No matter what you decide to do concerning your relationship, restoring a sense of self-worth and happiness is the key to moving forward after an affair. Affairs can shatter your sense of pride and confidence, and it may seem like everything you thought you could once believe in, is now just one giant lie.
Forgiveness is a tricky thing. On the one hand it may feel like you’re giving the cheater a free pass to do as they please. But it’s not about them anymore, and moving forward, it shouldn’t be about them any longer. You’re really forgiving yourself for investing in the lie of your relationship. If you’re going through a divorce it’s going to be difficult to let go because you’re still right there. You still have to interact with the ex and very likely, they’re going to try to draw you back in, even if that means they’re drawing you back into a fight. If you’ve made up your mind to move on then DO NOT ENGAGE. They’re simply trying to draw you into a pattern where the two of you were once still intimate, even if that means a couple’s quarrel. Once you’ve made the decision to move forward, you must not let them drag you into a fight. It will only prolong your healing process.
After the infidelity is a difficult time emotionally. It’s an interstitial period where you are between one world and the next. Once you make peace with the old world, you can fully move forward into the next.
Immediately after the affair, your heart is going to be filled with resentment, anger, sadness, and self-pity, all of which are very understandable emotions to feel. In order to move forward you must let go of all of them and this requires the very process that was mentioned above: forgiveness.
Happiness after infidelity may seem emotionally impossible at the time, but it is possible and you can get there. Think about this: you have obligations to your children, your job, and other people in your life. You’re not simply someone who was victimized by a compulsive liar and cheater, you’re someone who will survive the compulsive liar and cheater with both their pride and their integrity intact.
If you’re wondering how to forgive a cheater, how about you start by forgiving yourself. It wasn’t your fault that they cheated on you and there is likely nothing you could have done differently in order to prevent the infidelity. They may tell you there is but you have no way of knowing whether or not it’s true. So going back and saying “you should have done this,” or “you shouldn’t have done that” isn’t going to do anything for you except draw you back into the place you’re trying to escape. It’s one more argument in an indefinite chain of arguments that came too little too late.
Imagine that you’re in a car and you’re driving up the road. You’re not sure where you’re going and you’ve never seen these streets before. You check your rearview mirror and see the wreckage left behind you. You’re no longer focusing on where you’re going. You’re focusing on where you’ve been.
Rearview mirrors exist for a reason, but if you’re looking in the one you can’t also be focusing on the road ahead. You check them every once in awhile and stay focused on what’s ahead of you.
In life all manner of cruelties befall us, but when the perpetrators of those cruelties are the people who supposedly care about us the most it does something particularly terrible to our sense of self worth. That’s why not only are they the most difficult to forgive, but the most necessary.
Ask yourself, what is the foundation of a strong marriage or romantic relationship? There are several that work in tandem. Love, communication, support, and of course trust. Infidelity is particularly difficult to forgive because likely two of these foundations have been severely breached: trust and communication.
They are also the two pillars that must be restored after an affair has occurred. The reason for this is because generally cheaters go out of their way to hide their affairs from their spouses concocting elaborate lies to feed their husbands or wives a false narrative. When the affair is revealed that narrative crumbles along with the spouse’s sense of self and understanding of their life.
This is why forgiving an affair is particularly difficult. But it can be done. Here is how.
The time for BS is over and will do more harm than good. What must happen now is honesty for both yourself and your partner. Sometimes cheaters use excuses like: they’re bored sexually, or their partner is being emotionally or sexually distant, and while these may have been the justifications they used to absolve themselves of wrongdoing, they do not excuse going behind their partner’s back and cheating on them.
Instead of cheating, the right thing to have done at this point would be to be honest with their partner about their needs, emotionally or sexually. Communications like this may be awkward and difficult, but so is explaining a web of lies after you’ve been caught cheating. It only forestalls the inevitable.
