TimT
My wife (who was a betrayed spouse) showed me this quote from the Love Yourself and Heal Your Life workbook by Louise Hay. In chapter 9 she writes:

"We all need to do forgiveness work. Anyone who has a problem with loving themselves is stuck in this area... Many of us carry grudges for years and years. We feel self-righteous because of what they did to us. I call this being stuck in the prison of self-righteous resentment. We get to be right. We never get to be happy.

"I can hear you saying, 'But you don't know what they did to me, it's unforgivable.' Being unwilling to forgive is a terrible thing to do to ourselves. Bitterness is like swallowing a teaspoon of poison every day. It accumulates and harms us. It is impossible to be healthy and free when we keep ourselves bound to the past. The incident is long over. Yes, they did not behave well. However, it's over. Sometimes we feel that if we forgive them, then we are saying that what they did to us was okay..."
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tmx100
In my case it was the wife that cheated with my best friend of over 50+ years. When i look at her I cant figure out why she did it and what was their end game. I find it very hard to forgive. Because if it ever got out what she did our children would find out the their beloved mother is nothing but an adulteress!!! I would like to forgive but I see him on the street talk to mutual friends and I can not join in. I walk for exercise and he does also (we use to do it together) now I have to think is he out now will we cross paths. Its like my personal location radar is checking if he is around. I know that I might not have done everything right but I sure didn't do anything wrong. I find it hard to love at all and heal way to early to talk about it. At times i think that LOVE is just a 4 letter word with nothing to back it up. Sorry is just a word to shut up the other person. Most of the time when SORRY is used nothing is done to back it up.
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TimT
tmx100 wrote:
In my case it was the wife that cheated with my best friend of over 50+ years... I would like to forgive but I see him on the street talk to mutual friends and I can not join in. I walk for exercise and he does also (we use to do it together) now I have to think is he out now will we cross paths...

Forgiveness does not require you to ever trust him again or be any kind of friend to him. It simply means that you release the need for justice. It leaves the past in the past instead of keeping it in the present. People have more power over this than they want to acknowledge, but great hurts require great forgiveness and it is not an easy process. The consequence of not doing it that you continue to carry around the burden and feel justified in doing so. But it hurts YOU. This may be something you need to find someone to help you with.
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...At times i think that LOVE is just a 4 letter word with nothing to back it up. Sorry is just a word to shut up the other person. Most of the time when SORRY is used nothing is done to back it up.

Sometimes "love" and "sorry" can be used that way, which diminishes their value. I encourage people to say "Forgive me for ______" rather than "I'm sorry" because it forces an acknowledgement of their specific responsibility. And if there is genuine sorrow over an offence, then there will also be a genuine desire to do what is necessary to make things right again.
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J
What do you do when it's not over, when your WS may not be sexually engaged with his AP anymore, but they still work together and exchange texts and he refuses to get a new job? Is forgiveness possible then? I want it to be, but I feel stupid for even trying. You've suggested letting go and I'm trying in-home separation, but it's harder than I ever imagined. Forgiveness seems impossible when new betrayals seems to arise all the time.
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TimT
J wrote:
What do you do when it's not over, when your WS may not be sexually engaged with his AP anymore, but they still work together and exchange texts and he refuses to get a new job? Is forgiveness possible then? I want it to be, but I feel stupid for even trying. You've suggested letting go and I'm trying in-home separation, but it's harder than I ever imagined. Forgiveness seems impossible when new betrayals seems to arise all the time.

Forgiveness is possible, but trust would be almost impossible. I wish that for one moment the unfaithful spouse could change places and just experience a moment of the panic a betrayed spouse feels every time they know their spouse is around the affair partner. NOBODY IS OKAY WITH THAT. To insist that you just deal with it is either a severe lack of empathy or a protection of a relationship they don't want to give up. Either way, it gets in the way of your healing.
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Hurtlocker39
Couldn't agree more with this forum.My wife of 44 years has recently admitted to having had 25 man years of affairs with 3 men the longest was with my brother.All is forgiven we are fighting so hard to restore our marriage but the hurt and pain and OBSESSIVE thoughts will surely haunt me forever.Unfortunately for our marriage my wife now has stage 4 bone cancer so things will not have a fairy tale ending.Praying for a miracle.
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TimePassing

Would you ever say there is a reason or a time not to forgive? For example if someone continuously lies and cheats , is continuously forgiving each lie or each affair while the lying and cheating continues simply setting oneself up for more mistreatment. If both parties are not clear that forgiveness does not equal acceptance of the behaviour or on the same page as to what it means.

Would it be safe to say that like anything else forgiveness is not necessarily immediate but rather part of a healing process? So for some it could occur immediately for others it is further down the road?

I ask as I see a lot of "pressure" to simply forgive in society. This topic is admittedly a touchy subject for me growing up in a religious setting that advised to turn the other cheek and touted forgiveness which seemed to be used as a way for the wrongdoings to be either rug swept or minimized.

