But you don’t have to actually say that you forgive them. Not yet, at least.
Right now you are in the early stages of a process that won’t happen overnight.
So you can say something along the lines of:
“I have decided to forgive you, but you have to understand that it will take time for me to get to that point emotionally.”
You can also make it clear that this isn’t you letting them off the hook:
“It’s going to take lots of baby steps on my part and we’ll both have to work hard to repair the damage this has caused.”
2. Accept that forgiveness is the only way to save the relationship.
If you are serious about making your relationship work, you will have to reach a point where you accept that forgiveness is an essential part of that.
If you can’t reach the point where the ill-feeling you have toward your partner right now is reduced almost to nothing, the relationship has no viable future.
There is no other way.
Whilst you still feel anger or resentment or anything else, you will not be able to treat them in the way a partner deserves to be treated.
When you realize that forgiveness is the only path, it can actually speed up the whole process.
3. Spend some time apart if possible.
If the affair has only just come to light, your feelings are probably still raw and intense.
These feelings have the potential to cause a great deal of tension and conflict between you and your partner.
Which is why it is a good idea to spend some time completely apart from one another, to let those negative feelings reduce in intensity.
Assuming you live together, see if one of you has anywhere else they might be able to stay for a little while – a friend’s house, with parents, etc.
You might find it easier if it is you who stays somewhere else because you will then have someone to support you, rather than being alone in your own home.
Of course, if you have children, it is better to stay with them in the family home to maintain consistency in their lives.
If you don’t yet live together, you can just not see each other as you normally would.
It’s important to note that this doesn’t mean you are on a ‘break’ – you are still in a relationship at this point and should not behave as if you are single.
4. Seek to understand their infidelity.
Why did they cheat?
It’s a question you’ve probably already wrestled with, but it deserves some further consideration.
Was it a drunken kiss or one night stand when their inhibitions were low?
Or was it an affair with a colleague whom they had gotten close to after working on a big project that required trips away together?
Did they develop feelings for someone or was it just physical?
What state was your relationship in before the cheating happened? Was there conflict? Had you drifted apart? Did the physical intimacy you show each other disappear?
It’s very important to keep in mind that this exercise is not meant to justify or condone the act of cheating.
There is no justification for that.
It is simply meant to help you empathize with your partner and to understand how they could have reached a point where cheating became possible.
It helps if you can…
5. See your partner as a flawed human being.
Nobody is perfect.
Far from it. We all have our flaws and shortcomings.
This doesn’t mean that we are all capable of cheating, but we do all have aspects of ourselves that are less than desirable.
Reminding yourself that your partner is a human being – with all the flaws and failings that come with it – can help to answer the question that has no doubt gone around your mind a lot: how could they have done that?
The answer is, they could have done that because they are not perfect.
They have their own issues that they have to work on.
Again, accepting them as flawed doesn’t justify the act of cheating, and nor does it diminish the hurt you feel.
It is simply a part of the process that is designed to reduce the intensity of the ill-feelings you have toward them and allow empathy to develop.
6. Remember your partner’s good qualities.
You fell in love with them for a reason. Many reasons, no doubt.
It might be hard to remember what those reasons were right now, but if you can try to think about them, it will aid the process of forgiveness.
Again, it comes down to easing the negativity you might feel toward them at this moment in time.
By reflecting on their more positive qualities, you will give yourself greater reason to pursue the path of forgiveness with determination and patience, even when you hit bumps in the road.
Perhaps they are very caring, understanding, and make you feel good about yourself in general (though not now).
Maybe they are generous and confident and share lots of the same values as you do.
Whatever it was that first attracted you to them, think about it.
7. See forgiveness as a gift to yourself.
Your partner’s infidelity may have hurt them in some ways, but it has hurt you a whole lot more.
And whilst forgiveness is generally viewed as something you grant to someone who has hurt you, it’s actually something you grant yourself.
Forgiveness is a gift that you give yourself. It is a way of dispelling the emotional pain and turmoil that you feel.
Forgiveness is a way to express the power you hold in your hands to heal yourself.
When you realize that forgiveness is more for you than it is for them, it becomes a process that you are much more invested in.
8. Try not to retaliate or hold their cheating against them.
It may sound strange given how horrible the act of cheating is, but you should not try to make them pay for what they have done.
Retribution does not aid forgiveness – it actually stands in its way.
You may think that it will make you feel better, but all it does is to keep the ill-feeling you have toward them fresh in your mind.
It will actually prolong your suffering.
It will also push them away from you and put your relationship on even rockier ground than it might already be.
You should also not hold their infidelity against them forever.
You can’t bring it up later down the line as a means to punish them if they have upset you, or use it to justify an act of cruelty against them.
If you do, you are just reopening the wound that you are trying to heal.
9. Be mindful of triggers.
Even as the hurt you feel now begins to reduce, it can still be reignited by certain things.
These triggers can be anything that reminds you of their betrayal.
The other person’s name is, of course, a big one which should be avoided.
Or perhaps it might be places that you know they went with their affair partner.
It may be something as simple as the bed linen that you need to replace because the physical side of the affair happened in your bed.
You should steer clear of anything that might stir the ill-feeling that you are working so hard to process and move past. At least, for as long as possible.
10. Notice the improvement in your feelings.
As time passes and your pain and anger begin to fade, try to notice this and be mindful of it.
When you feel positive emotions toward your partner, see it as progress that you are making.
