You made the mistake of cheating, and now you can’t forgive yourself. So first, let’s acknowledge that you are reading this article because you feel accountable for having cheated.
But some people don’t.
Some never arrive at the place of feeling guilty. Rather (for whatever reasons), they keep arriving at the place of deception – literally and/or mentally.
Note: Ellen Evans is a professional Psychotherapist with 10+ years of experience in counseling.
How Reflection Helps You Heal
You are more likely to sit in a reflective, self-aware space when you acknowledge your deceptive behavior and its consequences. You are also likely to shift to healthier ways of being as a result of this reflection.
And part of the shift includes forgiveness – one of the main “healers” when it comes to pain and making “mistakes.”
Life is interesting. If we didn’t make mistakes or indeed allow for mistakes, then why are we even here? What would be the point of life if we had no more to learn?
We have free will and the immense capacity for growth – growth often nurtured through the challenge.
Cheating vs. Forgiveness
As part of my training as a Transpersonal Psychotherapist, I remember being told this simple wisdom about relationships.
They rapidly quicken self and soul growth. And, of course, this is not always a comfortable or easy space to find yourself in.
Cheating is a common aspect of relationships.
It is worth exploring how this behavior can create the space for reflection, forgiveness, and the chance for deeper partner and self-love.
The subject of forgiveness is huge in itself.
To forgive someone is hard.
To forgive someone after cheating is even harder. And that takes strength, making it a fundamental human quality, as well as a spiritual one.
“to make a mistake is human, to forgive is divine.”
The subject of cheating is also a broad one – a deceptive act that can happen in several ways.
The Different Kinds Of Cheating
- The emotional and/or mental kind of cheat, where one’s emotional or mental needs are largely (or solely) met via someone other than your partner.
- The betrayal could take the form of many acts. For instance, a continuous pattern of sleeping with other people while one is away on business trips.
- The partner could be living a double life. Perhaps, the person sees not just one but multiple partners outside of the primary one.
- The “crime” committed could be a one-off. A drunken one-night stand where he or she may barely remember the “dirty deed” being committed.
I use the words “crime” and “dirty deed” for a good reason.
Why Your Intention Matters
Depending on the intention, though cheating is generally not considered evil, some betrayed partners may feel so enraged and hurt that this loaded word could easily take center stage in their vocabulary.
So first, ask yourself where you stand in terms of your behavior on the path to self-awareness and forgiveness.
What one person may perceive as vile conduct may be considered as only a slight deviance in “loyalty” by another. In other words, the gradient of the act doesn’t necessarily match the amount of guilt.
For example, a man who has cheated on his wife numerous times may not feel particularly culpable. Perhaps he discovered long ago that his wife was emotionally distant and felt righteously permitted to continue his affairs.
In another case, perhaps a woman who has been with a partner for two years has just experienced a one-night stand and feels horrified about what she did.
Whether you feel racked with guilt or feel that all you need to do is sit in the naughty corner for a while, the first step to forgiving yourself is to acknowledge what happened.
Anything less than that and you ironically fall under the same category as the act itself: the category of deception.
Underneath any form of cheating lies deception and the betrayal of trust, which makes it hard to forgive someone. Thus making honesty is the best way to regain that trust.
And that is something you and your partner will need, too – the ability to trust yourself and your decisions.
What You Need To Forgive Yourself
Honesty is what you need to heal the lie. All else is more of that same lie drawn out.
This is where self-reflection comes in. It can be tough to own up. It is much easier to blame someone or something else.
The example of the man who feels permitted to have affairs because his wife is emotionally unavailable is a classic case of an unhealthy dynamic between the two.
“It takes two to tango” is relevant here on the deepest level.
Both partners need to look at how the relationship has broken down to have any chance to build it back up again.
If both of you are still willing to work on the relationship together, you could maybe use therapy.
Therapy can sometimes help you both understand your relationship’s shortcomings and mend the damage caused by cheating.
You can read more about it here.
“To understand somebody else as a human being, I think, is about as close to real forgiveness as one can get.”~ David Small
When acknowledgment, compassion, and forgiveness (usually in that order) are at the forefront of the healing process, then rifts can mend.
Love can even deepen between two partners if they understand the motives behind the “bad” actions.
If they recognize that humans are fallible.
Whatever one struggles within life – whatever mistakes are made – it is vital to realize that those mistakes do not define you. Perhaps you did something disgraceful, but you are not disgraced.
Perhaps the person who had the one-night stand was triggered during the day by past trauma, and the reaction manifested in sleeping with a random stranger.
Along with owning their actions and the hurt they caused, they also need compassion, not punishment.
If, after cheating, you have opened your heart, your wounds, your truth to your partner, there may be no guarantee that your other half will forgive you.
However, you will be more whole in your own being. You will have learned more about yourself and will perhaps choose a different course of action next time.
Stay positive, and stay true.
Recommended: Can Therapy Help Save Your Relationship?