I understand forgiveness is for the person doing the forgiving, however in practice I often see it used as a tool to manipulate or as a demand made by the person supposedly asking for forgiveness. I see it expected as a given and placed as a judgement on the one party as a shortcoming of sorts if they do not immediately forgive and this can be used as a way for the person who committed the transgression to remain in a place of shifting responsibility to the other party. It becomes about the lack of forgiveness or inability/unwillingness to instantly forgive rather than making amends or changing ones own behaviour.
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TimT
For many, forgiveness is often confused with trust. You can forgive someone, yet never trust them again. But I doubt you can ever return to trust (if that is the intent) without forgiving first.

I know there are many variables that have to be considered in each unique circumstances. The expectation to simply "forgive and move on" is too simplistic. For example, does forgiveness mean a spouse refrains from seeking just recompense from a wayward spouse who destroys the marriage? (I don't think so, by the way.)

Forgiveness should not be demanded or rushed, but I always encourage a betrayed spouse to recognize it as one of their steps toward healing. I've observed the personal outcomes in those who forgive and those who do not. Even though the consequential circumstances of an affair may be similar (pain, loneliness, uncertainty, etc.), there is a marked positive difference in those who have found their way to forgiveness.
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Lostmyspark
TimT wrote:
For many, forgiveness is often confused with trust. You can forgive someone, yet never trust them again. But I doubt you can ever return to trust (if that is the intent) without forgiving first.

I know there are many variables that have to be considered in each unique circumstances. The expectation to simply "forgive and move on" is too simplistic. For example, does forgiveness mean a spouse refrains from seeking just recompense from a wayward spouse who destroys the marriage? (I don't think so, by the way.)

Forgiveness should not be demanded or rushed, but I always encourage a betrayed spouse to recognize it as one of their steps toward healing. I've observed the personal outcomes in those who forgive and those who do not. Even though the consequential circumstances of an affair may be similar (pain, loneliness, uncertainty, etc.), there is a marked positive difference in those who have found their way to forgiveness.


TimT

Will you please give practical examples of what forgiveness looks like, especially when the couple is moving forward and working on repairing the marriage? Thank you
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TimT
Lostmyspark wrote:
TimT: Will you please give practical examples of what forgiveness looks like, especially when the couple is moving forward and working on repairing the marriage?

Sure. Consider these examples of forgiveness at work. (I'm not using people's real names.)

Example 1: A wife finds a new way to process her pain.
Jackie thought their marriage was strong, strong enough to endure the weeks apart her husband's job demanded. When she discovered that he'd had a 6 month affair with a co-worker, she went into a tailspin with tremendous focus on what she had missed. What had been wrong with their marriage? What had been wrong with her? How could she ever come to trust him again?

Driven by this fear and pain, she talked to him constantly about the affair. Long after he answered all her questions, she kept delving into the details, trying to uncover the one "revelation" that would make sense of it all and provide a clear fix to guarantee no future risk of repeated behavior. Her constant focus was backward, churning the affair over and over in her head and then into conversations with her husband. Sometimes they were simply questions, but when the pain turned to anger (as it often did), the familiar accusations popped out as well.

This interplay kept her in a state of emotional exhaustion with diminishing hope that she would ever be able to heal from this. Her husband, too, sometimes wondered if things would ever change, or if their marriage was broken beyond repair.

Jackie decided to change her focus. Although she still thought about the affair every day, she chose to limit her conversations to the present & future. This mean that she could talk honestly about her her fear and pain, but related them to present triggers rather than going back to discuss affair details again. When affair thoughts came, she sometimes wrote them out instead of talking about them again. She told her husband, "I don't need to bring this up to you anymore. I still need you to help me get over feeling hurt and afraid, but talking about the affair doesn't need to be part of those conversations."

Her husband was encouraged to take the initiative to regularly check in with Jackie regarding her pain/fear instead of letting it build up. He felt relief & encouragement in her choice to stop bringing up the past. It was an act of forgiveness. Now they could both focus on what was needed for the rebuilding of trust.

Example 2: A betrayed husband shifts his perspective.
When Pete found out his wife had another affair, he was angry. He had stayed with her the two previous times this had happened, but she betrayed him again. He knew he had the right to leave her, but was torn between wanting to leave and not wanting to act "irresponsibly" (pressure he felt to not put the kids through divorce and to not disappoint the expectations from people in his church).

My work with his wife led me to believe that she was finally giving attention to things that she had never dealt with after her previous affairs. I believed that even if their marriage did not survive, she would move forward in a much healthier way.

I put no pressure on Pete to stay in his marriage, but tried to show him what might be different (from both of their perspectives) if he decided to work toward restoration. More importantly, I tried to point out ways in which his pain was turning inward and how his anger and self-focus would be destructive to him. I encouraged him to work toward forgiving her, even if he decided to never risk trusting her again.

