When partners cheat, who deserves second chances?

Linda Prescott, Get it’s resident love expert from Ideal Introductions, answers one of the toughest relationship questions

The biggest issue with cheating is arguably not the sexual liaison itself, but the betrayal of trust. While some people can get past the betrayal and salvage what’s left of their relationship, others might find it impossible…

What’s needed to salvage the relationship

When a relationship breaks down due to a cheating partner, usually, this type of repair needs the involvement of an expert like a marital counsellor or a relationship expert. Although an expert is no guarantee that the relationship will be fixed, having a professional in the room will allow for proper conversations to be had.

Stumbling blocks

One of the greatest hurdles is overcoming the hurt, anger and resentment felt by the betrayed. These feelings, whatever their roots, need to be openly acknowledged and constructively expressed. Another large hurdle is the inability to trust the betrayer, who has typically connived, lied, manipulated, covered- up, and made a fool of his or her partner.

Why breaking trust is breaking everything

Love alone is not enough. This might sound cliché, but trust really is the glue that holds a relationship together. Once that pledge to commitment is broken, all bets are off.

Is an affair a sign that the relationship has underlying issues?

Absolutely. Lack of or poor communication, loss of intimacy, hurt feelings, festering resentment or embitterment frequently lead to acting out in the form of cheating behaviour. Cheating may also be seen as an indirect way of signalling chronic dissatisfaction, anger or frustration. However, what cheating is not, is an excuse for not keeping one’s integrity and commitment made to a partner.

What needs to be done to fix the crack?

Addressing the indiscretion: You can’t fix the problem by pretending the cheating did not happen.You will need to call it out and to talk about the betrayal if you want to move forward.

Talk about the communication: Clearly there has been a communication breakdown. Evaluate and then improve on the communication style between you and your partner.

Build the trust: This is perhaps the biggest challenge, but if the relationship were to be saved, trust-repairing is non-negotiable. The philanderer must also know that trust has become a privilege, not a right. Trust must be earned, and gradually re-established by offenders.

Find the courage to trust again: Should you choose to fix the relationship, you will have to find it in yourself to trust again. Humans make mistakes and are imperfect beings. But remember, we can also learn from our mistakes and avoid repeating them.

Do all cheaters get a second chance?

If the philandering partner has cheated no more than once, the chances of working things through might be higher. But what about repeat offenders? Once can be considered a slip up, twice or more is a pattern.

Why should the serial cheater be forgiven? Of course, this is for the person who was betrayed to decide. Some see their own commitment to the relationship and love for the offending partner as reasons for either overlooking such bad behaviour, or for giving them repeated chances to change.This can become a kind of co-dependency, unintentionally enabling and perpetuating the problem.

The key is that commitment is a two-way street. Both parties must be equally committed to the relationship and to monogamy, if that is what is promised and expected.

Does forgiving a cheating partner say something about ourselves?

This is not about blaming the victim. Self- blame is the main reason betrayed partners remain in such relationships. Remember, offenders are responsible for their evil deeds. But as humans, we are complex. So, what does taking a cheating partner back say about who we really are, and more importantly, how we really feel about ourselves?

Are we not worthy of love, respect and commitment? How much are we really willing to put up with to avoid being alone? What about keeping the family together for the sake of finances or the children? These are tough questions, but they need to be honestly answered before the decision can be made whether or not to give serial (or even first- time) cheaters yet another opportunity.

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