Rick Reynolds, LCSW
by Rick Reynolds, LCSW
Founder & President, Affair Recovery

The Fight to Forgive

Whenever I write about forgiveness, I’m always amazed at the outpouring of heartfelt comments. I grieve over the pain expressed by those who have been injured and pray your mates will come to understand and appreciate the price you paid on their behalf.

Because of the necessity of forgiveness after a betrayal for your own healing, I thought it important to talk about one of the challenges of forgiving infidelity. When it comes to reconciliation and forgiveness in marriage, the ongoing consequences of betrayal may present the most difficult challenge to forgiveness. When a rock is thrown into the still waters of a pond, shock waves travel outward from the point of impact in ever expanding circles. Infidelity’s impact is much the same. Frequently people question whether they’ve actually forgiven when they continue to struggle with something they chose to release.

Most offenses we face in life, such as hurtful words or something stolen, are one-time events, but infidelity carries an additional element. The challenge of forgiving infidelity stems from the fact that it’s not just a one-time event; like that rock thrown into still waters, the impact of betrayal expands in ever widening circles. That’s why a critical aspect of forgiving infidelity has to include an agreement to accept the ongoing consequences of your mate’s betrayal. Each time an intrusive thought interrupts a good moment it’s another consequence. Just the mention of the affair partner’s name can be another consequence. Anniversary dates present painful reminders creating yet other consequences. A call or text from the affair partner is another consequence. Even when your marriage is transformed into what you’ve always wanted, betrayal’s consequences continue interrupting your life for a season.

Here is one of the comments from a recent  article about the cost of forgiveness:

“This article is the best description of what the betrayed feels. I have re-read this several times and wept just to know someone understands and explained so well the intense cost, pain and gut wrenching challenge it is to stay and choose reconciliation. Not one single day has gone by where I don’t think about what he did. Making love is almost impossible without visions and horrible thoughts overwhelming you. In a world where so many women struggle with body image how in the world can one ever make the marriage bed special again. It has been defiled. It’s next to impossible....one has to compromise all their feelings and dreams of what a marriage is when you choose to reconcile instead of leave.... Pain...I have chosen to stay and forgive over and over each day and power through for my children and family. But the isolation is so intense because you see they don’t know and I protected their dad and their hero... For this woman, each day presents reminders and therefore additional consequences to grieve and release. Each day, as those consequences invade her life, she has to choose. Forgiveness in marriage, let alone the infidelity, has cost her so much. She can either rail against them, shaking her fist shouting, “This is unfair. I did nothing to deserve this, I don’t accept this,” or she can recognize it for what it is, just another consequence, and choose to grieve it in an attempt to move beyond it. For her, forgiveness requires coming to a place of acceptance where she can say, “it is what it is.” This is what we mean when we define forgiveness as “giving up all hope of a better past.” She has learned that her own healing and recovery hinges on her ability to accept each consequence as it comes her way and choose yet again to forgive, just as she has with the countless other consequences that have rocked her life as a result of her husband’s betrayal.

The good news is, like the waves created by the rock cast into the pond, the consequences of betrayal, eventually subside, but it takes time. Eventually, if we’ve chosen to forgive and choose to work through the consequences, we come to the other side of our own trauma. I can honestly say I don’t know anyone who has truly grieved the betrayal who hasn’t come to a place of peace. I stress the “truly grieved” person. However, having safe people to talk with is essential as you strive to move forward.

At the same time, a positive outcome for the marriage largely depends on the one who was unfaithful taking responsibility for their actions and displaying an understanding of the pain they’ve caused. This includes being remorseful for the harm done. Although it will be difficult when they are first coming out of the fog, eventually they will need to take responsibility for their own healing and take steps to make sure this never happens again. For them, a good place to start is the Hope for Healing course. This course is designed to help them not only understand how their actions impacted their mate, but it helps them develop a solid plan of recovery. If they are not willing to take that step in fear of what the future may look like, the EMS Weekend will be a safe place to find out if there is hope for the marriage.

To move forward, couples have to make a commitment to not make things worse. There has to be an agreement to work through the issues and to create a safe environment for healing to occur. Both parties need to create goodwill by being respectful and considerate, allowing for positive moments together. Creating a culture which allows the couple to work together as they face the trauma created by the betrayal is of utmost importance. I can say from experience that you won’t end up creating this type of culture on your own. You need support from a step-by-step process to get you there. Our free First Steps Bootcamp is available to walk you all the way from “what do I do now?” to “what will the future look like?”

