If your partner cheated on you, you’re probably experiencing a whirlwind of different emotions. It's totally normal to feel shocked, sad, and disappointed at one moment, and then feel infuriated, betrayed, or incredibly hurt the next. While you’re trying to manage and deal with your thoughts and feelings, you may also be wondering where your relationship can even go from here. Breaking up might seem like the obvious (and only) answer, but you can move forward and get your relationship back on track. If you're wondering how to forgive a cheater, know that it'll take work, but it is possible.
Read on for four key steps for forgiving a cheater.
Decide That You Want To Forgive
If you’re wondering how to forgive a cheater, the first question you should be asking yourself is if you even want to forgive your partner. While your S.O. may be hoping (and probably begging) for your forgiveness, know that you aren't obligated to forgive them. If you decide you don’t want to forgive because it’s too painful or you feel that your partner doesn't deserve your forgiveness, it's completely your decision. No matter what your friends and family are telling you to do, forgiving someone for cheating is a highly personal decision that doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all answer.
However, if you make the decision that you’d like to somehow forgive your partner—even if it seems challenging or impossible at the moment—this choice is the first step towards being able to forgive them and move on.
Don’t Hide From Your Emotions
It’s important to let yourself fully experience your emotions. While it might just be easier to sweep everything under the rug and pretend that things are fine between the two of you, know that it will probably backfire in the long run. Neglecting to truly deal with and work through your emotions makes it that much harder for you to actually forgive your partner, so let yourself feel your emotions.
Most importantly, give yourself the time you need to process and work through your feelings, and don't put yourself on a deadline. Forgiveness doesn't necessarily happen in a day or even a week. "Forgiveness is a process that takes time. Be gentle with yourself as you begin to consider forgiving," says Robert Enright, Ph.D.
Understand the Power of Forgiveness
Forgiveness obviously benefits your partner, but it's healthy for you, as well. When you’re holding a grudge and feeling hurt every day, you’re making it harder for yourself to heal and move on—with or without your partner. Consciously deciding to forgive your partner frees you from the hurt and pain (if you process and work through your emotions properly, that is).
Communicate With Your Partner
Another step toward forgiving a cheater is for both of you to open up to each other. It’s important for you to honestly and rationally talk to one another about what happened, why it happened, and what you want going forward for your relationship. For example, you may be worried that your partner is going to cheat on you again in the future, while they may be worried that you’ll never be able to fully trust them again. "Ask something of [them]. What is [their] view of fidelity? Do [they] need some counseling help to deal with a weakness of commitment?" Enright says.
Once you’re able to be totally open with each other and eliminate the secrets, lies, misunderstandings, and miscommunication, you’ll be in a better position to forgive your S.O. as well as build a stronger connection going forward.
If you're really struggling, consider having these initial conversations with the help of a therapist. They can help you work through difficult emotions and communicate in a healthy way.