forgive an affair

Yesterday our post dealt with how to forgive infidelity.  There were quite a few comments regarding this subject, and we would encourage if you haven’t already done so, to make a comment and throw your 2 cents in. 

Some of you have forgiven and have chosen to move on.  Others said they will not forgive.  Almost all of you said you will never forget.

We wanted to discuss certain points you need to consider prior to deciding if you should forgive an affair in the first place.  We messed up (specifically Doug did!) a bit and should have posted this prior to yesterday’s, but such is life. We hope you don’t mind.

We believe that the most important barometer of how easy or hard it is to forgive infidelity is how the cheating spouse behaves immediately after the affair. 

Do they blow you off with comments like, “Look I said I’m sorry.  Get over it already.” Or are they truly repentant and are constantly beating themselves up for having caused you this pain?  Are they doing everything they can to prove to you that they have learned a horrible lesson and will make damn sure it never happens again?

The intensity of their apology and their willingness to allow you to feel the pain of it will have a direct impact on your ability to heal from the infidelity and on their ability to rebuild trust in your eyes. 

If they demand that you simply trust them on their word and they have done nothing to show you that they are taking full responsibility for the broken trust, then you need to think hard about whether or not to forgive the affair – or whether you should even stay with them.

See also  Consequences of an Emotional Affair

I forgave Doug since he showed remorse for his emotional affair, and eventually started to prove to me that he was doing everything he could to make amends, was working on our relationship and was empathetic to the pain and hurt that he had caused.  But what were some of the other things that we must consider before we decide if we’re going to forgive an affair?

Cheater’s Remorse – Going Beyond “I’m Sorry”

The Cheater’s Character is Key if You Are to Forgive an Affair

Author Skye Thomas suggests the first thing you need to look at above and beyond all else is your partner’s character. 

Do they have a history of cheating? 

Are they so self-absorbed that you feel they might have trouble passing on any possible pleasures that come along? 

Are they of weak character? 

At some point chances are they’re going to face temptation again during their life.  Do they have the backbone to say no to that temptation? 

Does your partner have the willpower, self-discipline, and the ability to truly care about another person’s feelings?

Then What?

Assume for now that you have decided your partner has the ability to be faithful and his or her affair was a one-time indiscretion.  Next, you have to analyze your relationship to try and determine why the affair happened.  Motivation is more important than the act itself.  Knowing why they had an affair allows you to avoid the situations that triggered it in the first place. If you can honestly say that you were completely loving, supportive and giving but they cheated anyway, then you may want to reconsider forgiveness.  If the reason for the affair makes sense to you and you feel it’s forgivable, then forgive them.

Understanding Why You Had Your Affair – The Simple 5-Step Process

Thomas says the next thing to evaluate is what is at stake. 

“What kind of a life have you built together and what does it mean to you?  Do you have children together?  A long marriage?  A business and material wealth?  What if you don’t think you can trust them and yet you will lose everything that you do love by leaving them?  That’s something that only you can answer.  Is the money, the marriage, the children worth a lifetime of being cheated on?  You decide.  Maybe it’s a marriage of convenience anyway and you really don’t care where they sleep.  Then it’s going to be much easier to forgive them then if they are your one true love and your emotional health is at risk by having your heart shattered.”

There are plenty of reasons to choose not to forgive and forget. But what if you have created a long beautiful life together and your partner is a wonderful parent to your children?  What if you feel just as much to blame for the infidelity because you had pushed them away for too long.  What if they had made an honest effort to work things out with you but you just kept pushing them away?  What then?

See also  Recovery from an Emotional Affair

Just because you want to forgive them doesn’t mean that you can forgive them.  How do you forgive and forget?  The bible may tell us to turn the other cheek, but how?  How do you do it?  There’s a big difference between saying, “I forgive you” on a generic spiritual level and saying, “I forgive you” on a personal heart to heart level.

The key to real forgiveness must involve trust.  Thomas says that “At some level you have to really believe in your heart of hearts that you can trust this person to never ever repeat such a painful choice again.  If you don’t really believe that, then you aren’t really going to forgive them and the underlying resentment will eat away at whatever is left of the foundation of your relationship.”

Deciding whether you should forgive an affair isn’t easy and should not be done as a means to simply wash the affair and the issues that caused it under the bridge. 

