Forgiveness Is the Best Gift You Can Give Yourself

forgiveWhen our spouse betrays us with another person, the sadness, grief, and negativity that we feel threatens to swallow us whole. Even though this is a normal experience, it’s not an experience that we should allow to take over our entire lives.

Whether or not we choose to stay with our betraying spouse has nothing to do with the necessity of forgiveness. Whether we stay or go, we must forgive. The reason we must forgive is because forgiveness is about our own wellbeing and not about our spouse.

You see, the costs of not forgiving are entirely too high. When we do not forgive, we actually suffer more health problems and a shortened life span. We also suffer mentally and anxiety and depression become our closest friends.

But, it does not have to be this way. Whatever you have been through, whatever your spouse has done, and whatever you think about the situation is beside the point. You must forgive for you.

So, what exactly is and what isn’t forgiveness?

Well, let’s start with what forgiveness is not since popular culture sometimes confuses forgiveness with things that it is not. Forgiveness is not letting someone off the hook. Forgiveness is not giving your spouse a get out of jail free card. Forgiveness is not about denying what happened or pretending like an affair did not occur. Forgiveness does not mean that your feelings no longer matter. Forgiveness does not minimize infidelity. Most of all, forgiveness is not an event that requires you to go back and take more abuse and more of the same bad behavior from a betraying spouse.

Now that we have this out of the way, let’s talk about what forgiveness is. Forgiveness is an experience and a process that takes time and requires a radical change in thinking. Forgiveness is also a behavior and an active choice that you make.

Forgiveness is unselfishness love. Forgiveness is empathizing with another viewpoint. Forgiveness is learning how to be ‘right’ with yourself no matter what your spouse does. Forgiveness is actively refusing to have your life controlled by bitterness. Forgiveness is emotional freedom for you. But most of all, forgiveness is done for YOU and for you alone since it is the greatest gift you can give yourself.

How can I possibly forgive my spouse?

Forgiving your spouse for infidelity could be the hardest thing that you ever do. But, it does not have to be if you learn how to forgive. In order to forgive, you must first begin by living your best life. You must do things that make you feel good, spend time with people who make you feel good, exercise, and get adequate sleep.

Being able to feel good about you is really the first step. We get flooded with anger and resentment when we are not as happy as we could be and when we are not living our best life. So, we must get our own house in order and put our mental health as first priority.

Next, we need to set boundaries and learn how to speak and behave in ways that clearly communicates to others how to treat you. They say we teach people how to treat us and this is absolutely true. If people do not treat you well by breaking their promises, lying, deceiving, and harming you, it is time to cut these people out of your life. More importantly, you must begin to teach your spouse how to treat you. There must be a penalty when he/she treats you in hurtful ways. You must stick to the penalty.

Then, we need to start reframing the situation. Each of us tells ourselves ‘stories’ about the events and people we interact with daily. You must re-tell the story of your spouse’s affair in a way that alters your perception. Now, this is not about denying the affair, but learning how to perceive it in a way that is not so hurtful to you.

For example, when you think of your spouse’s affair, you might think to yourself: “My spouse had an affair because he no longer loves me and he no longer loves me because I do not look like a 20-year-old anymore. He had an affair because I am worthless.”  Objectively speaking, that perception is absolutely wrong since your spouse had an affair because of him/her. 

So, when those thoughts come up in your mind, you would re-write (or reframe) your story in this way: “My spouse had an affair because of issues with my spouse. I am beautiful, lovable and inherently worthy. What my spouse does or does not do is not the thing that determines my worth.” This is the essence of re-framing—creating a reality that is closer to the truth and letting go of a reality built on pain.

Finally, we need to be at peace with the fact that good people have affairs. (There are many reasons good people have affairs, but that is not the purpose of this post.) Still, the fact remains that good people make mistakes. All of us have made mistakes in the past and all of us will make mistakes in the future that hurt others. So, you are allowed to love your spouse wholeheartedly while despising their behavior.

In other words, if your spouse was always a good person prior to the affair, he/she is still a good person now—a good person who has made a terrible mistake that has harmed you in innumerable ways. But, if you want to forgive, you cannot get the act confused with the person.

What if my spouse is a bad person and unforgivable?

If your spouse is truly a “bad “person or a toxic person (abusive, violent, addicted) then perhaps you need to leave. There is no changing a zebra’s stripes just like there is no changing someone who seems to have a bad core. It may be in your best interest to get help from supportive friends and leave. But, the notion of forgiveness still applies. You still must forgive because forgiveness takes a weight off your soul.

In Summary

Forgiveness is the best gift you can give yourself and forgiveness wholly benefits you. It lifts the weight of anger from your shoulders, it helps you breathe more freely, but most of all, it restores emotional wellbeing and makes you a stronger person.

While you did nothing to cause the affair and do not deserve what happened, you are still affected by it even though it is not your fault. Yes, that is absolutely an injustice and things happen throughout life that we neither cause nor deserve. This is a part of life and everyone has to deal with something. But, the good news is, you can make a decision to forgive. You have the power to change your own perception. You hold the key to your own best life in your hand. So, take a deep breath and decide it is time to forgive.

