Is it ever okay to take back a cheater?

Ah, the age-old story. Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Boy cheats on girl. Or maybe girl cheats on boy. Either way, cheating is a fact. A lot of people do it, and a lot of people get caught. I get this question a lot: “Is it ever okay to take back a cheater?” Like most frequent relationship questions, the answer isn’t a simple yes or no. If it were, you wouldn’t need dating experts. My usual answer is, “Yes, there are times it’s okay to take back a cheater, but you need to answer some questions yourself.” Here are those questions:

Can you forgive him?

Well, can you? And I mean really forgive. Not bring it up to justify your actions the next time you have a big fight. Not use it as ammo when you want something he doesn’t.  Not dwell on it every day. Not think about it every time you have sex. Really, really forgive him. I’m not saying the forgiveness has to happen right away, or even soon. But is there a chance that in the future, you’ll be able to forgive him? This is more about you than his cheating. Are you a forgiving person? I’m actually not. So this would be a toughie for me.

Can you trust him?

Can you trust that this period of indiscretion is over? Do you believe him? Are you going to be able to eventually return to a normal relationship where every business trip doesn’t seem like an opportunity to cheat, where he doesn’t need to check in every 15 minutes, where you don’t feel like you need to hire a PI? Again, this doesn’t have to happen right away, but it does need to happen. A relationship is about trust, and even if he’s broken yours once, you still need to be able to trust again. Ask yourself, is this going to be a possibility?

How willing is he to work?

Post cheating, it’s going to take more than an apology and a promise to make things right. It’s going to require a lot of work on both of your parts to make this work again. And if he’s not willing to put in the hard work for therapy, figuring out what makes you comfortable or proving himself, then there’s no way this is going to work.

Are you listening to your brain?

During situations like this, it’s easy to let the thumping of your heart take over. But you need to ignore your heart and listen to your brain. Is forgiving him and continuing with this relationship really the right thing to do for you and for your family? Or are you letting the momentum of your feelings carry you away? Your brain is what’s going to make the right decision for you in the long run. Your heart just wants to feel loved again.

Once you’ve answered these questions, you should have a better sense of whether you’re in a relationship where the cheater can be forgiven or if you’re in a case where moving on is the smartest move. Even as an expert, that’s not my call. It’s yours.