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How Do I Forgive Someone for Cheating?

Not easily. The first thing a “victim” of this behavior needs to consider is whether or not the cheating is a “pattern.” Pattern meaning, something that has reoccurred over and over again in the relationship or whether cheating has occurred in previous relationships of the cheater. If there is a pattern, the cheater’s behavior will be harder to change. Only because it will be reoccurring as a result of some personality issue in the cheater.

If you are trying to “change” you partner’s cheating behavior, take a breather and think about the fact that it is impossible for one person to change another. It just can’t happen. In fact, trying to change another person is just simply a prescription for misery.

If the cheater is not “sincerely” motivated to change, you’ve got a decision to make. Stay and be hurt over and over again hoping to develop some form of tolerance, or leave, heal, learn a lesson, and find a more committed person when you are ready to love again.

You might ask, “How do I know there is a sincere motivation to change?” My answer would be, you’ll see it in the actions taken, not the words spoken. One “action” that is a bit harder to lie about is the “guilt” that some cheaters  feel once cheating is revealed. In most cases, the sincere guilt of a cheater is something you’ll feel because he or she is genuinely feeling it.

Of course, if the cheating was hidden, and you just happen to discover it (which is the case in many instances), the question emerges, “How motivated to change is someone whose wrongdoing was discovered and not revealed?” Nevertheless, there are some cheaters who because of the pangs of guilt occurring in their own minds, are compelled by conscience to reveal the truth of their behavior before it is discovered. I would suggest that this a person worth gambling love on.

Of course you’ll be faced with another decision, whether and how to “trust” again. This of course is a “risk,” and risks occur pretty frequently in love relationships. It’s all about how well you think you’ll be able to emotionally manage hurt if it re-occurs. If you have faith in your ability to heal, you love the person who cheated, and you see signs of sincerity, good luck.

Of course at some point you’ll have to get around to the idea that you might be “involved” in the occurrence of cheating in your love life. Better to know how and to what extend, then to be an ostrich with your head in the sand, right? Too often people enter into an “enabling” situation in their love relationships.

For example, if for whatever reason(s) I “pick” cheating men or women to fall in love with, and I complain about being betrayed, something is wrong, right? I’ve known lots of people over the years that grew up in families where somebody cheated on somebody else, everybody knew it, nobody talked about it, and the kids grew up cheating or picking cheaters. This kind of “learning” needs to be identified and challenged in order to do something healthier.

Finally, it’s worth noting that cheating often occurs when problems in a love relationship are not being dealt with directly. Some people think they can get over problems in a love relationship (incompatibility, disagreements, hurtful differences, intimacy fears, etc.) by fooling around with another person, part-time (the old triangle solution).

Unfortunately, this only puts off the inevitable confrontation with truth and generates more hurt along the way. Better to figure out whether to stay or leave. Compromise a fix if you stay, or leave the relationship, grieve the loss, learn, heal, and love better later.

Comments welcome, Dr. 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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