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

Forgiveness: A Letter to My Younger Self

The following video is from 2018 Hope Rising speaker and Affair Recovery Survivors' Blogger, Samuel, reading "Apology from the Unfaithful".

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The blog below is from from Hope Rising 2019 Keynote Speaker, Shelley Martinkus

Shelley Martinkus' world changed forever when she found out about her husband's sexual addiction. God used Jason's betrayal as a catalyst for Shelley to look at her own life and start to heal all the broken pieces she saw staring back at her. Shelley and Jason are now 15 years into their journey and she likes to say that her relationship with God, with Jason, and with others is better because of what she has been through. She has written one book - Rescued and co-authored two books - Worthy of Her Trust and Understanding and Loving a Person with Sexual Addiction. Shelley, Jason and their three young boys call Colorado home although a part of her heart will always reside in Texas, her native homeland. You can find her at rlforwomen.com where she loves to blog and support women as they heal from sexual betrayal. Below is one of her blogs.

A Letter to My Younger Self:

Of all the pieces of the process that we, as the betrayed, must face head-on, forgiveness is probably the most challenging. Early on in my marriage with Jason, he opened the door into his secret world, told me a couple of things and then shut and locked the door tight. My solution? Forgiveness. I believed that if I could just forgive Jason and move on, the marriage would heal and we could live our happily ever after.

Obviously, I was wrong. And as the weeds of bitterness started to grow in my heart, I realized that forgiveness was not quick, was not easy, and was not as simple as I had always thought. Nor would forgiveness magically heal my marriage.

Oh, the power I gave forgiveness.

To be clear, forgiveness is powerful. And it works. But it doesn't take away pain and grief, nor is it the sole silver bullet we can use to heal our marriages.

I've learned a lot about forgiveness over the last 16 years - not only from my own personal experience, but also with walking alongside others who are working the process. And for that, I am grateful.

Below is a letter written to my younger self in regards to forgiveness. These are the things I wish I could have told myself back then.

Please note that Shelley is a Christian and writes her letter with strong Christian influence and verbiage. We know and respect that not all of you come from faith and we hope you are able to still work through the letter and find the many tools of forgiveness she provides to be helpful in your own journey. We value your involvement in our organization and would never want to see someone offended in their own world view when our goal is to do all we can to help you heal from probably one of the most devastating crises you've ever faced. Thank you.

- The Hope Now Team

Dear Me -

I know you want to do the right thing and forgive Jason quickly - isn't that what any noble Christian wife would choose? I know you want to push the pain down and not have to grieve. I know you want to move on from this nightmare and pretend like none of this ever happened.

To you, forgiveness would take all of this away. You could forgive Jason (for what exactly, you're not sure), and then you could move on. Just skip over this mess that has become your life.

Please hear me say: this quick and easy forgiveness isn't the way to go. If you are using forgiveness to circumvent the grieving process and to push it all under the rug - don't do it.

Listen. Look in my eyes. Hear me say: forgiveness WILL come. You don't need to panic. God equipped you with His power to do the forgiveness work. But first, you must sit in the pain. You must feel the feels. That in and of itself is a big part of the forgiveness journey - being true to how you feel and sitting in it.

You will hear people say, "You just need to forgive him," and, "It's going to make you feel dumb." But you aren't dumb. Forgiveness is for you and it's a gift from God; He will help you get there.

The road will be slow for you. And it will be messy. You won't fully understand how forgiveness works when you are ready to take that leap of faith. You will have your doubts. But God will make it really really clear when the time comes to take that leap of faith. Your job is to trust in Him.

And as you press into your big "Yes" of forgiveness, you will experience a Kairos moment-where heaven and earth collide. Forgiveness will be an act of worship, an act of obedience, as you intentionally let Jason out of the prison cell in your heart.

Try not to panic when you wake up a couple of days later after your big "Yes" and you feel resentment-again. It's not that you didn't do it right; it's just that forgiveness is a process. You will continue to go back to that holy ground and forgive again and again and again - not for repeated offenses, but for all the past offenses.

Forgiveness will draw you closer to God. It will humble you. It will remind you that you need Jesus.

In the end, you will have a newfound respect for forgiveness. You will see how it has worked in your life - how it has set you free. You will also see that it takes sitting in the pain and grieving. You will see that it doesn't mean the pain is gone or that the relationship has been restored. You will see that it's mysterious and something that can't be accomplished by human hearts alone.

So go now. Grieve. Get comfy in it. Cry a river of tears. And be at peace that it will happen in due time.

Love, Me

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I have registered to watch it live from home. I wish I had the time and money to fly to TX to be there but this is my way to be involved and learn from these experts. I am really looking forward to it.

