There’s no denying that cheating can completely destroy a relationship. It’s one of the biggest issues—if not the biggest issue—that can come between a couple. And while some couples can get through it, it's not without a lot of healing, processing, and commitment on both sides. But as much as cheating can wreak havoc no matter when it happens in a relationship, whether it's during the first few months or years of living together, there’s a special type of panic that can arise if you find out your fiancé has been cheating before your wedding.
In fact, it's totally gut-wrenching.
It’s rare, but it definitely happens. Whether it’s a last-minute confession because of the pressure of the impending wedding, a bachelor party gone wrong, or a friend or acquaintance who feels the need to tip you off before the big day, sometimes cheating is revealed at the worst possible time. (Take for instance, this bride who was alerted to her fiancé's bad behavior the night before their nuptials, and sought revenge by reading his cheating texts at the altar.) If you find out your partner has been cheating on you, and it’s right before your wedding—especially if we’re only talking in terms of hours or days—take a deep breath, because you have a lot of thinking to do.
We're not going to tell you there’s one right thing to do, because there just isn’t, but here’s what you should consider.
Talk to Them
First, talk to your partner. Ask them to be honest and explain everything, and then give them a chance to hear their point of view. This isn’t only about learning exactly what happened, but it’s to see how they respond to the situation and to you. Are they truly sorry and distraught? Are they defensive and arrogant? Are they still lying despite the proof? Seeing how they react is crucial, because it will tell you a lot about the person you may or may not decide to marry.
Consider the Incident
Cheating can manifest in many different ways, so it’s important to consider the incident itself. Was this a long-term affair, with an emotional element? If this is the case, it’s difficult to see how going through with a wedding could be the right choice. Was this just a sloppy hookup at a bachelor party? You still may want to call off the wedding—that’s totally your call—or you may want to give them a second chance.
Look at the Relationship as a Whole
As much as you are probably seeing red—and you have every right to—do your best to take a step back and look at the relationship as a whole. If your partner has a long history of cheating or being dishonest, and this just feels like one more confirmation of that, then you need to take a long, hard look at why you’re marrying this person. If this was an absolute drunken mistake or a slip-up and it’s never happened before, you might want to be forgiving. It's totally your call, but a good rule of thumb is whether or not it fits a pattern of behavior.
And remember, they say when someone shows you who they are, you should believe them.
Think About Whether the Relationship Is Fixable
Cheating never comes out of nowhere. Now, that doesn’t mean that it’s your fault—sometimes, the person who has cheated is a pathological narcissist. But often there’s something off in the relationship. Take stock. What do you think isn’t working? What does your partner say isn’t working? Is it fixable? The only way you can ever move past this—really move past it—is if you address the root issue. You have to decide whether you think that’s a realistic option. If you’re not sure, asking for your friends' and family’s input—if you normally trust their judgment—can help you get an objective look at the relationship as a whole.
Don't Be Afraid to Walk Away
Finally, try to forget the big day looming. It’s hard—in fact, it’s almost impossible. But this is your life, and the choice you make is going to live far past the wedding. Forget the guests, forget the pressure, forget the family, and don’t worry about how it looks. If walking away is the right decision, then it’s one you have to make. You’re the only one who can decide, but if your gut tells you that marrying this person is wrong, and if the cheating makes you feel like you don’t know them anymore or just confirms your worst suspicions, don’t go through with it.
You can cancel the wedding, but you can also just postpone if you’re on the fence. Yes, guests might be gossipy or confused, but this is your life, and you need to do what’s best for you.
Cheating is always devastating in a relationship, but if it happens right before the wedding it can call so many things into question—not the least of which is the wedding itself and whether you want to be with this person. Look at the cheating, look at your relationship, and trust your gut. Ultimately, it needs to be about what feels right for you—even if that means walking away.