Advertisements

Forgiveness


;

Forgiveness…it’s the other almighty F-word. We are always taught as children to “kiss and make up”, to “share”, and to “forgive”. None of those are easy, especially in the face of a trauma inflicted upon you by the person you are supposed to forgive. It is often the last thing that we want to do, or even consider. I mean, really, why would we forgive someone who has done us wrong, and done so INTENTIONALLY…why?

Forgiveness feels like the end of a long road, the final stage in the healing process when we have been wronged. It is what we ultimately strive for, isn’t it? Those of us who choose to stay, and even for those of us who don’t – to be able to put the past where it belongs, and to make a willing and thoughtful CHOICE to forgive. But, what is forgiveness, really? I can tell you without a doubt what forgiveness is not:

Forgiveness is not forgetting, it is not undoing, condoning, justifying, rationalizing, and it is not allowing. It is to make the conscious choice to no longer allow the event to rule over you, or for you to hold it contemptuously over the head of s/he who has wronged you. It is to acknowledge that something horrible happened to you that was not your fault, but to consciously decide to no longer give it power over you, your life, your choices, or your happiness. It is to free the one who has wronged you from the ongoing torment of your vengeful thoughts, your desire to want to exact revenge upon them, or to wish them unhappiness. It is to choose to be better, not bitter, and to move forward with new strategies to protect yourself and your relationship going forward, without the past holding you both back.

Forgiveness is scary, and feels elusive in the beginning. I used to think “if I forgive my husband, am I sending him the message that what he did is OK by me?”, “Am I telling him that he can repeat the same behaviour again and all will be ok?”, “Is it showing weakness to allow him to have harmed in such a deep way, and to “let him off the hook?”. I no longer see forgiveness as a weakness, nor as letting him off the hook, because for me, forgiveness comes at a significant cost. I know that some will not agree with me, but for me, forgiveness requires that my husband acknowledges what he has done, and shows adequate sorrow for his actions. I cannot forgive a man who does not acknowledge his actions, nor a man who cannot apologize properly for those actions.

What is a proper apology?

An apology, in every day life, has three parts:

1. An acknowledgement that you are aware of the particular act that you have committed which has brought pain to another.
2. An ability to view empathically, the situation through their eyes, and to be able to understand the feelings that your actions likely brought about (i.e. I can imagine you felt hurt, ashamed, frustrated with me, unsupported….)
3. A desire to never again bring such harm to the individual, and a desire to put into place certain safeguards, or to perform certain actions which will prevent re-injury.

With affairs, there is simply more to it than that. I could not simply forgive my husband if he said to me: “I understand that my affair was wrong and hurt you. I can imagine my actions made you feel foolish, belittled, uncared for, undervalued and betrayed. I will never do that to you again”. That simply would not be enough. So, what DO we need exactly, as betrayed spouses? Well, I think we will all vary on what we need to feel healed and supported, but for me, I need to re-establish trust in him, and that is accomplished by him:

1. Attending marital therapy, not because I make him, but because he genuinely wants to improve our marriage
2. Allowing me to ask as many questions as needed, as often as I need to ask them, even if I have asked them dozens of times already
3. Answering those questions honestly and without reservation (except for my feelings, in which case gingerly stepping around areas of sensitivity is appreciated, while being honest in the process)
4. Taking an interest in discussing our marriage openly
5. Trying to see the affair through my eyes
6. Being able to vocalize and express how his actions made me feel
7. Learning to see that we are all vulnerable to an affair, and learning what makes HIM vulnerable to an affair.
8. Setting into place safeguards to protect himself in those areas in which he is vulnerable
9. Promising to talk to me openly in the future whenever a sticky situation arises so that we can work on it together
10.Showing true and honest remorse
11. Taking the lead in helping me heal by taking the initiative to ask me if I have questions or needs around the affair, before I have to ask
12. Reassuring me that he loves me often, and treating me with kid gloves when necessary

I am sure there are more, but for now that list feels right.

