Should You Give a Cheating Spouse a Second Chance?

One of the most difficult decisions to make in marriage

Cheating spouse
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One of the most difficult decisions you may have to make in your life is whether to give a cheating spouse a second chance. This decision is especially difficult when your spouse lied to you, manipulated you, made a fool out of you, and/or tried to cover up the affair.

But, what if your spouse is usually reliable and dependable, regrets being unfaithful, promises to be faithful, and you believe that the two of you do love one another?

Every person has their line in the sand -- the one thing that is a deal breaker. Only you know what that line in the sand is for you.

Here are five reasons you should NOT give a cheater a second chance:

  • It was an affair with an ex partner
  • The affair was full-fledged and long term
  • The cheater shows no remorse or does not apologize
  • The cheating occurred early in the relationship
  • The cheating is serial or a pattern of behavior 

Questions to Ask Yourself If You Are Considering Giving Your Spouse a Second Chance

Before you give your spouse a second chance, here are some important questions to  ask yourself :

  • Is this the first time your spouse has cheated on you?
  • Does your spouse understand the hurt he/she caused?
  • Does your spouse recognize the cheating as a problem?
  • Has your spouse accepted responsibility for being unfaithful?
  • Regardless of the reasons for the infidelity, will your spouse accept that changes are needed in his/her behavior?
  • Has your spouse apologized?
  • Do you believe your spouse is remorseful and truly regrets being unfaithful?
  • Will your spouse attend both marital and individual counseling?
  • Have all ties with the affair partner been severed?
  • If the person is someone your spouse works with, have you discussed how your mate can keep the relationship on a business only basis?
  • Do you think you and your spouse can have a successful, joyful, long-lasting marriage?
  • Do you think you can ever trust your spouse again?
  • Do you think your marriage is worth saving? If yes, then why?
  • Do you think your spouse's past unfaithfulness will forever haunt your mind and heart?
  • Can you forgive your spouse?
  • Are you both willing to work on your marriage and learn how to resolve your underlying issues constructively communicater?

    If you do decide to give your spouse a second chance, make sure your spouse knows that this is a one time opportunity. Just once. You will not forgive over and over. Say it clearly that there will be no more chances. It is important to emphasize that your forgiveness and willingness to give a second chance is not condoning the cheating behavior.

    For the Ones Getting the Second Chance

    If you are one of the fortunate ones who has a spouse willing to consider giving you a second chance, you must explain why you cheated and be apologetic, honest, and keep your promises. Accept that there will be questions about your commitment and whether you'll walk out again the next time you set your eyes on someone you like better.

    What Others Have to Say About Second Chances

    "Don’t blame yourself. Your self-esteem and self-worth are not dependent on your partner’s behaviors. You can be a part of the solution or work to change the relationship but you are not the cause of the betrayal." Dr. Terri Orbuch, Should Cheaters Get a Second Chance? on

    "When it comes to giving the straying offender a second (or third or fourth) pardon, where does one draw the line? The biggest problem with cheating on a spouse or significant other is not necessarily the sexual liaison itself, but rather the betrayal of trust it causes. This painful rupture of trust in many cases proves too much to get past ... Once can be considered a slip up. An aberration. Twice or more is a pattern. Why should the serial cheater be forgiven or provided a third, fourth or fifth chance?" Dr. Stephen Diamond, When Partners Cheat: Who Deserves Second Chances? (2010).

    "If your partner falls in the 'not feeling remorseful' category, taking him or her back is ill-advised. The cheater must see their fault or this person will never be able to connect with you emotionally and honestly. Even with a "bad marriage," the accountability was still on your partner to problem-solve appropriately (seek therapy, talk to clergy)." Marni Feuerman, Questions to Ask Yourself Before Ever Taking Back a Cheater on

    No one can tell you what to do in this situation. It isn't easy to just walk away or split up the family. You can rebuild your marriage with the right tools. Professional guidance and reputable books or online resources can help you move forward whatever direction you decide.  


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