Monday July 28th 2014

Should I Get Back With An Ex Who Cheated?

toronto_akiteng-971Question: I broke up with boyfriend of 3 years 7 weeks ago when I found out he had cheated with another woman. He apologized but I was so hurt that I broke up with him. He kept in touch sending me emails and doing all he can do to get me back. He says he understands how much he hurt me and will do anything to make it up to me. My friends say I’m making a mistake thinking of taking him back. That if he really did love me he would never have cheated in the first place. But he is the first and only guy I’ve truly loved and he says the same about me. We talked about marriage and kids and he says he still wants that.

I believe that it is possible to save this relationship but it’s still in my mind that he has cheated before and may cheat again. I drive myself nuts thinking over and over again and occasionally have moments where I think about it and cry. I love him so much that it hurts every day that we’re not together. Do relationships where an ex cheated ever work? Should I give him a chance?

The Love Doctor’s Answer: I’ll start with the easier question. Some relationships where an ex cheated do work out and others don’t. Some couples can get past the betrayal and stay together, and others can’t. Each relationship is different and different people deal with situations differently. Some relationships can even greatly improve if the two people can use the opportunity to grow and for the relationship to mature.

You obviously are still hurting, and that’s quite normal. This is where you need to start. Be emotionally honest with yourself. It doesn’t help you much if you’re in denial about how you truly feel. The denial here is not about whether he cheated or not, or whether the relationship can be saved or not, I think you are very realistic about all these two.  The denial is in have you truly forgiven him? Can you bring yourself to trust him again? Can you trust your own judgement in the future? What exactly are the lessons both of you have learned through this and how might you do things differently in the future?

Without clear answers to these questions you’ll always feel terribly insecure and even suspicious of his motives and actions. This alone will make it impossible to save the relationship.

Secondly, once someone cheats that relationship is forever altered. Bringing yourself to accept that things will never be the same between the two of you will make it easier to move past the past. Yes, you’ll still love and care for each other as before — may be even more — but you will not and can not have the old relationship back because that “he cheated on me” will linger indefinitely, in some form or another. My advice to people in your kind of situation is not to work on saving the old relationship but creating a new and better relationship with the same person.

Thirdly, don’t be in a rush to get back together. It’s NOT your fault he cheated but it’s your responsibility to make sure he does not take your love and trust for granted. Let him earn your trust slowly by doing the “right” things – consistently.

Is there any guarantee he won’t do it again? Nothing in life except may be death is 100% guaranteed. But you can reduce the risk by openly and honestly dealing with why the cheating happened in the first place. Even if you get over his cheating and get back together, if you don’t deal with the root cause it’ll show up again in some other form of “relationship problem”.

In short, almost every relationship is savable if both parties are willing to work on it. If you can get past your pain and hurt and want to make it work, I say definitely give it a try. What’s most important is NOT what he wants or what your friends want, but what YOU want and can live with.

Readers' Questions and The Love Doctor's Answers...

44 Responses to “Should I Get Back With An Ex Who Cheated?”

  1. Rosebud says:

    My cheating ex tried to get back with me but I couldn’t take him back. I can forgive many things but cheating is not one of them.

  2. Good for you if that is what you decided to do – and have no regrets. Like I said each person handles situations differently.

  3. Terri says:

    I agree with rosebud, I can forgive almost everything except for cheating. I was in a relationship where my boyfriend cheated and he apologized and cried and sent me flowers and all. When I took him back after close to 6 months (I am hard when it comes to cheating)he cheated again with somone I knew. That situation made it so easy for me to not deal with a cheater. To this day, my ex always try to see if we can be together again and I always tell him “Not in this lifetime”. Mind you, this happened 3 years ago.

  4. Yesterlady says:

    Same thing happened to me and my ex. I took him back and he cheated again. Just goes to prove what I always say. People really don’t change, and if something happened once, it’ll happen again.

  5. I’ll have to add… people don’t change unless they want to, and put in the hard work that is required to change.

  6. Ray says:

    I forgave my wife’s infidelity and now,many years later we enjoy a stronger relationship than ever. It took me a a few years to get over it, and at times It was very stressful. We survived, because we both believed in the relationship. Yesterlady wrote that people don’t really change. It is possible, but requires work and commitment.

    Regards, Ray.

    ps: (I do like the very professional look of your blog!)

  7. Hi Ray, it takes a certain level of emotional maturity — even spiritual one – to get to the place where one can forgive betrayal. I’m happy for you. And you’re so right “it requires work and commitment”.

    Thanks for your kind comment about my blog…means a lot! :-)

  8. Megan says:

    hi. my ex dumped me 3 years ago. me and him have had several relationships after that. He is 22 and im 19. We got talking over the internet and exchanged numbers. But he has asked me back out and i said yes, hes said he loves me and cant waits to see me. He said he has changed and is a better person now. We are going to meet up next tuesday but im a embarassed but really want to meet up with him! What do i do? Help please. :)

  9. There is nothing to be embarassed about. Meet him but don’t rush into anything until you are convinced – ON YOUR OWN – that he has changed to the kind of person you’d want to have a relationship with. Don’t be fooled by “he loves me and can’t wait to see me”, it means nothing if they are only words; “sweet nothings” some guys use to get girls into having sex. I may be wrong but this seems like a distance relationships which makes it harder to observe him in person. So I suggest many meetings before you can really be sure he is who he says he has become. Both of you are still young and will continue to change a lot over the years.

  10. Evergreen63 says:

    For me, I never wanna see my ex ever again because he betrayed me. He admited to cheating on me three times. I was dumb enough to try to work past it the first two times. He didn’t really want to but I begged him and threatened to kill myself. A few months later he cheated again right under my nose. Once a cheater always a cheater.

  11. Sanity says:

    I’m sorry but I totally disagree. It seems the whole world is cheating and we have people like you who tell others it’s okay if someone cheats. It makes me sick! Forgiving a cheat is more like giving him permission to cheat again!

  12. First of all, just because it happened to you doesn’t mean “the whole world is cheating”. That is YOUR EXPERIENCE!

    I certainly don’t want to give the impression that everyone who has been cheated on should take back the cheater. These are very personal decisions that everyone must make for him/herself. My many years of experience as a coach have taught me that the best advice is one that individually tailored for the individual person and the situation. People are different and so are experiences and relationships.

    The enduring quality of any relationship should be trust and commitment from both people involved. Some relationships never had one or both and others after infidelity can never regain it. If someone feels strongly that forgiving and saving the relationship is what his/her soul desires, who am I (or are you for that matter) to deny them that opportunity for growth and love???

    Last but not least, forgiveness is NEVER about the other person, it ALWAYS and will always be about the person forgiving.

  13. Vicious says:

    Hey Doc,
    I really do like your advice and I have been reading a lot of your articles about ‘attracting back your ex’. Unfortunately, I cheated on my gf and I honestly regret it. She told me “not to contact her again”. After trying hard to be in her life, she accepted me as a friend; but i made clear to her that I am friends with her because I want something more in the future. Everything was going well but then she tells me that she needs “time-off” from me; since she never got time to herself after the incident. She said that right-now she can’t trust me and maybe “time-off” will make her look past the situation and she might trust me again. She didnt really give me any other choice and I had to let her be. But I think about her 24/7 I want to be with her and need your help! btw we were going out for 2 years (off and on). Also I am 22 and she is 19. Please let me know what you think about this situation! Thank You

  14. Thank you for your kind words. I’d like to be of help but your question does not fall in this post. To make the blog useful, I try to keep Q&As specific to the advice people are looking for, that way people get the information they need as quickly as possible — without distractions. I suggest that you go to “Ask a Question” and send me your question by email.

  15. DORIGHT says:

    Cheating/adultery is the ONLY reason divorce is condoned in the Bible…even God recognizes that the when someone cheats the relationship/contract is OVER.

    This world would be so much better a place if we just followed the word of God as written in the bible.

  16. I don’t mind you preaching on my “pulpit”… :) however,
    I have edited your comment to exclude the very, very long text quoting bible verses, not because I disagree with the teachings of the bible but because this is NOT the place to post it. Please keep in mind that not everybody is a Christian and this blog is a place where people of “all religions” and “no religions” are welcome. People who come here are looking for “relationship help” not “bible sermons”. I’m sure there are many sites and blogs that would welcome scripture-overload comments.

    And since this is a blog for everyone, I left the other parts of your comment for those looking for “Christians Only” advice.

  17. Arieslady says:

    Cheating is a deal breaker IMO. In most cases, trust is never truly restored. However, I agree the person cheated on needs to forgive, for her/his sake, not for the cheat.

  18. Blintee says:

    I forgot to click the follow up button so am doing that now.

  19. Sorry, your comment could not be approved because it’s too long. It’s best if you submit it as a separate question. Please see the guidelines for asking questions.

  20. YesMaam says:

    I have to chime in as a guy who has ‘cheated’. My ex and I were taking time apart and in my early 20′s I got together with another girl. Truly, this was the worst mistake I have made in my life. I Loved my ex more than past lovers & even some family members. Though, some of you may not want to believe it, but yes a “cheater” can indeed learn how horrific that decision was and change. The old saying “you dont know what you have until it is gone” is one of the roughest lessons learned I have ever experienced. This took place nearly 5yrs ago, so that is evidence enough on how much this impacted me, my outlook on life, and how it sparked an emotional growth-spurt toward maturity. Yes Ladies, some guys who realize what they have actually done can change & would virtually do anything to slowly regain trust.

  21. Natalie says:

    He always cheated and I always got back with him because he did everything and showed me that he love me. Last week I found out that he cheated again. I love him but everyone has a breaking point, and I’m not sure if I can do this anymore.

  22. I don’t think you can do this any more and still have some kind of self-esteem/self-respect left. Until someone wants to change, it doesn’t matter how many “chances’ you give them, they’ll keep doing it. You can love someone but if it hurts to be in a relationship with them, it’s not worthy it!

  23. Zaheer says:

    Cheating once does not have to mean the end of a relationship. My girlfriend cheated on me with a co-worker. it nearly killed me when I found out. I broke up with her but after a year of being apart, I realized that I really love this woman and there was no other woman for me. I called her after a year of ignoring her apologies and pleading for forgiveness. She was miserable in the relationsh¬ip and was sorry for what she had done. We are in couples therapy. I still experience the pain of being cheated on but I would never trade her for any woman in the world. She’s simply the most loving person I’ve ever met – and very hot too!

  24. Feddy says:

    Excuses, excuses for cheaters. Ever heard of “Once a cheater always a cheater.” He cheats drop him like a hot potato. Did it with my ex and have no regrets.

  25. “Once a cheater always a cheater” is like saying when someone fails that they will always fail. Such thinking breeds an intolerant society where there are no second chances.

    A lot depends on the two people and the kind of relationship they had. Some people are just “cheaters” who don’t see anything wrong with their actions and don’t care about the consequences. And some relationships are either too shallow, boring or toxic that they are just cheating waiting to happen.

    But there are also relationships where a partner cheated once, deeply regretted it and did everything to prove it would never happen again. It takes a lot of work though. Both parties have to be willing to move on from the cheating.

  26. RJ says:

    im a recovering cheater and believe me people who once cheated have the capability of changing. experience is a great teacher. i now know what it feels like to be this low and miserable and i would never again want to be in this situation again. im trying to win back my ex after all this. she’s ignoring me but hopefully time will take its course.

  27. I’ve never heard of a “recovering cheater” before… didn’t even know it was now an illness. Always thought cheating is a choice. That must be a new one!

  28. Betrayed says:

    My ex and I broke up after I found texts he had sent another woman. He got upset that I went through his texts, when I tried to explain he barely gave me five minutes, said he was going to hang out with friends. I’ve been trying to contact him for over 3 weeks but he won’t respond. I think it’s heartless and cruel to someone you once claimed to love to completely cut them off.

  29. You don’t say what the texts were about…

    If they reveal that he was doing something inappropriate behind your back, perhaps even cheating, then why are you the one doing the explaining. I understand the snooping into his texts, it’s not good for a relationship. But even with all that, he’s the one who should be doing the explaining…

    If one the other hand they are “innocent” texts and you have a history of accusing him of things he has not done… then may be this is his way of saying he’s had enough.

  30. Kris says:

    There are people who just cheat all the time, in every relationship, and obviously it has nothing to do with the partner. But most people that cheat, it’s caused by a seriously lack of SOMETHING in their relationship that they are seeking elsewhere, whether that is sex, intimacy, closeness, respect, whatever. It takes two to tango, and blaming everything all on one person is the reason a relationship will fail.

  31. Whitney says:

    This was a good sensible article. A good relationship doesn’t need to end for reasons that can be resolved. But if you can’t be together, it does not make either one a bad person.

  32. Annabel says:

    This was a good sensible article. A good relationship doesn’t need to end for reasons that can easily be resolved. I separated with my husband of 13 years when I found out he had an emotional affair with a co-worker. I had some health problems at the time and I know I pushed him away even when he tried to be there for me. In the time we were apart, I had time to think. he was a good husband and a great father to our 2 children, and I wasn’t completely blameless. We both didn’t want a divorce and are trying to rebuild our relationship, but much better this time.

    ANYTHING worth having is worth WORKING for.

  33. You are an amazing woman! I hope, with all my heart, the very best for both of you.

  34. Kyla says:

    @Annabel. You are an evolved individual. My husband also cheated but I don’t know if I have the strength to forgive him, let alone sleep in the same bed with him. I’m still so devastated by this.

  35. Kyla, in my book, being as honest as you are makes you an “evolved individual”….)

    Don’t be so hard on yourself. Some people can move past the affair and stay together and some can’t. If you can’t be together, it does not make you a bad person.

    My advice is to focus on your own well-being at this point and not try to figure out what will happen — or not happen in the future. Those are decisions better made when you are in a good place – mentally and emotionally.

  36. Kyla says:

    Thank you so much Yangki. We are in counseling to try to save the marriage, but I think I just wanted someone to tell me I’m not a bad person if I do not want it to work. I was not happy and may be deep inside I’m not so angry at my husband for cheating but at myself for not having the courage to end it or to speak up now and tell everyone I do not want to be married to my husband anymore. Your words are giving me courage to speak what I have not been able to say in many years. Thank you.

  37. burdenedsoul says:

    It is hard to TRUST again, when someone has cheated. Your whole world is turned upside down and you just can’t fully trust anymore.

  38. Alley says:

    Hi there:) I have been in an on and off relationship with my ex for about 20 years. We have a 15 yr old son now. We finally called it quit in July 2012. He cheated throughout all our yrs together and thats why i left as he was continue to cheat and lie all the time. Now he wants me back after all his doing and says he wouldnt cheat on me ever again. He was also abusive and verbal as will.

  39. If he has proven himself to be a cheater, a liar and abuser over and over, or “all the time” as you put it, then why are you even considering taking him back? The fact that you are even posting on a blog about a cheater wanting you back says a lot about you. Self -esteem issues, may be?

    What I’m saying is, it’s NOT a compliment that he wants you back. It’s an insult, on top of injury. That said, I’m humble enough to say, may be I’m missing something here. Please don’t tell me he’s a great father and besides his cheating and lying, he’s blah… blah. Heard it all before.

    I have a strong feeling there is more than one side to this story.

  40. Angela says:

    Nice website. I think that a lot of people have a distorted sense of what love really is. They give up all too easily and take the easy way out. If your ex is trying really hard and has apologized and made attempts to make amends and is even willing to get help to address the problem, you should give him/her a second chance. I did and have never been happier.

  41. Malia says:

    His infidelity destroyed me. It took me a long time to recover from it and even now, my confidence is not where it used to be. But because we have two wonderful children together, and he is a good father and husband, we are trying to make the marriage work. We are in counselling and I can see that he is really trying to show me that he is sorry and wants to be with me and the children. In your experience, do you know how long it takes to put this behind me for good?

  42. I hear you, and respect you for the decision you made. Unfortunately, I don’t think this will ever be put behind you for good. You will move on. You will even have a better marriage as a result of this. But it’s never going to be “forgotten.”.

    My advice is to embrace it as part of your history together. You don’t have to like it just accept it as something that happened in the past, but doesn’t have to define your future as an individual and as a couple.

  43. Nimmi says:

    I’m not sure if my ex wants me back or not. We keep in contact but he’s cold and indifferent. We broke up because he cheated, not the first time he’s cheated. I told him if he promised to not cheat again, I’ll take him back but he says he can’t make that promise. I love him with all my heart. What do I do?

  44. You heard the guy… he has no intention of stopping his cheating habits. So you either take the cheater and be cheated on again or you give yourself a little respect and find someone who actually cares that cheating makes you unhappy.

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