I recently was introduced to a book by Dave Carder called: “Torn Asunder: Recovering From an Extramarital Affair” and it brought to light some interesting points on recovering from infidelity for both the person who committed the infidelity and for the victim/spouse. The book has a religious slant to it since Mr. Carder is a pastor, but in no means is religion discussed in an overly “in-your-face” fashion.
The author points out that both partners share the responsibility for the state of the relationship which led to the extra-marital affair. He writes, “The goal for both to figure out is: what emotional and/or physical nurturance did the infidel receive from the affair that was unavailable in the marriage?” This has been the subject of on going discussions for Linda and me from the onset, and has resulted in us constantly striving to make our needs known to each other so that they can indeed be satisfied.
One of the most interesting chapters of the book to me was that on forgiveness. Mr. Carder offers us a “Forgiveness List” to help guide couples through the process of forgiving infidelity, as misconceptions and bad practices surrounding forgiveness are the biggest mistakes most couples make.
The Forgiveness List:
1. Forgiveness at this level (after infidelity) of betrayal needs to be asked for. To voluntarily offer it without the infidel acknowledging their behavior is inappropriate and counter-productive to the healing process.
2. Forgiveness should not be asked for or granted as a “blanket” experience. There are multiple levels of betrayal that need to be identified and forgiven. Besides, it allows the spouse to process small pieces of the betrayal without having to handle the entire experience all at once.
3. The forgiveness request should not only identify each specific behavior of the infidel, but should also contain a “best guess” identification of how this behavior hurt the spouse.
4. Forgiveness is not the same as a commitment to reconcile the marriage. Forgiveness needs to be initiated, whether or not the marriage is saved.
5. The forgiveness process stimulates the rebuilding of respect, trust and love. It works like this: To the degree an individual can forgive some of the violations that occurred in this betrayal, to that degree they can begin to rebuild respect. To the degree they can rebuild respect, they can rebuild trust. To the degree that they can rebuild trust, they can start to rebuild love (if both spouses desire to do so).
6. The ability to forgive is a learned skill and highly influenced by an individual’s history with both being forgiven and forgiving others. If an individual struggles in this area, it often has more to do with their history than with the current infidelity.
Don’t give up on your marriage. If you and your spouse are willing to seek knowledge and recommit yourselves to each other and work on forgiving infidelity, your marriage can recover and even thrive after an affair. This book can be a good resource to help you do just that.