Please take a minute to share your thoughts and experiences of the forgiveness process in the comment section below.  Thanks!

 

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The Real Journey to Forgiveness
It’s for You, Not for Your Spouse

There are misconceptions about forgiveness that cause many misunderstandings and also serve as roadblocks to the healing process.

We clear up the misconceptions, provide the real scoop on forgiveness, and show you how to get rid of lingering feelings in such a way that allows forgiveness to become a healing force in your life.

 

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7 Responses to Forgiveness Is the Best Gift You Can Give Yourself

  1. forcryin'outloud June 27, 2014 at 11:32 am #

    I forgave for my sanity first and later so my husband could try to forgive himself (which I think he still hasn’t done.) With that said I got some really bad advice about forgiveness from a friend about another matter with another person. She told me true forgiveness is when you no longer talk about the injustice the person did to you with them or any other person. I call bull caca on that. Forgiveness for me is being able to talk about the injustice in a productive manner for all parties – it’s not sweeping the act into the closet and starting over as if the event never occurred. I think “forgetting” the betrayal altogether sets you up for disaster but I think forgiving sets you free to heal your mind, heart and protect your well-being.

    IMO forgiveness may help the betrayer with their self loathing but it’s ultimately for the betrayed to think about themselves and take control over their situation instead of being managed by the toxicity of the guilty parties.

  2. blueskyabove June 27, 2014 at 1:07 pm #

    “…forgiveness takes a weight off your soul.”

    I think we get so lost in the anger and pain that surrounds us when we discover the betrayal we forget there could be a bigger picture.  Each and every one of us is here for a reason.

    It would have been so much easier if my soul had just laid it all out for me, but then I wouldn’t have had the experience of discovering my own strength.  I wouldn’t have become aware of how I had treated myself/lied to myself for a great deal of my life.  Other people can tell you how worthy and strong and powerful you are, but deep-down inside, if you don’t believe it then you will continue to resist the idea of forgiveness.  At some point I had to make the decision whether to continue to live with the pain or to choose to forgive and live in peace.  I had to acknowledge my own worth as an individual, and I had to start living it.

    Forgiveness is definitely something you do for yourself.   Having compassion for another’s mistakes allows you to have compassion for your own mistakes.  We all have personal issues that we continue to use against ourselves.  It may be some petty little thing you did when you were 7 or 8 that everyone else has forgotten about, but you won’t let go of so you can grow into the person you were meant to be.  You pull up the memory so you can feel bad about yourself and then all the negativity eventually circles around to what your spouse and the other woman or other man did to you.  It’s toxic, self-defeating, and addictive.  Forgiveness isn’t about letting the other person off the hook, it’s about letting yourself off the hook.  If you can’t forgive yourself then you don’t have it within you to forgive another.  Above anything else, we need to have a loving relationship with ourselves.  We need to forgive ourselves…for all the real and imagined things we’ve said and done to others–and to ourselves.

    Resistance to forgiving keeps us stuck in a cycle of distrust, anger, and continual suffering.  It leaves no room for peace or love to establish a foot-hold in our life.  This journey you are on is about you.  It’s always been about you.  It’s never been about them.  The other players in this game of life have their own journey.  When you let their journey be about you, you forfeit your own soul’s agenda. In essence you are saying that they and their journey are more important.  As one of the bloggers who deals with infidelity says:

    “Healing happens when you become more important and valuable than the affair.” Wayfarer

    Forgiveness is a decision you make…over and over and over.  You don’t do it for them, you do it for you.  It isn’t about changing your past, it’s about changing your future.  You make a decision to no longer keep the pain alive.  You make a decision that you will no longer be the source of your suffering.  You make a decision that you are worthy to give, and receive, love.  When you start living this truth, your whole life will change.

  3. EyesOpened June 28, 2014 at 6:04 am #

    Wow – Blueskyabove. Powerful words – and very comforting.

    I have read on this site that sometimes people hold on to pain because it is familiar and comforting – less scary than the unknown. I think I am doing that . In spite of me being the CS – it is actually me having difficulty with forgiveness . For some reason. – I am just clinging on to ‘my hurt museum’ for dear life – and find it so hard to forgive my h for the way he treated me prior to the affair. He has made great strides forward but I am finding it so hard to let go and trust he is like this and won’t revert back. I won’t forgive myself either – even though I really really want to. We could move forward so much more easily if I would .

    Finally – I read something about stress which I think translates well to the forgiveness philosophy : if you think of stress like half a glass of water – how much does it weigh? The answer is … It doesn’t matter…. Hold that glass for a moment and it’s light – hold it for an hour and it becomes irritating – hold it for a day and a night and it will feel so heavy you feel like your arm will fall off. At some point you need to put the glass down so you can lead a normal life. Not forgiving is like holding that water for months or years on end – it stops you living your life – not them living theirs. YOU are holding that glass. It’s your arm aching and your life being made unbearable and inconvenient.

    I think it’s a good analogy.

