6 Ways Cheaters Trick You Into Forgiving Them, New Research Says
If you know what these manipulative tactics look like, you're less likely to fall for them.
Every relationship is unique, which means only you can determine whether or not it's worth giving your partner a second chance after they've cheated. That said, it's super important to pay attention to how your significant other behaves after an indiscretion comes to light. Are they genuinely remorseful? Have they been able to identify what caused them to cheat? And most importantly, are they taking active steps to both rebuild trust with you and prevent that from happening again? You may also want to be aware of new research that revealed the ways cheaters convince their partners to forgive them.
"While it's not necessarily unhealthy to forgive a partner for cheating, you need to make sure that you genuinely feel they are worth forgiving," says Suzannah Weiss, relationship coach and sexologist at BedBible. "Knowing the tricks that cheaters use can help you be on alert for manipulation. It's important to intrinsically check in with yourself and see how you feel about the cheating, rather than letting the other person tell you how you should feel."
Researchers identified 41 acts that cheaters often resort to. These acts were then categorized into six different types of persuasion tactics. Here's what to know about all six of these strategies—and why some of them are problematic.
Blaming the victim
Aura De Los Santos, a clinical psychologist at EHproject, says many cheaters will often claim that the reason they cheated is because they felt distanced from or unloved by their partner.
It may have seemed easier to simply get their needs met by someone else rather than try to work on the problems in their own relationship, says De Los Santos. But that doesn't make it right, and it's certainly not an excuse for being unfaithful. Unless they take responsibility for their actions, this is just a way of blaming you for their infidelity.
"People use this victim blaming strategy to minimize their own role in the cheating," adds Weiss. "It works because sometimes, there's a grain of truth to it. Sometimes, the other partner's behavior does play a role in the cheating. However, this is something to bring up in therapy months down the line. The first order of business is to validate and apologize to the person who was cheated on and create a way for them to feel safe again. Discussing the partner's role too soon minimizes the cheater's role."
Emphasizing relationship importance
Sometimes, cheaters will also focus on reminding you how invested you are in the relationship so you're less likely to leave.
But actions speak louder than words, says Weiss. It's a far better sign if the cheater shows you their own investment in the relationship—for example, by being willing to see a couples therapist, asking what you need from them and following through, or making intentional changes in their behavior to help you feel more secure.
Minimizing the infidelity
"It was just sex and nothing more." "It didn't mean anything!" "I don't have any feelings for them or anything. You know how much I love you." These kinds of statements downplay the cheating, thus making you feel as if you should get over it quickly and forgive your unfaithful partner.
"This can be a way to alleviate concerns on the victim's part that they will be left for someone else," explains Weiss. "But the word 'just' should never be used because it's inherently trivializing. It's better to say: 'I'm not in love with this other person, and I've blocked their number'—or something else concrete to convey that this is not an ongoing connection."
Ultimately, it doesn't matter if they don't think it was a big deal, says Weiss: "Trying to minimize it is a huge red flag."
Using children, relatives, and friends
By far one of the most calculating moves a cheater can make is to involve your other loved ones as a way of guilt tripping you into forgiving them.
"For example, they may say that the children would be traumatized by the separation," says Santos.
But as Weiss points out, even though divorce may negatively affect children, so does staying in a relationship where one person feels betrayed and resentful.
"Remember: two separated people can still have a happy family," adds Santos.
Promising it won't happen again
Vowing to never cheat again is a good start, says Weiss—but when trust has been broken, it's hard to take your partner at their word. The famous phrase, "Once a cheater, always a cheater" certainly doesn't help.
"If your partner says this, make sure they also take concrete actions to make sure they don't do it again," says Weiss.
You can even ask them: How will you make sure you don't cheat in the future? What are you doing to prevent that?
Repairing the relationship
Finally, the last tactic cheaters may use to keep their partners around is seeking help in repairing the relationship—say, from a couples therapist. Experts agree that this is the only healthy strategy to use, as it's intended to actually heal the wounds caused by the cheating rather than just relieve the cheater of their guilt or manipulate you into staying.
"Someone who cheated on you should make sure to state that the main purpose of couples counseling is to look at how they can reestablish trust in the relationship, not to look at the role you played," Weiss tells Best Life.
According to Weiss, the cheater should also offer to pay for the counseling since it's their actions that have warranted professional support.
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