Finding out your spouse cheated can be devastating. It can shatter your life, it can make you angrier than you ever thought you could be, it can cause gut-wrenching sadness and worst of all, make you feel like the trust you thought you had meant nothing.
There are basically two options for men and women when it comes to deciding what to do after the cheating: forgive or divorce. Many men and women get help, learn to communicate better and end up reconciling and happy (sometimes happier) as they face their future. Others can't forgive a cheating spouse and ultimately end up divorced.
There are countless factors to consider in deciding which avenue to take, so I'm going to offer both the case for forgiving and the case for divorce:
The case for forgiving:
Assuming there is no physical or mental abuse, no addiction problems and no other cases of cheating, I think a couple has a good chance of working it out, especially if the cheater is showing overwhelming signs of remorse, and that he or she really wants to work it out. I think with therapy and good, honest communication moving forward, a couple can recover from a cheating setback. There is no doubt that defenses are high and the cheatee is deeply, deeply hurt and afraid that the cheater will cheat again. But, through therapy and talking to each other (and time, of course) I think two people can learn to trust again. I've seen it in couples. It is possible. The case for forgiving also includes children. That goes without saying. While staying for the kids is not always the best thing, keeping the family together is always worth fighting for.
The case for divorce:
Once a cheater, always a cheater? Is your spouse going to cheat again if you go through a tough patch in your marriage again? Maybe he or she will, maybe they won't. It is a fear that I know, personally, I would have for the rest of my life. That doesn't automatically mean a couple should get divorced because of cheating, it just means they should consider that the cheatee might be on edge about it forever. Therefore, if the couple stays together, it is up to the cheater to bend over backwards to let his or her spouse know it isn't happening again. Another big thing is, the cheater has to be willing to go to therapy. This will do wonders for the marriage. If he or she is adamantly against it and thinks the two of you can fix things on your own, without professional help, that's a problem.
In closing, the decision of forgiving or divorcing is yours, and believe me, it isn't easy. I always tell people to trust your gut. Try to think of your future. Then, think about your past-the happy times (before the cheating). Do you want to try to recapture that? Also, think about how worth it it is to save the marriage. Divorce isn't easy. It is devastating and involves a long process of healing. But, you can't stay with someone in a bad situation because you are afraid of divorce. Because divorced people end up happy, too. It just takes a lot of time and hard work.
So, Forgive or divorce? Tough call. Be honest with yourself and have the courage to feel confident with whatever choice you make, even if it's the more difficult one-whether that is staying or leaving.
Jackie Pilossoph is the author of her blog, Divorced Girl Smiling, and the comedic divorce novels, Divorced Girl Smiling and Free Gift With Purchase. She also writes feature stories, along with the weekly dating and relationships column, Love Essentially" for Chicago Tribune Media Group local publications. Pilossoph lives in Chicago. Oh, and she's divorced.