I never thought I’d take back a cheater. I always wanted to be a strong woman that was able to stand up for myself and kick an unfaithful partner to the curb, but then there I was forgiving my ex after they were unfaithful. I learned A LOT from doing this, and although I wouldn’t necessarily recommend going down the same path, I would warn you to be prepared to face these realities if you take back a cheater.
Some hard truths you’ll have to face when you take back a cheater
- Things will never be exactly the same. I know this isn’t a shocker, but your relationship will never look like it did before they cheated. Of course, relationships change all of the time, and if it isn’t this hardship, it will be another. That being said, the couple you were before the cheating no longer exists, so don’t try to get your relationship back to that. It won’t happen.
- You don’t have to let it define you. They cheated, they made the mistake, and they came crawling back. You didn’t do anything wrong and it isn’t your guilt to carry. Seriously! The minute you stop letting it have anything to do with how you look at yourself or feel about yourself, the second it stops weighing you down. Does it still hurt? Yes, of course it does, but it doesn’t need to control you. If you take back a cheater, make sure you don’t internalize their behavior.
- In fact, it has nothing to do with you. You need to remember this. They did this all by themself, and as much as it feels like it has everything to do with you, it doesn’t. They betrayed you, but that’s the part where the link to you dies. If you choose to take the cheater back like I did, then you need to stop involving yourself in it. You weren’t there.
- People are only human and they do make mistakes. I’m by no means saying cheating is okay because it never is. However, people make mistakes. It’s kind of what we do as humans. The important part is drawing a line between him making a single mistake and you letting them do it to you again. You know the saying: fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.
- You will (probably) get over it eventually. I think the most important thing I learned from taking back a cheater (that I’m no longer with, I should mention) is that I did get over it. I went entire weeks without thinking about it and our relationship grew and developed the way one does without such a transgression ever occurring. It will obviously take a concerted effort if you really do hope to save your relationship moving forward, but the more time passes with things going well, the easier it will be to begin to trust them again. That’s the theory, anyway.
- You’ll never really forget it. In moments of weakness, I thought about them and their choice to sleep with someone else. It happened no matter how hard I tried to avoid thinking about it. Sometimes it still caused fights when I let it get the better of me. The scar will never completely fade. If you take back a cheater, while you have to forgive, you also have to face the reality that you will likely never forget.
- It gives you a weird, new boost of confidence. In a backward kind of way, though. I got this interesting injection of confidence knowing they had messed up, gone to someone else, and literally came crawling back begging for my forgiveness. They worked their butt off to get me to trust them again, to get me to open back up to them. There’s something empowering in knowing you matter that much.
- You’ll always worry they’ll do it again. No matter how hard they worked to regain my trust, I always had a nagging thought in the back of my mind that they would cheat again. As far as I know, they never did, but the feeling of wondering if they would slip up never left me alone. When you take back a cheater, there’s always that fear that they’ll do it again and that can really start to eat at you.
- It somehow makes you freer. After my ex cheated and I decided to move forward with our relationship anyway, I somehow felt a lot freer. I think because they had screwed up so badly, I felt like there was little I could do (short of also cheating) that would match them, so I stopped stressing about being a perfect girlfriend and just tried to be an awesome me.
- Relationships can survive and even thrive following infidelity. To everyone out there who has been cheated on and walked away, I admire you. To everyone out there who is choosing forgiveness and trying to make it work, I admire you too. Neither is an easy choice. But to those choosing to try again, it can work. As long as you know what you’re up against when you take back a cheater and you’re willing to try to move past it, you can make it.
Should you take back a cheater in the first place?
You might think that the noble thing to do would be to forgive your ex for screwing you over because nobody’s perfect, but will that actually serve you?
- It will take serious work to get back on track if you take back a cheater. While it’s clear that the cheater has a lot of amends to make in order to get back in your good graces, you’ll need to do your part as well. As relationship expert Maryanne Camoroto, Ph.D., points out, if you’re going to get anywhere, as a couple, it’s important that you “acknowledge an imbalance in the relationship.” That doesn’t mean shouldering the blame for your partner’s actions but instead looking at the relationship as a whole to see what predicated their choice. “You both have to accept that there was a dynamic behind the cheating that was worth repair,” Camoroto adds.
- You can’t go back to the way things were. As much as you might hope that you can forgive your cheater and take things back to the time before it happened, relationships don’t work that way. In reality, things will have to change in a big way. You’ll need to commit to doing something different this time around as a couple, whether that’s going to couples therapy, having your partner seek therapy on their own, or even re-configuring the expectations and terms of your relationship.
- You can end up acting from fear. When you get back with a partner who was unfaithful to you, worrying that it will happen again can dictate much of your behavior the second time around. For instance, maybe you don’t want them going out with their friends anymore because you think they’ll end up meeting someone else and cheating again. Focusing too much on stopping them from cheating again is not only a waste of time, it’s totally unhealthy. If you can’t trust them to that degree, you shouldn’t be with them.
- Generally speaking, there’s no great reason to take back a cheater. Even if your argument is that you love them and have been with them a long time, that makes no difference. “This might be controversial, but I don’t believe that there are any inherently good reasons to stay with a partner who cheated. Marriage, kids, just bought a house together? Doesn’t matter,” says dating expert Demetrius Figueroa. Something was clearly missing and they felt comfortable hurting your feelings and violating your trust. Are you really willing to settle for that when you could have something so much better?