Forgiving an affair

You’ve been hurt, victimized, or betrayed and you feel awful. One moment you are crying so hard you are afraid that you’ll never be able to stop, and the next you are enraged and want to get revenge. But before any of your wicked plans come to fruition, you crumple into the sheer horror of your situation, followed by a bounce into resentment. In other words, you are all over the map! Your erratic behavior and wildly out of control emotions are perfectly normal. Yet, many of the people you talk to don’t take time to hold space for your emotions and catapult you straight towards forgiveness instead.

I don’t know about you but thinking about forgiving my cheating husband was the last think I wanted to hear about or think about for a long, long time! And neither should you. Here’s why.

What is Forgiveness?

Forgiveness is the voluntary letting go of resentment, the need for revenge, and other negative emotions. It’s the complete releasing of energy around the person or situation who hurt you and moving into indifference.

Why is Forgiveness Important?

Forgiveness is important because it frees up your energy. Just like when you first fell in love with a person, animal, hobby, or job, you started spending a lot of time thinking about that person, animal, hobby, or job. You read about it, learned about it, studied it, spent money on it, and sacrificed other things that you liked in favor of it. Love takes up time, energy, and resources.

But here’s the kicker: So does hate.

Forgiving someone means that you no longer have any energetic attachments to that person or situation. It means that you are free to do you without interference. To use your time, energy, money, and resources on things that you enjoy instead of things you don’t. Forgiveness is important because it moves you into indifference and frees you up. It has nothing to do with them.

Why Should You Forgive a Cheating Partner?

The phrase, what you resist, persists, is true. Hate takes energy. Revenge takes energy. Bitterness, resent, and vindictiveness all take up time, energy, and resources. Sadly, negative emotions rarely take you where that you want to be. While you can use the betrayal as a fuel to fire you up and move you in a direction that you want to go in, there is a stark difference between using it as a motivation and hanging on to the pain or actively tearing another person down and making their life miserable.

Let’s be frank. Energy is finite, and the more of it you waste on others, the less of it you will have for yourself. You’ve already been hurt by the betrayal. Isn’t it time to be selfish and take back your own energy?

Can You Ever Really Forgive an Affair?

Okay, so you are focusing on yourself (that’s good!) but can you ever really forgive an affair? I mean, come on! This was a major disruption and truthfully, life any trauma, you will never be the same again. What does that mean? Does that mean no?

It means that, contrary to popular belief, forgiveness is not a magic cure-all to infidelity or betrayal. Nor is it a destination that brings you peace and serenity once you arrive. It means that forgiveness is a journey, not a destination, and that if you want to let go of the pain and move forward with your life, you will need to forgive again and again and again.

So, in one sense, no. The affair is a part of your life and your story and will never go away. But in another sense, yes, absolutely! Each time you forgive you will be forgiving that person, situation, and ultimately yourself, at a deeper level.

How to Forgive Yourself

Forgive yourself, what? I didn’t do anything wrong! No, you didn’t but in my experience, all forgiveness is self-forgiveness. All of us are fearful that did something wrong, that others will judge us and think we did something wrong, even when we didn’t, and that we are somehow at fault for being not enough, or for being too much.

Then there’s the spiritual gunk and the belief that if we were just good enough in God/The Universe’s eyes, we wouldn’t be punished like this and that life would have worked out for us. Yeah, it goes deep! Which is why no matter what has happened, every one of secretly fears that it’s somehow our fault.

It’s not. Let go and forgive yourself!

How to Forgive After an Affair

How? This one is simple. By deciding that you want to forgive. You have to choose to forgive and let go, choose to put yourself and your well-being first and foremost in your life. That’s it. Once you do, the forgiveness process will flow automatically.

Four Keys to Forgiveness After an Affair

  1. Accept Unconditionally

    The first step in the forgiveness process (after deciding that you want to, of course!) is to unconditionally accept that the affair happened. No Monday-morning-quarterbacking the situation, no excuse, “but for” this, that, or the other thing, or “if only…” allowed. Just pure, authentic, and radically honest acceptance.

    The affair happened. The person you loved and trusted more than anyone else hurt you. Took advantage of you. Lied to you. Put you at risk. Your most painful thoughts must be brought out into the light of day, revealed, and accepted.

  2. Untangle Yourself

    The second step in forgiving your cheating partner is in untangling yourself from their actions, beliefs, and behaviors. We are all autonomous beings. We all have free agency. We all make decisions, and we all must own our own decisions and untangle ourselves from the decisions of others. After all, no matter what you did/didn’t do, or said/didn’t say, unless you took your cheating partner by the hand, led them to their affair partner, held a gun to their head, and said, “You better cheat!” none of this has anything to do with you.

    Of course, you can healthily own your part (because there are so many parts…) but none of the blame is yours! Untangle baby, untangle!

  3. Have Empathy for the Process of Living

    Life is hard and living is messy. Pretty much everyone (except for those who have a bona fide mental health issue) does the best they can with what they’ve got and pretty much everyone messes up a lot of the time. Which is why having empathy for the process of living is essential. It helps you understand that we are all imperfect beings, living imperfect lives, making decisions and taking action based on incomplete or erroneous information.

    Having empathy for the process of living helps you release judgment and let go of ideas of right and wrong. Which helps you stay out of self-righteousness and the idea that the affair was “done to you.” No, you are not at fault, but you are not perfect either. It doesn’t matter if any of your imperfections caused the affair or not. What matters is the recognition and realization that we are all flawed, we all make mistakes, and living is hard. Being empathetic to the process of living helps you to understand, cultivate compassion for everyone involved (including you) and move on.

  4. “Package Up” and Create Your Infidelity Story

    Creating a narrative around your infidelity journey is essential if you want to forgive and more on. Before any kind of forgiveness can be attempted, you must figure out exactly what it is that you are forging. Until you have a story or a narrative around the affair, forgiveness is a moving target that can never be hit.

No, you don’t need to know every little detail, but you do need to make sense of your situation the best way you know how. Whether it’s narcissism, trauma, addiction, ignorance, true love, validation, immaturity, or entitlement, you need to figure out your affair story so you can know what to forgive.

Above all else, remember that forgiveness is a journey, not a destination. To forgive is a choice that only you can make, and the only person who benefits from forgiveness is you. You’ve been hurt enough. Could it be time to become “healthily selfish” and take back your energy, thoughts, feelings, and resources? Yes, you have to do it time and again, but in the long run, aren’t you worth it? I thought so!

Picture of Lora Cheadle, Betrayal Recovery Expert

Lora Cheadle, Betrayal Recovery Expert

Author, speaker and Burnout & Betrayal Recovery Coach, Lora Cheadle help women rebuild their identity and self-worth so they can find the courage to claim what’s possible on the other side of betrayal.

Get the support you need to find your footing, begin making sense of it all, and feel better fast. As an attorney, betrayal recovery expert, and survivor of infidelity I can help you find the clarity and confidence to create a life that you love on the other side of betrayal. Book Your Session Here