Many times, I get emails from the spouse who was cheated on. Mostly, they want to know how they can forgive their spouse for the cheating and move on. Sometimes though, I hear from the spouse who did the cheating. Sometimes, I'm told that the cheating spouse just can not forgive themselves for their cheating and this is keeping both people from moving on as this issue keeps presenting itself without being fully resolved. In the following article, I'll talk about forgiveness on both sides of the infidelity.
Not Being Able To Forgive Yourself When You Were The One Who Cheated: I have to be honest. When I first started getting these emails, I doubted that they were genuine. I thought that this was just the cheating spouse's way of playing the victim, of not taking responsibility for their actions, and of trying to elicit some sympathy from their spouse. I still think that this could be the case in some of the emails, but I also know that sometimes, things are exactly what they seem and that the writer is genuine.
Unless a person is completely heartless, it's absolutely normal to feel extreme guilt for inflicting this sort of undeserved pain on someone. And, once you see the fall out from your actions, the reality of the situation is a constant reminder of just what you've done. It's only natural and normal to struggle with forgiveness for this.
But, I also have to tell you that dwelling on what is in the past is a sure way to remain stuck. And, when you remain stuck, then you're also ensuring that you spouse remains stuck. In order for your spouse to be able to move on and heal, then you need to do the same. If you can not forgive yourself for you – then you should strive to do it for your spouse.
Understanding How Your Self Esteem And Personal Issues Were Likely Tied Into The Cheating: People who cheated will often tell me things like: "I don't know what I was thinking. My spouse did nothing wrong. She has been a good wife and did nothing to deserve this. How could I do this to her? And, how can I even look her in the eye when I know that there's no way to take this back or to make this right?"
I typically can't and don't make excuses for these folks. The truth is, there is always a choice, even in difficult circumstances. Sure, the marriage may have had it's problems. But, there are often several options available to deal with this rather than cheating. However, with that said, many people do not understand that often people cheat because of low self esteem or other perceived shortcomings. They cheat because they feel that they are falling short in some way and they are hoping that adding some spice in their lives will make them feel better or more confident about themselves.
Often, they are not aware of this thought process as it's happening. They will sometimes even deny this, but often, an affair is tied into internal and personal struggles more than it is tied into your spouse or your marriage. Is this an excuse? No, certainly not. But, I'm telling you this because I want for you to understand that you likely did not take this action in an attempt to or with the intention of hurting someone else.
Moving Forward After The Affair: I always advise the spouse who was cheating on to work on themselves while they are working on their marriage. They will likely have trust and self esteem issues that will need to be addressed. It is really no different for you. The truth is, you too need to work on yourself individually. The issues that contributed to the affair have likely only been magnified. Your guilt and inability to forgive yourself are now yet one more thing that you need to work on. The good news here is that if you are successful in addressing these things, it will help you tremendously on both a personal level and in terms of your marriage. Don't you and your spouse deserve the best that you can offer? Of course you do. It can seem "selfish" or self centered to work on yourself but I promise you that this work will benefit your spouse every bit as much as it benefits you.
Don't use the forgiveness excuse to remain stuck. Your spouse is depending on you to work things out so that the both of you can work together to move forward. And here's a secret. You're going to have a much easier time forgiving yourself if you can offer your spouse a new, improved, and fulfilling marriage that makes both of you happy. If you can strengthen yourselves and your marriage to the point where you are both excited about looking forward, then there is no need to look back or to dwell upon the inability to forgive.
I know that self work may seem selfish or difficult, but I highly recommend it for both spouses. It is what turned my marriage around after my husband's affair. Although I never would've believed this two years ago, my marriage is stronger than ever after my husband's affair. It took a lot of work, and I had to play the game to win, but it was worth it. Because of all the work I did on myself, my self esteem is at an all time high. I know longer worry my husband will cheat again. You can read my very personal story on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com/.