When you are in a relationship, one of the most important things, if not the most important thing, is trust. When that trust is broken, either from lying or cheating, it takes a lot to fix. Six twenty-something women and one expert weigh in on if you really can recover from your significant other cheating on you. The answers are really split into two categories: no and maybe. Every situation and relationship is different, so there is no sure answer to tell you whether or not you should forgive your SO for cheating, but hopefully some of these responses help.
For some people, when someone cheats that is it. No forgiveness, nothing, just done and move on. For these women, that was the case:
1. “No- when they cheated on you, in that moment they were able to put you completely out of their mind. And it sets a precedent for the future of the relationship.” – Julia, sophomore at Western Washington University
2. “No. I did before and he just kept repeating it knowing he'd probably get away with it.” – Alice, a graduate of the University of Central Lancashire
3. “No, if they're cheating then they don't respect you or your relationship and if there's no respect then there's no foundation for love or trust.” – Sarah, senior at the University of Alabama
4. “No. I believe everyone has the ability to live their own life and make their own decisions (in most circumstances). I think that "cheating is a choice, not a mistake."– Annie, incoming freshman at the University of Vermont
For others, it really depends on how the relationship was before the infidelity occurred. It is not rare for the relationship to still be strong even after someone cheats. For these women, that was true:
5. “Really grey area. I think you have to look at your relationship from a bystander’s perspective. For example, if you can, you can look at your relationship more critically and see just how healthy it is for you. More often times than not, if your SO is cheating on you, it means there is something lacking in the relationship. So, figure out what it is, and if it's worth fixing. If not, it's time to move on.” – Lexi, junior at the University of Michigan
6. “I think it depends on the situation and the relationship. For me, I thought it was an absolute deal breaker until my SO made out with another girl at a party (that I was not at). I really enjoyed him and our relationship so I decided not to break up with him. However, I lost all trust and that really changed the dynamic of our relationship. We recently broke up and although it was not because of the cheating, it definitely did not help anything. I think I can forgive someone for making out with someone at a party but if my SO goes out of their way to sleep with someone else and continue to speak to them or others, then I think that's unforgivable and shows a lack of respect in the relationship.” – Jane, sophomore at Marist College
Although hearing from real girls about their real experiences is helpful and impactful, it does help to get an expert’s input. Jeffrey Sumber, LCPC and author of Renew Your Wows: Seven Powerful Tools to Ignite the Spark and Transform Your Relationship, says that forgiveness really depends on the relationship. “Forgiveness is one of those life skills that improves with time, maturity and unfortunately, pain,” he says. “There is no easy way to manage infidelity and dishonesty.” But as well, there are ways that help couples cope from ground zero and forward to the point where you decide if you'll remain in the relationship or move on. He says that an essential piece of the puzzle is discerning between forgiveness and "acceptance."
But once you have really dug into your feelings and understood what happened, then comes the decision of moving forward. "So, should you break up with a cheater? Sure. Should you remain with them and work on things? Sure," Sumber says. But, the truth is, if a partner has been dishonest in the past there is a stronger likelihood he or she will do it again, he explains. So stay in the relationship only if you're open to that statistical fact. If you tell yourself it won't happen again, you're in denial. If they tell you it will never happen again, they are in denial. Sumber also explains what to do if you are conflicted about what to do. “The best case scenario is sitting with each other and discussing how bad it felt to be lied to and how guilty they felt to lie to you,” he says.
It is important to explore what the circumstances were that led to the infidelity and only then can you truly move on.