Should You Give a Cheating Partner a Second Chance?

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One of the most difficult relationship decisions you hope to never have to make is whether or not to give a cheating partner a second chance. This decision is especially difficult if your partner lied to you, manipulated you, made a fool out of you, or tried to cover up the affair.

But, what if your partner is usually reliable and dependable? What if they regret cheating and promise to be faithful? What if you're convinced that the two of you do love one another? Everyone 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.

Overview

Infidelity doesn't always mean a relationship is over, especially if your partner is truly remorseful. In fact, true remorse is a big indicator that there is hope for the relationship, especially if you have been together a long time and have children together.

But, both of you have to realize that your relationship will never be the same. You can't just pretend like nothing ever happened if you want anything to change. You both have a lot of hard work to do to make the relationship successful.

Questions to Consider

Before you give your partner a second chance, it's important to really think about all that is involved in repairing your relationship like healing from the pain, rebuilding trust, learning to be intimate again, and improving communication. Here are some important questions to ask yourself.

  • Is this the first time your partner cheated on you?
  • Does your partner understand the hurt they caused?
  • Does your partner recognize the cheating as a problem?
  • Has your partner accepted responsibility for being unfaithful?
  • Regardless of the reasons for the infidelity, will your partner accept that changes are needed in their behavior?
  • Has your partner apologized?
  • Do you believe your partner is remorseful and truly regrets being unfaithful?
  • Will your partner attend both marital and individual counseling?
  • Have all ties with the affair partner been severed?
  • If the person is someone your partner works with, have you discussed how your partner can keep the relationship on a business-only basis?
  • Do you think you and your partner can have a successful, joyful, long-lasting relationship?
  • Do you think you can ever trust your partner again?
  • Do you think your relationship is worth saving?
  • Do you think your partner's unfaithfulness will forever haunt your mind and heart?
  • Can you forgive your partner or will you hold the infidelity over their head?
  • Are you considering retaliating or getting revenge?
  • Will your family and friends support efforts to reconcile or will they impede the process?
  • Are you both willing to work on your relationship and learn how to resolve the underlying issues?

Answering these questions honestly can help you decide if you should give your partner a second chance. Look over your answers. Are they mostly positive? Or, are there areas that are cause for concern? You may want to discuss this list with a counselor or another neutral party who can help you evaluate your situation.

Conditions

If you do decide to give your partner a second chance, it might make sense to emphasize that this is a one-time opportunity. They need to understand that there will be no more chances if they cheat again.

It's important to emphasize that your willingness to reconcile the relationship doesn't mean you condone the cheating behavior.

Meanwhile, the partner who cheated must be willing to explain why they cheated. They also must be apologetic and honest, and they must keep their promises. They also need to recognize that there will be questions about their commitment. Consequently, they may need to agree to set healthy boundaries around their future behaviors.

Although these boundaries are best discussed with a relationship or marriage counselor, your partner may agree to allow you complete access to their phones, text messages, social media accounts, and emails. They also may agree to not have lunch or dinner alone with someone who may be a potential romantic partner.

For a long time, you may worry and wonder whether or not they will cheat again. So, these boundaries serve two purposes: They provide you with a sense of security while holding your partner accountable.

Red Flags

There are times in a relationship when you should reconsider giving your partner a second chance. Of course, the choice is still yours, but giving a second chance when these red flags are present may mean that true reconciliation is unlikely. Think twice about giving a second chance when:

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

Although it can be tough to accept, not every relationship can be reconciled. There are times when the cheating partner refuses to end an affair or has an established pattern of cheating. In these cases, drastic changes would need to occur before any reconciliation would be successful.

If these red flags are apparent in your situation, consider seeking individual counseling before making any lasting decisions.

Your first priority should be to take care of yourself and then evaluate your relationship.

There are a lot of emotions that come with being cheated on including everything from hurt and anger to frustration, confusion, and even denial. Take your time processing what has happened to you. There's no rush to make a decision about your relationship until you feel strong enough to make the best one for you.

Be Realistic

Most people who have been cheated on take it personally. They may blame themselves or believe that if they were somehow different or better their partner would not have cheated. But that is a far cry from the truth. Your self-worth should not be tied to your partner's views of you.

What's more, your partner is responsible for the cheating. You did not cause it. While it is true that counseling will require you to address your issues, your issues do not give your partner a license to cheat. Cheating was a choice your partner made alone and must accept responsibility for.

It is vital that you pay close attention to how your partner responds to getting caught.

Are they sorry they got caught? Or, are they sorry for the pain they caused you? There is a big difference.

Good Signs

Usually, an honest apology with no excuses or blaming is a good start. When your partner starts to point the finger at you or someone else as a reason for choosing to cheat, it's is a sign that they have not accepted full responsibility for their actions.

Also, be sure your partner is truly remorseful before you agree to counseling and trying to reconcile the relationship. When a partner who cheats is unable to recognize the pain they have caused, they also will struggle to connect with you honestly and emotionally. Healing can only begin when you are able to see that your partner truly understands the depth of your pain and that they caused it.

A Word From Verywell

No one can tell you what to do when your partner has cheated. Only you can determine the right choice for you and your relationship, but it can be helpful to get input and counseling before moving forward, regardless of the direction you take. Talking to a therapist or counselor can help you make the choice that is right for you.

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3 Sources
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