Home US Should you ever forgive cheating? TRACEY COX reveals when she should consider giving her partner a second chance and explains why ‘happy’ people still stray

Should you ever forgive cheating? TRACEY COX reveals when she should consider giving her partner a second chance and explains why ‘happy’ people still stray

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Tracey Cox shares her expert advice on how to deal with a cheating partner and why it might work better if you don't leave the relationship (file image)

If you’ve ever been cheated on (and most of us have been cheated on), you’ll know how devastating it can be.

It’s no surprise, then, that many people don’t believe that cheaters should ever be forgiven.

I used to be one of them: my father had a ten-year affair and that left me with trust issues that took years to resolve.

That, and the compelling research from world leader in infidelity, Belgian therapist Esther Perel, have changed my mind.

If you are a victim of infidelity and you are with a person who is otherwise usually completely decent, I firmly believe that there are reasons to forgive.

Tracey Cox shares her expert advice on how to deal with a cheating partner and why it might work better if you don’t leave the relationship (file image)

This is what I have discovered over the years. Maybe I can help you too.

1. Cheating doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t love you.

Not every act of infidelity is premeditated or motivated by dissatisfaction.

Here’s a sobering fact: happy people cheat. You could have the happiest, healthiest relationship and your partner could still cheat on you.

Because? Some people succumb to opportunistic infidelity: They are attached and committed to their partner, but when put in a situation where they are given the opportunity to cheat, they don’t say no. Alcohol and drugs are often involved (no surprise).

Even if it is an ongoing affair, it could be purely about sex. When people say, “It didn’t mean anything,” what they usually say is, “It was about sex, not love.” Many people are able to separate love and sex: they are convinced that having sex with someone does not mean that they do not love their partner.

2. It may not be your fault

There has been a change from the old way of thinking that placed all the blame solely on the person who went astray.

Today, we recognize that it takes two people to maintain a satisfying relationship and that some affairs happen when one person feels unloved, undervalued, or treated poorly.

Research shows that not all cheaters are chronic womanizers or immature idiots; Kind and responsible people have adventures too. They may desperately love their partner, but long to experience something for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with their partner.

Tracey said that even if her partner has an ongoing affair, it could be purely sexual. When people say, 'It didn't mean anything,' what they usually say is, 'It was about sex, not love,' she explained (pictured: Tracey Cox).

Tracey said that even if her partner has an ongoing affair, it could be purely sexual. When people say, “It didn’t mean anything,” what they usually say is, “It was about sex, not love,” she explained (pictured: Tracey Cox).

The midlife crisis cliché is a classic example. People don’t so much reject their partner as try to prove to themselves and the world that they are not aging. After all, all those experiences reserved for young people (the sports car, hot sex, the young couple) are not beyond my reach.

Research also tells us that people often feel helpless when they find themselves in the middle of an affair. It is common for people to report feeling bewildered. “I have no idea how I got there. “I didn’t set out to do this or hurt anyone.”


This is what you said when I asked that question.

“Staying with a known cheater is like swallowing poison, knowing exactly what you’re drinking. Forgiveness is a great thing because it helps you live with those bad memories. But accepting a cheater is something else.”

“If they take full responsibility for their actions (no cover, no excuses, therefore justification), then maybe. We are human, not perfect. “You don’t throw away a good marriage, especially if you have children, because of a bad decision.”

“I forgave my husband who cheated on me with three ex-girlfriends. We are married now but do I trust him? Not me

I love him and that’s why I stayed. Would you go back and do the same thing in retrospect? No. she was running screaming.”

“Don’t ask for all the details, you’ll drive yourself crazy. Ask enough questions to understand what happened and then leave it alone.”

“You can’t stay with the person if you don’t forgive them. But you need a lot of therapy to overcome a lot of painful things and get to that point. However, if you have history and a few good, solid years under your belt, it is worth it.”

“I was a prolific cheater until someone I loved cheated on me. My heart broke into a million pieces. Once that has happened, you will never fool anyone again. “You are safe in forgiving someone to whom it has happened.”

3. Not all relationships end with affairs

“You’ve destroyed everything” is a common (and justified) response when people discover that their partner has cheated on them.

It’s true that your relationship will never be the same after an affair, but it could improve.

Esther Perel says there are two types of affairs: the ‘awakening affair’ and the ‘breakup affair’.

Breakup occurs when the relationship is almost over and cheating is unavoidable or done deliberately to force things to end.

The awakening affair occurs when there are unresolved issues in the relationship and the discovery of an affair forces the couple to confront and deal with them.

Although this may result in a happy ending, no one ever recommends having an affair to “fix it” (Perel included).

But there may be a positive side. Since they have nothing to lose after an affair, couples often open up about things they have never discussed before.

A new and better relationship can be formed from the old one.

4. You may well forgive, if not forget

About 15 to 20 percent of couples experience some type of infidelity. About 60-75 percent of those who do it stay together and are happy.

Being able to forgive is the litmus test of whether the relationship can survive the affair. Those who forgive experience less anxiety, stress and depression and are able to move on.

Why are some of us able to forgive and others not? It depends on the severity of the infidelity, who it was with and how long it lasted, the level of remorse shown by the unfaithful partner, and the betrayed person’s ability to process and understand her feelings.

The crucial component of all this is the partner’s remorse: it may take months or years for the betrayed person to feel safe again and for trust to be fully restored. The more patient and repentant your partner is, the more likely he or she will be to forgive you.

There is another reason why others refuse to give in…

5. Forgiveness does not mean tolerance

This is a sticking point for many people. If I forgive them and get them back, it means they “got their way.”

Listen, if this is the sixth affair you’ve forgiven your partner, you ARE condoning bad behavior. Letting someone make the same mistake over and over again without consequences puts you in a position of helplessness.

This is very different from forgiving a spouse who hasn’t made a misstep in ten years for a relatively small indiscretion.

Forgiveness is not about forgiving the person who hurt you, it is about your own healing. Forgiveness is good for us, not for them.

Nor does it mean reconciliation. You can forgive someone and still decide that you want nothing more to do with them. There really is no downside to doing so.

However, holding on to hate is a real way to ensure that you have a totally miserable life. That’s when the person who hurt you has truly won.

6. You’ll probably spot the signs if it happens again.

A final hurdle for people who have been devastated by betrayal is what if it happens again? Nobody wants a double dose of that pain.

The affairs that are most difficult to forgive are those that happen when the relationship is at its happiest. If your partner’s infidelity completely surprised you and you had no idea anything was going on, why would you give it another chance? They got away with it once, they could get away with it again.

Maybe. But this time they are not dealing with a partner who implicitly trusts them. Hindsight offers valuable clues: you did have a bit of suspicion that time when… Your eyes will be wide open and your instincts will be on high alert.

Most couples introduce rules after an affair and complete transparency is one of them. This means you’ll know all your passwords and can check your phone, social media, messages and calls when you’re feeling nervous.

Having open access to all information is often the only way the betrayed partner is willing to give it another chance. And if the cheater does nothing wrong, why refuse?

Visit traceycox.com for the blog, product range, books and details of her weekly podcast, SexTok with Tracey and Kelsey.

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