So they've gone and betrayed your trust. Maybe it was a long-term relationship or maybe it was a new one where you could just feel a tentative romance budding, but either way, there's no excuse for betraying the biggest rule in a relationship.
But if you're thinking of giving them a second chance you really need to ask a few questions. Otherwise, you're never going to really get over the fact that it happened and your new relationship is just going to be more toxic than the first one and not great for anyone involved.
Did You Establish Boundaries Before?
Them cheating is never your fault no matter how people can try and spin it. But you need to ask yourself if what they did was really "cheating" as you two define it. Establishing boundaries in the relationship is probably the only way to really know if they cheated or not.
You've probably heard of the "celebrity hall pass" but the rules can get more specific than that. We live in an age where monogamy isn't always the norm, and more and more people are completely happy in open and polyamorous relationships. so figuring out where you draw the lines, both physically and emotionally, is a huge key.
Where Does It Land On The "Cheating" Scale?
Look, no cheating is respectful and a good reflection on them or your relationship. However, a drunken kiss with a girl they just met at a bar registers much lower on the cheater scale than an affair with their receptionist does. It's still bad though, obviously.
Emotional connections and long-term affairs where there was planning, time, and a lot of lying to your face involved is probably less forgivable than a one-time bar crawl tryst. Play it accordingly, but always ask yourself how much it hurts that it happened.
Did You Feel Like It Was Just A Web Of Lies?
Cheating and lying to lead you around by the nose are two separate issues. If your partner came right out and told you immediately that they messed up, it shows they feel guilty and are invested enough in the relationship to try and earn your trust back.
But if you've asked and they've lied about what you suspect has happened before weeks later finally admitting it to you, well, that's just disrespectful. If they truly valued you, they wouldn't keep lying to keep the secret hidden to get out of it. And yes, not saying anything counts as lying.
Did They Tell You Why They Cheated? Really Why Though?
People cheat for a huge amount of reasons. They could be lonely in a long-distance relationship, they could've been under the influence, they could've been falling for someone else—the list goes on. None of these are excuses, but they do motivate cheaters to do what they do, and if you're thinking about giving a second chance, you need to know why it happened.
If they cheated because they're developing feelings for someone other than you, then there's not a huge point in starting again. They'll constantly be thinking about the other person and you'd just be prolonging the inevitable second time they cheat.
Did You Feel Attacked By It?
Toxic relationships come in all forms, but a good way to tell if you're in one is if your partner holds major grudges. Maybe it was something you said or maybe it was jealousy of a totally platonic friend you have that they suspect, but they might have cheated on you for a personal vendetta.
Revenge cheating is a thing and it's done to get back at you psychologically for something they think you did. If you feel like the cheating boils down to jealousy, then that's a huge red flag that the relationship is toxic and you should just move on without them.
Do You Think You Could Ever Really Be Secure In The New Relationship?
Cheating hurts you and hurts your relationship—there's no doubt about it. But part of taking that person back means that you're willing to forgive them and trust them whole-heartedly again as a significant other. That's a huge step and one that can be quite hard.
There's no point in continuing the relationship if you can't mend that broken trust. You're always going to be insecure, wracked with doubt about where they are and who they're with, and never fully being confident in them as a partner.
How Much Do You Believe The Saying, "Once A Cheater, Always A Cheater?"
It's a hard fact, but if you take a cheater back you're going to have to face it. Cheaters often will cheat again if they're not happy in the relationship and it's up to you to understand how much you want to rely on that piece of information.
If you think you two have worked through the reasons why they cheated, then a repeat incident may not be likely at all. But if you haven't really addressed the core of why they did it then you may be setting yourself up for some more pain if you take them back.
Are They Showing A Desire To Change? And No, Not Just Apologizing
Apologizing only goes so far in earning your trust and forgiveness back. It's easy to say "sorry" a hundred times, but it's much harder to rebuild the foundation of trust you had before the incident. That takes time and a desire to change the behavior that led to it happening in the first place.
Ask yourself if they're really making moves to stop it from happening again. Maybe it's promising not to drink so much or maybe it's spending less time with the person they cheated on you with. Steps are needed if you're going to make it work.
Are They Your First Love?
If you've been through a bunch of relationships and can see yourself getting into more in the future, then kicking a cheater to the curb can seem like a no-brainer. But for those of us that are less experienced in the dating game, it can be a harder thing to do.
I'm not saying that true love when you're young is impossible — people marry their high school sweethearts all the time. But ask yourself if you're taking them back because you're afraid if you're going to find something new or if they actually deserve it.
You Took Them Back. Now, How Do You Feel?
