Forgiving Cheaters: Is It Possible?

One of the most painful experiences that can happen in a relationship is to be cheated on. Unfortunately, this selfish act is a fairly common one, and most people have experienced it at least once in their life. 

While there are many people that believe that cheating is extremely disrespectful to a relationship and should result in the immediate termination of it, there are plenty of people that disagree and think it’s not a reason to automatically end a relationship. They suggest that while the first reaction and gut instinct may be to immediately end the relationship, it actually may be a healthier decision to try forgiveness first

The anger and hurt that is felt after infidelity of a loved one is like a poison that will live inside someone, but forgiveness can be the antidote that can help someone to move on. Ultimately, the choice of whether to try to mend the relationship or break up and go your separate ways is a personal one, however working towards forgiveness is the first step to healing, no matter what you decide. 

What Does It Mean To Forgive a Cheater? 

People often get the wrong idea about forgiveness when it comes to cheating and infidelity. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting about it, condoning or excusing the act or even staying in the relationship. It deals more with how a person feels toward their partner and internally. 

Forgiveness isn’t necessarily for the person that committed the offense, but rather the person that holds the resentment. It is a part of the journey toward moving on with life after someone has been hurt in a humiliating way. It’s not about letting the cheater off the hook, it’s about improving mental health.

Ways That Trying Forgiveness Is Beneficial 

Holding on to the negative feelings and emotions that come as a result of being cheated on can be very detrimental to someone’s mental health. The anger, hurt and humiliation that comes from infidelity can live on for years and end up causing more damage long after the relationship has ended. Even though it can be very difficult, it’s important to at least honestly attempt forgiveness. These are a few examples of the reasons why the act of forgiveness can be greatly beneficial: 

  • Forgiveness is the first step toward being able to trust again. Trust is extremely important toward building a relationship with someone. When someone is cheated on, their ability to trust can be severely damaged, but the only way to really repair it is to forgive. People that are unable to forgive cheating will carry resentment which can prevent them from being honest and trusting again. Even worse than being cheated on is having a partner’s actions negatively affect your character. Forgiveness is the best chance to reduce the risk that their cheating and dishonesty won’t rub off on you.
  • It’s mentally exhausting not to forgive someone. If you think of your mind like a book, there are only so many pages. There are so many better things to fill those pages up with and to think about than someone having cheated. Letting go of the resentment that is created by infidelity will allow more space to think and experience positive feelings. It may be easier said than done and reaching the point where the cheating doesn’t consume your mind will be difficult, but the positive results are worth the struggle. Dwelling on the anger, confusion, frustration and humiliation will make it almost impossible for someone to build a better life. The longer these negative emotions are held onto, the more damage they will cause.
  • Forgiveness is healthy. Feelings and emotions have a significant effect on a person’s physical and mental health. Anger and bitterness can be extremely detrimental to a person and create all kinds of issues for them. Forgiveness will be held to eliminate these negative feelings and will help to improve your health in the following ways:
  • Less anxiety and stress
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Less anger and hostility
  • Stronger immunity system
  • Improved heart health
  • Higher self-esteem
  • Fewer symptoms of depression

Answering the Questions About the Cheating 

One of the best ways to achieve forgiveness is to be able to process and understand exactly what happened in regard to the infidelity. While the answers will almost certainly be painful, it’s important to know what happened. Attempting to forgive without knowing the facts is almost impossible and often it’s what we don’t know that hurts the most. These are a few questions that should be considered answering in order to help the process of forgiveness: 

  • Has the cheater taken ownership of their behavior, or did they make excuses and place blame elsewhere?
  • Have they cut off contact with the other person involved in the affair?
  • Have they opened up and become honest in their life or are they still hiding things?
  • Have they been forthright in answering the questions asked in relation to the affair, or are they refusing to provide information?
  • Was this the first incident of infidelity, or is there a history of affairs?
  • Are they being supportive of the partner they cheated on?
  • Are they interested in healing the relationship and providing emotional support?
  • Was there a disease contracted due to the infidelity?
  • Was a child born as a result of the affair?
  • Did the affairs occur in the shared bed and home or elsewhere?
  • Was the affair only texts, pictures, and messages, or was it a kiss or sex?
  • How many times did the cheating happen, and for how long did the affair last?
  • How long was the person hiding it?
  • Was it with an ex-partner or someone they have had a relationship with before?
  • What is a long-term affair or one-night stand?

One of the harder questions to try to answer is why the person cheated. Although every situation is specific to the relationship, there are two different ways to answer this question: 

  • Partner focused circumstances: Someone may have an affair if their partner is emotionally unavailable, sexually inadequate or emotionally unavailable.
  • Personal focused circumstances: Someone commits infidelity because they have issues with commitment, attachment or other personal issues they either haven’t tried to improve or can not improve.


While partner focused circumstances will not excuse the cheating, it will make the act of forgiveness much easier but will require much more work should you plan to stay in the relationship. Although the person who cheated is obviously the most at fault, it’s important to learn if anything could have been done that may have eliminated their need to cheat. Some of the more specific reasons that someone will engage in an affair can include:

  • Anger or revenge
  • Falling out of love
  • Situational factors and opportunity
  • Commitment issues
  • Unmet needs or desires
  • Wanting variety 
  • Low self-esteem

How To Forgive Your Partner 

Whether or not the relationship continues should depend on the strength of the foundation. If it seems too weak to be able to withstand the infidelity, then it may be wise to cut your losses and move on. However, just because the relationship ends, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to forgive your partner. If you choose to stay with your partner, then the best way to move forward is using couples counseling. Individual therapy may be a good option in the event that you decide to end the relationship. 

Cheating typically results after a breakdown in trust and communication. Therapy can help a couple to rebuild these critical elements of a relationship or help an individual to improve their skills in the future. Although therapy can provide a lot of help to someone looking to forgive their partner, it’s not a guarantee and will require a lot of work. However, the freedom from the negative feelings that drag you down and hold you back is worth the hard work. 

The Takeaway 

Being cheated on is one of the worst things that can happen in a relationship. The devastating emotional effects can last for a long time and be almost impossible to overcome. However, despite being a difficult process, it is possible to forgive cheaters and is often the best way to move forward with your life.

Forgiveness can be one of the hardest things for someone to even consider once they have been cheated on. The pain, anger, and humiliation can be extremely intense and very difficult not to dwell on. However, forgiving isn’t necessarily forgetting, and it doesn’t mean the relationship will continue. 

It’s perfectly reasonable to completely forgive your partner for cheating and still end the relationship. Whatever the status of the relationship, the most important thing is to let go of the negative emotions and feelings that come from infidelity. The easiest way to do this is to approach a therapist either individually if you intend to end the relationship or as a couple if you think you can save it.  


  1. Should you forgive a cheater? 6 signs you should consider it (
  2. Why Do People Cheat? 17 Reasons and Tips for Moving Past It (
  3. Can you forgive your partner for cheating? ( 
author avatar
Angel Rivera
I am a Bilingual (Spanish) Psychiatrist with a mixture of strong clinical skills including Emergency Psychiatry, Consultation Liaison, Forensic Psychiatry, Telepsychiatry and Geriatric Psychiatry training in treatment of the elderly. I have training in EMR records thus very comfortable in working with computers. I served the difficult to treat patients in challenging environments in outpatient and inpatient settings
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