Can it work to stay in a relationship with someone who has cheated on you?
Every week I get about 50 letters from women and men who want to know if they should stay with someone who has cheated on them. Nearly always, the letter is peppered with reasons why the cheater might have been compelled to cheat, and sometimes even includes rationale why it never would have happened had it not been for the evil home-wrecker who hypnotized the poor, innocent, cheater and forced them into actions against his/her will. The request for help is usually fairly evenly divided between "what should I do?" and "how can I make it stop?"
While I consider myself to be quite the mushball romantic, my feelings on cheating have a much harder edge. Cheating, in my opinion, is a deal-breaker.
Stay with a cheater, cheat yourself.
Why shouldn't you stay with someone who cheats on you? If it happens once, it will happen again. Why? If you stay with man or woman who has cheated on you, you've essentially taught them that they can sleep with somebody else and you'll take them back. Wow, that's pretty great news for them!
The first time someone cheats on you, he has the most to lose because he doesn't know what your reaction will be. But, once he's weathered the initial storm, he's knows precisely how you'll react. By the time he's cheated on you twice, three times, thirty-eight times, he knows exactly what to expect. Lots of crying and screaming, followed by a few weeks or months of good behaviour on his part. And then, he's on to his next aerobics instructor/co-worker/mall vendor. Repeat.
Even if you manage to get past the lies, the heartache, and the ten pounds you'll put on with comfort food, a cloud will always hang over your relationship. You'll never truly feel cherished, or completely loved. And you deserve better than that, don't you? Why torture yourself with feelings of self-doubt and insecurity? Tell that cheater to hit the road, lock yourself in your apartment with your closest friends, a stack of sappy movies (or action flicks) and a couple quarts of your favorite brand of frozen happiness. Move on, and find someone who gives you the love and respect you deserve.
You have the power here. Let me say it again: People will only treat you as poorly (or as well) as you allow them to. So, draw a line in the sand. As of today, your high standards are renewed.
Now that you're weeding out the losers, what will you do on Saturday night? Here's the answer: You'll only date people who treat you with respect and kindness and dignity. You'll only date people who are enthusiastic to be around you. I chose to date only men who brought me sweets and opened my car door as well, but that's optional, depending on your affinity for good manners and chocolate. From now on, you'll only date people who treat you as though you are a Christmas gift to the universe. This may narrow the field a little in the beginning, but once you get the hang of it, you'll have only the best dates to choose from. And that's really what it's all about, isn't it?
There's no advice or magic wand to turn a cheater or abuser into a prince or princess. Consider them a lost cause and move on. Once you set your standards back where they belong, you'll be able to meet and maintain a relationship with the kind of person you truly want to be with.