Monday, August 27, 2012

Should you forgive a cheating girlfriend?

Should you forgive a cheating girlfriend? (© Rex Features- Garo- Phanie)
If you've been on the moon for the last few weeks, it's possible that you may have missed the whole R-Patz/K-Stew furore.
So for those who have, welcome back to Earth, and here's a quick recap. R-Patz (Robert Pattinson) has moved out of the Hollywood mansion he shared with fellow Twilight star K-Stew (Kristen Stewart) after K-Stew admitted an affair with married director Rupert Sanders (not, as far as we know, R-San).
The world is on tenterhooks waiting to find out if R-Patz will take K-Stew back, or whether Hollywood's top couple is officially finished.
It's a great tabloid story, but it also begs an important question. Should a man take back his cheating girlfriend, and can a relationship split asunder by infidelity ever be truly complete again? We asked the experts.
Take some time
By moving out British actor Pattinson has probably done the right thing, experts say. Whether it turns out that he wants to try and save the relationship or not - and this applies to any other man who has been cheated on - it's not a decision that can be taken in haste and in the heat of the moment.
"Betrayal is one of the most emotionally painful experiences a person can have, with its potent cocktail of fear, grief and anger; this triggers our primitive fight/flight response," says novelist and psychologist Voula Grand (, author of Honor's Shadow (Karnac Books), a tale with betrayal at its heart.
"Time to reflect is the best course of action, and removing yourself from the situation will help, as it provides the opportunity to calm down from the initial shock and think through your options."
Relationship counsellor Elly Prior agrees that dealing with infidelity needs time out: "Initially surviving infidelity means nothing more than letting the fog rise," she says. "Give yourself at least a couple of weeks to just calm down a bit. Only when you start to feel a little better can you begin to consider what your next step should be."
Should you forgive a cheating girlfriend? (© Rex Features- R Zorin- Fotex)
Consider your whole relationship
Discovering your partner's infidelity is horrible and painful and will completely dominate your thoughts. But after you've taken a week or two to get over the initial shock, it's worth trying to reflect more widely on your relationship.
"It's generally believed that an affair is a symptom of some deeper problem in the relationship, and giving some thought to what that problem might be is a helpful question to ask yourself, and in time your partner," says Voula Grand.
Why do you need to know about other problems in your relationship? You may think that she's cheated and that's it. After all, however dissatisfied you were with parts of the relationship, you didn't jump into bed with someone else.
While that's true, and while nothing justifies her actions, you do need to analyse your relationship if you want to try and save it. Even if you don't, knowing what went wrong this time will help make sure it doesn't in future.
"Once you are over the initial shock, do reflect on the possibility of an underlying problem," says Elly Prior. She says it may be that your partner has feelings of being neglected, rejected or ignored in the relationship. It's not an excuse, but it may be at least part of the reason.
Maybe K-Stew fell into the arms of another man because she was feeling neglected? Maybe R-Patz was never around? Whatever it is, you might not be able to forgive infidelity in the short term, but you may start to understand it.
Degrees of cheating?
For some people, cheating is cheating, and any act of infidelity means an instant split. But others find that they can forgive certain types of infidelity and rebuild a solid partnership. It often depends on what form the infidelity took.
"When the affair is emotional as well as sexual, the betrayal feels worse, and much harder to forgive," says Voula Grand.
"Which of these situations would be more forgivable for you: your partner has a drunken one-night stand with a stranger in a bar whilst on a business trip; your partner has a relationship over several months with a colleague from work; your partner is in a long-term affair with one of your close friends."
As Grand points out, most people would be more forgiving of the first, and very few of us could forgive the last. That doesn't mean forgiving a one-night stand would be easy. Men, in particular, hate to think of their partners in a stranger's bed, even if they can be convinced that it was all a one-off, alcohol-induced mistake.
But the key for R-Patz and any man in his position is to begin to see their partner's infidelity as exactly that - a terrible mistake. If they can be convinced of that, the relationship may have a future.
Should you forgive a cheating girlfriend? (© Rex Features- Fotex)
Once and once only
But it has to be a mistake never repeated.
"Second time cheating is much harder to forgive," says Grand. "This is the time to come to terms with the painful fact that your partner is unlikely to remain faithful, and to salvage your dignity."
Sometimes you have to accept that infidelity has left the relationship in tatters. That can happen if the cheating is repeated, or if her infidelity is a heady combination of emotional and sexual betrayal that you simply can't forgive.
And sometimes you have to walk away simply because you can't come to terms with the betrayal, even if the infidelity is of a 'lesser' degree.
"Another time to walk away is if you find it impossible to come to terms with your partner's affair, and this begins to poison your relationship; time to cut your losses and move on," says Grand.
So should you forgive a cheating partner? The most we can say is that, in some circumstances, it is possible to rebuild a relationship after an act of infidelity, especially if it was an isolated and much regretted mistake. Whether R-Patz and K-Stew can ever be Hollywood's golden couple again, only time will tell.

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