Forgiving infidelity takes time and perseverance, but it is possible to find a new life that you cherish and will forever protect. Forgiveness in marriage is possible. If you’re looking to find a path to new life I hope you’ll consider joining our community at Affair Recovery. I believe you’ll find answers and steps you can take to find what you’re looking for.

Sections: 

RL_Category: 

RL_Media Type: 

Add New Comment:

Comments

Forgivness

I chose to forgive and we are trying to move forward, but in taking some ownership for what went on and take steps on my end to make sure his needs are being that I have become a much better communicator about my needs. 2 1/2 years past discovery day and I still have to remind him every few weeks that I have needs that are not being met. Frankly I have paid the price and right now the cost is just too high for me. I think we are done.

Amy**forgiveness

I have not joined the full cost membership thing bc we don't have the money but I am in the same boat with you. 9 month in for me. But I seem to be the only one working to rebuild our broken lives. Again tonight caught him in a lie. Bold face lying to me. I am not sure when I will find the strength to say enough is enough but soon we will be basically debt free and although I am not sure how I will make it financially I think I am gonna have to just give up. I have honored every promise and vow we have ever made to each other only to be disappointed and hurt over and over again. I was holding out hope that he would actually change but am coming to the realization he just does not love me as much as I love him and loving him is just costing me to much.

Continual forgiveness

Speaking from a place almost 3 years after a three month affair, this article couldn't be anymore true. My husbands brief affair made my world spin out of control. I was completely lost for at least 2 years walking around like a zombie and trying to nurse my heart back to health. After years of counseling, I am finally able to see that my husband is just too immature to make the changes in his life to make me feel safe in our marriage. His job requires him to keep later hours meeting and social ing with clients at fancy restaurants, which doesn't help when I was in the early stages post affair. (He is a financial planner and has to meet people after they get off of work). Although he realizes the mistake he made, he says he cannot change his career and that I am not being trusting when I don't give him more slack by being nice when he has to stay out for meetings. He also often tells me he will be home by a certain time and then he'll end up coming home an hour or so later saying his business is not an "exact" one when it comes to time. This all adds another obstacle when trying to build trust. He says he is truly sorry for what he has done and would never do it again, but his job requires a lot of leeway when it comes to his business gathering and nightly hours. He loves to socialize with clients. Leaving me many many evenings to fall asleep alone watching tv. After 17 years with him, I finally see that his self-value and identity is gained through his business endeavors and not as much with me.

I wonder if I'm in a simlar

I wonder if I'm in a simlar place with my husband's job too... Your post gave me something to think about. You are not alone for sure.

Trust and forgiveness

Though I believe I'd forgiven my husband for his emotional affair leading to a physical affair after DDay, I struggled to trust, continually checking his phone etc. I know that with the level of technology we have he could always have another phone email account etc. I bought a little wooden heart with Mr and Mrs on one side - on the other I wrote ' this is my heart and I trust you to look after it'. I gave it to him and it is kept in his wallet next to my photo. From that day on I have trusted him, he has my heart, physically. It worked for me it may work for others.

I read this

I read what you did and tried it myself. I gave it to him on Valentine's Day all wrapped up in a box after I decided that, no matter what, I had to forgive. He truly appreciated it and put it in his wallet immediately. I am still working on acceptance for a 20 year deception and two affairs with the same woman, but that gesture did help me get closer to it, and it meant a lot to him and he told me so. I asked him to take it out and think before he was tempted to go back to the AP again for a third time. I still don't trust, but his reaction did make me feel a little safer. Thank you for the suggestion!

I can't really get there

I am 2.5 years out of discovering my husband's 12 year affair with the same woman. We are trying to make this marriage work, but honestly it is failing. How do you forgive someone who so easily lived a lie for that long? An affair that is that long can't be described as a "mistake"; it was a lifestyle choice. Now I am dealing not just with what he did, but really, who he is. Over that many years, your "triggers" are multiplied exponentially. If I am weepy and tell him why, for example, something has reminded me of how lonely or bad I felt when he was off with his other "wife", he accuses me of "filing these things away to periodically let him know just what a bad person he is." There is no empathy. We are in counseling once a week individually, and once a week as a couple. It is excruciating. I truly thought I could forgive, and we could get through this. He refuses to do what I feel I need to heel; he's too important to do anything I suggest from a website or a book. He has not read anything, he still goes out with his "buddies" who are all "fellow adulterers." He is 67 years old and has dismantled my life at this late stage without a willingness to alter much of his own lifestyle. I guess some things can't be forgiven. I am still feeling swallowed up by the pain, the lies, the betrayal, and the disconnection between us. I am not even sure why he wants to make this work - perhaps a remnant of some old catholic guilt. Its just too painful - but then again, how does one my age start a new life?

