Whether you’re the cheater or you’re the one who was cheated on, healing from infidelity requires forgiveness. You cannot possibly move forward without it.
I know – I was the cheater. During the process of rebuilding myself and my marriage, forgiveness played a critical role.
Once my husband agreed to go to couples counseling, healing from infidelity – my infidelity – began in earnest. We identified what was wrong in our marriage. We had brutally honest conversations. We worked hard, and for a while, rebuilding our marriage became a second full-time job. But we were determined to repair the small cracks and the gaping holes.
Even as we made concrete progress, one thing was holding me back. I was distraught at the way I had treated my husband.
Because of intense self-awareness exercises I did, I became deeply ashamed of what I had done to our marriage. I was still angry with myself, and I finally admitted that I would not forgive myself until he forgave me.
It was a months-long process, but he did forgive me. And then I was finally able to forgive myself.
Why is it so hard to do?
On its surface, forgiveness sounds easy:
“Thank you for your apology. I accept.”
But it’s not like you say those words, a wand is waved and suddenly everything is better. It’s a lot deeper than that.
As the one asking for forgiveness, you must acknowledge that you made a mistake. That you were wrong. That you were foolish or malicious or ignorant. In effect you are admitting, “I am not perfect. I am a frail human being, and I was weak.”
Owning up to your imperfections is difficult. No one likes to shine a light in those dark nooks and crannies. We are ashamed of those bits and pieces hidden away where no one can see them.
When you are genuinely sorry, those bits and pieces are exposed to harsh daylight. You are suddenly vulnerable. And you just hope that the other person will accept your request and do you no harm. (This self-discovery course can help you through the process.)
If you’re the one being asked for forgiveness, it’s not like your job is any easier. You need to listen to other person – really listen – and then sit with your own feelings. Were you betrayed? Disappointed? Lied to?
How did it affect your life? Was it a small inconvenience that didn’t even create a blip on the radar of your life, or did it cause a massive upheaval with long-term consequences?
How do you feel today? Angry? Sad? Apathetic? Apprehensive?
And finally: Is this a genuine apology? Can you trust this person again?
This is why forgiveness is so important
In order to truly forgive someone, you have to let it go.
Let go … of the anger, bitterness, thoughts of revenge – whatever negative emotions you are holding onto.
Releasing that burden is a huge relief. You will feel lighter. You will be free. You will make so much room in your life for wonderful new things.
If you can’t – or don’t – let it go, that anger will fester. Every day, it will grow bigger, and it will weigh you down. You will get stuck. You won’t have room in your life for new anything – people, experiences, wisdom, growth.
Seven years after my husband forgave me and I forgave myself, our marriage is solid as a rock. It’s not perfect, of course – nothing in life is! But we are genuinely happy.
Struggling to forgive your partner or yourself?
If you are asking for forgiveness, write down those shameful bits and pieces you are hiding. All of them.
If you are being asked for forgiveness, answer the questions I posed above.
Write as much as you want. Get it all out on paper.
Read what you wrote out loud – and then burn it in a fireplace or your kitchen sink. As the paper burns, say, “I’m letting go and moving forward.”
Give yourself a pat on the back – well done!