If your partner cheats, you may want to cut ties asap. But things can often be more complicated than that! Speaking to experts, we learned exclusively your relationship doesn’t HAVE to end — but there is a catch.
You got cheated on. So what’s next? You can immediately kick your partner out, slash their ties Carrie-Underwood style, or put them on blast via social media. You could also sit down and talk about it! The good news is, there’s not necessarily a WRONG way to approach this situation — unless of course you do something illegal. But the point is, you have options — even if you still want to salvage the relationship, which is a perfectly respectable course of action in many circumstances! No matter what you decide though, it’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into either way.
Speaking with relationship experts and a psychologist, learned how to determine what you should do if your partner cheats, but, most importantly, how to properly mend things if you choose you’re in said relationship for the long haul! Let’s be clear though, according to our experts, this process is “complicated” and “not quick.” “If I’m three months into a relationship with someone and they cheat, it’s over,” eHarmony CEO, Grant Langston, told us EXCLUSIVELY. “The only reason to save the relationship is if you have time or something else invested — kids, a home, a marriage, etc. Even if you’re six months in, oh my God, I would send him walking — it’s not worth the effort.”
So your first step is to asses the situation. If your partner is a first-time offender, and, like Grant said, you have built some sort of life together, there’s no shame in wanting to stay together and fix things. However, if your partner has cheated before — even if it wasn’t on you — you may want to STRONGLY consider kicking them to the curb! “There are people who never intend on being faithful, never really intend on giving their all to a women,” dating and relationship expert Hunt Ethridge shared with us. “If he cheated once and is SO sorry, then yeah — I’m sure all of us have done something once that we’ve regretted and haven’t done again. But if it’s a pattern of behavior, over and over again; this is their drug to get that adrenaline rush, this is something they’ve decided is a part of their life — nothing is going to change that, that’s ingrained. You can’t just go to couples’ counseling and be fine.”
Counseling is, however, strongly recommended if you decide your relationship is worth saving. “Infidelity can be hard to overcome, but it is possible with commitment and psychotherapy. This usually requires both couples AND individual therapy,” Dr. Sheila Forman, clinical psychologist in private practice in Santa Monica, CA, told us. “In the couples’ work, the emphasis would be on reestablishing trust, improving communication skills, and resolving the issues between the partners that may have played a role. In the individual therapy, the cheating partner would need to heal the underlying reasons for the infidelity as well as the consequences of his actions to his partner and others. The other partner would need to understand any part she may have played as well as deal with hurt and angry feelings.”
“Let’s say you do have a life together, the first thing that the woman needs to insist on is seeking contrition in the man. He needs to be sorry, he needs to be on his knees, in tears, and sorry that it happened. If he’s not, the rest doesn’t matter. He must be saying to you, ‘Oh my God, this was a horrible mistake. I’m very sorry,’” Grant explained. If, and only if, that happens, THEN you can start to rebuild your relationship. But if he’s not groveling? Forget it.
“If he’s done that, the woman gets to say, ‘Look, you’ve broken the trust in this relationship. Now we have to try and heal it. For a period of time, you have to do what I say in order for me to trust you again.’ There has to be many months where he does everything she says to do and how she says to do it,” Grant continued. “She gets to check up on him. she’s allowed to check on his whereabouts. She can do anything she wants to do to test his trust. Why? Because he broke that trust. She gets to verify everything he says.” It may sound unfair, but Grant insists that it’s not. The cheater has to show his commitment and prove he can be trusted again. However, some decide that’s too much work.
“A lot of men say screw it, ‘I’m not going to let you pry into my life.’ The woman can really tell, right then, how much the man loves her,” the eHarmony CEO said. “The man that really loves her and really values her, will say, ‘I don’t like it, but it’s all my fault, and yes, I will check in with you, I will tell you where I am. I will spend the months to give you the confidence you need in our relationship.’ At this point, he’s proved he’s a liar. So he needs to earn that back.” Adding that it’s a “hard road,” Grant admitted reconciliation is not for everyone. Those who do choose it though, “can end up with a stronger relationship in the end.”
Answering the age-old question, “can people change?” Dr. Forman said that they CAN, but a lot of hard work must go into it. “As a psychologist I like to believe that people can change, but the key is that they have to want to change, and they have to do the work to create and maintain the change,” she said. Amen!