‘My Partner Had An Affair, Is It Possible To Forgive Cheating?’
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Being cheated on is devastating. Knowing that your partner has been on unfaithful can completely rock the dynamic a relationship. And although many people want to call it quits once someone has cheated, plenty of others decide to stay and work on rebuilding trust.
Which is the case for this week’s reader, Diane, who’s been with her partner for 10 years in what she “believed was a loving relationship”. She wrote in to ask for advice on moving past infidelity.
“A couple of months ago I discovered that he has been having an affair with a much younger coworker,” she said. “I was and am horribly devastated. We’re still together because he insists that he is sorry and he will never hurt me like that again and he still wants a life with me. I, however, am struggling. There are times when the pain of this is so intense and overwhelming that I actually physically hurt.
“I would love to have what we had before his affair, but I do not know how to recover from this kind of damage, from this all encompassing deep pain. Is it even possible? Do you have any guiding advice?”
This is a hard situation to be in, but Dee Holmes, a senior consultant and relationship therapist at Relate, says it is possible to recover from an affair.
“It is possible to move forward but it will take hard work to achieve that, rebuilding trust takes time, and can be a painful experience,” she says. “You both have to be committed to making this work.”
Dating coach Liam Barnett adds: “What you’re going through, and what you’re experiencing is real and valid. Do not, in any circumstances, underestimate the importance of your wellbeing (emotional, physical, or financial), and the importance of you as a being and a person.”
How can a couple move forward when cheating occurs?
It takes commitment and willingness to recover from infidelity from both sides. Barnett believes “nothing can be done if both partners aren’t willing to save the relationship.”
“When the trust is betrayed, there’s a need for space, time, and a lot of work for it to be built back into the relationship,” he says. “In this case, extra reassurance, therapy, communication, and willingness to work things out – all combined together – can do miracles in broken relationships.”
Holmes says it’s important to address why the cheating occurred in order to move forwards.
“It can be helpful for you to understand why your partner feels they began this other relationship,” she says. “But it is also often not an easy thing for someone to identify and discussions need to be a balance between you wishing to know answers and express your anger and hurt and positive discussions about how you can move forward, and co creating what a better relationship may look like in the future.”
How do we know when to leave a relationship when someone has cheated?
If you’ve talked through the infidelity and still can’t forgive, is it time to leave?
“Everyone will have different views of what cheating means and what their response will be and this can change when it actually happens,” Holmes says.
“It is important to recognise that it may be that the betrayal marks the end of the relationship and so acknowledging that a natural end has come is the best thing. If the relationship becomes saturated by distrust, blame and anger and attempts to r- build are not successful then it is obviously not a healthy place to stay.”
Barnett says if the cheating partner is disrespectful about it, it’s time to cut your losses. “When they attempt to gaslight you instead of acknowledging their behaviour, when they blame you for their actions, and when you can’t see yourself ever trusting them again, it’s when you know you need to leave for the sake of your wellbeing,” he says.
“It depends a lot on how both people handle and approach the situation. Communication in this case is crucial and without a doubt necessary.”
Love Stuck is for those who’ve hit a romantic wall, whether you’re single or have been coupled up for decades. With the help of trained sex and relationship therapists, HuffPost UK will help answer your dilemmas. Submit a question here.