- Cheating can shake a relationship to its core, but there are ways to forgive your partner after infidelity occurs.
- A cheater has to be remorseful about their actions if they want a chance to repair the relationship, Matt Lundquist, a psychotherapist and director of Tribeca Therapy, told INSIDER.
- After a cheater owns up to their actions, the couple can confront their relationship issues and start to rebuild trust.
Oftentimes, people assume cheating means a relationship has to end, but that’s not always the case. While it certainly isn’t easy, there are steps a couple can take to properly repair a relationship post-cheating, according to psychotherapist Matt Lundquist. And the first step involves a trip to a couple’s counselor.
“People who are able to say ‘I need to go through a process here’ are more likely to do successful work to recover from [cheating],” he explained to INSIDER.
Therapy can help both a cheater and the person who was cheated on understand the reasons infidelity occurred, which is a key to repairing lost trust and forgiving each other.
But that is only one of many steps a couple must take to repair a relationship broken by infidelity.
A cheater has to be remorseful about their actions in order for forgiveness to happen
In order for an open and honest communication like couple’s counseling to take place, the cheater has to feel sorry for how they acted.
“The person doing the cheating needs to be somewhat unsettled and allow themselves to be disrupted by the experience,” Lundquist said. “It needs to be treated as a significant life event. It needs to hurt a little in order to grow and change.”
And if the cheater brushes off their actions, it could be a sign the relationship is ultimately doomed. If, for example, a cheater blames their infidelity on alcohol or an inability to control themselves rather than taking responsibility, it could mean the relationship is beyond repair, INSIDER previously reported.
Loss of trust is normal, but it can be built back up
After cheating occurs, it’s acceptable for the person who was cheated on to feel betrayed and, in turn, lose trust in their partner. Although there isn’t one surefire way to rebuild that trust, Lundquist says “giving a credible understanding of how the cheating happened” can help. “If the conditions that produced cheating aren’t addressed it will happen again,” he noted.
Oftentimes, cheating has more to do with the person who has committed the act than the person who was cheated on. “Many times, people who stray are also hoping to reconnect with lost parts of themselves, with the lives un-lived, with the sense that life is short and there are certain experiences … that they are longing for,” Esther Perel, a sex and relationship expert, previously told Business Insider.
In addition to seeking self-discovery, a person might cheat because they’re afraid of getting older, feel stressed out, or are unhappy with their lives, INSIDER reported. Lundquist said family history or childhood insecurities can play a role in infidelity too.
Once the cheater determines why they cheated and shares that information with their partner, they can discuss whether they want to resolve the issues. Though there isn’t a formula for rebuilding lost trust, working together on a solution can help a couple get there.
If both parties can’t reflect on the pitfalls of their relationship, it’s doomed to fail
Typically, the cheater has to do the majority of the work to understand their motivations and rebuild the broken relationship, but the person who has been cheated on plays an important role too.
According to Lundquist, a person’s dissatisfaction with their sex life can cause them to stray from the relationship. In that case, it’s important for both parties to understand how they can support each other and move forward.
At the same time, Lundquist says the reason for cheating is usually more complicated than bad sex and the cheater will have to come to terms with more deeply rooted issues.
“Half of the time, the work is for the cheater to do,” he explained. “Is there some trauma or trouble with commitment? Is this relationship for you?”
Lastly, the person who was cheated on shouldn’t feel rushed into forgiving their partner. “Most couples we see in therapy are wanting to forgive and might want to do it too quickly as to not hurt the other person,” he said. Offering immediate forgiveness, however, can result in resentment and perpetuate issues with the relationship. Instead, both parties must take time to heal.
- Read more:
- 7 traits most cheaters have in common
- 10 signs your partner may be cheating on you based on their body language
- 15 ways your relationship will change after someone cheats
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