So you heard all the things they were saying and you decided that you two could work it out... but don't let that be the end of it. Cheating is nasty and we'd all love to just wash our hands of it and be done, but if you're back in the relationship you need to ask yourself how you're feeling—and keep asking.
If you're still left with nagging jealousy or paranoia even a few weeks after the incident that's not getting better, that's a sign you may not be able to forgive them. And that's okay. Just make sure you keep checking in on yourself.
Are You Fine With Not Being Able To Hangout The Same Way?
Cheating isn't an open and shut case — it's one that alters your relationship, sometimes forever. Before they cheated you may have felt comfortable bringing them around your family and friends at social events. But now? Now you're worried about what other people will think so you'd rather stay home.
Whether it's social stuff like that or your own feelings towards each other, things change and you've got to anticipate that. If you're okay with that, then more power to you, but you've got to ask yourself if you are.
Do You Feel Like The Bad Guy?
If they cheated, admitted it, and then apologized and are expecting you to just forgive and forget and are downright defensive when you don't, then you've got bigger problems than infidelity.
Your significant other should never make you feel like you're being unfair for hesitating to immediately forgive them. If they're doing this then they're just being entitled and clearly aren't as sorry as they want you to believe they are. You should never be made to feel like the villain when you and your relationship are the victims.
Can You Stop It From Making You Blame Yourself?
Sometimes our automatic response to someone hurting us is to wonder what it is about us that made them do it. The reason we do this is that if it's something to do with the way we act or do things, we might be able to control the situation and change to make sure they don't cheat again. Pro tip: this never works.
It's not your fault they did what they did. You have to ask yourself if you can accept this fact before continuing your relationship, because otherwise, it'll tear away at your confidence.
Are You Being Totally Fair?
Before you go and cut ties with them forever because they cheated, ask yourself if you're doing this for the right reasons. I'm not saying cheating is okay because it absolutely never is, but if you're refusing to take them back out of stubbornness and the desire to be "right" then this isn't a good thing either.
Ending the relationship because you're hurt and upset is a very valid thing. But you've got to recognize people do make mistakes—we're all human. So really evaluate your feelings before ending it all.
Could This Be The Start Of A New Form Of Relationship For The Two Of You?
Humans are complicated—so it's natural that our relationships are too and we shouldn't judge others for them. So, if you're a happily married couple and the other person cheats but you still want to be together, maybe this could be the start of an out-of-the-box relationship for you two.
Plenty of people are married and happy in open and polyamorous relationships. Sure, they're not the typical nuclear family structures you see in Hallmark movies, but they can work for some people. This could be the start of a new horizon for you two.
Things Afterwards Could Be... Better?
Plenty of people have cheated and found their way back to their partners and gone on to have strong, trusting, and happy relationships afterward. The reason this sometimes happens is because the cheater is willing to change and invests 110% of their energy into making the relationship strong again. And it works.
Ask yourself if you can see this in the future for you two. If you can see yourselves becoming fully committed and in a thriving relationship, then you should go ahead and figure things out.
Are You Going To Retaliate?
If you're going to take them back, you have to ask yourself if you're not just doing it to get an opportunity to hurt them as badly as they hurt you. If you're in it just to even out the score then don't bother starting again—it's just going to be toxic.
Revenge is never part of a stable and healthy relationship. Even though what you're doing is technically evening out some sort of score in your mind, it's not going to make whatever you've got going on any better. If revenge is your goal, just walk away.
Are You Okay With Literally Everyone Knowing?
Cheaters are some of ours and pop culture's favorite things to know about and ostracize, so if you tell one friend, just know that they're going to be telling plenty of other people as well and people are going to talk.
So just know that if you take back a cheater, your friends and family are also going to have to take them back, and that might be an even harder conquest. Just know that whatever happens, your mom will be sure to provide plenty of snarky comments.
Are You Talking About Couple's Therapy?
If your partner is really willing to work to make things better, then they're going to have to be okay with following a plan you have laid out for making it better. That might mean couple's therapy, going to talk to professionals, or reading a self-help book or two.
If they're willing to listen and hear out the suggestions that you have for making it work without causing a stink and complaining about the work that it'll take, then you two have a fighting chance. But if they're hemming and hawing just cut the cord.
Above All Else, Do What Makes You Feel Good
Regardless of what they're saying, your parents are telling you, or what your friends have been talking about, you need to be doing what your heart tells you to do. At the end of the day, it's you in the relationship in your position and nobody else should have a say in what decisions you make.
So really take the time and think about where you see this relationship going and what will make you most happy. Sometimes it takes an incident like this to make you realize that the relationship might've run its course.