How to Forgive a Cheater

By Jodi Perez | Marriage

Jul 16
Man and woman embrace forgiveness

How to Forgive Cheating in Marriage

Whether you've recently discovered your spouse's affair or you've been seeing a counselor for years, you may still find it difficult to forgive a cheating spouse. 

But have you ever wondered WHY it's so difficult to forgive?  

Why You're struggling to forgive

As a fellow betrayee (someone who has been betrayed)  I know how hard the process of forgiveness can be.  

But at some point on our road to recovery I realized that forgiving him wasn't actually quite as difficult as I was making it out to be.

The problem with forgivenss (for me, at least) is that it feels an awful lot like getting the short end of the stick.    Basically - you're saying, "Yes you hurt me but I won't make you pay for that."

Not fair - right?  In fact, when you put it that way, forgiveness sounds a bit like a weakness.  Why should your spouse "get away" with hurting you while you have to deal with the residual effects of that pain? 

That's a great question.  And it's not easily answered.

Woman hugs knees and cries while trying to forgive spouse for an affair

What forgiveness looks like

Too often, we relate the idea of forgiveness with a feeling.  We assume that we must feel at peace or be somehow undamaged to have “fully forgiven.”    

But in order to be really clear about what forgiveness actually means, I’m going to give you a real world example of this concept.

Have you ever heard of "student loan forgiveness"? The basic idea is that after a period of time - the entire amount of your loan will be written off and you will no longer be required to pay it.

For me, this is a fantastically simple example of what forgiveness should look like.   Once your loan has been forgiven, the loan company no longer seeks you out, looking for payment or retribution.  

Your debt has been cancelled. You have been forgiven.

A Debt that Can't be Paid

Here is the sad truth about infidelity.  It's a debt that can not be paid. You're spouse can (and should) try to make ammends but he/she will never be able to satifsy the debt on their own.

So does this mean you can never be happy again?  No. But it does mean that you are going to have to make some very difficult decisions.  

If you want your heart to heal, you've got to let it go - forgive the debt.

What is holding you back

It's extremely common for someone who has been betrayed to expect their spouse to display a specific level of remorse before they agree to "forgive" him or her.  

The problem with this idea is that your spouse may never display enough remorse to satisfy your quota.  

If you're being honest with yourself, you will likely realize that there is nothing that could be said or done to make you "feel better" about what happen or where you are now. 

So how do I know he/she won't do it again

The truth?  You don't.

Could you find yourself right back in this situation again in six months? Yes.  

Will it hurt this bad all over again?Probably. Maybe even worse.

So why put yourself through it?  4 words.

For Better or Worse


When you signed up for better or worse - you most likely thought that worse meant  something like - I'll love you even if you lose a limb.

But the reality of better or worse is that you've agreed to unconditional love. And loving somone through an affair is hard.

Now don't get me wrong - there is a point where you have to say - enough is enough.  But if you believed your marriage was beyond reconcillation you probably wouldn't be reading this post.  

What's in it for you?

There is a GOOD side to choosing forgiveness.  

If you're anything like me - then you've probably felt pretty out of control since finding out about the affair.  

​Personally, I felt as though I had suddenly gone from having a handle on life to feeling like I had no idea what was happening.

But forgiveness empowers you.  Getting your emotions under control has a way of releasing you from the pain you are experiencing.

YOU will decide how you feel about it.  Not your spouse.  Not your friends. YOU.

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So HOW do you actually forgive?

Forgiving your spouse, as we said, is a decision you have to make.  But not just once.

In fact, you will have to make that decision over and over again.   Ever time something triggers your pain, you'll have to make a choice to put it out of your mind and choose forgiveness over bitterness.   

Next time you have a thought that sounds something like "He shouldn't have..." or "How could she ..."  Stop yourself. Refuse to think about that thought. 

Choose forgiveness.

In time - the thoughts will stop plaguing you and that forgivess will start reaching your heart and your emotions.  

This post may contain affiliate links which means I may receive a small fee for anything purchased through a link (at no cost to you.)  I only promote products that I fully support. You can read my full disclosure HERE.

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