Carolyn Hax is off for the holidays. The following are excerpts from January 2002 live discussions on www.washingtonpost.com:

Help!:

How do you begin forgiving someone for cheating? Or how do you begin thinking about forgiving someone for cheating? I love him. He's sorry. We're "talking." I'm "thinking." The cheating wasn't huge, but there were a lot of lies attached. Every time he so much as hugs a female friend, I get a wave of anger and hurt. I don't know what to do.

-- Washington

Set aside the cheating for a sec and think VERY VERY HARD about the lying. I get asked a lot about the truth in "once a cheater, always a cheater," and I always say it's a case-by-case thing -- but if anyone asked me my opinion of "once a liar, always a liar," I'd say to believe it and run.

Carolyn:

Cheating is a form of lying! If you're cheating on someone, chances are you've told some sort of lie to facilitate it or cover it up. Even if somehow you've managed to cheat without explicitly/verbally lying, you're lying by omission because, in my opinion, just by being in a committed, exclusive relationship, you are saying (without speaking the actual words) to your partner that you are NOT physically or emotionally involved with anyone else. If you are, then this statement becomes a lie. No?

-- Arlington

Someone can certainly get swept up in a moment, and regret that moment, and confess it, and work like hell to repair the damage. It's cheating, but where's the lie in that? I'm not saying one never involves the other, I'm just saying -- and maintaining -- that they are two different things that are lumped together at the decision maker's peril.

For example: I would have a much easier time forgiving a partner who, say, was in a rough patch with me (especially if I was a root cause of that rough patch), was open about its being a rough patch, turned to someone else in a moment (or even, say, a month) of weakness and frustration, saw the light and came back without making excuses, than one who let me think everything was peachy keen and lied to my face about going fishing on weekends so he could go out and boink his co-worker. This is gray stuff, of many many shades.

Carolyn:

Does this info help, given the preceding comment? The cheating was during a rough patch, but he never came clean. We were close to being back to normal when I found out from someone else. But it really is the lying that gets me more than the cheating.

-- Girl With the Cheater/Liar

As I said, I think the lying should get to you more. And if he lied to your face to get away to see this person, that makes it even worse, in my opinion. I'm not going to tell you whether to stay or go, but I will say one more thing: Half-assed decisions don't do anyone any favors. If you take him back, you let the anger go and find a way to trust him. If you can't trust him or let the anger go, don't take him back.

Write to Tell Me About It, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com, and join Carolyn's live discussion at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com/liveonline