(Closed) Psychologically, why do some people forgive cheating?

posted 3 years ago in Relationships
Post # 2
2106 posts
Buzzing bee

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sarandah :  financial dependency is a huge reason a lot of the time, especially in the instances where the person being cheated on is a woman.


the only other reason I can fathom is lack of self esteem 

Post # 3
3975 posts
Honey bee

I don’t think all cheating is created equal which is why some people can forgive.

and like the PP said, financial dependency is another factor.

Post # 4
4369 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: August 2012

Some people feel that what they have is worth fighting for, and choose to do the work to get their relationship back to a better place.

In my experience with friends it’s very easy to say you’d leave, but when it’s the person you’ve devoted your life to, or had children with it’s not so black and white.

Post # 5
10452 posts
Sugar Beekeeper
  • Wedding: August 2016

First, men aren’t the only ones who cheat so no I don’t think it’s just a boys will be boys attitude.

I think there can be a lot of reasons for staying. You may have been together for many years and all of the good may outweigh one mistake made by your partner. You may have kids and feel it’s best to try to work it out. Maybe they seem genuinely remorseful and you want to give them a second chance. Maybe they still get something out of the relationship and would rather forgive the cheating than give up whatever that may be. 

I think what matters is that someone is happy with the decision they made. If a friend or family member’s spouse cheats on them and they choose to forgive them and truly do and are happy with that decision and thier marriage I’m not going to judge them for making a choice that makes them happy.

Post # 6
11139 posts
Sugar Beekeeper
  • Wedding: City, State

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sarandah :  

Sunk cost fallacy.  That’s a very powerful reason people stay together.  Not necessarily a good one, but a powerful one, nonetheless.


Post # 7
1579 posts
Bumble bee

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hikingbride :  Agreed. I think some people just don’t see sexual infidelity is being as treacherous as others, and I find the assumption that someone has to have low self esteem in order to stay to be, well, presumptuous. 

There are many many reasons people cheat. And many many people do it at some point to some degree. And women do it too! Nearly all of my female friends have cheated on at least one boyfriend once. And they are people who are otherwise kind, considerate, and thoughtful otherwise. And most have only done it once and are otherwise great girlfriends. 

There are some people who are just players and players are gonna play. But for everyone else it happens because humans and relationships are complicated.  If you read up on Gottman, he will point out that a lot of times cheating is more of a symptom of a larger issue that becomes a symptom of itself.  It’s not a healthy way of coping with relationship problems, but it’s surprisingly common. And some people choose instead to repair rather than to walk away. 

And I can understand that if you’ve  been with someone for like 20 years and have built a life together.  I think it’s less wise when you’re still just dating because man the dating part is the easy part. 

Post # 8
12 posts
  • Wedding: June 2020

I’m no expert, but it seems to me that sexual intimacy creates a certain psychological binding that is not easy to break.  The same phenomenon might explain couples (women especially) who ensure physical abuse.

Post # 9
597 posts
Busy bee

I hope I don’t get shit for this but I’ve been the cheater so I can totally empathize with a lapse in judgement or self-esteem. I truly cared about the guy I cheated on. He was my first love we were together for 3 years but in the moment I thought to myself “I’ve never done anything this selfish before and I deserve to know how that feels”. Horrible, the answer is horrible.
About a year ago I kinda freaked out and started crying when I found a purse that wasn’t mine under our couch. I went through it like a mad woman while yelling at FH to wake up when I found my sister’s ID! She had left it during her last visit to my city…. However, I realized even in that moment of seeing red that I was no longer at a point with him where if he cheated I would be out no matter what. He’s been in my life as a best friend for 10 years, we’ve been together for 4, I love him so much that if it were to happen I would probably hear him out and give us a “try to fix it period” and it scared the shit out of me to care about someone that much but we talked about it. I calmed down and he was thankfully able to laugh the whole thing off. 

Post # 10
3821 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: April 2017

A lot of comments are assuming that a person who stays is weak or misguided but I don’t think that’s fair. It takes great strength to forgive. Maybe they know that their partner has done them a great wrong, but they take their vows seriously enough and love the person enough that they are willing to put in the work to strengthen the marriage and identify why it went wrong and get to a point where that wouldn’t happen again. Cheating is usually a symptom of deeper problems. Maybe if you see that and understand that your partner had a moment of terrible weakness you can forgive them. 

It all depends of course – if someone is just a serial cheater by nature and shows no remorse you can’t really work with that. But if someone is horrified at what they’ve done and wants to fix it then I think there is hope. 

