Forgiveness After an Infidelity

There are many things that can go wrong in a marriage, and the longer you are married the bigger are the chances for problems to set in.  The mundane realities of life take over and pretty soon the excitement that once characterized your relationship and that you based your marriage on seems to have disappeared like the phantom in the night.  Resentment and blame creep in, one or both partners begin to feel unappreciated and the unthinkable happens–someone cheats.

But before I go on, I’d like to say that a marriage doesn’t necessarily have to be in trouble for an affair to occur.  Many happily married person has made this mistake for any number of reasons; poor decision-making, an overactive fantasy life or the inadvertent reconnection with an old flame can easily send someone down the rabbit hole of an extramarital affair.

That said, infidelity is one of the worst things that can happen in a marriage and can be one of the most difficult problems to overcome. The pain of such betrayal can seem insurmountable for the person who was cheated on, and for some people infidelity is the ultimate deal-breaker.  If you’re one of those people, you have a choice to make: do you stick to your guns out of principle, or do you find a way to stay committed to your marriage if your spouse is still willing to stay committed to the marriage also? No doubt, it will be one of the most of the difficult things you’ll ever have to overcome, but on the other hand you also face the possibility of reaching a new level
of love and understanding in your relationship if that’s what you’re looking for.

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This raises the question of whether or not forgiveness is possible after an affair.

One author, Stephanie Anderson at marriagesherpa.com, believes that complete forgiveness may not be possible or even necessary to maintain a marriage after an affair.

“Many people think that if you can’t forgive, you can’t move forward. But this is not the case. It’s possible to rebuild the trust and save your marriage, all without offering forgiveness to your spouse.

Generally, forgiveness takes time. And what is happening in those minutes, hours and days leading up to that point is a lot of healing work. When the victim sees that their cheating spouse is truly remorseful and desirous of changing their behavior for the good of the marriage, it will help to heal the wounds inflicted by the affair.”

Stephanie offers 3 tips for healing:

  1. not to feel pressured by a spouse’s guilty conscience
  2. to focus on the healing
  3. to aim for acceptance as your goal more than forgiveness

While I find there to be some wisdom and practicality with this advice, especially in the short term, I don’t agree with it as a long term philosophy.  My concern is that without forgiveness it is too easy to hold onto resentment and be tempted to use it against your spouse endlessly, keeping you stuck in cycles of blame and negativity.  When we are able to forgive we are able to fully embrace our humanity through an act of ultimate compassion.  If nothing else, it is good for our own well-being.  As a friend of mine who was cheated on by her husband once said to me

Forgiveness is the key to a good life.  I didn’t do it for them, I did it for me.”

3 Responses to Forgiveness After an Infidelity

  1. Cathy Lorient March 30, 2012 at 5:38 am #

    How do YOU feel about today’s hot topic? Do YOU think you can forgive your spouse after infidelity? What are your precautions to avoid infidelity in the first place? Post your comments or thoughts below! We’d love to hear from you!

    – Cathy Lorient

  2. ann bastian May 6, 2012 at 5:41 pm #

    No, He hurt me for no reason other than to be selfish. We were marrying a daughter, had a deathly ill mother, a difficult situation at work for me and my son in law to be mother dies suddently. Our daughter found out and told my husband that someone had found out about them. She had children. she didn’t care, neither did he, he told our daughter to mind her own business. it didn’t end till her husband found out. after that, he proceeded to tell people at work that he was divorced so he could ask women out. luckily this woman knew a neighbor of mine and she told me what was going on. lots of tears and counciling. maybe we can repair but this is not forgiveable

    • Cathy Lorient May 7, 2012 at 1:37 am #

      I’m sorry to hear that. I understand if you can’t forgive for now. But I hope you’ll still find ways to somehow save your marriage. Thanks for sharing your story!

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Cathy Lorient