Forgiveness is something which takes time, and no one can expect to get there quickly. In fact, I would surmise that someone who is trying to forgive too soon is simply trying to “sweep it under the rug” and trying to make it “go away”. True forgiveness comes with putting in the work, and watching your partner do the same. It is a private journey, undertaken on your own, while simultaneously part of a team. It isn’t the team who will get you there, it is YOU, but the team’s support is vital along the way. One day, you can just wake up, and feel like you are ready, maybe not entirely ready, but closer than before. Remember though, that forgiveness is a choice, and isn’t something that falls out of the sky for you. You don’t wake up one morning and say “I have forgiven”. You wake up and decide to start trying to go through the motions of no longer holding contempt for the person, and every day becomes easier, and you become lighter.

For those who are early in the journey, and who may have just found out about your partner’s affair, I give to you this song. I am a big lyric-listener, always trying to see my life in the lyrics of a song, and finding myself identifying with song lyrics. These really need no explanation, so I’ve pasted the lyrics here, and the link to the video for those who just aren’t ready, and to you I say: “take your time”.

I always said that’d be it
That I wouldn’t stick around if it ever came to this
Here I am, so confused
How am I supposed to leave when I can’t even move?

In the time it would have took to say
“Honey I’m home, how was your day?”
You dropped the bomb right where we live
And just expect me to forgive

Well that’s a mighty big word for such a small man
And I’m not sure I can
‘Cause I don’t even know now who I am
It’s too soon for me to say forgive

I should ask but I won’t
Was it love or just her touch?
‘Cause I don’t think I wanna know
So get you some things and get out
Don’t call me for a day or two so I can sort this out
[From: http://www.elyrics.net/read/r/rebecca-lynn-howard-lyrics/forgive-lyrics.html ]

Well you might as well have ripped the life
Right out of me, right here tonight
And through the fallin’ tears you said
“Can you ever just forgive?”

Well that’s a mighty big word for such a small man
And I’m not sure I can
‘Cause I don’t even know now who I am
It’s too soon for me to say, forgive

You know what they say
Forgive and forget
Relive and regret

Well that’s a mighty big word for such a small man
And I’m not sure I can
‘Cause I don’t even know now who I am
It’s too soon for me to say forgive
Oh, it’s too soon for me to say forgive

20120711-094703.jpg

Advertisements

Comments

  1. Reblogged this on divorcedandangry and commented:
    This is a thoughtful post. Thought I’d share it with my kind readers.

  2. Well said. I look at forgivness at the starting point for healing. Sorry doesn’t make pain go away but it does start the process. The person who wants to be forgiven forgets it IS a process and it won’t be forgotten. It’s hard. I liked this post a lot. 🙂

    • Some have challenged me (not on this blog) that forgiveness can happen without the person showing remorse. I guess I’m not good enough at forgiving, because I would not even be able to consider it if my husband wasn’t sorry.

  3. Thank you. ❤

  4. I wish you all the best. I share your view.

  5. Really great blog! You have been nominated for our top 30 mom blogs in Toronto. If you are interested pls. contact me on aisha@crispmedia.ca. You can find out more here:
    http://www.torontomomnow.com/2012/30-favourite-toronto-mom-blogs/

    Look forward to hearing from you!
    Aisha

  6. Jennifer says:

    I hope that one day I can get to where you are. But right now I believe that what my husband has done to me is completely unforgiveable. Sounds harsh, but I just can’t find that generosity of spirit in me 😦

    • I am not sure where you are in your journey, but I’ve felt that way too. To be hurt so deeply and intentionally by someone who is supposed to love and care for you. It’s overwhelming the pain. What helped me was having the details and seeing it through his eyes. Understanding that it wasn’t anything about me, about something I was lacking, and that I wasn’t picked over for something better.

      According to Anne Bercht, friend and author of “my husbands affair became the best thing that happened to me”, women who have been betrayed really only need two things and their worries and questions always arise from these two:

      1. Do you love me and only me, and am I special to you?
      2. Can I trust you?

      Number 1 came with repeated actions of proof that love was there and he was willing to put the work in. It came from affirmations over and again, patience, and listening. Tolerating my venting, mood swings and crazies.

      Number 2 comes with proven behavior over time.

      No one wants to feel that way forever. There is a light at the end, there really can be.

  7. Your blog has been an amazing source of healing and support for since D-day three short months ago. Thank you for sharing your wisdom, insight and pain. It is helping me walk a very difficult road with a little more dignity than I could have mustered on my own.

    • That is such an amazing compliment and I am so glad! I too struggled and poured over online articles looking for something that I could identify with. I am happy that this blog can provide that for you. We are through the toughest road and almost completely recovered. Please reach out at anytime.

