9 Types Of Cheating Couples Are Likely To Move Past Vs. Cheating That's Unforgivable
Everyone's different when it comes to how they define cheating. For you and your partner, flirting might not seem like a big deal, while for another couple that could be grounds for a breakup. So it's up to you decide which types of cheating feel unforgivable, and which ones feel like something you could work on and move past — should they occur.
There are, however, types of cheating that tend to be more damaging to a relationship, and thus more difficult to forgive. "Cheating is almost always detrimental to relationships," Jonathan Bennett, relationship and dating expert at Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle. "However, certain types of cheating lead to a bigger break of trust and have more of an emotional impact than others."
While it's up to you to decide what feels OK and what doesn't — and whether or not your relationship is healthy enough to stay in — it is possible to mend a relationship after cheating, if you so choose.
"If you want to stay together, seeking outside help can play a major role," Bennett says. "Therapy or coaching can help you both heal from the unfaithfulness." Here are types of cheating that are easier to move past, versus cheating that tends to be unforgivable, according to experts.
1. Forgivable: Flirting
If your partner is flirting with someone else, it can be painful to witness. But seeing as it's usually brief and meaningless, it's definitely something you can overcome.
"Flirting is considered micro-cheating, and some people do it instinctively," Amica Graber, a relationship expert for the background checking site TruthFinder, tells Bustle. So if it's bothering you, let your partner know. And then set up a few boundaries.
"If your partner is constantly flirting with other people, it can cause big problems in your relationship," Graber says. "But if you explain that their behavior is inappropriate and makes you uncomfortable — and they stop — you can usually work through it."
2. Forgivable: A One Time Mistake
If your partner cheats, but it only happened one time, it may be possible to forgive. "If it’s not a pattern, then a couple can certainly move past it as long as certain promises are made," Bennett says.
These promises might include having your partner being more open about their schedule, while you recover from the damage they created. Or they might agree to stop hanging out with a certain friend group.
If you're going to move past it, they should be willing to do whatever it takes to help you feel comfortable and secure again.
3. Forgivable: Cheating Where There Is Remorse
Similarly, if your partner cheats and shows instant remorse, they may be more easily forgiven than someone who doesn't see what the big deal is.
"Cheating where the person who has cheated is honest, remorseful, willing to work to mend the relationship, and acknowledges honestly why they did what they did, has a better chance to survive," Joshua Klapow, PhD, clinical psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show, tells Bustle.
This shows they believe it really was a mistake, and they are likely to not repeat it.
4. Forgivable: Cheating Before You're Committed
If cheating occurs before you and your partner have defined the relationship, it may be possible to forgive them for hooking up with someone else, or going on a few dates.
"Sometimes you can end up dating someone for months before [you define the relationship]," Graber says. "The problem with this is that one party can end up assuming that the relationship has become exclusive, without actually having the discussion."
If something happens that feels hurtful, it should spark that all-important conversation. "If both parties want the relationship to work, this type of cheating may be easier to forgive — as long as it never happens after [you've defined the relationship]," Graber says.
5. Forgivable: Brief Encounters Online
If you find out that your partner's flirting with someone online, it can definitely sting. But it's usually possible to set this problem right by setting up boundaries, and moving past it.
"Very brief or emotionally-detached [cheating] — such as a social media cheating — are acts that couples have an easier time getting over," Dr. Helen Odessky, licensed clinical psychologist and author of Stop Anxiety From Stopping You, tells Bustle.
The key is that it was innocent, and nothing too emotional. "Additionally, it is paramount that the cheating partner shows true remorse and is willing to work through their partner's hurt feelings," Dr. Odessky says.
6. Unforgivable: Habitual Cheating
While a one time mistake will be painful, it may be possible to move past it and have a healthier relationship going forward. But that's rarely the case when it comes to habitual cheating.
"While many couples can overcome cheating, there's an unwritten two-strike rule," Graber says. "If someone cheats more than once, they shouldn't be forgiven the second time around."
Not only does it set the stage for more heartache in the future, but it's usually a red flag your partner is someone who can't or doesn't want to be in a long-term, committed relationship.
7. Unforgivable: Cheating With A Friend
If your partner cheats with a stranger you've never heard of — possibly in a whirlwind mistake that meant nothing — you may find that it's easier to move past. But if it happens with someone within your social circle, don't feel bad if you find that you can't get over it.
"If someone cheats on you with your friend, co-worker, or someone actively involved in your life? That's unforgivable," Graber says. "Because they're in your life, you're almost guaranteed to find out about it. On some level, the partner knows that and does it anyway." It also may be hard for you to forgive the person they cheated with as well, which is completely fair given the circumstances.
8. Unforgivable: Emotional Cheating
Emotional cheating may not sound as damaging as a physical affair, and yet in many ways it's worse. "Emotional cheating is when somebody is also pursuing an emotional connection with the person that they're being physically intimate with," Graber says.
It could also mean having an inappropriate connection with someone behind your back, especially if they downplay it or try to cover it up.
"If a partner has been having a long-term affair with someone and telling them 'I love you,' it's a much bigger problem than someone having a one-night stand," Graber says. "It's not a mistake — it's a premeditated, long-term plan." And it's up to you if you believe they deserve a second chance after this extended lie.
9. Unforgivable: Cheating That Involves Deceit
While cheating usually involves deceit, some forms involve elaborate lies that cross the border into gaslighting and other types of manipulation. And that's incredibly unhealthy.
As Dr. Odessky says, "Cheating that requires major attempts at coverups is more damaging to the relationship because it is emotionally abusive to the partner to deny their reality that something is amiss. This type of betrayal is the most damaging and difficult to get over."
When that happens, there will likely be too many lies to uncover, and you may find that the relationship is no longer worth salvaging. Also, if the relationship is veering into abuse territory, it may be best to seek help from loved ones or a professional to get out of the situation.
Of course, everyone's different when it comes to how they define cheating, so it'll be up to you and your partner to establish rules and boundaries for your relationship. But if something feels unforgivable, that's up to you to decide.
Editor's Note: If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, call 911 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1(800) 799-SAFE (7233) or visit thehotline.org.