Your man has done the dirty on you. But swears it will never happen again. Is it a case of ‘once a cheater, always a cheater’, or should you give him a second chance?
Perspectives on cheating change. When we’re in more casual relationships and we’re younger, our stances to cheating can often be simplistic: “I’d walk out immediately if he cheated – there’s no point sticking around”, or “I don’t really mind if he cheats – we’re not that serious anyway”.
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Hard and fast rules about cheating can dissolve when a long-term relationship and a serious breach of trust are involved. You love a person and have a long and fulfilling life together, but he’s strayed and you’ve found out. What do you do?
Sometimes, unfortunately, the hard and fast rules are good ones. Trust is absolutely necessary to a relationship, as is feeling desired and wanted. Cheating is, at its roots, disrespectful – to you, your relationship, and to any future you had planned with your partner. There are relationships that simply can’t recover from the blow and its consequences, and that’s perfectly acceptable.
If you do decide to stay and work on things, be wary of whom you tell. People judge reactions to cheating – you might be thought of as weak or submissive for not walking out. You need support, so be careful on whose shoulders you lean on. Don’t ignore it for the sake of your life together, or set out for a revenge tryst – it will mend absolutely nothing, and will add your own guilt into an already convoluted and volatile situation.
Looking at why he cheated – spontaneous lust, opportunism, a spark he failed to find with you, an illicit rush, novelty – might help, but be aware that it might not. The excess of information may torment you rather than giving you clues to moving forward. Personalising the grief and looking at it as your own failure – i.e. “I didn’t give him what he wanted, so he looked elsewhere” – is not helpful, and will burden you. Relationships are made of mutual giving, and you’ll need to work together to get over the blame and heartache, if that’s what you decide to do.
Counselling might be of great help to you. See your GP for a recommendation, or investigate local services. Talk to your partner – express your needs, your hurt, and try to reconnect. Do little things for one another. Show your commitment to rebuilding the razed city of your love. It may never happen again.
Personally, I am of the opinion that if cheating behaviour recurs, it’s not going to change. If every time somebody feels a lack within a relationship they go out in search of it elsewhere – or, indeed, if every time they are offered an opportunity, they display poor impulse control – your relationship is never really going to fulfil you or make you feel safe. You’ll always be healing the latest crack in your broken trust, and a fragile thing like a relationship can only be glued together so many times. People can change, but ultimately, no matter how many carrots or sticks you use, that’s up to them.