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When commuting to and from work on crowded trains, it’s hard not to overhear other people’s conversations. One in particular this morning that caught my attention was between two women contemplating if woman #1 should take back her man, whom she apparently discovered had cheated on her. Woman #1 was clearly hurt and confused and had no idea what she should do. Woman #2, however, didn’t hesitate to give #1 her advice:  give him another chance. When woman #1 asked why – in disbelief – her friend answered plainly, “Because everyone deserves a second chance.”

But do they really? Not so fast…

I’ve been in the same situation myself more times than I’d like to admit, and in every instance I can’t say that I’ve reacted the same. There have been times where a guy I was dating had cheated and I gave him a second chance. There have also been times where I’ve promptly kicked a guy to the curb after the dreaded ‘C’ word left his lips. Sometimes it was a one-time cheat deal, other times it was a full-blown affair that had lasted for months without me having a clue what was going on. Each situation was different, each man was different and each outcome was different. But still, in no way did I feel that any of the men who had cheated on me deserved a second chance. The decision was all mine; and any outcome of that decision was for me to deal with – the good, the bad and the ugly.

Sometimes I got it wrong. There were times I decided to forgive (but not forget), and I was cheated on a second, third and fourth time. Sure, you can call me crazy on that one. I really was hoping he’d change. When it finally hit me that he would never change unless he wanted to, I concluded that people treat you how you allow them to treat you. Therefore, giving second chances could be your invitation to more heartache.

But I also know that there are men and women out there who, if given a second chance to right their wrongs, would do better. The hard part is in knowing who those people are. That’s where keen judgment, character assessment, taking a risk and stumbling upon luck come into play. You can’t know who “deserves” a second chance until you actually give it to them, so what to do?

There is no right or wrong answer, but whatever your decision when faced with infidelity and whether or not to give your mate a second chance, remember this – a person who has betrayed you is owed nothing. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been together for a short time, long time, are married, share children, you name it – the decision to forgive and move on is yours to make only and shouldn’t be anything you feel forced to do. You didn’t choose to be betrayed, so the betrayer shouldn’t expect you to take them back.

However if you do decide to forgive, make sure you do just that – forgive. Be sure to move on from the past situation, too.  While you may never forget what happened, the only way to truly move past the hurt of infidelity is to give yourself and your partner permission to heal. This means not bringing it up every chance you get or throwing it in their face. If you can’t do this, that means the trust is irrevocably broken and therefore the relationship is over.

Also, don’t apologize to anyone or explain your reasoning as to why you took you significant other back to anyone. It’s your choice and others should respect it. If you’re worried about what others will think, then either you’re not ready to forgive or you shouldn’t forgive at all. It’s hard when folks are in your ear telling you what to do, so be sure to thoroughly discuss what happened with your partner and how you want to move forward before you go spilling your tea to friends and family. Get counseling first if you’re conflicted. Even if you aren’t, a third party may be able to help you sift through your emotions and help you make the best decision for yourself.

Lastly, don’t take any blame for the betrayal, and forgive yourself for any doubt you may have cast upon yourself. Your self-esteem can take a serious hit once you’ve discovered you’ve been cheated on, but your partner’s actions shouldn’t determine how you feel about yourself – especially since you are not the one who cheated. In working past infidelity with your partner, it’s okay to be a part of the solution in helping to change the dynamic of your relationship – but the responsibility is ultimately on them to gain your trust back. If  he or she is genuinely sorry, has taken responsibility for their actions and you’re willing to work on regaining trust and rebuilding, then the betrayer should consider that a gift – not a right.

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