Forgiveness After Infidelity – Reframing the Story that We Tell Ourselves

forgiveness after infidelityAn extremely important component of forgiveness after infidelity is effectively reframing the story that you tell yourself. This is also related to the concept of self-talk.

Each time we witness an event or think a thought, our mind automatically constructs a story around each thought or event. The story that our mind constructs can be a positive one or a negative one. Out of these stories, we develop a type of ongoing self-talk in our minds that reinforces the story, either positively or negatively.

But the good news is, we are in control of our perceptions, our self-talk, and even our ‘stories’. We can re-write our perceptions, we can choose a different type of self-talk, and thus impact the stories we tell ourselves.

This process is called reframing. Once we have reframed a story and keep thinking about it in more healthy terms, then these stories are committed to permanent memory. It’s like overwriting a file on your computer.

Here’s a rather extreme, yet very real example of how reframing works.

During the holocaust, many people were sent to concentration camps: Jews, gypsies, people with mental illness, or even anyone who did not simply agree with the prevailing viewpoint of the Nazi party. When people were taken, they were immediately separated from their loved ones, their houses and possessions were stolen by soldiers, and family members were sent to different camps. If someone happened to get out alive, they could be sure their family members did not. Entire families disappeared within the blink of an eye.

One man, a very well respected (newly married) Austrian physician named Viktor Frankl was taken to one camp and his wife and his elderly parents to another. Viktor was sent to Auschwitz, the most notorious death camp during the Second World War.

Frankl almost died there—in fact, there were many times Frankl wanted to die since he never got enough food, since he was bitterly cold during the winter, and since he was forced to live in conditions to which even the lowliest animal would not be subjected.

But, somehow, the life force inside Viktor Frankl was so much stronger than that and he experienced a most profound shift in his perception. This profound shift in his perception kept him alive and he was able to eventually get free from the camp and begin a new life in the United States.

Viktor wrote a book about his experience called Man’s Search For Meaning and it is as relevant today as it ever has been. About the topic of perception and freedom of choice, Frankl says:

“Everything in life you have can be taken from you except one thing -your freedom to choose now. How you respond to the situation is what determines the quality of the life you live, not how rich or how poor. The quality of our lives is how we respond to these realities, the kind of meaning we assign to them, what kind of attitude, what state of mind we allow them to trigger because the mind is its own place and in itself it can make a heaven out of hell and a hell out of heaven.”

So, in a nutshell, this is what reframing is about—it is learning how to make a heaven out of hell. You know as well as I that there is no hell in marriage like the hell of finding out your spouse has had an affair. But, you have a choice and you have the power to change your perception of your situation. You have the power to make your own heaven despite what has happened in the past. If Viktor Frankl can do it, we can too.

Here’s an example of what reframing looks like based on my own experience.

Old story:

When I first found out about Doug’s emotional affair, I felt responsible and I felt utterly alone. I was constantly fearful of what would happen. I secretly wondered if I was the cause. I felt completely worthless, unlovable and I stopped eating and drinking. Thoughts of bitterness and fear flooded my mind and I was a mess. This is how I felt prior to forgiving Doug—I was locked in the cycle of being a victim.

New story:

In order to break free from all that pain, I had to develop a new story or ‘reframe’ what happened. I had to move from the disempowering stance of being a victim to the empowering stance of forgiveness. I had to start thinking thoughts like this:

  • “We are going to work through this as a couple.”
  • “I refuse to allow adversity to bring me down any longer. I will use adversity to build a stronger marriage.”
  • “I am a good and loving person. Though I did nothing to deserve this, I refuse to be harmed even further by a mistake that was not mine.”
  • “Everyone makes mistakes, no one is perfect—this life is not perfect. But I choose to be okay.”
  • “I choose forgiveness, love and hope over anger and bitterness.”
  • “I am inherently lovable and my worth is determined by the fact that I am a child of God. No experience and no human can change that fact about me.”
  • “I can choose emotional freedom. I choose my reactions and today I choose to behave in ways that are forgiving.”
  • “I did not cause or create the affair and I release the penalty to God (my higher power). I do not have to punish my husband for it or hold a grudge.”

So, as you see, rewriting the story is not about denying what happened, it is not about rewriting factual events that occurred, and it is not about closing your eyes to truth.

 

Be Sociable, Share!

