Learning how to forgive your spouse for being unfaithful is possible.
It won’t be easy though, as you probably already figured out. The pain of being betrayed by that one closest to you cuts deep and will probably be one of the hardest thing you have to go through. There will be days you think you’re on the way to figuring out how to forgive your spouse for being unfaithful and then you may have a set back and feel you’ll never truly be over it or able to forgive. That is normal.
Forgiveness may feel impossible right now as you struggle to make sense of their actions. Feelings of rage, depression, loneliness, grief and confusion are all normal. What is important is not staying in those feelings. Easier said than done however.
It would also be helpful to read what forgiveness is NOT, as you venture down the path of learning how to forgive.
These 6 steps are the first steps to take as you try to figure out how to forgive your spouse for being unfaithful:
Train your brain.
Thinking about what you’re thinking about. What I mean by that is there will be thoughts that will invade your day of what that person did to hurt you. You may even have actual images of text messages or emails you read, videos or pictures, or the actual act itself. Those will be replayed in your mind over and over and it may seem impossible to ever be free of them. But you have a choice to make. You can choose to dwell on those things, thereby staying in your anger and resentment, or train your brain to think on something different.
A good thing to remember is- your thoughts will eventually become your feelings-your feelings will eventually lead to your actions-actions done over and over will eventually turn to habits.
An example of this is your thoughts wander to how your spouse betrayed you and lied to you. After thinking on this, your feelings become depressed and angry. After feeling depressed or angry, your behavior toward your spouse is affected and you start to behave different to them. Eventually this behavior becomes a habit and the marriage doesn’t have much chance of recovering. Stopping our negative thoughts in the beginning, before allowing them to fester, is the best way to be free of them.
Sometimes just saying STOP out loud when those angry thoughts or hurtful memories come in help little by little.
This doesn’t negate your feelings of anger and you still need to work through that, but it is a cognitive therapy technique of intentionally replacing your memory or thoughts with something else.
Set boundaries with people around you.
Surround yourself with people who support your healing and won’t be speaking negatively about your spouse, or constantly rehearsing with you what happened. You may have to tell people closest to you that you’re working on forgiving your spouse and hearing negative things about them will not help you during the process.
Sometimes, you may have to cut ties with those who refuse to respect your boundaries of not bashing your spouse or your marriage. Some people will not understand why you chose to stay with your spouse and unfortunately, may not support this decision. It will be up to you to know which relationships you can, and can’t, keep in your life during this vulnerable time. We all hope our friends and family will support our decision to stay in the marriage and would support our desire to try to forgive. They most likely want the best for you and don’t want to see you hurt again. Only you can determine your breaking point and limit in your marriage and if someone is influencing your decision now, you may regret that decision later.
My husband unfortunately got some bad advice to change the locks on me and many wanted him to end our marriage. I’m thankful he didn’t give up on me or our marriage, our lives would have been so much worse now if he listened to them. I will always be thankful for the few brave people that encouraged him to hang in there with me and thankful he knew what we really had together.
Call on a higher power to help you forgive.
There are many things in life that are beyond our own ability to achieve on our own. Forgiving your spouse after they were unfaithful definitely falls under that category. During those days when the triggers of their betrayal are constant, call on God to help you forgive. He promises that when we call on Him in our weakness, He will be our strength. God will help you have compassion for your spouse in ways you cannot by yourself. I’ve found Him to be faithful to that. When we are at our weakest, He can be our strength.
Stay humble to your own faults.
When we’re facing the daily agony of our spouse’ unfaithfulness, it’s very easy for pride to rise up as we whisper to ourselves that we would never do such a thing. That may or may not be true, but if it wasn’t infidelity, what else could it be for you? Are you without faults or incapable of making such terrible choices?
Just as the woman caught in adultery, her accusers were ready to stone her, being unaware of their own sins. If given a certain set of conditions and circumstances, I’m convinced we all are capable of doing far worse things than we really think we are. Although you are not responsible for your spouse’ decision to stray, was there a part you can acknowledge that led to the relationship breaking down? Looking honestly at this is humbling, yet important in learning how to forgive your spouse for being unfaithful.
Don’t rush forgiveness.
After reading all 4 prior steps, this may seem counter intuitive. Although forgiveness is vital for your own healing and growth, quickly forgiving will only hinder your healing. Quick forgiveness is usually incomplete forgiveness. The pain will eventually surface again in the marriage later on. For some people, it seems easier to forgive quickly and to try and forget.
However, the magnitude of the offense must be felt and walked through properly. It can’t be fully forgiven if it hasn’t been fully realized and dealt with. So, it will be important during this time to seek counseling and work through the anger you feel. The unfaithful spouse needs to be patient as you must be allowed to express the pain, and yet, not stay in the pain too long. A good counselor can help you navigate that balance.
6. Forgiveness is for you, even if the marriage fails.
Forgiving your spouse cannot be conditional on their behavior or if the marriage is going to survive. That’s not true forgiveness. True forgiveness says “no matter what you do or have done, even if this marriage doesn’t survive this…I will forgive you. I release you of this debt that can never be repaid.” A funny thing often happens after you get to that place- your marriage may begin to heal quicker than you thought possible. Harboring resentment and being unforgiving is a certain final nail in the coffin of many marriages. Obviously, the unfaithful spouse has a lot of work to do on their end too. All ties need to be cut off to the affair partner, but you can’t do their work for them. Just as they can’t do your work for you. Your job is to walk through the stages of grief, anger and denial to get to a place of mercy for them. Remaining unforgiving unknowingly puts us in a prison of anger and resentment. When we can forgive our spouse, the key to our own jail door is opened and we are not bound to the injustice done to us.
In conclusion, nobody can really tell you completely how to forgive your spouse for being unfaithful. Healing takes time, forgiveness is ultimately a choice. Everybody heals differently to some extent. But training your brain to not dwell on the offenses of your mate are vital to the process. If you find yourself feeling more crummy some days, go back and think about what you’ve been thinking about. I usually find I’ve been unknowingly dwelling on things that hinder my healing and joy.
These 5 steps are a start and they will be important pieces of the puzzle as you make your journey to healing and forgiveness. Remember to read what forgiveness is not, as these are important pieces too.
If you are both trying to heal your marriage, it’s also helpful to read how to rebuild your marriage after an affair.
Forgiveness may seem impossible right now as you walk through the grief and anger of your spouses affair, but it is attainable in time.