  8. I was trying to post and someting happened, so I apologize if this shows up twice.

    “I would surmise that someone who is trying to forgive too soon is simply trying to “sweep it under the rug” and trying to make it “go away”. True forgiveness comes with putting in the work, and watching your partner do the same.”
    I think that may be a common idea, but I personally don’t agree. I told Sweetheart that he was forgiven before he walked out the door. And I meant it. I felt it. For me it is trust that requires putting in the work. Forgiveness is work as well, but it required nothing from him; it was my choice and separate from his actions. I agree with most everything else, however—and I loved your list.
    For forgiveness, I like the definition Robert Enright came up with:
    “[To] willfully abandon resentment and related responses (to which they have a right), and endeavour to respond to the wrongdoer based on the moral principle of beneficence, which may include compassion, unconditional worth, generosity, and moral love (to which the wrongdoer, by nature of the hurtful act or acts, has no right)”
    I agree with you that the support of the team is vital; it can enable forgiveness. But it’s not always there. Sometimes there is no support from the team. Sometimes the team Monsters, projecting at you for a few years. Forgiveness, as you have also explained, is a process and it comes faster for some than for others.

    But I must admit, that like you, I am skeptical when I newly betrayed spouse says they have already forgiven. I know that for most it is a long process and often the betrayal is still going on and the betrayed spouse is unaware—she thinks it ended. I think I was able to forgive because I knew it had not ended and that it was not going to end anytime soon. I accepted the process of the midlife crisis and the affair and chose not to let it hurt my heart. It hurt a lot of other things, but I chose to see Sweetheart as sick and broken—while also seeing him as responsible for his actions. But it helped my empathy which enabled forgiveness.

    Olga Botcharova, designed steps toward forgiveness which also outlines the path toward revenge which is often a consequence of not forgiving. Her research was not for infidelity, but in international relationships, working with victims of genocide and that sort of thing. But it was quite enlightening. I’ve readapted her cycle for betrayed spouses.

  9. kikkywilson says:

    How do you go about seeing this through your husband’s eyes? How do we as women look through their eyes? I hear that we need to do that in helping with the process of forgiving. Is this right?

    • I think that being able to see it through their eyes is crucial. If your husband won’t share the details of what happened, isn’t honest with his answers and evades questions, I think it becomes much harder. Now, diehard forgiveness folks will tell you that you don’t need anything from the person in order to forgive them, and that you don’t even need them to be sorry. For me, I can’t do that. I needed to know that he was repentant, and that he wanted to make our marriage work. He had to take the role of healer, and answer my questions over and over.

      Once my questions were answered about the details of the when and the where (by reviewing emails, talking to him and having him fill in the pieces), I then felt as though my understanding of the affair was as good as his. I could have been a fly on the wall, because most of the details were there for me. The only thing I was missing, then, was an understanding of how he got into that position in the first place, and the key to that was understanding his vulnerabilities. When you learn that there are actual FACTORS that put men at risk, and you realize that your spouse had more than 70% of those, you gain a new perspective. You realize that there were things that were causing him emotional pain and suffering with his self esteem that he remedied in this most hideous way, but nonetheless was seeking something.

      When men have an affair, there is a pattern similar to addictive behaviour with drugs. They seek out something that they think will fulfill this hole that they have, and for a while it might, but it also brings incredible guilt. Perhaps the man was feeling low about himself, thinking that he is not a good man, a good provider, a good business-person, a good __________, and so he sought out something that would make him feel important, valued, worthy. For a while, the affair feeds that, because the other woman reflects to him only the positive that she sees (because she doesn;t know him well enough, and wouldn’t compromise the relationship by being honest…yet), and so he stays with what he enjoys. It comes at a great cost though, because he will know it is wrong and feel guilty about it. If there was no guilt, there would be no shame in being caught. The shame in doing something wrong further reinforces the “I am not a good man” feeling, and they re-offend, like a drug seeker who feels they are hopeless, they turn to the destructive pattern again out of self-loathing, or if they are still in the early stages, because it still feels good.

      Do you have all of the details of the affair? Do you know when, how, how often, what, who, where? Do you feel satisfied that you could recreate the affair timeline? If so, then you just need your why. The why is the key piece and it is what we all want, but can’t get at the beginning. It takes self awareness on his part, and learning what made him vulnerable in the first place.