You need to do some serious soul-searching and evaluation of your present and past relationship to determine if forgiveness is possible. If forgiveness makes sense, then you can move forward towards releasing the pain within and possibly towards a better relationship.

We explore forgiveness extensively in our program Survive and Thrive after Infidelity. You can lean more by clicking this link.

    33 replies to "Should You Forgive an Affair?"

    • lass00

      I am trying so hard to forgive but I cant yet because my husband has not shown remorse. I do believe he love me more and more each day now, but at the same time he is still going on line searching for her. As far as I can see he has not had contact with her for 3 mos. How can I believe him that its over when I see its not for him? I cant talk to him about it because he just keeps saying over and over “get over it, its in the past” yet yesterday didnt he go online to see if he could talk to her. Every time he does that what ever trust I am rebuilding is torn down and I start over again hoping this will be the last time. Is he playing with me? Do I need to move on? We have 35 yrs of memories that I cant get past. My heart tells me to hold on just a little longer but my head says this will never end. My husband is very selfish and self centered has been for a long time now I am starting to think I am enabler yet I love him so much. My heart hurts just to think that I have lost him. I will follow my heart right now but, If he really does have contact with her again I will have to choose a life of cheating and being 2nd best or moving on and finding myself again. Sounds like a easy choice but not for me.

      • admin

        Lass00, How long has it been since he said the affair has ended? And have you asked him why he continues to search for her online? For some reason it would appear that he is not yet over her, and until he is it will be impossible for him to do the things he has to do to restore the trust. Dr. Harley suggests in these situations that you consider his “Plan B” which amounts to a separation until the affair dies a natural death. Have you considered that?

        • lass00

          You see he sent her and email back on 12/01/2009 that he was not going to have contact with her anymore but, that was for my sake so I would stop checking up on him and for me to believe it was over. Than the 2nd week in Jan he went to see her for the day and again the beginning of March but not since then, but I am not so sure he hasnt found an other way to contact her,so I really don’t know. The reason I dont tell him that I see him trying to contact her online is, he starts flipping out that I am spying on him and threaten to leave me. And honestly its the only way I will find out for sure. Right now for some reason he has her wrong username plugged in so when he is online she doesnt appear and I see they are both online at the same time. Sometime I think maybe I should fix it for him than I will know for sure. But I am afraid of what I will read between them. Any advise? I think leave it alone until maybe a few months go by and he will get over her.

          • Lara

            If he is still doing shit that hurts you then you need to end it. As hard as it may be the only way to know if it’s meant to be is to end it and see how he acts in the following 6 months to one year. The other option is to trick him into thinking you could care less and your busy with another man and it’s gotta be a man he would be jealous of. Don’t let him think he’s got all the power cuz right now he does. Men aren’t that smart Hun play the fool to get what u want

        • lass00

          Ane one more thing, I have taken everyone’s advice ones advice on here on how to talk to him about it but he get so defensvie omg and then I can tell he will start getting mad and I dont want to fight when things seem to be going good. I dont get angry, I have tried to be so nice like I was his friend and not judge but as soon as I say one word he get upset.

    • exhausted

      Has anyone attempted forgiveness of the ow…..I feel it will be important for me…not her… my recovery

      • admin

        Can you expand on how it would be important for you?

        • exhausted

          I think if I tell her that I choose to forgive her, it would release alot of emotion and time spent on something so useless. Two things about forgiveness, that are important to me. The first being that forgiveness is more for the forgivee than the forgiven. Secondly, forgiveness is not an emotion but an ongoing action. If I tell her I choose to forgive her for her role in this, I will release myself from the burdens associated with unforgiveness, which would allow me to move on to things that are more important, like my marriage. I don’t expect to hear greatfullness from her. Actually i do not expect anything from her. I expect to feel peace , in a small part of myself, that would help the healing.

          • michael

            My forgiveness of the OM is unimportant to him or my wife. Neither of them felt that what he was doing needed any forgiveness. He knew what this would do to me and he wrenched his way into the sanctity of my marriage.
            He doesn’t want nor would I ever, pardon his actions. He knew his actions were damaging both to my wife and I. And he justified it every step of the way. As I’m sure he has done many times before.
            As far as forgiveness. For my wife and I to move forward, we have to learn to forgive ourselves. The broken hearts and bad choices from the past will haunt us until we do.
            If only we could connect on a level where we can move past it together. Still to this day we don’t let each other into our own little world of pain and despair. So how can we be better without finding the flaws that led us here.
            It feels as if my marriage is doomed. I’m unhappy with how I feel. I hurt almost every day in varying degrees. And I can’t enjoy my wife more often than I can. Am I being selfish again. Did this awaken me to noticing and being despaired more by the person she has always been.
            One of the most important things I felt before this, was that even though she didn’t connect with me as strong as I needed was that I KNEW she would never cheat on me. So what does that leave me with now.