Right now I'm just trying to

Right now I'm just trying to wrap my mind around the two decades of deception and the REAL truth I just got 7 months ago. I am trying to reach acceptance to say "it is what it is", and then move on to the forgiveness. It's been quite a struggle, and I'm not making any progress since I keep getting "trickle-truths" fairly often. The most recent "trickle-truth" happened this morning. Set me back yet again.

You need the whole truth in

You need the whole truth in order to decide what and how to move on with or without him. He is keeping you prisoner to this. For whatever reason shame guilt etc. 2 decades is too long to leave you in the dark about it. The ball is in your court honey.

God is with you.

God bless.

Yes

Yes, I have told him all that. Many times. He says he can't think of anything else, no more details. I can understand not remembering everything from 20 years ago, but this most recent affair with her should be fresh memories. I have gotten more info from the AP than I have gotten from him . He doesn't volunteer anything. Have to question, prod, and press him to get anything out. Even then, it's "Well, I MAY have...." or " I MIGHT have.....". Anytime he says that, I know he did it. I should have been a dentist because it feels like pulling teeth to get info out of him. Until it's all out in the light, I may never be able to reach forgiveness....at least horizontal forgiveness. You're right. The ball IS in my court. I just have to decide how to play it now. Hard decisions when you are looking at the demise or restoration of a 36 year marriage.

Blessings to you, too.

Forgiveness

Thank you so much for this poignant article about forgiveness. My discovery occurred a little over 2 years ago and the journey has been to say the least challenging. In my mind I thought forgiveness would come at some point in time and that would be it. As the days have gone by, I realize that forgiveness is a process of choosing to forgive over and over. Due to triggers and reminders that come from so many sources, the forgiveness is a constant process during restoration. At times, you feel so consumed and isolated. I am so grateful for this article because finally I know I am not alone and that I am on the right track. You put into words my life now and it truly helps to know that as broken as I feel my feelings are normal in this crazy process to healing. God Bless you for helping us that are dealing with infidelity. You have made a huge difference for many, including myself.

looking back

I was married for 10 years. After 'surviving' the first year of infidelity - one night stands - I thought we could rebuild our marriage. We did the best we knew how and we asked for help. I am sad to say we found little help, little Godly support, and Godly wisdom as we struggled to salvage our marriage. We did not understand the emotional and spiritual ramifications of what had happened and we did not know how to be married, to be parents or to 'manage' a family. The time came when the pornography I found was so evil, I could not allow it to continue in our home. Husbands are to protect their families. We were both selfish and we lacked knowledge and wisdom. I asked him to leave and felt this disconnect to all he had would awaken him to the reality of the destructive choices he was making. He did not but instead broke up a marriage and has been dating woman ever since. We tried to restore at one point before the divorce was final but the lack of trust, and his unwillingness to lay down things/people that caused pain made it impossible. We both made a promise to forsake all others is a promise he broke over and over. He is a covenant breaker, he is a liar. I pray for him, and hope for good things for him. It has been 3.5 years. Over the years he comes back to tell me he loves me but will go back to all his woman - literal and figurative. I grieve. I want to encourage the woman who are going through the things I have just read. I saturate myself with positive things, people, music and teachings. . I protect myself as I begin to heal. You may think this is extreme but we are in extreme situations. Then, Like Joyce M says her husband did while she was maturing - He lived his life, enjoyed his life, prayed for his wife and loved her. But he KNEW he was rooted in more than his relationship with her. The day came when he did give her an altimatum and told her he couldn't do it any longer. She would either choose to change or he needed to leave. She chose to change...really change, and she did. She could have remained selfish and curled up in the pain of her past or she could choose to change. I am not referring to you when I describe this - I am referring to the one who cheats, lies and breaks the covenant he/she made with you and God. Lastly we cannot do this on our own. Sometimes we do need to break away for our own well being and continue to pray for our spouses and love them. We may lose them forever and we may not. At times I thought I would die - or was dying.

