Admit it. Right after the shock of finding out that John Edwards had betrayed his wife with another woman, your first thought was, “Would I take my guy back if he did that?” While your knee-jerk reaction is probably to send him packing, experts say there are some situations in which he just might deserve a second chance. Read on to find out when to forgive and forget, and when you should just forget him.
Right Before a Major Transition
Moving in together or getting engaged are relationship landmarks that are supposed to cement your bond. But the reality is, many guys react to these big steps by taking a step back and straying. “When a man feels his sense of freedom slipping away, he may cheat,” explains Scott Kudia, PhD, author of If This is Love, Why Am I Unhappy? “It’s very common for a normally faithful guy to panic and do something stupid before some sort of commitment.” Strangely enough, his actions often signify that he’s serious about his future with you. “The reason he cheated to begin with is that he believes you two are going to be together for a long time,” says Kudia. “He views it as his one last hurrah.” This isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card, though. Make him apologize and grovel. Then move on, knowing that this type of cheater usually doesn’t slip up more than once.
He Fesses Up ASAP
Of all the ways a woman can discover a philanderer, one of the least common is hearing it from the horse’s mouth. “Guys almost always keep these sorts of things a secret,” says Kudia. “The fact that he’s confessing is a huge sign. And a very good sign. View it as a cry for help.” He doesn’t want to do it again, and his way of ensuring that is by getting you to lay down the law. So, play police officer, girl. Set some guidelines and — this is important — enforce them. If he’s distraught enough over the hook-up to spill, the guy probably values you and the relationship enough to make it work.
It’s a Total Aberration
We’re going to put this bluntly, so put on your big-girl pants: The guy who’s perfect for you might cheat on you. Yes, even the most amazing, flower-sending, call-returning, make-your-friends-jealous boyfriends have been known to stray. “Slip-ups happen, but the good news is that when they truly are slip-ups, they’re survivable,” says William July, PhD, author of Confessions of an Ex Bachelor. In order to salvage your twosome, it’s important to resist the urge to get revenge, make him angry, or get anxious every time he doesn’t call, according to July. If you’re capable of forgiving him and moving on, do just that. After all, it was a mistake, not his relationship MO. Bottom line: give the boy a second chance. As long as he doesn’t do it again (ever, ever, ever) and he goes back to being that practically perfect boyfriend, don’t you think he’s worth it? We do.
He’s Going Through a Tough Time
You know how when you feel stressed, you deal by watching trashy TV with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s? Or surrounding yourself with 17 of your closest friends? Well, some men handle it by straying. “Guys are more likely to cheat when under great stress, because they have fewer tools in their emotional tool belt,” says July. “Their self-expression is often limited to anger and sex.” It sounds a bit counterintuitive, but if things are going well between you two, he is more likely to hook up with another woman when things get rough in other parts of his life. The reason? “He may not want to burden you with his problems,” explains Kudia. Ensure that it’s a one-time occurrence by letting him know two things: 1) You won’t judge him or think less of him if he gets fired or screws up at work or does anything else that threatens his ego. And 2) If he does it again, it’s O-V-E-R.
He was Drunk and It Wasn’t Emotional
Ah yes, the “It Doesn’t Count if I Was in a Different Country/Zip Code/Bar” excuse. He takes a few too many shots, temporarily forgets he is attached, and makes out with whatever girl is at arm’s length in the bar. Not cool. But also, not the worst thing that can happen. “This type of guy is immature, but he’s not necessarily an innate cheater,” explains Kudia. And luckily for you, most boys grow out of immaturity (whereas a natural-born cheater will seldom change his ways.) “Many young, college-age men don’t understand the importance of a relationship,” says Kudia. “They take their girlfriends for granted until something catastrophic happens.” When catastrophe strikes, be hard on him and tell him you won’t stick around if he doesn’t shape up and grow up. Most of the time, a healthy dose of reality is enough to straighten out an “immature cheater.”
Break it Off!
Five times to kick a cheater to the curb.
He got it on with an ex. Going back for seconds with an old girlfriend could mean he wants to get back together with her.
It was a full-fledged affair. Text messages. Secret email account. “Business” trips. This is not a slip-up. It’s a double life.
He didn’t apologize. We’re not suggesting flowers and groveling will get him off the hook. But a total lack of remorse means he just doesn’t care.
You two just started dating. The beginning of a relationship is when people show their best selves. If this is his best, you deserve better.
He’s a repeat offender. A serial strayer is unlikely to change his was. Don’t waste your time trying.