The most difficult period after the affair will be the beginning. If the cheater believed that sexual or emotional disatisfaction was a major tipping point in committing adultery, then they can expect more of the same. The cheated party will not be jumping directly back into bed with you because they found out about your affair. You will have to reestablish the intimacy you once had and that will take time.
The cheated-on party will be pelting them with question after question concerning occurrences in the past. Things like “When you said you were picking things up for our son were you really with so and so?” The questions will be uncomfortable and are meant to be uncomfortable. They’re meant to hurt because your spouse is hurting. If you try to lie your way out of this part, it will completely backfire. No answer you give will be a good one. So just be honest.
Marriage counseling is particularly beneficial to couples dealing with an affair. Forgiving infidelity is difficult and won’t happen without establishing the pillars of trust and communication that were damaged in the process. Marriage counselors can make you aware of destructive communication and how that makes both spouses feel. With a commitment from both parties, those foundations can be restored.
While the answer to this question depends entirely on the situation, the mere fact that you’re here indicates that you’re considering it, so firstly let’s talk about a few instances in which a second chance after an affair is ill-advised.
If they compulsively lied to you and snuck around behind your back, while keeping you in the dark about their activities, even when you confronted them point blank, you should definitely not give them a second chance. Why? Because they have no respect for you. A person who respected you would not try to make you doubt your instincts or lie to your face while making you feel stupid and/or crazy for addressing the issue. There is something innately cruel to lying to a person’s face and then accusing them of being invasive and paranoid for figuring out the truth.
If that was the case with you, and you’re even considering taking them back at this point you need to seriously consider the notion that you’re abnormally attracted to parasitic people who don’t have any respect for you.
If you feel like they’re going to do it again, and you don’t want to suffer a repeat of the same infidelity twice, then you’re wasting your time with a second chance. Obviously, a second chance after cheating, requires a belief that it was a one-time affair and won’t be repeated. Generally, it will, and if you can’t deal with that fact, then you’re better off ending the relationship right there.
There are several good reasons to give a spouse a second chance after an affair, but only by addressing the root causes and empathizing with the cheater can you truly begin the healing process.
One common reason why otherwise loving and engaged spouses cheat in their marriage is sex addiction. Despite what you may believe, sex addiction is a legitimate psychological issue that has many of the same features as other addictions. Firstly, those who suffer from sex addiction feel ashamed and guilty directly after having sex outside of their marriage, and yet feel compelled to do it. There are support groups based on the 12 step model for those suffering from sex addiction and help is available from counselors and psychologists to break free of the cycle that perpetuates it.
That brings us to our next point: finding a marriage counselor. If you’re serious about giving them a second chance and not just sweeping the whole thing under the rug, then you’re going to want to find a good marriage counselor to work through the issues in your relationship that caused the affair in the first place.
If both partners are committed to working out their difficulties and saving their marriage, this should be a no brainer. A lot of times, marriage counselors are good sounding boards for learning how to effectively communicate with one another. Particularly, they are good for individuals who still love one another, and yet feel hurt and resentful of behavior that happened in the past. If the marriage is going to be save, then it will require work, and marriage counselors will help with that.
There are several key steps to getting over an affair and learning how to trust again. The most important one, as always, is learning how to forgive yourself for feeling like a fool. If your marriage or a long-term committed relationship ended because of infidelity, then the worst thing that you can do to yourself is blame yourself for your ex’s extramarital activities. No matter what, it wasn’t your fault, and beating yourself up about something you had no real control over will only make matters worse.
There is likely nothing you could have done differently to prevent the infidelity. If your husband or wife felt like you were emotionally distant or cut off, then that’s telling you something too. Likely the relationship had run its course.
It happens often that people like the idea of the relationship more than the relationship itself. They’re afraid of change so even though they’re emotionally distant from their spouse and their relationship kind of sucks, they still fear what the upheaval of a divorce or breakup would bring. In this case, you need to be fair to your spouse. If their not getting what they want from you, they have every right to go seek out a fulfilling relationship with someone else, and it’s on you to fix emotionally what’s wrong in your life to get you to a point where you can have a fulfilling relationship yourself.