          • HarrieB

            Exhausted – I understand EXACTLY what you are saying about “needing” to forgive the OW and I feel just the same. I feel that I must forgive her FOR ME, and that it would be so important to do so. She was a friend of mine, not a very close friend but still someone I used to be genuinely fond of. I am still carrying so much anger and resentment inside with regards to her, and the only person this is damaging now is me – like something caustic in my soul. I am guessing that it will probably mean very little to her if I do forgive her – she may not even be aware just how damaging her EA with my H has been, but it will mean a major step towards healing for me….just at the moment, however, I am not quite ready for this!

      • leigh

        She has nothing to do with anything between you and your husband! She was just an easy available woman without morals and respect!
        You need to focus on your husband and why he did it!
        Like the article says, he needs to do everything he can to show you how sorry he is. He should be hurting as much as you for what he did!
        As for the ow…who cares about her! Easy sluts desperate for a man do stupid shit like cheating….the only person you need to forgive is the person who hurt you….HIM!

    • blueskyabove

      My husband and I are currently reading a very helpful book entitled “Forgiveness, How to make Peace with Your Past and Get On With Your Life” by Dr. Sidney B. Simon and Suzanne Simon. They deal with the various “stages” of the healing process such as denial, self-blame, victim, indignation, survivor and integration. They also talk about things we have done because we were hurt and merely trying to survive. It’s a very good book. We’re hoping it will help shine more light on “why” my husband chose to have an emotional affair.

      • admin

        Thanks for the resource blueskyabove. We’ll add it to our Library. Welcome!

      • renae dickerson

        I would like to read that book, it sound like it may be oof some help to me.

    • laura

      I need to know a percentage of men that forgives infidelity and continues with his marriage loving his wife.

      • Doug

        Laura, I think that it depends on what type of affair and other related circumstances. Research has shown that men tend to be more forgiving of emotional affairs than they are of sexual affair. But every case is different, that’s for sure.

    • Maribel

      I have quite a situation here…I’m 28 and have been with my husband for close to 12 years. We have 2 girls and they are 4 and 10. About 4 years ago he cheated on me which led to a child who is now 3 years old. I honestly forgave him most definitely because of my girls. I gave him a chance and now I screwed up badly. I went and cheated on him and denied it at first and then finally after so much guilt I told him the whole truth and it is killing him. I have hurt him so badly and I feel like the worst person in the I’m not even worthy to be here. We have separated and he says there is no chance of reconciling. I love him and wish him the best, but I want tio win him back. But I’m not sure I stand a chance.

      • Doug

        Maribel, Welcome! It’s interesting how now that the shoe is on the other foot, he chooses to not forgive as you did 4 years ago. How long ago did you tell him? Perhaps he is just acting out of anger and emotions from the initial shock, and once he calms down, you two can talk and work to repair your marriage. I would also suggest at some point, that you two get into therapy to try and discover and work through the underlying reasons why you both chose to cheat.

    • Maribel

      Doug, What he says is that obviously I didn’t forgive him because I went and cheated on him. He first learned about it in Jan and I told him now 8 months later the whole truth. I just couldn’t keep going on with the lying. As far as therapy..I would go in a heartbeat and have called to schedule an appointment for myself, but he is not willing. He say I’m the problem. Not him. I guess he is blaming me for everything now! I as the cheater and betrayer am trying to do alot of reading up on all this stuff, but he is not willing to. I feel like I’m all by myself in this. I don’t even know what to do to help him. I really never wanted to hurt him this way…I don’t know what I was thinking. He is very shocked that I could do something like this to him! It’s really not who I am!!!