  4. Forgiveness not Bitterness June 28, 2014 at 6:08 am #

    Ops forgot to point out I am dyslexic so there could be a few confused words in my story x

  5. Forgiveness not Bitterness June 30, 2014 at 6:02 am #

    Forgiveness has played an amazing part to my story which I wish to share with you….

    I watched ‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom’. Mandela turned South Africa around by showing his forgiveness. This was a truly powerful film which left an enormous impression on me. It was January 10th 2014 and my ‘D’ Day.

    I got home from the cinema to discover the ‘shit had hit the fan’. My partners, of 25 years, and his lover, one of my best friends, had been found out by her husband. Within 36 hours I had shown forgiveness to them both.

    With Mandela in the back of my mind I felt empowered and stronger than I have ever done. Normally at the first signs of any little argument I would burst out crying for self protection. However I have never had to deal with anything on this scale before. My coping strategy was to collate a time line from them both.This was so I could compare dates and times, process the information and to get it clear in my head. After gathering my partners confession and his answers to my questions I arranged a meeting with my ‘friend’.

    She was shocked when I greeted her with open arms. I needed her to trust me so I could obtain the information I needed. By the end of the meeting I don’t know who was more surprised, me or her, when I said.

    “Before you leave I want you to know something. I want you to walk out of this door knowing that I have forgiven you whole heartedly. I do not want the rest of my life to be filled with bitterness, hatred or anger. I do not hold any grudges towards you”.

    This was not only for my well-being but hers as well. She was in such a state I was concerned she may commit suicide.It would be wrong of me to remain friends with her as this could let her back into my partners life.

    The following day, after studying my amalgamated time line and going through it with my partner I told him I forgave him. He was remorseful and adamant he wished to stay with me and work things out. They never planed to be together as a couple. It was a physical rather than emotional affair which lasted six years and it was now over.

    I have lost other friends over my show of forgiveness which has surprised me. I think they believe I have let them both off the hook. I may have been showered with pity if I had appeared to be the victim. I don’t think they now how to deal with me and the fact that my partner is still in my life may be a disappointment to them.

    It’s now five and half months since ‘D’ Day. It has not been an easy ride. Lots of ups and downs. We did not push it under the carpet but addressed all of our issues head on. We have been to couples counselling and are working in small steps to move our relationship into a positive, affair proof, state. All the signs are positive and I am excited to live out our future together.

    My partner is a good person. He is someone who has made a mistake and is remorseful. I have set some bounderies and told him he has never to contacts her again. If she contacts him he has to let me know straight away. If an affair were to happen again I could still show forgiveness but he understands that this would then be the end of our relationship. Through forgiveness I have given him a gift, a chance to redeem himself.

    I have been visiting this website since ‘D’ Day and it has helped me along my journey. I agree with ‘forgiveness is a behaviour and an active choice that you make’ however in my experience it did not take time to put it into action as I did not have to ‘require a radical change in thinking.’ I have been told I am in shock and the anger is still to hit me but I believe this not to be the case.

    Thank you to Linda and Doug. Keep up the good work.

  6. Amy June 23, 2015 at 10:12 pm #

    Its been 2 yrs since the D-day but I still feel the pain. I tried to forgive my husband and myself for going through this ordeal and taking bad behaviour from him but something triggers and I am back to feeling the same. My husband obviously lives in his own world and does not want to do anything for my healing.

    I stopped checking his phone or emails. I converse less with him now sometimes not at all. There seems to be nothing to talk about. He is ok with that.

    We have had so many conversations about the affair in last two years but he does not get it! His behaviour is very inconsistant and erratic which I dont understand now.

    We are still married and live together but there is no companionship, comfort , love or security I get from him. I am not even sure if he is in still contact with the OW or not. His behaviour shows that whether I am there or not in his life it does not matter.

    How do you forgive such a person who is just not bothered? I am trying but I still have very bad days.

    Its like we are living together just because of the kids but not for anything else.

  7. antiskank June 29, 2015 at 2:02 pm #

    Hi Amy
    I’m with you. I haven’t forgiven my CH either. This week was the 3rd anniversary of the first D-Day for me. He carried on an emotional affair for 4 years before that. I think I would be able to forgive the affair as I can see how it could happen, but I am NOT able to forgive the intentional lying, stonewalling and the emotional abuse since d-day. He has lied to me in every way possible and has still not dealt with my questions completely. He doesn’t seem to put much real effort into repairing our marriage or trying to make it better. I often feel that my H doesn’t feel it matters whether I am in his life or not too! I know he feels comfortable, supported and safe with me but love, desire – I don’t believe it!
    I still feel the pain after 3 years too, although it has numbed somewhat – I guess the initial shock and disbelief has worn off and I have come to a form of accepting that it has happened.
    I don’t know if I believe all the hype that forgiveness is a must for healing, not sure yet. I do know that I will not be worrying myself about it – forgiveness will not happen until and unless my CH takes full responsibility for his actions, apologizes for all of them, shows me with his behaviour that he really, truly wants to be with ME and acts in a manner that makes me feel loved. THEN, maybe I can think about forgiveness.

    Good luck, I hope you feel an end to the pain soon and find forgiveness if that is what you need.

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