Can I Ever Trust Again After His/Her Cheating?


Someone sent me a question recently asking if he should allow his girlfriend to ‘talk to’ a man she had recently cheated with. She had apparently got caught and then asked for forgiveness from her boyfriend to remain in the relationship. I thought the question highlighted a particularly difficult situation and worth a post.

I initially wondered whether the girlfriend had to work with the guy she had an affair with. If you have to see someone at work you had an affair with after breaking off the relationship, because you have to do some kind of business with him, I can only imagine the strain and tension that would cause.

If that’s not the case, and it may not be, then she is trying to ‘stay connected’ by having a ‘friendship’ with the guy. In these triangular situations where you have a committed relationship and cheat with a third party, get caught, and make a promise to stop, the underlying reason for the affair in the first place often goes unaddressed.

It can’t be just a matter of saying OK I got caught, I apologize, I won’t do that again, can I see this person as a friend? I happen to believe that triangle love relationships exist because a committed relationship or marriage has a problem that is not being directly addressed.

Some people find the prospect of ‘working’ on a relationship overwhelming for a bunch of reasons. So they avoid it and choose the non-solution of finding someone else to ‘medicate’ their unhappiness. Nothing has really changed in the committed relationship that is having problems except for the complicating addition of cheating.

In this case, it’s probably accurate to assume that the girlfriend wants to remain in touch with the other guy. It would bode well for her if she promised, at least, to never see him again. Wanting her boyfriend’s permission to keep ‘talking’ to him set off all kinds of bells in my head. Is it safe to stay active friends with a man you cheated with when you’ve decided to stay with your boyfriend after getting caught?

If I assume nothing has really changed in the relationship, my gut instinct tells me, no it’s not safe. If I was in love and bound to be miserable if the cheating continued, I would probably ask her if she could simply stop seeing this individual? I would expect a ‘yes’ if she had asked to be forgiven. If she told me ‘no,’ then I have all the information I’d need to make a decision to take care of myself.

I would probably also want to have a series of conversations about what happened to our relationship. Did it grow stale for some reason we can both work on to change? Trying to control a lover you recently caught cheating is guaranteed to be painfully unsuccessful and hasten the demise of the relationship.

I was once in a love relationship with a woman who cheated on me (high school into college) and wanted to continue our relationship after it was revealed. I painfully chose to end the relationship instead of sharing her with another man after several years of exclusivity. I told myself that I shouldn’t have to work so hard for love. It didn’t help much with the pain and loss. But it did get me out of the relationship.

Comments? Welcome. Dr. Tom Jordan

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Dr. Jordan

Dr. Thomas Jordan is a clinical psychologist, certified interpersonal psychoanalyst, author, professor, and love life researcher.

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