Can You Ever Forgive a Cheater?

February 21st, 2016

Break Ups, Cheating, NEW!, Snooping, Texting

Alias (DO NOT USE A REAL NAME!!): Sally R
Comment: I found an old text string on my boyfriend’s phone from a year and a half ago between him and another woman.  They were obviously seeing each other based on the texts.  At that time he and I had been exclusive for 9 months.  We’ve now been together almost 3 years and I find out that he cheated on me.  I had his permission to look in his phone for a text from another woman with the same first name as the other woman that he was seeing, and opened the wrong texts.
I’m devastated to find out that he cheated because I thought we had this really great relationship.  Now I can’t help wondering what else is on his phone.  I can’t get past thinking “once a cheater, always a cheater.”  We had our first fight when I confronted him about it because he felt I was snooping.  I truly wasn’t because it never occurred to me that there was anything to be suspicious of. I don’t know if I can ever trust him again.  I love him and don’t want to break up, but now I find myself wishing that I had gone through his phone thoroughly after finding this evidence of infidelity.
He denies that he cheated, but the texts are pretty clear they had a physical relationship.
Is there hope for this relationship to heal from his betrayal?
Age: 55
City: Huntington
State: NY

I had his permission to look in his phone for a text from another woman with the same first name as the other woman that he was seeing, and opened the wrong texts.

Oh, honey. How stupid do you think I am? Nobody- and I mean nobody – is letting other people go through their phone. Especially not someone who has saved text messages with the woman he cheated with. Especially especially if the woman whose text you’re looking for (with his permission) is the same name as the woman he cheated. No. Just no.

We had our first fight when I confronted him about it because he felt I was snooping.

That’s because you were.

Without seeing the texts, I have no idea what is going on here. For all I know, the text string was innocent or from a former lover and they were discussing stuff that happened well in the past. I don’t know. I also haven’t a clue about the nature of your relationship. Only you know how this guy has treated you.

My personally feeling is that people fuck up with stunning regularity. They say stupid things, they do stupid things. Relationships are all a crapshoot. Maybe I am just too jaded and cynical at this stage of the game but I’d bet most people do things they know will hurt their partner because we, as human beings, are selfishself-serving creatures. I have to say I’m kind of over the idea of cheating as such an escándalo. Technology has almost ensured that people will cheat in some form or another, be it a conversation with an ex or cybersex or going on like sprees on Instagram and Facebook. I don’t know, man. Sexual infidelity just doesn’t get me worked up. It’s emotional betrayal that would shatter me.

The keys to a lasting relationship of any kind – platonic or romantic – are appropriate expectations and  forgiveness. I would bet that most people have had a friend hurt or betray them and got through it. But for whatever reason, romantic relationships don’t have the same kind of resiliency. Why? The levels of intimacy between a romantic partner and  a friend really aren’t all that different. Yet, for some reason, we place higher expectations on our romantic partners than we do our close friends. In fact, we often let our closest of confidantes disappoint us without a thought. We just shrug it off. Not so when it’s our lovers that betray us.

Obviously this guy isn’t going to tell you if he’s cheated more than once. No one in his position would. So either you need to be able to move past this or walk away. Those are your only two options. Either you believe him that he didn’t cheat or you don’t. If you don’t, leave. If you do, stay. But you’re right, things will never be the same. Not unless you consciously choose to work at forgiving him, even if there’s nothing to forgive.

That’s a tall order, I know. Forgiveness is one of the most difficult gestures we are asked to make as human beings, but without it, we’re screwed.


Sometimes the love of your life is the love of your life. (R)


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14 Responses to “Can You Ever Forgive a Cheater?”

  1. coffeestop Says:

    The phone snooping thing. I have never done it, not when I was married, not when I have dated somebody exclusively. I might have found out the ex husband was cheating sooner who knows but not sure that would have made a difference. Having said all that humans are human. We fuck up. I personally could forgive the cheating only to give myself peace and be able to let go however I could not continue on with somebody who cheated on me, I would end things. I have done some stupid ass things in my life but cheating is not one of them so, i could never accept it in an exclusive relationship.

  2. SS Says:

    Can you forgive?: Yes

    But Leopards do NOT change their spots.

    Cheaters cheat because of their character (or lack thereof) and not situational reasons. I have yet to learn of a cheater that is not a hardcore recidivist. Statistics are spotty in bearing out this theory, mostly because the truth cannot be proven. And shocker: liars lie. What has been shown, however, is that their mindset is almost identical to wifebeaters; forgiveness once is interpreted as license to repeat the behaviour.

