how do I forgive a cheater?

Maybe you’ve heard about or seen the TV show on CW called, “Cheaters”. If not, don’t worry: it’s exactly what you think. Although it’s no longer in production, “Cheaters” has produced 15 seasons worth of episodes since 2000. And despite the controversy over its authenticity, it’s all too real for those who know the intense pain of infidelity firsthand.

If you’ve been cheated on, what do you do?

Don’t do anything fast. Slow down, and calm down.

You’ve been hurt, badly. As with a physical wound, fast movements are likely to worsen the injury. Take a deep breath. Remember that what you need right now is emotional support, NOT advice from well-meaning friends who are suffering from your injuries, second-hand. You deserve the time and space to grieve and let your emotions run their natural course, but don’t succumb to the pity parties or hateful venting others may tempt you with.

Accept the truth that forgiveness (or unforgiveness) is not for the cheater, it’s for you.

Forgiveness is entirely separate from your decision to stay or leave.

Here’s what I mean: you may decide whether you want to restore the relationship or marriage, but that’s a secondary priority. You might choose to break it off; if you needed a good reason, you have one. Just understand this: breaking it off won’t grant you a free and light heart.  Forgiveness and breakup isn’t a package deal.

You might choose to stay together for any number of very good reasons. Forgiveness isn’t a freebie in that package, either. I counsel so many couples who stayed together through infidelity and made life hell for one another because of their unforgiveness.

If you’re still reading you’ll notice that, so far, there are no answers about how to forgive. So, let’s start with this important first step. 

You must want to. 

I’ll say it again because it’s that important. You must want to. This is for you and your heart, not for the cheater.

You must choose to.

Wanting does nothing; you do have to choose to forgive. If forgiveness was a feeling that happens without choice, it would be there for a while, and reappear, maybe disappear. Then out of nowhere, reappear, like an ambush. Fortunately, it’s a choice.

Ultimately the answer, how do I forgive a cheater comes to this “two step approach.” 

I want to, and I choose to.

Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we just can’t seem to “let it go.” If that’s your story, please consider scheduling a forgiveness coaching session.

Here’s what a forgiveness coaching session can do for you.

  • Affirm that the pain you’re feeling is REAL and what happened to you IS NOT OKAY.
  • Help you find the freedom your heart desires, even if the other person is refusing to apologize or take responsibility.
  • Reinforce that forgiveness does NOT require reconciliation.
  • Teach you how to choose forgiveness and how to prevent and prepare for any future wounds.
  • Lighter and more joyful living, and peaceful sleep!

If being free from torment sounds good to you, I invite you to reach out for a free phone consultation, or text or email me to learn more. Your heart’s freedom is at stake.


Rev. Greg Griffin is a Board Certified Pastoral Counselor and Forgiveness Coach in private practice in Marietta, GA. His specialty is relationship repair and rescue- helping partners, spouses, and parents and their adolescents. He’s also the author of Dungeon Times Survival Guide, and Vital Faith.

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