When Kristen Stewart admitted to cheating on boyfriend and Twilight co-star Robert Pattinson, it was all over the news. So it was surprising to see the other day that the talk about Robert’s forgiving Kristin was tucked away in the New York Post where it could easily have been missed. Since then, however, various magazines are, in fact, writing about their possible reuniting. Their situation raises several issues. The first is, given that the treacherous betrayal made the headlines repeatedly, it was interesting that the potential reconciliation was initially glossed over. Secondly, why is it that when women cheat, the impact of the story has a different tone, almost as though they are held to higher expectations, from when men cheat? And finally, and most important, when does it make sense to forgive someone?
We see it time and time again, but usually from the other side; male celebrities and politicians having affairs. Not only do the women often decide to stand by their side and stay with them, but the public is generally willing to accept the apologies from the men and move on without it having to bring down their relationship or career. So why does it seem different when a woman cheats? They seem to take a harder hit. If people do forgive, they certainly remember. Meg Ryan is still known for cheating on Russell Crowe. LeAnne Rimes is remembered for admitting to cheating on her then-husband Dean Sheremet. Their betrayals can resonate for years, and can contaminate their careers. In the same way, Kristin Stewart’s actions may stick with her. Concern about movie sales dropping are focused on her behavior and what she did with Snow White & The Huntsman director Rupert Sanders, not so much around what he did. It is as if the standards are separate, and women are still condemned with The Scarlet Letter.
In reality, there shouldn’t be any difference. No matter who is cheating, it is a scalding experience for anyone that sometimes can be forgiven and sometimes cannot. The options for men and women are the same. When all is said and done, the ability to forgive boils down to a few considerations. The first is how important is this person to you? How much shared history do you have together, how much joy do they bring to your life, and how strong is your chemistry? The second consideration is, has this ever happened before? Is it the first time, and they are stepping up to the plate with a readiness to rebuild your trust and strengthen the relationship? Or has this happened in the past and, while they may have apologized, they never did the work to regain your trust?
If you’ve established your desire to rekindle your relationship, the ball falls back into your partner’s court. Are they putting their apology into action? Generally they have to be willing to apologize more than once, the rule of thumb being as often as you need to hear it. They have to be able to answer any questions you have about what happened. They have to be open about the details of their indiscretion so that you can make it real and attempt to no longer have it haunt you. They have to be willing to put you first and make time to be with you, hear your hurt, and respond to it.
On the flip side, if you feel all consumed by your anger and are deeply wounded beyond healing, then forgiveness might not be an option. If, despite whatever good there was between you before this happened, you still don’t believe what they are telling you, are not willing to take a chance to see if they are true to their word, want to protect yourself from being hurt again, or if they are out of chances, then it might be time to say good-bye. And if your partner’s promises are empty, and they are not willing to do any of the heavy lifting in the construction of your new relationship, then there is nowhere to go but out.
Only time will tell which camp Kristin and Robert belong to. But, in the end, it should make no difference if the one doing the forgiving is male or female. What matters is if they are in it together.
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