    As Dr Phil says: for every rat you see, there’s 50 you don’t.

  3. Steve Says:

    While snooping is generally viewed as bad stuff, my take is that if someone feels compelled to snoop, there’s a good reason for it and this woman’s suspicions were confirmed.

    Her insecure behavior did not trigger his cheating. His cheating happened first.

    I agree with Moxie that emotional cheating is worse then sexual infidelity.

    I discovered my ex was chatting it up over hundreds of texts to a co worker. She denied physical cheating happened, but the texts showed she offered him a massage (she says for his hand).

    I was devastated that she went outside of our marriage to be a friend to this male.

    I could count maybe 30 texts between us in the same time frame she had over 500 with this male friend.

    I think this woman’s snooping was appropriate and the guy a dummy for sharing the phone if he cared about the relationship.

    Obviously, he’s a jerk and is gaslighting her now as the problem.

    • coffeestop Says:

      She knows she has to leave him but……..Love…… she loves what she thought he was, not what he is. If she stays with him he will get more sophisticated about his cheating and continue to make her feel like she is the problem. I hope OP has enough spinal fortitude to walk. Here is why she might not…… She is 55 and freaking out because she thinks if she bails she won’t find anybody. I am 51, I kind of get it. However, I just cannot be disrespected like that. I would rather be dumped for somebody else than cheated on. He should do her that favor. He might not because he might sense her desperation and calculate he can have the insecure GF who provides comfort and his side stable.

    • SS Says:

      “I agree with Moxie that emotional cheating is worse then (sic) sexual infidelity.”

      The prospect of my (ex) husband’s penis inside of me when it had been inside of 3 other hookers in the last 72 hours was repugnant for me.

      The following 18 month stretch of std and HIV tests were also not “fun.”

      I would choose “hurt by emotions shared” over “maybe I have AIDS/Syphilis/Gonorrhea/Herpes/Chlamydia/HPV/PID/Trich/Vaginosis/Hepatitis… and consequently physically compromised and/or infertile” FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE every day for the rest of my life.

  4. KK Says:

    There is something i am confused about. If the texts make it clear there had been a physical relationship, then how could he deny he had cheated? If it is clear there had been a physical relationship, then if the LW had shown the texts to her boyfriend, he would HAVE to admit it. The only other way would be if he was the greatest liar ever. Which maybe he is. It is possible he has no shame and is a great, great liar. But also, maybe the texts indicate a close relationship, and maybe a desire for a physical one, but nothing physical happened.

    Second of all. If he HAD slept with that woman, why would he have kept the text? It doesn’t actually make sense. If you cheat, you HIDE evidence of cheating. Unless he is keeping those texts as an ego boost.

    Anyway. In regards to how the LW should react. If she stays with him, would she be able to forgive him and more importantly herself? Would she feel ok with herself for sticking with this? And also, what made her decide to look through his texts? Like, is she a generally suspicious person, or was he acting off?

    I don’t think the LW would believe this guy. It sounds like she doesn’t trust him right now. So it seems like she has to decide if she can ever trust him again. If not, no point in being with him. If yes, then she needs to decide if, like I’d said before, she can forgive him for cheating and herself for staying in a relationship with a man who cheated on her.

  5. ? Says:

    First, if you have to stoop to snooping, I’m afraid you will find what you are looking for. People don’t start to snoop three years into a relationship, without first having suspicions.
    Secondly, the relationship just cannot move forward simply with forgiveness. Both parties have a long and hard road ahead to work out the reasons for the infidelity, and addressing those issues that led to it. No healing can take place without an admission of the infidelity and an admission of wrongdoing. Look, this bloke is not even admitting to anything despite how damning the texts were. Let’s face it, the OP is coming up with all sorts of reasons and excuses to overlook this because she “loves” him.

  6. TTFK Says:

    If she was compelled to snoop, she was already halfway out of the relationship already and just needed some form of rationalization flee self-confirmation.

    We have no idea what was actually in the messages, but I have seen women take completely innocent conversations and combine them with deep rotted jealously and insecurity to make others out to be cheaters.

  7. Speed Says:

    Moxie mentioned managing “expectations” in a relationship, and I think that key point bears extrapolation. I read a Washington Post study indicated that 70% of married women and 72% of married men cheat at least once. So to expect flowery wedding vows to negate this seems a little naïve. Fact is, if you get with someone, over the long term there’s a high possibility that one or the other of you will cheat. It doesn’t mean one or both of you is villainous. It means you’re human.

