Here at Happily Committed, we do believe in forgiveness, but the person who cheated needs to have a sense of guilt and remorse. They need to understand the gravity of their mistake. If they don’t, then there is a high chance that they will do it again. So, the first sign I want to go over with you has to do with how your partner reacted when you found out about the cheating. If he or she denied it fully and completely, and the only reason that they told you was because you found out in some other way, you need to be careful. It means that this person may not carry a sense of accountability that would prevent them from doing it again.
In some cases, the person who cheated continues to deny it even after they’ve been presented with undeniable proof, and this is a huge red flag. In essence, this indicates that he or she isn’t upset because they hurt you or because they shattered the trust in your relationship. They’re upset because you found out. You have to be aware of how likely your partner is to cheat again so that you can assess whether or not this is something that you want to continue working on.
Another sign that you need to keep an eye on is when your partner keeps trying to justify it. You saw the signs of cheating, they turned out to be true, you confronted them about it, AND they keep trying to tell you that it makes sense that they would cheat because of X, Y, and Z, we’ve got a problem. Again, this shows that they don’t feel the remorse that you need to feel to prevent you from cheating again. If the person doesn’t see that their actions deeply hurt the relationship and has seriously damaged its likelihood of success, it’s not a good sign.
People make solid, long-term changes because they’re inspired to change. It’s not because they have no choice. A person isn’t going to stop cheating if it makes you feel unhappy; they’ll stop because it makes THEM feel unhappy. This is why it’s so important to take a good look at your partner’s feelings about the cheating.
In addition to this, if your partner cheated and doesn’t acknowledge how much this hurts you, it’s not a good sign. If he or she isn’t shocked and embarrassed by how much they hurt you, it means that they’re to showing empathy. Empathy, as you can imagine, is a key ingredient to bouncing back after infidelity. Your partner needs to fundamentally understand how important it is to treat you well, and if they can’t see that their actions directly impact your experience in this relationship, then there is a serious disconnect, and a serious problem. They’re not considering your perspective and how it makes you feel. Without knowing or caring about how you feel, they won’t be as motivated to change the behavior. Empathy is such an important part of what it means to be connected to your partner in a relationship. Without it, it’s incredibly hard to foster a solid relationship where you grow and operate as a team. You need to learn how both of you are experiencing the relationship, because it is an enormous component of what a relationship is.
Being able to keep an eye on the other person’s experience in the relationship is essential. And I’m not just talking about cheating here. This is something that extends into the little things like cleaning up after yourself in the home you share, and thinking about how that affects your partner’s experience. If you don’t factor in how they feel and how your actions affect them, it will be very challenging to develop a healthy relationship. A big part of what love is is paying attention to one another and thinking about what you can do to lift your partner higher. So, if your partner is denying the fact that they cheated, if they aren’t showing remorse, if they’re justifying their actions and if they aren’t acknowledging your pain, it is important to note that he or she is likely to cheat again.
If you see these signs, then you need to analyze what that means for you. Do you want to continue to invest in this relationship knowing that there’s a risk of cheating happening again? Do you feel that if you were to approach the issue in a different way, that he or she would see things more clearly and change their attitude? You have to think about the variables that are in your control and the variables that are not in your control. I say this because the ones I just went over with here are not really in your control. Your partner’s ability to develop empathy is a very personal thing for him or her and has very little to do with you.
So you’ve got to think about what you can do on your end to make the relationship better, and you must keep your eyes open regarding what your partner can do and what your partner is WILLING to do. If he or she is not capable of feeling guilt or remorse, then you have to realize that that is their issue and not yours. The thing that is in your control is whether you stay or whether you go, and this is a choice that you must make wisely.
If you read this section and you don’t see these red flags in your partner, then I want you to know that it is highly likely that you’ll be able to work together to repair the damage. If that’s the case, let’s take a look at how to put the pieces back together in a relationship.