This doesn’t excuse their infidelity, but it does explain it. Most marriages end because the spouses take on another for granted. Husbands and wives feel resentful of being trapped in marriages that are either sexually or emotionally unfulfilling. Trust and infidelity generally destroy one another, so here are a few steps you can take for learning to trust again after an affair.
Forgive yourself, yes, but be honest with yourself as well. Even though infidelity is never the fault of the person being cheated on, you have to be honest about your willingness to commit to a serious relationship like a marriage. Marriages are a give and take and require active involvement from both individuals. If the marriage is too one-sided give-wise, then the other party will seek out what the marriage is supposed to offer from others outside the marriage.
Moving forward after an affair requires a renewed commitment from you in either your marriage or your next relationship not only to forgive yourself and your partner, but also but the effort and the energy into the relationship to make it work.
For some people, the rigors of a marriage become too much. The family life and work are just more effort than a person can give, and the loving bond between husband and wife fall to the wayside and they seek out excitement in other ways, ways that remind them of how things were when they were younger.
When this is the case, whether the marriage can be saved or not, learning to trust again after an affair, will be paramount to the renewed happiness of the individual being cheated on, and whether the marriage can be saved will depend entirely on the circumstances surrounding the cheating. The worst thing you can do is become embittered toward all members of the opposite gender and carry that bitterness around with you for the rest of your life.
Forgiving a cheater is tough. Restoring betrayed trust is even harder. More often than not the person cheated on finds themselves in the position of forgiving them again and again. Even when they say that they forgive the person, the relationship is doomed because they no longer trust them. The couple ends up having the same argument over and over. The scars from the affair never heal entirely.
So here are 5 questions that you should ask yourself to determine whether or not you can really forgive their infidelity or not.
After a spouse is caught in the act, the other spouse must come to grips with the fact that there is something wrong with the marriage. They blame the spouse. They blame themselves. Seldom does this blame mean much of anything. Spouses cheat for different reasons. Some are just inclined to want multiple lovers in their life but for whatever reason find themselves in committed marriages. Other times they form an emotional bond with someone in close proximity with one. The latter can be far more devastating.
The former is easier to forgive for some reason. Forgiving an affair is never easy but when it’s not person it’s not a reflection on you specifically. They would have done it to anyone. You may feel betrayed at the time and you may not want to be with someone who has extra-marital relationships, but in time the wound fades, and the cheating spouse moves on to relationships that fit their relationship style better.
When you put your foot down and say: “this is the last time,” and proceed as if it’s a fresh start you’re deceiving yourself.
In instances where the spouse that was caught cheating is not a serial cheater, there was probably something really broken in the relationship that set off the fair. In this instance forgiving cheating may come in the form of forgiving yourself. Husbands and wives both can be distant and cold sometimes. When you truly love someone you don’t want to subject them to your worst side so you withdraw. But if your spouse doesn’t understand why they may feel like you’re bored with them or no longer love them. Under the right circumstances they could meet someone who fills that void and suddenly an affair happens. It’s not love per se, but a surrogate for love; analogous to what a methadone shot is to a heroin addict. It doesn’t make them feel good, but the pain goes away for awhile.
Forgiving infidelity in this instance may be difficult but it’s many times more likely if they didn’t lie or sneak around behind your back about it.
This is the most difficult to forgive. Affair forgiveness is predicated on empathizing with offending spouse and a belief that they truly love you. Trust once broken is difficult to rebuild, but it can be done. For instance, sex addicts may sustain healthy relationships after an affair if they can control their addiction. It’s hard to do and requires sacrifice.
What’s impossible to forgive is elaborate lying and sneaking around behind your spouse’s back. If they made you feel like an idiot for believing in them, then there’s little chance you can ever really forgive or trust them again. If that’s the case, you should ask yourself if it’s worth it.