Infidelity in a relationship is nearly impossible to overcome. I didn’t say it was impossible, but nearly. Cheating is the top reason couples get divorced. And if couples with a marriage certificate (and possibly a mortgage and kids) couldn’t get over it, that gives you some idea of just how challenging it is. If you’ve been cheated on, but you’re not married to the person, you don’t even have all of those extra bonds to keep you together. That’s something to keep in mind if you’re going to fight for this relationship and try to overcome infidelity. When you’re in the immediate throws of post-cheating, all you can think about is whether or not to stay with this person. But what you don’t think about is what life will look like after making the decision to stay with him. It’s not always pretty. Here’s what it’s like to take back a cheater.
Your friends judge you
Your friends will judge you. They may not outright say it, but they think you’re being naïve and weak. They think you’re just staying with him because you’re afraid to be alone, or you don’t know your self-worth. If you walk in the room and they’re whispering, yes—they were judging your decision.
Your friends are mean to him
Your friends aren’t going to be as quick to make an effort with him as you’d like. Bringing him around them makes them feel like you’re asking them to compromise their values. You’re making them hang out with a type of person who, under other circumstances, they’d never want to be around. Your social life is about to get complicated.
Your family can’t forgive him
It could easily take a decade for your family to forgive him, especially your parents. In your parents’ eyes, they let this man take care of their baby girl and he did a terrible job. He neglected his responsibility. They’ll feel very protective of you, and very resentful of him. They may never forgive him until you have children with him. This, somehow, heals some wounds. Your parents want to have a good relationship with the father of their grandchildren. But before then, forget it.
He’ll have more apologies to make
Just when your partner is done making all the apologies in the world to you, he will have to write letters/make speeches to your friends and family. He doesn’t just get to hang around them as if nothing happened. They will expect him to acknowledge what he did, to them, and apologize, to them. They won’t make an effort to be nice to him until this happens.
You can feel sad/bad after sex
You may feel deeply sad after having sex with the cheater. You can feel like you disrespected yourself by giving your body over to someone who took you for granted and was willing to do something that hurt you so badly. It may take a very long time to get the physical intimacy back.
You’ll have periods of peace
You’ll go through periods when it feels like the infidelity never happened. There will be times when you’ll feel healed and safe again. But you may catch yourself when this happens, and become angry with yourself for being “off your guard.” You’ll struggle to enjoy these periods of peace for long.
You’ll have waves of paranoia
You’ll go through phases where you realize just because you feel safe doesn’t mean you are safe. You’ll want to know what your partner is doing every minute of the day, you’ll want to know who he is on the phone with and you’ll want to know what he is thinking about. When these phases come, you’ll wonder if you can survive this relationship. You certainly don’t want to feel like that every day.
You’ll struggle to give him privacy
You’ll want to look over at his phone when he’s texting, but then you’ll get angry at yourself for doing that. If you’re supposed to be at a place where you’ve rebuilt trust (at least according to your couples therapist) you’ll feel like you’re not progressing enough. But you also can’t help but want access to his texts and emails.
He’ll offer up his passwords
To make you feel more comfortable, your partner may offer you all of his passwords and logins. This will be a very difficult moment. Taking them is admitting you haven’t rebuilt the trust. But, honestly, you haven’t. This entire exchange will feel sad and dirty.
You don’t trust his female friends/acquaintances
You no longer trust any female he hangs out with. He told you the female he cheated with was just a colleague or just an acquaintance, and look how that turned out. No matter how innocent his relationship with a female looks, you can’t trust it.
You could feel tempted to cheat
There will be times you find yourself attracted to another man. Then, when you don’t give him your number or don’t let him kiss you, you feel fits of rage. You think, “So my boyfriend got to enjoy being with somebody else and I don’t? I should get one, too!”
It changes the marriage conversation
When you take back the cheater, you may not even be thinking about marriage. You’re just thinking about the immediate relationship. But as things progress, you’ll remember, “Oh right…I need to decide if this is someone I’m comfortable marrying.” You may find that, no, you don’t feel right about signing a marriage certificate with this person. Your trust may never progress to that point. So then, what is the point of this relationship?
Your relationship is split into two parts
Your relationship will forever be split into two parts: before the cheating, and after the cheating. Even if things can be really good again after the cheating, you’ll still find yourself comparing it to how things were before the cheating. They may never be that good again, and you may have a hard time accepting that.
Sometimes you’ll feel weak
Sometimes you’ll wonder if you’re weak for taking back a cheater. You’ll be really hard on yourself. You’ll think of all the strong women you admire and think, “I bet they’d never take back a cheater.” Then you’ll become angry with your partner for turning you into this weak woman.
Sometimes you’ll feel strong
Then there will be times you feel really strong. There will be times you feel really mature because you were able to assess the situation, work out your issues in therapy, and save what was otherwise a good relationship. You’ll feel like a real*ss adult because you made this work. Sometimes.