I am 2.5 years out from

I am 2.5 years out from finding out about my husband's affairs. A 2 year physical (emotional affair much longer) affair and a 3-4 month one with another woman at the same time.
Too be honest, I get so frustrated that forgiveness and healing are written about as if they go hand in hand - "forgive and your healed" seems t be the mantra. My husband seems to think my pain is because I haven't forgiven him. I actually think I am well along the path - I am sure there will be things that come up that I have forgive that I find out about still - it is a journey.
It may seem simplistic and perhaps insensitive to use this analogy to some but this fits closest for me even if it isn't the same. If someone you loved dies as a result of another person's poor choices/judgement eg speeding driver, even if you can forgive that person, the grief doesn't go. You will forever grieve for the one you lost. Most people who have lost someone they love, don't have to face the offending person daily. When you stay and try and rebuild they are right in front of you all the time.
This is a long process, and the more my husband implies by his actions that "you should be over this already", even if he never says it, the more I want to leave. The grief and pain I feel as the result of the decisions he made, is still there even if he thinks the mourning period should be over. Yes, forgiveness and healing are linked, but they are not the same and nor does forgiveness suddenly mean the grief and sadness is gone.

Almost 11 years after

Almost 11 years after discovery and hours of talking for many years I still have not heard what I need to hear. I tried to explain that about 3 years ago and she said it was too hard. Am I not worth the effort? She said several times, with me asking, that she would NOT renew our wedding vows. Since then I have let it be and accepted it for what it is. We no longer talk about her affair. Whenever a disturbing thought comes to mind, I remind myself that I have chosen to forgive.

The Fight to Forgive

Thank you for keeping me on track. I'm not even sure I have forgiven, yet, but I keep fighting for it. I keep waiting for a day to pass that I don't have to fight for it. I'm hoping that day will be the day I realize I made the right decision. I try not to think of how long this may take; I want to allow myself to be pleasantly surprised when it happens.

It is what it is I hate that phrase

Everytime I hear it is what it is I want to scream!! NO IT IS WHAT IT IS because someone either lacked the guts, courage, strength, or self restraint to either prevent the situation or to correct the situation. Yes the past is what it is and you can't change it, but that does not mean you just get to shrugg your shoulders and not accept that you caused damage. If I ran into your car I can just say well it is what it is and drive off. You expect me to repair the damage I did. Well I expect my husband to work to repair the damage that he did. And I just don't see it. He ended the affair, but does little to repair the damage. He keeps saying he is working on it. He needs more time. At this point I think he is just waiting until I am totally fed up and toss him out that way he can face his family and say well I tried she just would not forgive me. How can I forgive someone that has not shown true remorse?

Forgiveness is an ongoing challenge

I echo Christie's comments; and coincidentally am on a similar timeline in that my initial discovery was just over 2 years ago, while the confrontation/confirmation of the 3.5 year affair that my husband of 25 years had been having with a co-worker happened 23 months ago (2 years ago next month). Given that I know his AP and she had managed in that time to infiltrate so many areas of our social lives, including church (and even pursued him into his new workplace several months after he'd finally broken away and notwithstanding that she then knew that I knew about the affair), there continue to be many very tangible triggers and consequences which keep rearing their ugly heads, such as when her name is mentioned by friends of ours (yet unknowing, thankfully, what occurred). But I can honestly say that we have made extraordinary progress over these past 2 years, with the help of a good counsellor, a remorseful, willing & repentant husband, and through heeding the wonderful advice & resources available from Rick's articles & Samuel's Blog - not to mention some moments of miraculous Divine intervention. I have also had to examine and take responsibility for my own role in the 'less than ideal' state of our marriage that exacerbated my husband's vulnerability to the AP's advances (while understanding - thanks to the resources of AR - that it was NOT my fault that he selfishly chose to violate our marriage in this way). While I still have bad days and moments of deep sadness from time to time, they are much fewer and further between than say a year ago; and I have increasingly felt genuinely empowered by my decision to stay, work hard together and forgive. With God's grace I have found enormous courage, dignity and strength of character (particularly when confronted with the temptation to lash out & seek revenge against the AP) that I never knew I was capable of. While I can well relate to the intense isolation felt by the woman in this article, and sometimes feel weighed down by the burden of carrying the secret virtually alone, I also reflect on the how protecting our teenage children (and extended family) from knowing this horrible truth about what their "hero" father (and son/brother/-in-law) did, was definitely the right thing to do (and am very grateful that his affair hasn't been publicly exposed). I sometimes think (with some pride) that my decision to stay, forgive and heal our marriage is the best legacy I can leave my children, even though they'll probably never realise it. Even so, the need for ongoing forgiveness even 2 years later was brought home to me just a couple of weeks back when I was very belatedly drip-fed with some further information (about particular hotels stayed at during the affair) - more than 18 months after I had been (repeatedly) assured that I'd been given exhaustive answers to everything that I'd asked about. In the scheme of things these additional details were actually quite minor (though carried some significance, hence withheld) and my husband's reasons for withholding were genuinely to "protect" me for reasons which I could understand on one level, but was quite mis-guided and insulting on another level - given all that we'd been through (as if I couldn't have coped!) and the grace & forgiveness I'd shown him thus far, AND the fact that we'd been rebuilding trust on a platform of incomplete information. While the previously missing information itself was not that important, the fact that he'd effectively been lying to me in withholding it until now, was very significant because it undermined the trust that had been built up, and of course begged the question about how did I know if I could trust him about everything else now! What it demonstrated though, was that (as I'd been suspecting & suggesting to him, given that so much of the focus over the past couple of years had been on healing me, as the betrayed spouse) he really does still have more work to do on healing himself - as a number of articles I plucked out of the AR library and referred to him clearly highlighted - eg, comparison with AA about being "only as sick as your secrets", and perpetuating patterns of deception etc. Anyway, thankfully, the depth of goodwill that we've built up in rejuvenating our "new" marriage over the past couple of years, and the distance that we've travelled in that time has meant that I've been able to forgive again (while also very conscious that we all need forgiveness from God on a daily basis and are called to extend the same to others). Thanks again to the amazing wisdom found in these AR resources, I've been able to not only examine and analyse my feelings (and realise the normality of those in so many situations), but those articles & blogs have given me some very helpful language to articulate my feelings to my husband in constructive ways and thus help facilitate his understanding. At the same time, given the latest revelations, I realise that it's time I stopped taking responsibility for something he has to do himself; so am leaving it to him to go back & work through the bootcamp materials. A huge thank you Rick, Samuel and all at AR for the incredible work that you do in bringing people to healing and in providing so much wonderful advice for restoring marriages that have been wracked by infidelity. :)

