When your girlfriend has cheated on you, it's natural to feel torn between wanting to leave in order to protect yourself and striving to repair what you have with someone you deeply care for. Looking at the factors involved in moving past this type of transgression can help you choose your next move in this confusing time. While there are things your girlfriend can do to help reassure you, the process of recovering and forgiving is up to you.

Understanding Why It Happened

Having answers helps you view your girlfriend's transgression as a solvable problem that the two of you can work on together. The process of uncovering her motivation will likely be difficult, involving frank and open discussions. According to Lynda Bevan, resident relationship counselor with Swansea Sound Radio, in the book “Life After Betrayal: A Practical Guide,” your girlfriend's susceptibility to cheating might have stemmed from a lack of communication, from being in a rut regarding your relationship or she might have an underlying tendency toward seeking out new partners, leading to cheating. Once the two of you figure out the basis of the problem, you can make an informed decision on how to proceed and what needs to happen to restore your trust.

Recovering From the Trauma

Whether or not you can have a successful relationship with your girlfriend from this point forward depends in part upon how the two of you address the trauma you've experienced. Kristina Coop Gordon, psychology intern at Brown University, and her co-authors suggest in the paper “Optimal Strategies in Couples Therapy: Treating Couples Dealing With the Trauma of Infidelity” that you may experience symptoms akin to those of post-traumatic stress disorder, including feeling unsafe and confused. Published in the "Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy," the findings indicate that making it through this time of disorientation will require you and your girlfriend to communicate your feelings and fears clearly so that you can again be confident in your knowledge of each other.

Counteracting Shame

Plenty of people who have been betrayed scold themselves for not being able to prevent the pain. According to Brene Brown, University of Houston research professor, in “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead,” freeing yourself of this destructive shame involves deciding that you personally value the bravery it takes to open up to another person, regardless of the unfortunate outcome. While you will want to see signs that your girlfriend is working to be trustworthy, you will only be able to experience closeness with her again if and when you give yourself permission to be emotionally vulnerable.

Personal Characteristics and Forgiveness

Elements associated with being able to truly forgive and move forward include how constructive your outlook is, according to Johan C. Karremans of Utrecht University and Paul A. M. Van Lange of Free University in a “European Journal of Social Psychology” report. The study found that how cooperative and sacrificing you are as an individual, along with whether you are able to react in a solution-oriented way to a potentially destructive act of transgression, heavily impacts your ability to forgive. If you want to forgive your girlfriend but have not been able to do so, try frequently envisioning a good future for your relationship as she works to regain your trust.