    When I was very young, I was outraged at the possibility of cheating, but I then was repeatedly assigned to work overseas for long periods in cultures where the male cheating rate seemed to approach 100%. There, it was strange if a married man “didn’t” cheat. “Wives were for family, girlfriends were for fun,” was what these guys always told me. Being young and brainwashed by Western culture, and raised Catholic, this seemed shocking to me at first. However, these were all guys that were committed husbands and fathers, hard workers, good providers and patriots (for their own countries). Most of them were also highly discreet with their affairs, not wanting their wives to lose face or children to know. Seeing that, I had to re-think my Western brainwashing that “cheating is inevitably evil and breaks up families.”

    Ultimately, I also found that about 75% of my (male) married USA friends were cheating. Usually, nothing steady—just an opportunity here and there, usually on out-of-town business trips. One close married friend has liaisons with a similarly married woman whenever they are in the same town. Like the guys I met overseas, my friends are outstanding husbands, fathers and providers.

    All of the cheating guys (USA and abroad) I know say that “their wives can’t possibly know.” Which could be true. Or maybe the wives know/suspect but overlook it because everything else in the package is great. Or maybe the wives just don’t want the heavy combat of a divorce case. Or maybe some of the wives are also cheating. Who knows?

    I can’t say that a person is “wrong” to walk away from a relationship/marriage because of cheating. But neither do I think that it is “wrong” to stay. Over the decades, I myself have moved from an absolutist position on cheating to a much more flexible and nuanced one. To be brutally honest, I’d be less upset at a woman’s cheating on me than at her weakness in confessing it to me or clumsiness in accidentally exposing it to me. If you’re going to cheat, do it with some common sense and discretion. Be an adult. Aside from that, ultimately, leave or stay I think it’s important to keep in mind that it’s impossible to entirely escape from the risk of partner cheating.

    • Missy Says:

      Those numbers seem high to me but I have seen similar studies that show the rates to be at least 50% for both men and women, and some studies that suggest women actually cheat more than men. And contrary to the opinion that cheating is always a sign of poor character, there are apparently other factors at play, such as genetics… Which helps to explain why monogamy is much more difficult for some people than for others.
      Obviously in our culture we have much higher expectations of fidelity than many cultures do, and the numbers strongly suggest that those expectations are unrealistic in a lot of cases. The question then is what to do about it. I think the increasing acceptance of polyamory is one way people are trying to manage, and it definitely seems to work well for some people. For others, I think the “don’t ask/don’t tell” approach seems to work better.
      In any case, though, when the cat is out of the bag I do agree that it will take some serious work to get back on track in the relationship. Ideally the cheating partner, when confronted, would own up so the couple can be realistic and honest about how to handle the situation. If not, though, I think the other partner really has to come to terms with what is most important to them and whether the relationship as a whole is working. And then figure out what to do: can you live with knowing that your partner might stray? When it comes to marriage, which I realize is not the case here, I think a lot of people place much more emphasis on a strict interpretation of “forsaking all others” but tolerate all kinds of lapses when it comes to the rest of the vows. Assuming that your partner is otherwise trustworthy (especially in terms of using good judgement in terms of not bringing home any drama, surprise babies, or stds) sexual infidelity may be a small price to pay for love, respect, and partnership. Whereas if those things are missing, The whole relationship becomes untenable. For me it did, anyway. When I finally broached the subject of divorce with my non-cheating spouse, he said “but you made a vow to stay with me forever!”
      I had to reply, “you made vows to me, too, such as to love and support me, and to strive to be your best and help me be my best (a personal addition we made to the traditional vows), and you haven’t been doing that despite all the talks and marriage counseling and everything.” In my case, if I had been able to count on those other things, cheating wouldn’t have been such a big deal.

  8. Cooldude Says:


  9. DD Says:

    It doesn’t matter if she was snooping or not – let’s answer her actual question. IMHO, cheating isn’t covered by appropriate expectations and forgiveness. I’d dump him. You just have to decide if you can forgive him and never bring this up again, and trust him in the future or not. There is no middle ground of kinda forgiving him.

    • ATWYSingle Says:

      you’re assuming that what she found actually proved that he cheated. that might not be the case and she’s just connecting dots or making assumptions.

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