This shift in feelings from negative to positive is further evidence that forgiveness is the only path forward.
It shows that forgiveness is not only possible, but it is the only way for your relationship to continue and for the happiness you share to return.
This provides ongoing motivation to work hard on things as a couple, knowing that that work pays off.
11. Address any underlying issues in the relationship.
Cheating is much more likely in a relationship that has some unresolved problems.
It is worth repeating that no issue is ever justification for the cheating, even if it is a contributing factor.
Look at your relationship and ask what things need to be improved.
Then put a plan in place to work on those things.
A more harmonious relationship going forward will speed up the process of forgiveness and allow your trust in them to build again.
Identifying and working on/through issues in a relationship is not easy. It is generally best to seek the advice of a relationship counselor.
We highly recommend Relationship Hero who provide great value relationship sessions over the internet – click here to get started.
12. Know that communication is key.
You will likely have already had a conversation about your partner’s cheating, but this will be the first of many.
Good communication about how you are feeling, how they are feeling, and what you can both do to help smooth the transition to a better relationship is vital.
These talks will not always be easy and conflict is not only possible, but probable.
But being open with each other is a must.
You cannot get through this and fully forgive them for their actions unless you share with each other.
Again, a relationship counselling service such as Relationship Hero is an invaluable thing.
Communication between couples is much easier when a third party is on hand to guide the conversation and to prevent blowouts.
13. Do nice things for your partner.
It may sound counterintuitive to reward your partner’s infidelity with kind gestures, but it can help you to forgive them.
When you do nice things for them, you remind yourself of the love that you felt and that you hopefully still feel toward them.
Love is expressed in the things you do and say, and by demonstrating your love, you can overpower the negative feelings you may feel toward them and the whole situation.
It’s a small part of the process, but not one that you should overlook.
14. Date your partner again.
After cheating has taken place in a relationship, it can help to return to where it all began.
When you first met your partner, you probably dated them for a while before things got serious.
And to aid the fresh start for your relationship, you should go on dates with them again now.
Dating is intimate. Dating is fun. Dating is a chance to rediscover each other.
Overall, dating can revitalize the feelings you have for each other – feelings that may have waned over the course of years or more.
Re-run some of your first dates. Eat at the same restaurants, go to the same places, do the same things.
This will reawaken those old memories and you can bond with each other over the nostalgia you feel.
15. Don’t rush yourself.
You can’t forgive a cheater overnight.
It will take time for you to process all of the emotions you will feel.
So be patient with yourself and be realistic about how long you might feel hurt by them and their actions for.
When you are struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel, it can be tempting to give up and say that it’s not working.
You can quickly convince yourself that you’ll never be able to forgive them for what they have done.
And, this may be true…
…but until you have given it every opportunity and made every effort, you can’t say this for sure.
So don’t rush into a decision to end the relationship if you really do want it to work.
Stay patient, keep trying, and see how you feel in time.
16. Forgive yourself.
As your partner’s cheating came to light, and in the immediate aftermath, you probably thought a lot of horrible things about them, and possible about yourself.
You probably felt anger and hatred and disgust.
You may have also said and done some things that you are not proud of.
It is essential that you forgive yourself for these thoughts, feelings, and actions.
You were (and still are) in a lot of emotional pain and it is understandable that you may have thought things or acted in ways that you wouldn’t do otherwise.
You can choose to hold onto these regrets, or you can choose to forgive yourself as part of the process of forgiving your partner.
17. Forgetting is not necessary.
Whilst you should not hold the thought of your partner cheating on you in your mind, you do not need to forget about it entirely.
Forgiving someone doesn’t mean forgetting what they have done.
No matter how much time passes, you are bound to have the occasional thought about their infidelity.
You won’t necessarily direct your thoughts to it, but memories have a way of popping up to the surface of our consciousness from time to time.
These memories might even be accompanied by their related feelings.
The key thing to remember is that forgiveness is more about how you proactively think, feel, and act going forward and not so much about the intrusive thoughts or feelings that may arise.
4 Things Your Partner Must Do To Allow You To Forgive Them
Now that we have gone through all of the things you’ll need to consider when forgiving a cheating partner, let’s look at what they can do to support that process.
1. They must take full responsibility – as has been said already, there is no justification for cheating.
There is no blame on your part.
They acted how they did and it is on their shoulders alone.
Your partner needs to accept this and, where relevant, apologize for any attempts they might have made to assign blame to you when the truth first came out.
2. They must cut all ties with their affair partner – as difficult as this may be, they must not see or speak to the person they cheated on you with.
If this person happens to be a colleague of theirs, they must do everything in their power to avoid contact with them.
If this means asking to be transferred to a different site, office, or team, then they must do it, no matter how awkward it might be.
They may even have to consider moving jobs if this is feasible. It’s a change they should be willing to make to mend your relationship.
3. They must show true remorse – if they don’t appear to feel bad about what they have done, you’ll never be able to forgive them.
They must communicate their regret clearly, and they must work hard to make things right.
This will show you that they are serious about saving your relationship and making it better in the future.
4. They must agree to couples counselling if that’s what you want – you can rightfully expect them to agree with your wish.
They might resist or protest, but they are in no position to refuse something which you feel is necessary for your relationship to work.
Again, if this is something you are interested in, we highly recommend the online service provided by Relationship Hero where you can connect with an expert counselor from your own home and at a time to suit you.
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