Related posts:

,

8 Responses to Forgiveness After Infidelity – Reframing the Story that We Tell Ourselves

  1. still hurting September 22, 2014 at 4:27 pm #

    I hear and understand what you are saying. I just can’t find the strength to forgive. It has been 1 year since d day and I still die inside when I think of my husband and his ap sharing their love for one another in all ways. He has recommitted to our marriage completely but I feel something is still missing for me. I feel he still sees his time with her as sharing love. I feel he just wants me to forgive and forget but I can’t. I see him as a weaker person for what he did for 5+ years. I know everyone says its a time of insanity, but how does someone, who is very intelligent make such stupid decisions? This is my struggle. I am not strong enough to take on this burden for him. I hate that he gets to destroy my life and I have to heal his.
    I will read this post repeatedly and hope that I can find the way to do this. I admire that you have done this. The mental story I have of my husband leaving my bed in the am to go to hers is a hard one to see positively and to rewrite.

    • Shifting Impressions September 22, 2014 at 10:42 pm #

      Still Hurting,
      I so understand where you are coming from. It has been almost 11 months since d-day and although I want to forgive, I just do not have the strength yet. The fact that I want to forgive signifies progress for me.

  2. lin September 22, 2014 at 10:26 pm #

    Linda:

    Thank you for this wise post. I find this very inspiring today. So many days I struggle but when I read something like this, I feel peace. When my husband had an affair , I felt like my world was spinning out of control. My life was out of control for a long time. So much of life we truly have no control over and it feels so insecure. HOWEVER, there is one thing that no one can take from me and that is how I choose to think. Others may try to influence my thinking but ultimately I control my mind and thoughts. If victims of the holocaust can do this – then so can I. Thank you for this inspiration!

    • Shifting Impressions September 22, 2014 at 10:49 pm #

      lin,
      I was also inspired by this post…..I’m not nearly there yet, but I agree with you, If holocaust victims can do this so can I. Just because my husband made some very hurtful choices I can’t let it destroy me.

  3. LA September 24, 2014 at 9:09 am #

    I agree with still hurting. I hope I can get there. We were not able to reconcile. I gave 150%- he was still in the fog. He decided that his happiness was with her. The once amazing father and husband is now with his affair partner. My focus is supporting my three young children. I just need a good string of positive events- I know I can move forward- but forgiveness will be hard. Too much has been thrown at me.

  4. Lost33years September 27, 2014 at 11:37 am #

    I can say after 3years of too many lies I forgive myself for believing my husband was capable of honesty on any level. I forgive him for being a liar. I do Not forgive him for choosing to hurt me with his lies. I do Not forgive him for hurting our children.I know it is not my forgiveness that matters relating to his deliberate and intentional breaking his vows lying to me and about me and his serial cheating these are between God and my husband.I know forgiveness is for me not him and I work daily at it. I have wasted years asking for the truth from a liar and he has given every excuse in the cheaters manual. As I write my story it looks nothing like his story. My story is not perfect my story is full of my love my life it is what I lived I have no lies I hide nothing it is my story from beginning to end. His story is full of jealousy control manipulation lies cheating abuse failure selfishness immaturity unloving cruelty and his story has evolved and changed and mutated. Its as if he forgets (or hopes I forget) everything he has said as he changed his story . Meanwhile our story has been trashed shredded dissected flushed buried and yet he was the part of our story that changed .

  5. crepowersnemesis October 1, 2014 at 4:13 pm #

    It has been more than two years since I confronted my husband with my knowledge of his affair and I have yet to figure out what forgiveness actually is. Many of us know what it is not, but I have never seen a definitive statement of what comprises forgiveness. We can all tell each other that we are responsible for controlling our own thoughts and thus being able to forgive our spouses, but is this really true? The example Linda gives in her article about Frankel is interesting but does not seem relevant to our situations. Frankel did not have a singular relationship with vows of love and commitment with the Nazis before his incarceration. I would be surprised if he extended forgiveness to his captors and then lived with them in a trusting relationship for the rest of his life. After all, he was able to gain freedom and begin a new life in the U.S. He reinvented his whole life in order to free his mind and regain personal strength. Most of us do not have that option. Rewriting is not a simple state of mind. Our captors, our betrayers, will always be part of our lives no matter what. Our tasks are even more daunting than his because those who inflicted our pain and horror must also lead us to our freedom.

  6. Christy May 14, 2016 at 7:18 pm #

    This is great. Such an applicable tool to use. I struggle immensely with my “stories” I create in my head and what I fill in the blanks with. I am 6 months post d-day of my husbands EA and I have been searching for anything to help me embrace forgiveness. It’s always my created stories/beliefs that keep getting in the way. I will use this tool every day like a mantra!

Leave a Reply

Login

Web Analytics

Clicky