You’ve been betrayed. The person that’s supposed to be your best friend, the one you trusted most, has lied to you, cheated on you and shattered your life as you know it – leaving you angry, shocked, afraid and with no self confidence what so ever. It’s a horrible feeling.

If your spouse or significant other cheated on you, then you must be feeling hurt, overwhelmed, and unsure of how to proceed. If you’d like to continue the relationship, it’s time to get in touch with your feelings and take stock of the bond you and your significant other have developed, and to work to move forward. Forgiving a cheater will never be easy, but following these steps can help you get through it.

  1. Decide whether you should forgive the cheater. This is the most important step. Before you try to make things work, you have to decide whether it’s worth it. No matter how much you love your significant other, you should know that forgiving a cheater may be one of the toughest, most emotionally taxing things you will ever have to do. But if you really want to see if you can make things work, then these are some potential reasons that you could forgive a cheater:
    • If it was a momentary indiscretion. Maybe you got in a big fight, maybe there was alcohol involved, or maybe he met someone who he thought was really, really special…for a moment. Though there are no great reasons for cheating, if it really, truly only happened once, then you may be able to move past it.
    • If your significant other is truly sorry. This is a big one. Is your significant other extremely sorry, depressed, emotional, and doing everything he or she can to show you that he or she is devastated by his own behavior and will never do it again?
    • If you feel like you’re giving up if you don’t work it out. If you know you have something special and that walking out will feel like calling it quits, then you should try to hang in there to see if you can make it work.
    • If you have had a long, healthy, intimate, incredible relationship. Though your relationship may not feel so great after you found out your loved one has been unfaithful, if it has been otherwise strong throughout the course of the relationship, then it may be worth saving.
    • Don’t forgive a habitual cheater. If your significant other has done this before, it’s time to bow out. Even if you have a home, kids, and a life together, it’s just not worth it. What if this is the only time you found out about the cheating, but you’ve suspected he’s cheated a few times before? Then you were probably right.
    • Don’t forgive a cheater at the beginning of a relationship. If you just started dating someone and he already cheated on you, then your relationship’s foundation is way too rocky for you to make it through. Feel relieved that it happened early, when it wasn’t as hard to let go.
    • Don’t forgive a cheater if the cheating is a sign of a doomed relationship. If you think the cheating happened because you and your significant other have nothing in common anymore, are barely attracted to each other, and are completely failing to make it work, then look at this as an excuse to let everything go.
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  2. Take time to cool off. No matter how much you want to talk to, yell at, or even hurt your significant other, don’t do it right after you find out about the cheating. If you already had a blow-out after you found out, it’s time to sit back and take a breather. If you found out about the cheating, but your significant other doesn’t know you know, then you should take some time to reflect as you figure out what to say.
    • This is a difficult step. You may feel that the sooner you talk about it, the sooner you can start figuring out what to do, but this is not the case. If you jump into a conversation or an argument too soon, you will actually make things worse.
    • Spend some time going for a walk, working out, or just crying in your room. Do whatever you have to do to release some of your emotions and help yourself think a little bit more rationally.
    • This can even mean taking a few weeks to spend time away from your significant other. If you live together, this may be especially tough, but if you need to leave, try to stay with a friend or family member or even at a hotel if it’s necessary.
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  3. Don’t blame yourself. This should be a no-brainer, but it may be one of the hardest parts of the process. Don’t think that your significant other cheated on you because you aren’t attractive enough, because you aren’t communicative enough, or because you’re too busy with work or raising your children to take time to focus on your relationship.
    • Your significant other cheated and that’s his or her fault, and nothing you have done should have warranted that (unless you were unfaithful first, but that’s another story.)
    • You should never blame yourself for your significant other’s cheating ways, but you can certainly think about ways that your actions have contributed to slowing down the relationship when you take time to reflect on the relationship as a whole.
    • Furthermore, don’t ever let your significant other blame you. If that happens, walk out the door.
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  4. Take stock of your relationship. Once you feel more level headed, you should think about your relationship with the person who cheated on you. How does the other person make you feel? Can you imagine a future without that person? Has this been a great relationship, or are you just afraid to let go? Here are some more questions to ask yourself:
    • What is special about your relationship? Are you willing to forgive the person for cheating because you truly want to save the amazing relationship, or because you’re afraid to be alone? If you can’t think of reasons why your relationship is special, then you should move on.
    • How would you describe the trajectory of the relationship? Have things been good for a long time and then have suddenly soured, or has your relationship been slowly spiraling downward? Try to think of the reasons that the relationship has been moving in a certain way.
    • Can you think of how the relationship led your significant other to cheat? Remember, this is different than blaming yourself. Try to think what it is about the relationship that could have made your significant other cheat, whether it’s the fact that he’s jealous because you’re experienced, or because you’ve been together since high school and ten years later, he’s feeling like he settled down too soon.
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  5. Make sure your significant other is committed to making things work. Once you’ve decided that you want to forgive your significant other for the right reasons and that your relationship is worth saving, you have to make sure that your significant other is feeling the same way before you commit to months — or even years — of hard work.
    • Make sure your significant other is truly sorry. There’s a difference between saying sorry and truly being sorry.
    • Make sure that your significant other is not only sorry, but also committed to moving forward with you.