Good relationships are built on trust, so if you've caught your girlfriend cheating, the sense of betrayal can leave you reeling. Although initially you might feel you can't repair the relationship, it is possible to rebuild faith in your girlfriend and move forward. If you believe the relationship is worth saving, you'll need to dig deep to uncover forgiveness and focus on your future together. If you really love each other, you can overcome this major setback in your relationship.
Take some time to stop and think before you make any decision about the future of your relationship. Betrayal is painful and you require time to process your feelings. Let your girlfriend know you need time alone to sort out your response.
Give yourself permission to feel anger and pain -- it's the natural reaction. Don't let yourself to get stuck in these negative emotions, however, and redirect yourself to remember the good times you shared with her. Remind yourself of when she made you feel wonderful about yourself.
Reflect on your relationship and assess how good it really was. Do some soul-searching and ask yourself if it is possible that you became less attentive. Analyze your actions to determine whether you gave your girlfriend any unintended messages about not caring about her as much as you used to. If you believe you share some of the blame, it might be easier to forgive her.
Decide whether your girlfriend's indiscretion was typical of ongoing behavior, as in the phrase -- "once a cheater, always a cheater" -- or, perhaps it was an aberrant display of weakness. If you've been together for a long time and this is the first time she has cheated, it will be easier to forgive her than if she has done so in the past.
Realize that forgiveness is for your benefit as well as hers. If you love her and want to continue the relationship, forgiving will make you feel better than holding on to anger and resentment. MayoClinic.com reports that forgiveness brings about physiological and emotional benefits such as lowered blood pressure, and less anxiety, stress and hostility. The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley reports on research that measured the blood pressure, heart rate, facial muscle tension, and sweat gland activity of those who remembered wrongs done to them. When the subjects were asked to imagine forgiving those who'd wronged them, these symptoms of physical stress declined.
Recognize that forgiving your girlfriend and reconciling with her means you won't constantly remind her about the betrayal. Suzie Johnson, relationship expert, advises on her site Go ask suzie.com that you can't expect the relationship to flourish if you continue to punish her for her actions. Although it might not be possible to forget, you cannot keep talking about it.
- Go Ask Alice: The Girlfriend I Love Cheated on Me and Regrets It ...
- Go Ask Suzie: What To Do When You Want To Forgive…But Can’t
- MayoClinic.com: Forgiveness -- Letting Go of Grudges and Bitterness
- Psychology Today: Forgiveness vs. Reconciliation
- Oprah: How to Forgive Others
- The Greater Good Science Center: The New Science of Forgiveness
- Be prepared to end the relationship if you find you cannot recover from the sense of betrayal. If you find you cannot rebuild trust with your girlfriend, reconciliation might not be possible. This does not mean that you retain feelings of anger and resentment. Allow yourself to leave the past behind and free yourself to enjoy a new relationship.
Freddie Silver started writing newsletters for the Toronto District School Board in 1997. Her areas of expertise include staff management and professional development. She holds a master's degree in psychology from the University of Toronto and is currently pursuing her PhD at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, focusing on emotions and professional relationships.