Forgiveness – A Betrayer’s View

I’ve been talking a lot in the comments lately about forgiveness and repentance. These are two very important topics in affair recovery, for obvious reasons. I’ve decided to make them each a separate post because the first part, Forgiveness, was getting really long. I’ll write the second part soon.

These are my thoughts on forgiveness. I know some people will disagree, but that’s okay. My perspective on forgiveness differs from most of my readers because I am the forgiven, not the forgiver. But the reason I have this perspective is because my awesome wife, who I betrayed, has shown me forgiveness in a way I’ve never known. Besides, I figure you come to my blog to read what I think, so here it goes.

As a prerequisite for forgiveness, the betrayed spouse has to fully admit to the depth of hurt that the cheater has inflicted upon them. For my wife, that meant acknowledging all the different aspects of my betrayal, both physical and emotional. It wouldn’t have done any good if she had forgiven the fact that I had sex with Scarlet, but she ignored the fact that I also loved her.

It doesn’t do any good to pretend that some part of the betrayal is not a big deal, or only kind of a big deal, and to forgive it on those terms. You’re not really forgiving if you do that because you’re not being honest with what they did to you. Whatever you are ignoring or refusing to face is the seed for future problems.

What I’m saying may be obvious to you – hell, it may be obvious to everyone – but it’s important to remember this. It’s painful to do a full accounting of the hurts, but until you face them you can’t move past them.

Having faced all the ways your spouse has hurt you, you have to recognize that forgiveness is not something they can ever earn. There is no way they can pay for what they did to you because the debt is too great. That’s not to say that there isn’t a place for repentance and remorse, but those things restore the relationship, which is different than forgiveness. (They are still necessary for the cheater as I’ll discuss in the post on Repentance and Remorse)

Forgiveness is a choice and it is a process. When you forgive your spouse for what they did, you are being the better the person. You are choosing to treat them with love. You are choosing not to hold their sin against them for the rest of their lives. You are choosing to recognize the horrendous ways they have hurt you and to then treat them in grace and love.

That choice will have to be made over and over. Choosing to forgive doesn’t make the anger go away on it’s own, that takes time and a pattern of choosing to turn away from anger to forgiveness. Forgiving doesn’t make the hurt go away, either. Even after the immediate pain goes away, you are going to carry the scars of what your spouse did to you. I know it’s hard because I’ve seen my wife make that choice over and over, even in the midst of the anger and pain.

There is a parallel here worth examining. Forgiveness is a choice but it is also a feeling. Likewise, love is a choice as well as a feeling. You may choose to forgive someone over and over each time feelings of resentment and anger come up, but eventually you may feel forgiving, too. In the same way, you may choose to love someone even when the feeling isn’t there, even when you hate their guts, but you may find that the feeling of love comes back, too.

By the way, I’ve seen and heard some bad advice on forgiving (God willing, I’m not making my own contribution here). Here is a list of what forgiveness is not or what it does not do.

Some say you have to forget to forgive. Besides being impossible, it’s just wrong. Forgiving means not remembering, which is different. Not remembering means you don’t bring it up when you fight. It means not treating someone as less than a full person because of what they did. In short, it means not holding this memory over the other person for all eternity.

Forgiveness is not the same are restoring or building trust. Just because my wife forgives me doesn’t mean that trust automatically came back. Trust is created through a pattern of behavior that is trustworthy.

Forgiveness is not accepting what your spouse did as okay. What they did is not okay, and if it were there would be no need to forgive. Forgiving means accepting the fact that your spouse has betrayed and hurt you and then choosing not to punish them or to hold it over them.

A final point on forgiveness is this: it is for the betrayed as much as for the betrayer. To paraphrase an old proverb, “unforgiveness is the poison you drink hoping the other person dies.” It may be that the betrayer never repents or feels remorse. It may be that the relationship is too broken to be mended. It may be that all you can do is have pity for your stupid, selfish, broken former spouse from afar. But if you don’t forgive them, you are poisoning yourself, not them. You are carrying an unnecessary burden, one which will forever pull you down. You’ll never be able to really live your life in freedom unless you lay that burden down.

(For my Christian readers: You might have picked up on some similarities between my view of forgiveness and what Jesus taught and did for us: forgiving those who hate, forgiving even 7 times 70, loving your neighbor, showing the grace you’ve been given to others, turning the other cheek instead of demanding justice, etc. I would also suggest that when you lay that burden down – that burden of pain and betrayal that someone has placed on you – that you give it to God.)

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About Anonyman

Recovering adulterer and husband of an awesome wife who has given me a second chance. Sinner and Christian, saved by grace alone. I cuss a lot
This entry was posted in The affair and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Forgiveness – A Betrayer’s View

  1. Anonyman says:

    Wow, I’m honestly surprised I had to wait two whole hours to hear the wet thud in the spam box of Nephila’s comment telling me how “all cheaters think blah blah blah Shut up, unrepentant cheater.”
    No, I don’t need to read it to know that’s what it said because that’s all that sick woman knows how to say.
    If only I could slice up her comments, cook them on a griddle, and put them on white bread with mayo and cheddar. Real Spam > interweb Spam

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sissy says:

    🙂 Really, really good insight. I’ve absolutely had to choose, over and over, before I started to feel again. Then had to remind myself how I chose to reinforce that choice. Lol.

