When you find out your partner has cheated on you and also still wants to make your relationship work, the resulting mood is best explained as “emotional tornado.” Coming to terms with what happened is a whole lot to wrap your mind around—like wondering why they cheated in the first place and whether it might happen again—before you even reach the point of deciding whether you can forgive a cheater at all. And if you do choose to forgive your partner for their indiscretions, will you ever truly get over it?
Well, if you’ve already gone full Carrie Underwood and dug your key into the side of their pretty little souped-up four-wheel drive, carved your name into their leather seats, taken a Louisville slugger to both headlights and slashed a hole in all four tires, then probably not. Some people are simply hardwired to believe “Once a cheater, always a cheater,” and they sever ties immediately after learning their partner stepped out. Other people may find that they can forgive a cheater and, while they may not forget, they do move past it as best as they can.
“Some of one’s ability to move on from an infidelity has to do with personality traits, and some has to do with the state of the relationship and the type or amount of infidelity.” —relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW
“Some of one’s ability to move on from an infidelity has to do with personality traits, and some has to do with the state of the relationship and the type or amount of infidelity,” says relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW. “Obviously a one-off situation is more forgivable than finding out that someone was a chronic cheater.”
If you’re looking inward to get more clarity on whether you’re more of a cheaters-don’t-change Carrie or a second-chance-granting Beyoncé, below are three personality traits common to people who are more inclined to say, “Yes, I can forgive a cheater.”
Maybe your self-esteem isn’t at an all-time high in the particular moment you learn about the infidelity; if so, that’s totally understandable. But if in your day-to-day life, you feel self-assured and confident in who you are, you’ll be able to eschew any notion of feeling as though you were the reason they cheated. Because, well, of course you weren’t.
“People who have a higher level of self-esteem might find it slightly easier to move on from infidelity than someone who constantly feels less than everyone around them,” says Hartstein. “A person with strong self-esteem can recognize that the cheating isn’t about them and how appealing or attractive or even loved that they are. Someone with a weaker self-image might end up feeling so defined by this situation and so shattered that there is no going back.”
Ah, yes, the power of positivity—or seeing the glass half full instead of half finished…by some other person, at a bar, with your partner. If you have a holistically optimistic outlook on life, you’re more likely to believe that everything will be okay—with or without your partner in your life. And this situation is distinctly different than just saying it’ll be okay to cover up how shattered you actually feel. “A more hopeless individual might end up believing that there is simply no bouncing back from an infidelity,” Hartstein says.
Finally, someone who isn’t naturally jealous or naturally suspicious might be able to move forward with the relationship, Hartstein says. Because i you already had some trust issues in the past, and your trust is now broken by an affair, you’re likely to have a hard time ever believing your S.O. is staying faithful. The paranoia will weigh on you, and, my friend, you don’t deserve that.
Ultimately, whether or not you can forgive a cheater and try to start fresh is an absolutely personal choice, whether you have the right “personality” to move forward or not. If your emotional tornado is raging and you’re not sure how you want to proceed after learning about an infidelity, just try to know yourself—hopefully that’ll give you the clarity to decide what’s best for you.
Tell us, relationship pros, what does micro cheating actually mean, and will it ruin my relationship? And there might be a way you can tell someone’s cheating, just by looking at their face.
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