You’ve recently become aware of your husband having an affair. You feel betrayed. The man you once trusted and loved more than anything has taken the faith and devotion you once had in him and thrown them away like yesterday’s newspaper. Now all you feel is a disgusting mixture of resentment and shame along with anger and fear. You’re probably also afraid of what the future holds and what’s going to become of the life you’ve worked so hard to build before he decided to be unfaithful.
Needless to say, the challenges you’re finding yourself facing now are probably the highest hurdle your marriage will ever face. Maybe you want to move on with your life and your relationship. It’s only natural at a time like this to want things to go back to being like they were before, right? So you may be thinking that, “If I could just find a way to forgive my husband for having an affair then we can start to rebuild our life together.” Forgive and forget. It’s what we’ve been taught since we were kids, right?
Here’s the problem though. Forgiving implies that all the horrible thoughts and emotions you’ve been experiencing will just “magically” disappear when you decide to forgive your husband for his infidelity. Ask yourself, does that seem even remotely realistic? No? There’s a reason why: that’s just not how strong emotions – especially negative emotions – work.
Here’s another reason you probably want to avoid the temptation to “forgive and forget” and try to take your marriage back to the way it was before he cheated. If you go back to way things were before you’re just setting up the exact same conditions that let led to your husband having an affair in the first place. You’re just asking to be treated like a door mat all over again.
So despite everything we’ve been taught our whole lives about forgiving there’s a limit to how big a transgression a normal, feeling human being can be expected to just forget about. Now I’m not saying you should never forgive him for cheating on you, but I do want you to accept that forgiveness is going to take time. It needs to be a process and not an instant (unrealistic) decision.
Try this instead. Acceptance. Accept that your husband was having an affair and acknowledge that his behavior has injured you very badly. Acceptance allows you to begin to realize that what has happened is in the past and that there’s nothing that you can ever do to change that fact. Acceptance takes away the natural temptation to pretend that this terrible thing never happened.
Once you accept what has happened you can begin the process of dealing with the anger and fear you’re feeling. You’re not forgiving him right now, you’re just saying that you’re willing to tolerate what has happened for the sake of your relationship so the two of you can begin to work toward building a stronger marriage than ever before, not just setting yourself up for more heartbreak down the road.
Once you do that and say, “I don’t like what happened, but I am willing to accept it for the sake of moving on with our life” you’ve started a process that will naturally, over time, let the emotions and the pain move to the background. Guess what happens then. Forgiveness follows naturally in time!