Should You Forgive a Cheater?

Carrie Seim on infidelity: Should you forgive a cheater?

Betty Blog

Should You Forgive a Cheater?

Carrie turns to The Women for a lesson in forgiveness

-Carrie Seim

An unhappy woman sitting with a manThis weekend I stumbled upon The Women on TCM (the indelible 1939 version with Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford and Rosalind Russell – not last year’s monstrosity.)

I was, of course, impressed by the powerful performances of the entirely female cast. And I laughed heartily at the “divorce train to Reno” scene. And I adored the script’s modern and witty social observations on the interactions between men, women and other women.

But more than all that, I was struck by the film’s central relationship thesis. Which was something along the lines of: Stand by your man.

Or, more precisely – If he cheats, it’s not really his fault because men are weak creatures lured by the likes of perfume girls, and relationships take work, so it’s up to you to woo him back.

Sound familiar, Governor Sanford?

Here’s the thing. If I’d heard this thesis coming out of the mouth of some marriage minded self-help author, I would have instantly dismissed it as drivel. I’d mock the backward-thinking, sexist message as a pile of romantic rubbish.

But as I watched The Women, I melted in agreement. Maybe it was the nostalgic black and white celluloid. Perhaps it was the recent example of South Carolina First Lady Jenny Sanford, who has refused to condone her husband’s cheating, yet has remained open to a possible reconciliation.

Somehow, someway, I was suddenly onboard the forgive-and-forget express.

For the first time, the idea of working to save a relationship rather than throwing in the towel after an affair seemed to be dignified rather than weak.

But I was still troubled by some tenets of this theory. Are men really helpless against the charms of other (read: Argentinean) women? Is it really the duty of women to salvage their marriages in the face of infidelity?

What about our pride? Our dignity? Or is that “womanly” pride working against us?

“People tend to assume that bad people have affairs, and good people don’t, or that affairs only happen in bad marriages,” Peggy Vaughan, author of To Have and to Hold, told the New York Times this weekend. “These assumptions are just not based in reality.”

Maybe it’s just been a long week and I’m feeling softer than usual. But it seems we all could use a little forgiveness in our relationships.

As Sylvia Fowler asks in The Women, “Mary Haines, don’t you have any pride?”

To which Mary responds, “No pride at all. That’s a luxury a woman in love can’t afford.”

Read Carrie’s last blog post: I Have a Hunch About A Boy

Read Carrie’s full blog here

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0 thoughts on “Should You Forgive a Cheater?

  1. I totally agree Carrie! While I don’t condone cheating I don’t think it’s the end of every relationship–people make mistakes and some things are worth working at.

  2. This is a tough issue. I think it’s a situational issue, if they cheated emotionally as well as physically then you’re going to have big problems, but I suppose I could see getting over something that was purely physical.

  3. no way, sorry. and every woman who stands by her man makes it a little bit easier for the next man to cheat because he knwos there will be no real consequences.

  4. Definitely agree that it’s situational. This is a hard issue. So many people say “if he cheats – he’s gone,” but I think sometimes when you’re actually in the situation it’s totally different. It’s so much harder when it comes down to it

  5. As a woman who has been in that situation, I can’t help but agree.
    It’s easy to say that a woman shouldn’t put up with it until you are faced with that yourself. I love my husband and I’m so glad that we stayed together and made it work. We’re happy. I can’t imagine having thrown it all away.

  6. I can’t say if I would try to make it work or not. I agree with littlelady. If it was an emotional/mental cheating, then I don’t think it can be forgiven. Because it means then that the cheater has lost his/her feelings for you or perhaps doesn’t respect you. If there is no respect in a relationship (ANY relationship), then there cannot be one. If it was a physical thing only, then there can be a little more forgiving. Also, if there are kids involved, you might want to consider forgiveness a little more. And another important thing: the cheater must get tested (preferably a couple of times, just in case the tests don’t show it) for STDs.
    And Redd, good for you for trying to fix the relationship. I don’t know if I could do that. You are a stronger woman than I.

  7. I feel so sorry for Jenny Sanford. And as each day passes, more and more (of that polecat Hubby of hers) infidelities are hitting the news! I’m especially sad being a SC resident; and no, NO I did not vote for Sanford. I think he should remove himself from office, Immediately! He has proven he can’t be trusted in his personal life, and his management of our State’s finances are in a shamble as well. A young 17 year old woman recently sued Sanford over the Federal Stimulus money and won! (I applaud her for her efforts) Sanford has only proven more and more to me that he’s not the upright, good christian man he claims to be. And as for his having his “spiritual adviser” tag along with him to meet the Argentinian Bimbo? Pfffft. Did we SC taxpayers pay for that trip as well? He should be impeached!

  8. About a year ago, at age 24, I actually physically caught my father cheating on my mother. At that point, they’d been married for 31 years. I later found out that in addition to the two siblings I’ve lived with and known my entire life, I also have a half sister (whom I’ve never met) that is only 3 months older than I am. For almost 26 years, my mother turned a blind eye, she
    “stood by her man” throughout his “mistakes” and “wandering eye” and put up with his disloyalty not only toward her, but toward his entire family. Now, a year later, I’ve only recently begun talking to my father again. This whole situation has totally made me question my faith in men, in parents, and relationships altogether. If you can’t trust your life partner, who is supposed to be your best friend and other half, who the hell CAN you trust?

  9. Hmmm, since my husband and I both know if we felt the need to stray we would need to be honest with the other, this is a non-issue. While we’re not in the swinger/open/polyamorous group…we also wouldn’t much care if the other had an encounter or relationship. It’s ok, as long as it’s not behind the back. I’ve watch women flirt with and kiss my hubby and if it makes him happy…no problem. I think it’s sweet. Of course we’ve done more, but this about cheating which is hidden. I like reality based thinking. No one is perfect, so lets just be honest and open and talk about all the situations that come up. It’s the best marriage situation in my opinion.

  10. great article carrie -following jenny sanford’s recent proclamation that she MIGHT forgive (but won’t likely forget) I posed this question of forgiveness to the crowd and so far, they are NOT a very forgiving group. But we’ll see where the conversation goes…and will report back!


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