it's tough...

I'm still trying to understand forgiveness, what it means in practical terms, in real life, nit just in my mind? Just over 2 years from dday. But I think I get confused sometimes that forgiveness means telling my wife what she did was okay. It doesn't. And that forgiveness is to let her off the hook, it's not. It is to release me from the power that her poor choices have had on my life. I think my decision to stay & work it out sometimes makes forgiveness harder, as I expect something from her. What if she had shown no remorse, ran off with her AP & left me with the kids? Would I have an expectation from her to "gain" my forgiveness? No. I would still need to forgive her to move on with my life, to heal, for me. And if I did have some expectation in that scenario, I would probably be waiting my whole life and never have that expectation met.
I still am not sure what forgiveness means, or the relationship between forgiveness & reconciliation. I struggle with that every day. But I know that every person I know that has progress with forgiveness has coffee to the realization that forgiveness heals the forgiver, not the forgiven. I'm not there yet, but I'm not giving up. I know God has something awesome for me on the other side of this trial

Forgiveness is a Path

I have chosen to break silence and speak about my experience with specific regard to forgiveness.

The pain I experience from learning of my wife’s affair has been difficult to overcome; honestly, I am still working on this several years later. It has been approximately 3 years since “D” day and one year since the dissolution has been judged, final. If you are reading this, you should know that our marriage failed for a number of reasons, not just an affair. Rick has spoken many times about baggage that each individual brings into a marriage and my marriage was no exception. I was one who forgave my wife very quickly after “D” day, but honestly it was only words spoken in haste. I had not forgiven her, nor did I want to. I wanted to hold onto that pain and victimize myself over and over. This is the baggage that I had brought into the marriage and this is how I have finally come to forgive not only her, but her AP too. And while she has plenty of things to work on from my perspective, it is not my responsibility to fix it for her. In fact, I have finally earned the courage to deal directly with my own baggage that plagued me since childhood. It should have been out in the open before marriage, but it wasn’t. That was my burden and while it was not in any way an excuse for my wife to treat me as she did, but rather an underlying force that kept me from sharing with her my innermost self. Maybe things would have turned out much differently than they did and our 26 year marriage would have survived. I am a survivor! The trauma of my childhood still haunts me, but it will never victimize me or those I love in this lifetime again. I still remember the opening statement by Rick while in attendance at his weekend over 2 years ago, “we are not here to save marriages…” My reaction was at the time, “what a waste of money!” I had no idea that weekend would change my life as it did and for that I will be forever grateful! With all this being said, I have finally forgiven myself. This monumental step allowed me to believe I was well on the path to healing from the trauma of a spouse’s affair and my own childhood trauma.

Thank You, Affair Recovery!

What type of affair was it?

Our free Affair Analyzer provides you with insights about your unique situation and gives you a personalized plan of action.
Take the Affair Analyzer