Forgiving an Affair
I always remember what a friend of mine, a woman I greatly admire, told me she did the night her husband of many years confessed to an affair that he had kept hidden from her for a number of years. They had ten children together, many of them still quite young. She didn't decide to go out and have an affair herself, although no one would have much blamed her. She didn't go out and get drunk, although she was a sober recovering alcoholic. She didn't stay home to scream at him, cry and throw things.
She went, as she had planned, up to the kids' school to volunteer to wash walls before the painting could begin. She ended up washing walls all night long. She said she washed those walls will all her might. Every bit of energy she could draw from her body went into washing those walls. She rubbed and she scrubbed them all night long until finally, completely exhausted, she went home, fell into bed and fell soundly asleep.
When you first hear the news of the affair it hits you like a shock treatment. You stomach turns to cold liquid. Your heart seems to stop dead in its tracks and weigh 500 pounds. Your mind runs in hamster wheel circles thinking the same awful thoughts of betrayal and loss over and over again. Sometimes you want to die, and sometimes you want to kill the spouse that betrayed you.
There is life after infidelity. There really is. This too shall pass. You won't forget it. Your marriage will need to change. But you will find a way to get past it and get on with your life and your routines. The key is a word in the title of this article that you chose to read: forgiveness.
Forgiveness is not an act; it's a process. It's not something anyone expects you to do today or tomorrow or next week. Know that when this process does occur it won't mean that your spouse has "won." You both have already lost a lot. Your marriage has lost trust.
When your spouse broke the marital vows and stepped outside the marriage, you learned two very disappointing things. You learned that he/she was capable of making major, life-altering decisions that did not take your feelings into account. You also learned that he/she would lie about their behavior to cover it up. How do ever begin to trust such a person again?
You need to know that your spouse agrees to be totally honest with you in the future and to always take your feelings into account.
If you are to go forward with a plan of forgiveness, there are certain things your partner absolutely must do to atone. He/she must end their relationship with the other party forever. That means no phone calls, e-mails or letters. They can never see one another under any circumstances. If it's necessary to move the family out of state or look for a new job, your partner must be willing to do those things. Your spouse has already caused you unbearable pain. He/she must acknowledge that you cannot take the risk of enduring any more.
Your spouse should be able to have an honest, non-screaming discussion with you about the circumstances that led up to their affair. Was it intoxication, the temptation of a business trip, a close friendship that grew to something else, a recreational relationship, what? And why was your spouse so vulnerable to cheating? How can he/she take great precautions to avoid against the same thing happening in the future?
Somehow your spouse wasn't getting his/her emotional needs met and went outside the marriage looking to fill these. An affair-proof marriage means that couples meet each other's most important emotional needs. You need to know what he wasn't getting so you may try to provide it in the future. Marriage counseling can help with this.
Be true to the person you know you are. You are greater than what has happened to you because of your spouse's behavior. You are a larger person than someone who is going to get eaten up by physical disease because of a deep, abiding resentment that is eating them up which they won't let go of. You don't have to begin the process of forgiveness alone. Turn to a power greater than yourself whatever your idea of that power is. Ask that you may find the strength in your heart to begin to forgive and then act as if you have been granted it. This too shall pass.
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