Can you ever really forgive a cheater?

As Coleen Rooney says she has moved on from Wayne’s infidelity… Can you ever really forgive a cheater?

  • Coleen Rooney has decided to move on from her husband Wayne’s infidelity 
  • Libby Purves says cheating can be pretty much forgotten in passing years 
  • Tanith Carey argues infidelity doesn’t disappears when you tell your partner

YES

By Libby Purves

Thankfully, I have never had to forgive a cheater. At least not in marriage. But from friends and from instinct, I think some cheating can be forgiven, as Coleen has decided to do.

And with a bit of luck, goodwill and several passing years, it can even be pretty much forgotten, like all the other quarrels and infuriations of life.

Maybe it’s harder in a recent relationship, but in a long-settled one you know the other person very well. You know what flattery and drink and loneliness might do to them. In an awful way, you might actually understand, provided they admit what happened and are honest.

Libby Purves and Tanith Carey debate if you can ever really forgive infidelity, after Coleen Rooney (pictured) revealed that she has decided to move on from her husband Wayne’s cheating

Some ferocious conditions would be called for, though. The offender would have to be open, properly sorry, understand it was a big painful betrayal, and (if you want) be willing to accept the small humiliation of getting tested for sexually transmitted infections.

Libby Purves (pictured) says cheating can be pretty much forgotten in passing years

It also depends on how able you are to let it drop and cope kindly with the family. That matters.

The only couples I have seen really falling apart after this kind of lapse are the ones where the injured party either has an even more stupid fling for revenge, or those where she decides to weaponise the affair, enrol the children in her army and frequently refer to it, even in public. You may not be able to move on very fast, but not moving on at all is disastrous. So, if a quiet examination of conscience suggests you’re likely to go on about it, maybe cut loose. Not least because it suggests things were dodgy in the marriage anyway.

Having said all that, it is probably easiest to forgive a physical fling with someone who didn’t matter to your partner emotionally (though it’s not pleasant to know your beloved is the sort who can treat people as things).

The most painful situations must be those when it’s been a committed and considerate affair. That would mean he was taking something away that was due to you. But it may still be possible to haul your relationship back. I’ve seen it happen.

That brings me, though, to the kind of non-physical cheating which is not often spoken about but which can, in the end, hurt more than any drunken fling.

There’s nasty disloyalty in a partner who mocks you behind your back with an intimate friend (of either sex), belittles you in public, never listens to how you feel, or spends hours on porn sites. Next to that, yielding to easy temptation and being ashamed of yourself feels — well, forgivable.

NO 

By Tanith Carey 

Tanith Carey (pictured) says infidelity doesn’t magically disappear when you tell your partner

Probably the most painful moment of my childhood was a hot summer’s day in 1976. I can still see my father, head bowed, staring down into our pond. The words of my mother opposite were drowned out by the strains of 10cc’s I’m Not In Love drifting over the fence from the neighbour’s garden.

But I already knew what she had to say. She had found two tickets for France in the side pocket of his car — for him and his mistress — in the week he was away on business.

Even though I was only ten, this came as no surprise. My father had been serially unfaithful throughout my childhood, and the following year he left to live in Australia, where his lover joined him.

Like so many who witnessed affairs as children, there is part of me that is still angry that my father betrayed my mother. It’s for this reason that, from the start of my marriage to my husband Anthony 22 years ago, I told him I would take a zero- tolerance approach to infidelity.

I told him it would be over — no questions asked. Just as I would never put myself in a situation in which one thing led to another, I would expect him to do the same. It would not just be me he’d be betraying, but also our children.

What’s more, infidelity is never just about the sex. Most affairs are triggered by a lack of communication and one partner’s lack of honesty; not only with the person they are betraying, but with themselves.

Sex with someone other than your spouse never just ‘happens’. It takes a build-up of sexual tension, mutual encouragement and some planning. These are all things that anyone with an ounce of self-control can put a stop to at any time.

So infidelity is not a problem that magically disappears when you tell your partner: ‘That’s OK, darling. Just don’t do it again.’

Now, I tell my own daughters Lily, 19, and Clio, 16, never to demean themselves by staying with a partner who does not have the courage to be truthful about what they want.

Footballer Wayne Rooney appears to know other women are his weakness, yet several times in the past he failed to stop himself, even though he could afford limitless help and therapy to change his behaviour.

When we think about his long-suffering wife, Coleen, the question we should be asking is no longer: ‘Is it ever possible for a woman to really forgive a cheating husband?’

We should be asking unfaithful men, and particularly fathers: ‘Why exactly did you do it? And was it really worth it for the pain you caused your family?’

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