      Now that we know his vulnerabilities (and mine because we all have them), we can work towards decreasing their presence in our lives. A big piece is talking together openly about them. My husband just transitioned someone at work over to a colleague because he found her attractive, and thought she was sending signals of interest. We talked openly about it, I didn’t freak out, and he agreed to move her over. We now both feel better, and we are putting up safeguards.

  10. Heidi Norton says:

    Gosh…I am new to this blog thing, but I I am left with feeling like I would love to meet you in person. It is like every word you have written has been taken from my own thoughts in the wake of a devastating affair I just learned about 5 weeks ago. Please know that I believe that God led me to your missives as part of my own healing process. My husband reads this and says “She sounds just like you!” and we are able to laugh (a little) about the whore in our lives just a bit better. Thank you. Just Thank you for being you and for sharing your healing. God Bless You.

    • I’m glad you found the blog too! The best blessing, I’ve found, is connecting with those who can identify with your pain and what you are going through. I wish you happiness and peace moving forward!

  11. Carolyn says:

    I just found your blog today and I am so glad that I did. I feel very connected to you and when you share your feelings and thoughts, I feel like you are writing mine. Thank you for your honesty, for sharing yourself so openly. I do not feel so crazy. I just wanted to say thank you so much, and let you know how much you are helping others in this devistating situation.

  12. Wow – thankfully my partner has not cheated on me. However there is an awful lot of resentment regarding how his family has treated and ostracised me from their family. They have been deceitful, hurtful and downright nasty in the way in which they have treated me. I feel as though my husband lets them walk all over him and subsequently he doesn’t stick up for me or my son effectively. There is resentment because I don’t want to travel from Australia to the UK with our two year old to see them. When our son was first born, we took him over and were treated with contempt….amongst many other issues….and I really struggle with the passive aggressive mother-in-law who constantly tries to throw wedges between us.

    I feel that much of what you wrote about forgiveness, isn’t just about cheating, but can be applied to so many more situations. I applaud you for your honesty, depth of thought and brilliant advice and guidance which you prescribe! I have just fallen across this blog by chance, and I am ever so thankful……you have one big fan here is Australia.

    Best wishes
    Ellen

    • Forgiveness is universal across all ways that we are hurt and betrayed. Whether it is infidelity or not, we have to find ways of unburdening ourselves when we are harmed. We have to shed the weight and learn to accept from people what they are limited in giving and not expect more. We need to see them as imperfect people struggling and doing their best with room for improvement.

  13. Hi

    I wud like to ask u a piece of genuine advice. I have had past relationships,it’s plural, whatever the reason I give u call it my innocence or not realizing wat I was doing r looking for emotional love n happiness Whatever the reasons n situations ) the fact n truth is I can’t deny it. I have hid this frm my husband which he came to know frm different sources. I acknowledge said Sry asked for forgiveness. The thng is he isn’t able to forget nor forgive. It’s put him under lot f stress he doesn’t love me respect me now trust me for nythng I do r say. It’s 3 yrs since he got to know n he still abuses me for my past, always gives bad words n talks sarcastically n behaviors very rude n bad towards me. He says he is never gonna trust me in life. Wat should I do? Basically coz of this he says I have ruined his life as he isn’t being able to accept my past. Wat can I do frm my side to give it a shot. He knows I’m my a person to look back into my past watsoever. I have disconnected myself completely frm that part ofy life including friends. I dnt wrk n be at home itself coz he can’t really trust me for nythng. We r constantly fighting n hurting each other. It’s affecting both of us emotionally psychologically mentally n even physically n even our health is gone for toss. I understd wat he is going thru but
    I try n explain that u should forgive me n accept me n grow in our relationship. He says he doesn’t want kids also frm me n am already 34 completed. I’m Constantly worried stressed n draine out n get into depression. He is never gud to me except for very very few times. We never had moments we can thnk f n feel happy abou co there were always fights . He says we should get seperated n asks me to leave him
    But Im holding on to this relationship very tightly which I knw is wrong. Even wid all this torture I want our relationship to work out n hoping that God will keep up my trust n make thngs better. He is a very nice person by heart. He feels y is he suffering for my mistakes n this makes him very down. He has lost all interest in life. Should I walk away?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: