Cheating is one of the biggest transgressions a person can make in a relationship. Doing so leads to broken trust and feelings of betrayal, and can harm the partnership in irreparable ways. However, it is possible to rebuild after an affair. Here, we break down a study on the surprising thing that makes more than a third of people forgive a partner who’s cheated. Read on to learn what it is and get advice from a therapist on coming back from infidelity to be stronger than ever.
A recent study from Yellow Octopus found that 39 percent of people would consider forgiving a cheating partner if that person showered them with lavish gifts. Another 32 percent said they would consider it depending on the situation. On the flip side, 29 percent of people said they would not forgive a partner who had cheated, no matter how many gifts they offered.
The study also ranked the top gifts that people said would help them forgive their partner. A new phone ranked first, followed by a vacation, a new laptop, designer jewelry, designer clothing, and a new car. Smaller items like stuffed animals, board games, and lingerie were least likely to help cheaters achieve forgiveness.
But if you want to create lasting forgiveness after an affair, it’s important to do so much more than simply give gifts. Here, a therapist tells us the methodology for overhauling your relationship for the better.
Achieving forgiveness isn’t going to happen at the drop of a hat (or the swipe of a credit card).
“It is far more difficult than most people realize and is something that cannot be forced,” says Lori Ann Kret, LCSW, BCC, a licensed psychotherapist at the Aspen Relationship Institute. “The hurt partner is likely experiencing some kind of trauma and could be presented as very angry. It will take a lot of emotional tolerance on the behalf of the person who cheated.”
Remember, as the cheating party, you’re in a dual role: you’re the person who hurt your partner and also the one who must help them heal. “taking complete responsibility for your actions and not defending yourself is the first step toward healing,” Kret adds. Time and patience are the names of the game.
The next step toward healing and forgiveness is understanding why the affair occurred in the first place.
“Affairs are often a symptom of a deeper issue, either within the relationship or within the partner who cheated, and usually stem from the cheating partner wanting to feel something different about themselves or in connection with another human,” says Kret.
“By committing to not straying again without doing the deeper work, cheating partners are going to be white-knuckling through the relationship; the internal discord that led to the affair will still be there, and they will be trying to ignore or avoid it through willpower,” continues Kret. That might work for the short term, but not as time goes on.
Kret adds that the partner who was cheated on will sense this instinctively. “In order for trust to even begin to be repaired, the cheated-on partner needs to know what drove the affair and what specifically the cheating partner is doing or willing to do to change,” she says. “These commitments need to be made in terms of logistics by cutting off the affair, setting new boundaries, and increasing transparency and communication.”
They must also be reinforced by addressing the underlying dynamics of what caused the affair. Only by doing that will the two of you recreate lasting trust and forgiveness.
If working through the affair on your own feels impossible, Kret advises working with a couples therapist. However, you’ll want to do your research first. “Make sure the therapist is specifically trained to work with couples,” she says. “Unfortunately, many therapists will work with couples and they are not trained to do so; they instead apply individual therapy methods to the couple, which is inappropriate.” Ask a prospective therapist about their experience in couples therapy before signing on.
Kret also suggests each partner seek an individual therapist. “The hurt party might need to overcome trauma from the affair, while the partner who had the affair needs to dig deep to understand why they did it and how to heal in that respect,” she says. If you’re each willing to put in the work, then you increase the chances of forgiveness and a happy future together.