    • J

      Maribel, I dont know percentages, and alot of my ability to forgive I cant even process totally. From Day one of me finding out, I felt very little anger, as I realized that alot of what got us to that point was my own behavior. I initially took too much of the blame, and that didnt get us very far towards moving back together. I think we are at more of a balance now, and perhaps our motives for staying together still arent clear for either her or me. I know there is still love here on my part. my wife I think realizes there is, but is still in anquish ever ending her affair, perhaps too much to see just how real her love is for me. I forgave the affair, as I follow faith based principals, and believe that I am supposed to forgive in a Christ like manner as He forgives me. Are there internal mechanisms, such as my children, fears, etc… that allow me to think I have forgiven when perhaps I havent totally? Its possible. I think its true forgiveness though. I just want to move forward. Do I have trust issues? Absolutely. Probably will for some time. I am open and honest with my wife when I have those panic attack moments and pop a Zanax. I hope they will lesson as I see more honesty, and eventually feel love from her direction to the extent I feel love for her.

    • renae dickerson

      Hello, its funny that i ran across the website today, and we have been talking about forgiveness at VBS this week and as i was sitting here thinking i was wondering have i really forgave my ex for all the hurt and pain, the reason i am questions my action is because, some time i have found myself not wanting him to find a mate that he could be happy witheven thu i have remarried, i want him to jump from relationships to relationshp, in other word i dont want him to be happy with anyone because he didnt make me happy, i know this is wrong and just today i had to repent to God for this, i realize i was just fooling myself, i havent gotten over it nor truly forgave him.

      • KR

        If your husband caused you alot of pain like Mine has done .. in not just in marriage but also involving affairs..I should kick his ass to the curb but I don’t..
        How did you move on.. How did you remarry How did you trust again..? I need to do that.. what help did you get..?
        I trust no man..or anyone really..
        I know I would feel like you even if i did find someone I would try to destroy his is consuming me..

    • KB

      My emotional affair occured over 4 years ago. I never talked to the guy again (an online thing we never met.) I have paid every day for this. It led to my husband having a nervous breakdown and pill addiction and eventually abuse of me. I was completely honest with him about all of my thoughts and feelings in an attempt to gain his trust back. This only fueled his problems with anxiety and paranoia. All of my words were used against and they still are. I left him as the abuse worsened… emotional abuse at first that was becoming physical. He is now using my words against me. Insisting that we go to marriage counseling now that i’ve left when he wouldn’t consider it before. I feel heartless and i am honestly numb. nothing i ever did was good enough to satisfy him and I just gave up.

    • KR

      Your words caught my attention..I can’t believe how similar they are other than it is reversed ,My husband cheated on me and had fell in love in 3 days with another woman,2 years ago and just now tried to hook up with her again, I put a stop to all the affairs ..there has been many online ones that I just found.. I wonder if I should have let him just go…?..but it is a 30 year marriage..I am the Wife that feels just a crazy as your husband.. I am thinking drugs will be my only way other than suicide.. How are you getting throught this..I am dead..inside ..Is it easier on the other side.. because this side is crippling..Are you in counceling and does it help..

    • Lynne


      Are you in counseling (by yourself)? If not, please find someone immediately. There is NO ONE that is worth taking your own life for–if you have children and family, they would be devastated. I know it seems terribly hard right now, but as you can see from reading other posts here, it does get better.

      I know you love your husband, yet one person does not define our life. He’s making horribly bad choices, but they are his to OWN. As to trying to stop him from the affairs, you can’t ever do enough to put a stop to these–only HE can!

      Please, please, please take care of YOU. Get help, get meds, do whatever it takes right now. All my best to you.

      • KR

        Thank-you very much.. I am going to start reaching out I think its time..

    • Dakota

      About forgiving the Other woman..Let’s say that I am trying to save my relationship with my boyfriend ,,like in my case.
      I am not hundred percent that they are not still comunicating with each other w/out my knowledge..after a year that suposedly they ended their EA, and how can I forgive the other woman yet if I can trust her that she is not still talking to my spouse. Or forgive him when I can even trust him..
      I will say I could make the effort to forgive both of them if I would had plan on walking away from my relationship with my spouse.

    • Lisa

      My husband after 13 years of marriage 15 years together had a secret phone. When I found the phone and sawn the dreadful messages I cannot cope. We have a 10 & 6 year old together. He says he wants to be friends and eventually come back after six months in a dingy flat. What do I doi still love him, I am so lonely I ate with this person slept with this person talked to him everyday to nothing and our ten year old crys every night as he misses his dad so much. He said I should wait six months and he might come back to me yet I haven,t done anything wrong, why do I want this man, guess I am scared I miss the person was the person he used to be. Please help . In terrible pain !