Post # 11
8027 posts
Bumble Beekeeper
  • Wedding: October 2010

My ex husband cheated, but I was still willing/hoping to work it out. We had been married 8 years, had a 3 year together at the time. I really hoped it was perhaps just a stupid mistake and that we could work it out and continue to build our lives together. Because I loved him, despite the hurt. But he felt differently and refused to go to counseling etc., so we divorced. I’m certainly better off now, happily remarried with 2 more kids. But I don’t think that I was weak or lacking self esteem to want to try to work things out and save my marriage.

Post # 12
782 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: June 2019 - Tacoma, WA

I agree that it’s easy to say “I would leave and never look back” when it’s not you in the situation. There are just so many variables at play in each relationship, it’s presumptious to judge someoe for deciding to stay and work it out. Or to leave, for that matter.

I have been cheated on, and before that happened I would have been the first to say I would never put up with it or stay with someone who cheated and didn’t understand why anyone would.

But when you’re in that horrible moment, in real life, faced with the knowledge that this person you have loved with everything you have for years, have given everything to, have built a life with, have a long history with, have allowed to bond with your children and become a parent-figure to them, this person you LOVE with all your heart and who your children, if you have them, also love…when you’re in that moment, it’s not so easy to just walk away. In fact, it feels impossible.

For one, you want (with everything inside of you) to believe it was just a mistake, that it didn’t mean anything, that it wasn’t as bad as it was, that they’re really, actually sorry. You have trusted this person with your heart, maybe with your children’s hearts. You want to believe the two of you can fix this and move on. You will practically beg and plead for some shred of evidence that this isn’t the end of everything you know your life to be.

You go through all the stages of grief in the process. It’s excrutiating to think of staying with someone who cheated, and it’s equally excrutiating to think of leaving and rebuilding your entire life over again. There is no good option in that moment. The grief will come either way.

After I went through this,  my views changed significantly. It’s easy to talk a big game and say you’d walk away immediately, but it kills you to actually do it when you’re actually in the situation. I don’t have low self-esteem. I knew I could find someone else, someone better, maybe someone who would never cheat. But it wouldn’t be HER. And she was who I still wanted. She was who I had built my entire life around. She was who I had invested everything in. She was who I loved deeply.

And then there’s the cheater, swearing they won’t do it again. Telling you they love you so much. Apologizing every other minute of the day for weeks or months. Vowing to work on the problems in the relationship. Recommiting themselves to you. Crying and begging for another chance. And you desperately want to believe them. That they are who you thought they were, and this was just a blip on the map.

And believe me, you hold on to every one of their words like a fucking lifeline. Like it’s the oxygen that dropped on a plane falling from the sky. Because doing anything else feels like your heart is being ripped right out of your chest.

Sometimes, it can be worked through. There are success stories, and you’ll read about as many of them as you can find. Eventually you’ll stop sneaking peeks at their phone in the middle of the night or popping in at their office when they say they’re working late, just to be sure. As the years go by, the trust is restored. It can happen. I’ve seen it first hand.

Sometimes, the pattern repeats and it’ll be time to really say goodbye. But, by that point, you’ve worked through those stages of grief already and it becomes a little easier to let go.

Either way,  I’d never judge someone for the decision to stay and try to save things.

Post # 13
1580 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: April 2018

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sarandah :  your post comes across as very preachy.  There are an infinite amount of variables in the situation ie. How long you’ve been together, level of comittement, type of cheating, level of cheating, reasons etc.  Good people can do bad things.  

Post # 14
780 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: October 2013

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curiouscat2017 :   “ a lot of times cheating is more of a symptom of a larger issue that becomes a symptom of itself.  It’s not a healthy way of coping with relationship problems, but it’s surprisingly common. And some people choose instead to repair rather than to walk away. “

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sarandah :  THIS. I’m a psychologist and for couples I’ve seen who seek counseling following an instance of cheating this is the reason. And many couples – in the case of a non serial cheater – can get through cheating and be stronger for it with help. I’m not saying this works for everyone and certainly there other reasons people stay (financial, dependency, dysfunction, expectation etc) but this is by far the most common reason. For many couples, especially couples who have shared their lives and share families walking away without a fight is unthinkable.

Post # 15
11533 posts
Sugar Beekeeper
  • Wedding: May 2009

As a Christian, I know some Christian couples who have repaired their marriages after an incident of cheating. Although infidelity is one of two Biblically based reasons that Christians may become divorced, choosing to leave the marriage is not the only option. 

Although a Christian who has been cheated on does have Biblical grounds for divorce, he or she also has a command from God to forgive the offending parties. That doesn’t mean the wronged person has to stay in the marriage or to automatically trust the person who cheated. But having to forgive the offense may also make it easier to choose to remain in the marriage, especially if there are children involved. However, for most people, repairing the marriage would require the person who cheated to earn the other spouse’s trust all over again, and that would take repentence, counseling, and time.

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