    Like

  3. Wow. You write so well. Your words are so true. Ironically, I was thinking about the forgiveness aspect of this overnight. It is relevant for so many more circumstances than just affairs. I often say that deep wounds have to heal from the inside out. At first they are so deep, and so painful. Then just when think they are healed, at random times they come back and slap you in the face again. But each time, the wound heals just a little bit more, and a little more, until one day you are just left with a scar. You can’t erase that scar, but it no longer defines you or your thinking. It reminds you where you have been, but also how far you have come. Keep writing. You express yourself so humbly and authentically. May your marriage keep healing every day.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. chely5150 says:

    I must admit you so what you say so eloquently. I do agree with you about forgiveness and how it should be applied in this situation. And forgiveness was the decision I made pretty much from the start. I was/am willing to put it behind us, move forward, look forward. Yet time and time again my husband demonstrates (not thru words but actions or I should say inactions) to me that really nothing has changed. I think he believes that this happened ONLY because I neglected him and our marriage, and I did ..but that happened because I just couldn’t accept the underhanded covert way in which he does it what he does emotionally abuses me and our 2 sons. No one else -just us.
    But he forgets (or really has never acknowledged this) about this refuses to accept he has made major mistakes (I own ALL of mine). So what happens is he acts the like the victim, the betrayed one and has no concern about my feelings or how I attempt to deal with this nightmare. I’m not supposed to ever talk about how I feel, how triggers send me to that awful pain. He can barely admit that he had an affair (and still refuses to acknowledge he had physical contact of any kind with her & possibly others). He makes no accomodations towards making it better for me – I mean basically it mostly feels like we’re right back to where we started -b4 d-day. I will give him credit for wanting to do things together, spend time together doing fun things ( but we always got along at those times anyway). But I feel there is so much more that needs to happen for us to make a better marriage, make sure that there’s no temptation or urge because one day I don’t appreciate him enough. All I am asking for is a little remorse, repentanence, anything showing that he cares how I feel for a change. But truthfully it’s just not there. Maybe he’s trying the only way he can but if that’s the case then he truly is a narcissist because he doesn’t care how i feel, it’s all about him and his mid-life type crisis. I’m trying to make it better, but I can’t alone fix all the things that he is unhappy with in his life, it has to come from inside him, I can be his partner and assist if he wants to make those changes but I cannot change how he is. I cannot rescue him from himself. So far he cannot rescue him from himself, because no matter how good he makes it look for all the world to see, I think he hates himself inside but could not or would not ever admit it because then everyone would know it all a farce. Sad so damn sad because I truly believe we could of had it all- as the saying goes. I haven’t thrown in the towel quite yet but I’m losing the will to keep trying because this is not my fault. (Even though I own what I contributed to this downfall) but he owns none of it. I forgave the past, want to move forward but I’m not sure that we will survive if he cannot step into my shoes for five minutes and truly tell me how sorry he his. Maybe he’s really not. Then I say let me go.

    So sorry to get carried away but it gets harder with each passing day to know he will never speak words to me /about me like I hear in your words. Yes you made a mistake, you know that and admitted so, and that acknowledgement doesn’t instantly change or revert to all better (like snapping ones fingers” abra ca dabra .) It takes everyday making the right choices despite having thoughts about the affair (both positive and negative ones) because for you “it’s” in the past – I think that’s a human being response, It sounds to me like you are trying to move in the right direction (and your wife as well) because you are trying together to improve your marriage. I respect that. I do wish I could say the same for my husband. Despite how difficult sharing your thoughts with your wife probably can be, I hope that she sees the man I read about in your blog because despite the affair she should understand your internal attempts that keep you moving forward. OMG – I may never shut up – just kidding! I wish you and your wife well!! I’m looking forward to part 2.

    Like

    • Anonyman says:

      Long comments are positively encouraged here, so don’t you dare shut up until you’re done saying what you have to say.

      As for your husband, it sounds like you are doing your best to forgive and to seek his forgiveness, too. It is important to maintain the distinction between contributing to problems in a marriage and being responsible for the affair. I think you have that pretty clear in your mind, but I wonder if your husband does. I can relate to wanting to share the blame, but I had to give up that notion early on in the recovery. I can also relate to wanting to “try harder” to be a better husband without dealing with the underlying issues. For him, that’s the hard part. That’s the painful part where you look in the mirror and don’t turn away when you realize you’re not the man you thought you were. I still struggle with that – not the realization, but the acceptance for who I really am.

      Unfortunately, I have to say that without repentance and remorse, there can’t be a real reconciliation or restoration of the relationship. You can forgive perfectly, but without him doing his part you’re in peril. You’re living under the sword of Damocles, waiting for the stroke to call. Either he doesn’t think what he did was wrong or he thinks you drove him to it. If that’s the case, then in his mind his fidelity is dependent on you: either you need to accept his behavior or you need to treat him right so he doesn’t do it again.

      Clearly this is – how shall I put this? – bullshit, so I hope I’m wrong. I hope your husband does realize what he did was wrong and I hope it only appears that he’s blaming you because he is so broken inside. However, he’s going to have to get over it if he wants to save his marriage.

      Like

      • chely5150 says:

        Yes , you are so correct that I need to see some sort of acceptance on his part for us to go any further together. It’s unfortunate but after our interaction tonight my doubts are growing about any success. As much as I’m feeling that we’ve reached a point that there is no more turning this around, there is so much more to loose than just each other. Families that have become entertwined, my step daughter and grand children, so many things that we’ve worked hard for beautiful home, friends , neighbors, pets everything. It’s so sad, but I don’t feel too much internally at the moment, maybe my head knew more than my heart all along. Thanks for letting me get it out. Sometimes it’s so lonely in a marriage. Here’s to finding a the right path for us all. I think my yellow brick road is crumbling but It’s ok-don’t want to spend the last 20 years of my life (maybe more) walking against the traffic. I want to put the top down and cruise, smiling with the wind in my hair and live again. Thanks again

        Like

  5. Pingback: Repentance – A Betrayer’s View | Isle of a Man

  6. Pingback: Grace and Mercy – A Betrayer’s View | Isle of a Man

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