Should You Forgive Them If They Cheated?

In the wake of an affair, you can’t help but feel betrayed. Your trust has been broken. You likely angry, feel lost and hopeless, and are coping with sadness, confusion, and a mix of conflicting emotions.

And somewhere underneath all the hurt, there’s a question that you eventually have to ask yourself:

Can you ever forgive your spouse?

Well, as it turns out, that’s not a very simple question to answer. Even after you’ve had a chance to get over the initial shock and hurt, when the reality of the situation has started to sink in, it’s still a VERY painful place to be. It might feel like the only answer to this question (especially if the emotional wounds are fresh) is a big NO…

But if you truly want to save your marriage and recover from the affair, forgiveness is going to be an essential piece of that puzzle.

Now, there are some scenarios where forgiveness just doesn’t seem like an option, and others where, no matter how tough it might be, finding it in your heart to forgive your spouse can truly bring your marriage to a place even better than it was before.

To even begin figuring out how to approach this very sensitive subject, you can ask yourself a series of questions:

Why Did It Happen?

As painful as it may seem, try to put yourself in your spouse’s shoes. What factors led to the affair? How would you respond in an identical scenario? Even if you can’t accept why they did it, at least try to understand. This will give you important insight into the way they think, and what was truly at the source of their behavior.

Do They Regret The Affair?

You’ll only be able to tell by talking to your spouse, but the degree of regret they display should give you a good idea of how they really feel about their decisions. If they truly feel remorse, they will be looking for real forgiveness and rebuilding their connection with you.

What Was The State of The Marriage Before?

This can be a tough pill to swallow, but most affairs happen because there were already existing problems in the marriage. This doesn’t excuse your spouses actions, but it should help you gain some perspective on the whole situation. Was your connection already suffering? Were there obstacles in the way of intimacy?

Be honest with yourself. If the marriage was already in serious trouble, perhaps you can curb some of your anger, and realize how you both contributed to the climate that lead to the affair.

Have They Cheated In The Past?

The saying goes: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

If your spouse has a habit of this kind of stuff, or if it’s an ongoing problem, maybe forgiveness isn’t the best option. If it’s an isolated incident and they truly regret what they’ve done, forgiveness may come easier.

Would They Do It Again?

This is the big question. Do you worry that, faced with the same temptations, your spouse would make the same decisions? If so, there are major issues that need tackling – or the marriage might be doomed. To truly forgive someone, you need to be as sure as possible that they will do everything in their power not to repeat the transgressions that need forgiving…

We can never make absolute guarantees, but knowing that your spouse is totally committed to reforming their behavior and rebuilding the marriage makes the whole forgiveness process much easier. It won’t be easy, but this kind assurance will help.

Once you’ve run these questions through your mind and discussed them with your spouse, you’ll have a much better picture of where your marriage was, where it is in this moment, and where it can be if you work to make it better. Only you can decide to forgive, but hopefully these questions will guide you through the tough process, and help you make your decision with confidence and clarity.

For more advice on how to strengthen your marriage, check out the StrongMarriageNow System today!
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Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders, StrongMarriageNow.com

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8 comments

Tess 7 years ago

Its not the first but this time I caught him and I asked him to come home to talk. We talked but I wasn't mad.. I laughed at him when he asked how come I wasn't screamiing or yelling at him? I told him I'm not mad. I accepted that it was something I couldn't change cause he had already did it, and we talked. I asked questions and then we both got stuck at what to do next. But today he was upset all day at me.

Tess 7 years ago

Its not the first but this time I caught him and I asked him to come home to talk. We talked but I wasn't mad.. I laughed at him when he asked how come I wasn't screamiing or yelling at him? I told him I'm not mad. I accepted that it was something I couldn't change cause he had already did it, and we talked. I asked questions and then we both got stuck at what to do next. But today he was upset all day at me.

confusedguy12 7 years ago

My SO of 4.5 years kissed another man, according to her he kissed her but she didn't brake it off. She felt terrible after and they talked about it, she tells me it was a mistake. How do I handle this!?

confusedguy12 7 years ago

My SO of 4.5 years kissed another man, according to her he kissed her but she didn't brake it off. She felt terrible after and they talked about it, she tells me it was a mistake. How do I handle this!?

Mike_Olsen_SMN 7 years ago

Hi Tess, He is probably feeling guilty and wants to justify himself to you. He can't deflect that personal responsibility if you don't attack him. https://www.strongmarriagenow.com/ed-asks-my-wife-is-having-an-affair-and-she-wont-stop-seeing-him/

Mike_Olsen_SMN 7 years ago

Hi Confused, You both need to open your lines of communication to see what caused it in the first place. https://www.strongmarriagenow.com/save-marriage-regain-trust-its-destroyed/

Mike_Olsen_SMN 7 years ago

Hi Tess, He is probably feeling guilty and wants to justify himself to you. He can't deflect that personal responsibility if you don't attack him. https://www.strongmarriagenow.com/ed-asks-my-wife-is-having-an-affair-and-she-wont-stop-seeing-him/

Mike_Olsen_SMN 7 years ago

Hi Confused, You both need to open your lines of communication to see what caused it in the first place. https://www.strongmarriagenow.com/save-marriage-regain-trust-its-destroyed/