He didn't want to let her off the hook; not this time. He felt justified in his responses, but he was visibly miserable. Until something finally shifted. This is what he wrote me regarding this change:

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In the past few weeks a friend or two had begun to confide in me regarding their own lives, telling me of struggles, relational conflict, frustrations. I found myself not judging them at all; I simply accepted them, loved them for who they are, refrained from giving direct advice, asked a lot of questions, and did what I felt I could to encourage positive steps forward. Mostly, I just tried to be the kind of friend that I would want to have in my own life. And then something hit me: what if I applied those same principles and actions in my relationship with [my wife]?  So, after 49 weeks of hell and after more than two decades of stale marriage, I performed an about-face, turned around my thinking, and let go of pretty much everything that I'd been trying to control in my marriage.

It's difficult to explain the transformation. I made a conscious decision to be a friend. That day, I released her from all obligations and decided to accept her for who she was and who she is, including all the choices (both good and bad) that she had made... Within the choice to release her, I found something amazing; I found that I had released myself too. I released the anger, the jealousy, the regret, the victim mentality, all the junk that had burdened me for so long. I found that in granting the freedom NOT to love, we now had the freedom TO love (as opposed to the *obligation* to love). And that is exactly what has happened. We are loving each other again, and it's not even difficult, it's natural...the way it was in the very beginning when we first fell in love.


Example 3: A daughter stands with the man who betrayed her.
After David's affair, he and Nicole, his wife, spent months trying to get to a place of stability in their marriage. By the beginning of December, they were in a good place. They both were doing the work of moving toward each other in their pain/hurt rather than moving away from or against the other. But David was nervous about spending Christmas with her family, who knew about his cheating.

They went to her parent's house for lunch on Christmas. The atmosphere, as David described it, was "overly polite" but at least there was no drama during the meal. But it didn't take long...

David helped clear the table and walked into the kitchen with a stack of dirty plates in his hand. Nicole's mother, the only other person in the kitchen at the time, turned to face him and finally spat out what she had been thinking all along: "My daughter might be willing to let you get away with what you did, but don't expect me to. I hate you for what you did to her." David froze, feeling his shame churning into rage.

Nicole, hearing this from the other room, rushed into the kitchen and stood between her mother and her husband. Her response: "Mom, stop it! You didn't live this; I did. We're working to get through this and you can either be okay with that or you can keep throwing it in his face. If I can forgive him you can, too. If you can't, then you and I have a problem."

She could have stepped back and let him get what he "deserved" from her family. But her willingness to forgive drove her to step in and guard him from the onslaught. He later told me that this did more to strengthen his connection with his wife than any other recent experience.
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hmichelle
TimT wrote:
My wife (who was a betrayed spouse) showed me this quote from the Love Yourself and Heal Your Life workbook by Louise Hay. In chapter 9 she writes:

"We all need to do forgiveness work. Anyone who has a problem with loving themselves is stuck in this area... Many of us carry grudges for years and years. We feel self-righteous because of what they did to us. I call this being stuck in the prison of self-righteous resentment. We get to be right. We never get to be happy.

"I can hear you saying, 'But you don't know what they did to me, it's unforgivable.' Being unwilling to forgive is a terrible thing to do to ourselves. Bitterness is like swallowing a teaspoon of poison every day. It accumulates and harms us. It is impossible to be healthy and free when we keep ourselves bound to the past. The incident is long over. Yes, they did not behave well. However, it's over. Sometimes we feel that if we forgive them, then we are saying that what they did to us was okay..."


I love this quote, I think it hits the nail on the head for me.  I continue to feel self righteous about the fact that I was wronged and my pride is definitely getting in the way of my forgiveness and continued growth.  I have lashed out multiple times now with awful, hateful words that I know are hurting my WS.  Part of me feels he deserves to hear them for betraying me the way he did but I don't want this situation to make me into an ugly person.  I have spent our marriage building him up and trying to make him feel valued, now I feel like I am tearing all that down.  I have the desire to find true forgiveness but I am really scared that even after all the work we put in I still wont be able to forgive him.  Are there times when the desire to forgive but the ability to forgive do not line up?
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Dirazz
Yes that's a totally normal way to feel. Time really does have a way of helping lessen the pain. Funny I just told my husband a few days ago that once I put my pride and anger aside and focused on the good that was happening the positive that my husband was doing things started to improve. My mind is no longer solely focused on the betrayal. Its focused on me getting healthy, my husband getting healthy and our marriage getting healthy.
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Graceandhope
I think it's a process. You take each issue, look at it, process the hurt and decide if you're ready to forgive for that. I don't believe it's simply an I forgive you for all you've done now let's move on. There's typically a lot that has transpired and it all needs to be looked at and forgiven. Otherwise I think things keep popping up and you can be like I'm really unhappy about this but I said I forgave him, but this I didn't know yet or ....

It's a process. If you're not ready to forgive for certain things yet, don't revisit that later.
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