Note to my younger self

You should have seen the red flags in personality differences when you were dating and should have run, run, run far, far, far away from your future unfaithful wife. How could you have been so stupid with your youthful puppy love in your early 20s when you knew she was far more into adventures, exciting guys and you were more introverted and stable, but not charismatic. You waited on her hand and foot, doted on her, did everything for her for 17-plus years after you married her until you found out about the 2-year emotional affair.
Why, why, why were you so captivated by her charming smile and her somewhat loving ways early on in the relationship, but then that selfish, narcissistic side that was shown in spurts during that first year-plus of engagement should have been the warning sign.
Now you are trapped you stupid dumbxxxx! Now you have three kids -- two of whom are adults and one left at home in high school -- who have witnessed what an ugly "Christian" marriage looks like. No love, no emotional or spiritual connection, no hope. Now you have to hope and pray that you can salvage something of your life, find an eventual exit plan and maybe, maybe -- if God blesses you somehow, someway -- can find a new woman who will actually appreciate you and love you like you should be loved and treated with respect and affection that has been missing for the past decade. Maybe you can actually find a woman who will look you in the eyes and say "I love you" -- three words that you haven't heard in 7-plus years and have eaten away at your very soul when your unfaithful wife continually says them to the kids, her family and friends at every turn BUT NEVER YOU!
Yes, you should have just taken your 23-year-old self and run or the hills. Now you've wasted 25 years of your life that you'll never get back. Too late. Just too late.

your letter

thankyou for sharing your deep hurt i understand it as im a betrayed . I really resonated with where you spoke about tge pain you feel when you hear your spouse tell the kids she loves them but not you .. i have said the same thing to myself it gies like this “ im a beautiful little girl i just look like a grownup woman i need to know im loved too how can you be so mean to this little girl how can you hurt me “. God bless your recovery .

Your letter

Yes, that is true and costly forgiveness you describe, the kind that gives us glimpses into Christ's forgiveness and not the cheap version pushed on so many Christians by their pastors and churches that expect everything to be ok days after disclosure. Thank you for sharing.

Perfect Timing!

I needed this... so much! I am so used to just forgiving and moving on. This whole experience has confused me as I felt guilty for saying "I forgive you" then a short time later feeling the anger and resentment rise again. This newsletter on forgiveness has given me new hope that what I am experiencing is normal and I should just let it happen. Thank you!


I saw this shortly after it was aired a few years ago. Thanks for putting it back on. I needed to hear it again. This apology was exactly what I always wanted to hear from the unfaithful husband of 30+ years but NEVER got. Everything Samuel read or said was right on. I only wished I had heard it from the horse's mouth. Now, after years of separation (he moved out of state) and 1 year in continued divorce proceedings (his choice to get divorced) I find myself still struggling though growing and doing better and still in therapy and meeting with my pastor. The saddest part, our adult daughter was so deeply affected by his actions that she has shut herself off from wanting any relationships of any depth. She says she doesn't know if she can ever learn to trust and fears she will be alone in life because of it.
He had no interest in doing any recovery or therapy with or for her or me. She blocked him for her own protection of her own heart and mind and his reaction was to blame it on her from not wanting a relationship and said he can't do anything about it. They have not spoken for 4 years. Myself, I would crawl on hands and knees over a pit of vipers to beg for her forgiveness and restoration. But, no, it's easier to bury it all, deny it all, blame it all, and enter into another hugely sinful relationship and continue with same behaviors. Now, he lives with a very questionable character and is still married to me and not married to her. The behaviors actually became worse and more intense, rather than anything improving.
I am learning about mental and behavioral illnesses and getting some peace of mind thinking that maybe he has those and can't really see what he has done, because, how could anyone do this kind of damage and have no interest in fixing any of it.
Well, that letter is what I assume all betrayed want to hear, just not from a third party, from the actual betrayer. But we may never get it from them, so it is nice to hear that others get it, understand us. thank you

Thanks for the video

It has been 5 years since DDay, the day that changed everything forever. We are now divorced by her choice. No consulting and I now live 5 min away in my own two-bedroom and have the kids 50% and paying alimony and child support. She has never even close to apologies for what she has done and I think still blames me for everything from the look in her eyes. I had to just move over and don't expect anything for my kids and my well-being. We get alone and if it has nothing to do about the kids don't talk at all. I know and say I don't expect an apology ever. I have worked on myself, healed with a lot of help, and learn to forgive. Thanks for the video. We are not alone.


I know in my heart i will one day truly forgive my husband. We may not be together then, I do not know. And i know forgiving is not forgetting. But the Affair Partner, is his sister-in-law. (Brothers wife) and when we talked about the affair she kept telling me he pursued her, and he came knocking on her door. Basically to her it was all my husbands fault. Even though it takes two to have an affair. And she was at fault too. So do I forgive her, cause I don't think I can.? She takes no responsibility. And what about my husband's sister who knew but kept quiet? I can forgive her but by writing his family out of my life and having nothing to do with them ever again, is that being unforgiving? Cause I will never have anything to do with any of his family again. I don't wish anything bad for them, except maybe the AP, but I've decided to downsize my circle of trust.

Boundaries and Safety

Dear Cab, it is NOT being unforgiving to create boundaries with people, whatever that looks like to you, even if that means a permanent separation from those who have become toxic to you and your marriage, even if family. You must create SAFETY for yourself! Forgiveness of these people is a whole other thing, and between you and God, and can definitely happen, as evidenced by Shelley Martinkus and others, if and when you are ready, but creating boundaries and safety is crucial for your own protection and healing. These are very different things, and to establish boundaries and safety does not mean you have chosen not to forgive.

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-D, Texas