      • KR

        Lisa, I am KR and wrote in over a year ago, and My husband said the same thing “just let me go have fun, and I will be back..??” crazy..but In their mind that is what they need, because they are not getting it at home.I am finally on the other side,Yes it is extremely hard but only if you focus on that hard. Instead , focus on the good. Love is better than hate. I am learning that we ,yes we, the ones cheated on, created this, we attracted this to us,and even if there was a chance that we didn’t , He is in a vortex of his own.that no own can understand .What helped me is reading book after book( aubible) Power of the subconscious Mind, to Wayne dyer, to the one who changed my life, Abraham -Hicks It changed the way I look at everything. And I had made myself very sick from all this, I have healed myself now, so Please before you cause yourself a disease inside from the anger.. watch one youtube on Abraham -hicks on relationships on youtube. We are ,our own best friends , NO one not even my husband of 30 years can make me feel better. only I can do that.
        Love and Peace to you:)

    • Mummy2203

      My partner of 9 years, we have 2 children (im still on maternity from having our second baby!) I have just found ut whilst he is supposedly at work he has been sevretly meeting this other woman at her place of work, I say woman loosely because she is barely out of a school uniform! I am so deeply hurt, I found a string of messages they were communicating via facebook – his display picture still has me in it so they were both aware of the situation. I decided to confront this ‘girl’ before i got to him to save myself from the expected barrage of blame being thrown at me as to why I MADE HIM DO IT – yeah he’s that guy, nothings ever his fault, anyway, I confronted this woman with my baby in tow, quietly and calmly told her to have some respect for herself and to thin kabout me and my innocent children before this goes any further, I told her to stop contacting him and to think about what they were doing to our kids – my plan was for her to tell him I knew in the hope he wuld tell me about it all himself, i stupidly expected remorse from both parties, I got none. They were messaging each other right through the night and into today still, both had secretly booked the day off work, he told me a huge story about it being non uniform day at work and that nobody could book it off for the england game etc – the whole time he was off work and so was she…. I text him an told him we needed a chat and for the sake of our relationship and our family he better get his butt home – he came back and i offered him the opportunity to tell me what hes hiding from me as I already know and I want to hear it from him, he denied everything, that was until I started reading these messages out loud to him. He then half way thru our conversation got up and declared he was going to the pub to watch the football with his mates – I am seriously struggling to find a cue as to where the remorse for this is goiong to come from, hes hurting me more with his treatment of me after the whole affair, than the act itself, I feel worthless, completely and utterly worthless! has anyone had similar experience? Is he going to snap up and be sorry? or do I drag my kids through the equivalent of a divorse with no money to support me or them 🙁 My heart is telling me to run a mile, my head is telling me to be safe for the kids – I dont know if we can ever move beyond something that has destroyed me, yet he isnt even the tiniest bit sorry for! please help xx

    • Blue

      Dear Mummy2203,
      I wish I could say something to make you feel better and to help you. What I will say, is what your partner is doing isn’t about you it’s all about him, his selfishness, cowardliness, immaturity, freedom from responsibility and power.

      I wish I had the money for you to leave quietly with your children and let him come home and be the one not knowing what is going on. He knows you have limited options and that you want to keep your family together so he feels very powerful and will treat you like dirt -you are not- you are gold.

      This must be a frightening and painful time for you. I hope you have some kind of support where you are through this crazy-making time.

    • WDW

      My wife of 30 years had a brief 3 week affair with a co worker from another building, the affair was with a woman. She says that it was 90% emotional with the remainder being one night of intimacy. The other woman’s husband discovered them, and she came clean to me. She has apologized profusely and says this will never happen again. It’s added difficulty because we were all friends of many years. I have bee truly crushed in terms of my self esteem and my trust. The lack of trust and jealousy is eating my insides and not eating is not healthy. I love her with all my heart and plan to stay with her for life. Is it common for women to have these emotional affairs? I fully intend to forgive. She has agreed to limit all interactions with the OW to business only.

    • Don

      My wife had been married twice before & had other men besides, with her first time at just 13. We had sex on our first date. I did not expect my wife to be totally faithful. When I caught her cheating I hugged her & said I understood her needs and told her I loved her.

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