how to forgive a cheater

So, here you are. Somehow you’ve discovered that your spouse is in an affair, and I’m very sorry that you have. I know this is an excruciating time in your life. I know that you feel betrayed. You probably feel alone and confused. But here’s what I know. I know that an affair is never justified. But I do know this: no matter what has happened in your life or in the affair, there is a way that you can overcome it and not just survive it, but thrive from it. So, let’s find out how to forgive a cheater.

You didn’t know about it, or maybe there have been issues happening in the family, but suddenly, you’ve discovered that your spouse is in an affair. The first thing I want to encourage you to do is to take a breath. You see, emotion is not going to help you do much at this point. What you want to do is deal with the emotion and then deal with the situation. Here’s what I want you to know–the affair is not a death sentence. It doesn’t mean that your marriage is going to be over. It can be the beginning of something new once you get through it. I know it may sound crazy to hear that now, but I’m telling you that we can show you how to forgive a cheater. So, what do you do?


Why do people cheat?

Some people cheat because they have emotional issues. They have struggles that are inside, a real mental struggle. But outside of that, typically, good people do some bad things because of their situation. See, when we’re in a good relationship with our spouse, and emotionally we are intimate with one another, we’re able to share things that we’re afraid of or things from behind our wall that we hide. And as we share them, we find acceptance, we find care, and we find the love that’s there. We grow more intimate. If I start to interpret somehow that my spouse doesn’t love me, like me, or respect me either by their actions or by their words, I will find myself hesitant in the relationship.

Now, it usually isn’t a huge reaction in the beginning, but I start noticing different behaviors. And if I start judging them negatively, all of a sudden, I start raising a brick wall between my spouse and me. See, the brick wall protects me from being attacked or protects me from not being accepted if I feel that way from you. So the more I try something, and I get rejected, or the more I try to say something to you and you try to change my words, I keep putting bricks up until eventually, I have this wall around me and I’ve got a picture on the outside to make you happy.

One thing I know is that it’s terrible for a relationship, and it’s going to start to suffer. What happens is that once we build a wall against our spouse, we still crave intimacy. As a result, the heart is still looking for intimacy, and some person, who is not necessarily evil, begins to share nice things and do nice things, and we start feeling good about that. I’m not saying it’s right or it’s justified. I’m saying it’s the human behavior of wanting to be somewhere where you feel worthy. You feel important. You feel people care for you.

What happens is we separate ourselves from our spouse, and then the intimacy, a vacancy rather, is crying out for intimacy. Someone begins to share, to be kind to us. And it’s such a relief. After too long, what’ll happen is emotions will get involved. And that’s when the affair starts. It’s not people looking for bad stuff, but they end up doing some bad stuff.

I think it’s important to remember this because in order to forgive a cheater, you have to make them a flawed human, not an evil human. And some good people do bad things. If I’m going to be able to forgive an affair, I have to realize that every one of us is broken, and every one of us screws up. So we have to be careful about that emotional disconnect. Now, I didn’t say that it was your fault; perception matters. A spouse may be perceiving negative emotions, but perception is reality. So the reality is that even if you don’t feel you were doing something to put that wall up, you need to hear so you can see what they felt for them to take the bricks down and you to be okay.


So, let’s discuss how to forgive a cheater.

I want you to keep in mind forgiving your spouse after an affair is really about you. It is. Sometimes people have this idea that when I forgive, it will do something for that other person. Well, if that other person wants to be in a relationship, or wants to be connected to you, or cares about you, then it will mean something to them. But forgiveness at its purest form is about you being free, about you releasing the need for vengeance, or the need to come back at them. It’s releasing all that and saying, “I’m not going to give space in my head for this negative experience.” I once heard someone say that ‘unforgiveness’ is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Think about that for a minute.

See, wise people make haste. They hurry to forgive because they know the value of time. How long are you going to be here? How long am I going to be here? It’s a limited amount of time. And am I going to live it in the agony of ‘unforgiveness’? No, I want to surrender that. So how can I forgive, or why would I want to forgive a cheater? Because it’s the best for me. It puts me in a better place, and it’s a big deal.


Focus on the core issue.

See, what happens during an affair, more often than not, is people start focusing on the affair. I can understand that. I mean, it is a very visible, present threat. We can’t identify some of the other things that are happening in the marriage. We don’t understand how things broke down, but I can see that other person and my spouse. So we focus on it, but it takes us off addressing the core need. I want you to think about it. No one left the marriage to start an affair. They left the emotional connection in the marriage because they felt like they weren’t loved, liked, and respected.

Again, it’s about perception. And then this other person comes along and starts being kind. And if they both let down bricks and build intimacy, they fall into an affair. A lot of times, this happens. So the bottom line is that you have to realize that the affair is not the core but is a symptom of what’s going on in the broken relationship.

It would be like if you had lung cancer, but all you were doing was focusing on the cough. You’re dying of cancer, but you’re not coughing anymore. So we have to get to a place where we understand the affair was a symptom of what was already broken in our relationship. If we focus on the affair, we’re avoiding the core issue that has to be addressed if there’s any hope for reconciliation, if there’s any whatsoever. So I need to know how to forgive a cheater, and I am going to forgive. Not only that, but forgiveness heals the hurt.

If we don’t forgive, if we hold it in, what that does is postpone the hurt. If I can forgive, it provides a method for me to now be reconciled, if I can. But if I’m holding the pain, it pushes it off, sometimes it suppresses it. But I promise you, it will come out again later. What we want to be able to do is forgive a person, so that it provides the space for us to find the core issue.

If I don’t start forgiving the affair that’s over, and I don’t start working towards building the cores and addressing the cores, we’ll just be doing a dance. Starting in different areas, but fighting the same fights, arguing the same ways, and eventually it gets old. I want to be in a place where I can learn how to forgive a cheater so I can see better. The lack of forgiveness can bring you into tunnel vision.


Have a vision for how you want things to look down the road.

I think what some people do in these situations is they look too soon, too close. It’s been a week, two weeks, and they don’t feel any different. Well, you probably won’t, okay? It takes time for you to learn, discern, apply, trust, make some mistakes, and do some really good things to build up the faith. 

I know that we can survive an affair, and we can thrive over an affair. Thousands of people we’ve worked with have done it. And I know that you can if you’re willing to give it a try. You might be sitting there and say, “Jim, I don’t know if I’m ready for it.” The question I would ask you is: how would you know when you’re ready? And how long would you wait in pain to find that? I want to encourage you to offer forgiveness for your freedom, and you be in a place where you can be the right person for this relationship and make a huge difference.

We have a free resource called, “How To Get Your Spouse Back”. In addition to that, we have a paid resource that you can use. It’s a ten-week course called, “Save My Marriage”. We’ve had thousands of people go through it with great success, and we’d love for you to check it out if it will fit your life. If you want to talk with someone about your situation and find the right resource for your next step, give one of our Client Representatives a call. They would love to talk with you and figure out how we can help your situation. Thanks for tuning in.