Being cheated on is most couples’ biggest nightmare, but infidelity doesn’t have to guarantee the end of a relationship. If your boyfriend was unfaithful with another woman, here’s how to forgive the guy for cheating and rebuild your relationship so you can move on together. After all, there may be something worth saving there.
- Decide if you want to forgive him. Right after being cheated on, you may experience a range of thoughts and feelings. You might hate your guy, yet simultaneously feel scared of losing him. Reflect on your feelings and what you truly want going forward. Do you actually want to continue the relationship? Are you willing to put forth the effort required to start trusting him again? It’s okay if, deep down, you don’t want to forgive him. But if you want to move on together, you’ll have to eventually.
- Set boundaries. Forgiveness doesn’t mean wiping the slate completely clean. After being cheated on, boundaries will be your best friend. Healthy boundaries can include asking your partner to not speak to the person he cheated with anymore. You can also ask him to keep in touch when he goes out. And to strengthen your connection, you may need him to make more time for the relationship or offer reassurance when you’re doubtful. Consider what it’ll take for you to feel comfortable in the relationship again, and set boundaries with those needs in mind. This is one of the most important steps if you really want to forgive the guy for cheating.
- Talk about your feelings. There is nothing wrong with being honest and direct about your feelings after being cheated on. And the best person to talk to (well, except for a therapist or counselor) is your partner. Talk to your guy about how you’re feeling and what you’re going through. Be honest when you’re feeling scared, worried, or even resentful. These kinds of emotions are completely normal after being deceived by someone you love. And by communicating these emotions with him, he has a chance to offer you the comfort and reassurance you need.
- Understand why he cheated. To forgive a guy for cheating, you need to know why he did it. You don’t need to know all the details of the infidelity to forgive it, but you both need to be on the same page about why this happened in the first place. That means he has to be self-aware enough to understand his own motives. Some men may say they have no idea why they were unfaithful, but knowing the reason is crucial in making sure he doesn’t cheat again. And while you’re not at all responsible for his actions, you may have played a role in larger relationship issues that influenced his affair. Getting to the bottom of why he cheated can help you both prevent a similar betrayal in the future.
- Recognize his efforts to change. You may feel bitter for a long time after being cheated on, but if you want to forgive your guy, at some point, you’ll need to start noticing his efforts to change and improve the relationship. Notice if he seems remorseful and takes responsibility for his mistake. Also, appreciate his efforts to respect your boundaries and build trust in the relationship again. Small actions may not be enough to help you forgive him right away, but noticing them can help you heal and move on over time.
- Be honest if he isn’t changing. Forgiving him is your responsibility, but making the relationship work requires his help too. If he isn’t changing, or if he doesn’t show any regret for his actions, your future as a couple will be bleak. Be honest with yourself if his old ways don’t seem to be changing.
- Revisit your relationship contract. If you don’t already have a relationship contract, you should now. One thing to include in your relationship contract is cheating. Discuss this topic with him and how you each define infidelity. Remember, cheating can be physical or emotional, and it’s important to understand where each of you draws the line. What kind of touch is too much? Or when does a friendship become a not-so-platonic threat to the relationship? Create a shared agreement you’ll both stick to.
- Give yourself time. There isn’t a deadline for forgiveness, and while it can take just one night to tarnish a relationship, repairing the damage that follows can require months or even years. You might continue to be upset, angry, or suspicious for a long time. Be patient with yourself, and don’t rush or force yourself to get over the betrayal before you’re ready.
- Accept that your relationship won’t be the same. Forgiving your guy isn’t an easy route to getting your old relationship (or what you thought it was) back. After cheating is exposed, a relationship will never be the same. For some couples, the relationship strengthens after the infidelity. But for most, cheating is a major setback. You likely won’t see your partner the same way anymore, and you won’t be able to trust them for a while. Accept these changes, and together with your partner, work to create a new bond.