Forgive A Cheating Spouse

by Mark Ivar Myhre on January 22, 2008

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It’s hard to forgive a cheating spouse. The basic problem is the trust has been broken. And it takes years to rebuild it. If it can be rebuilt at all.

The other problem is: the love often times doesn’t break. It’s still there. Love ‘bounces’. Love is resilient. Love can stand up to all kinds of abuse. It takes a lot to break love.

But not trust. Trust is like glass. And when you have a cheating spouse, it’s like the glass has been broken.

You can’t possibly just pick up the pieces of trust and put them back together again. It doesn’t work that way. Instead, you must start over. And it takes much more effort and dedication.



In the context of a cheating spouse, it often feels like we’re leaving ourselves open for humiliation; as they’re likely to repeat the offense.

So on the one hand, we’re afraid to be vulnerable – even to ourselves – but on the other hand, because the love is still there… we feel compelled to do something.

What usually happens is we get caught in a tug of war between these two opposing forces: love and fear of vulnerability. We get caught in a trap – going back and forth between love and fear.

And in the middle: the rage, the helplessness, the separation, the hurt, the humiliation itself – in addition to the fear of humiliation.

(I’ve written more in depth about healing the pain caused by others here.)

It’s also hard to forgive a cheating spouse because so few people understand what forgiveness really means. We have a tendency to believe that if we forgive the cheating spouse, we’re letting them off the hook. And then they’ll go back to their cheatin’ ways. Even worse, maybe we’ll be in denial about it if – or when – they do.

We can also be afraid to forgive because of the fear that nothing will change.

Our LOVE wants to forgive. But our FEARS say no. So what’s the best thing to do?



I can’t say about the ‘best’ thing – only the most empowering thing. And without a doubt, the most empowering action you can take is to forgive YOURSELF first. Then, maybe forgive the cheating spouse. Or maybe not.

You empower YOURSELF when you forgive yourself first. Why?

1. You’re acknowledging your own value. Your own worth. Your own dignity. You’re telling yourself that YOU MATTER.

2. Forgiveness is the energy that allows change. Forgiveness comes before change. This is so important to understand! Forgiveness creates the space for a positive change. No forgiveness: no change.

3. You acknowledge your own power. You’re saying to yourself: I am more than a victim of circumstances. I can take charge of my life.

4. It’s the only way to heal your own pain. If you don’t forgive – the painful thoughts and feelings won’t leave. At best, you’ll push them away. But they keep haunting.

As you forgive yourself – you reduce the chances you’ll go through this again. Either with the current offender, or another.



What’s the most real thing about a cheating spouse?

Your own thoughts and feelings. Your own emotions. NOT the actions of another.

By forgiving yourself for allowing something like this to happen, you honor yourself; you honor your emotions; you help heal your pain; you acknowledge your own power; and you allow change to happen… making it much less likely you’ll have to go through something like this again.

So forgive yourself already!

Then you’ll be empowered enough – and clear-headed enough to take the right steps – the next steps – in the next chapter of your life.

all the best,

Mark

Mark Ivar Myhre
The Emotional Healing Coach
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{ 6 comments }

Anonymous October 14, 2008 at 1:20 pm

This is exactly what I'm going thru. Thanks for this post.

"In the context of a cheating spouse, it often feels like we're leaving ourselves open for humiliation; as they're likely to repeat the offense.

So on the one hand, we're afraid to be vulnerable – even to ourselves – but on the other hand, because the love is still there… we feel compelled to do something.

What usually happens is we get caught in a tug of war between these two opposing forces: love and fear of vulnerability. We get caught in a trap – going back and forth between love and fear."

Jordan March 18, 2009 at 4:48 am

I like this post. I think it's impossible to forgive someone if you're constantly playing the victim. Because ultimately, those who play victims don't truly love themselves. They don't know their own inner power. And often that's what leads to a spouse choosing to cheat on them in the first place. Because people who play the victim are often very selfish themselves. I'm not blaming people for their spouse's infidelity, but I think it often stems from their own shortcomings.

Anonymous May 18, 2009 at 6:52 pm

Thank you. This has helped me tremendously. At a time where I feel like my life has been shattered, I am so glad to have found this article. I have to stop feeling sorry for myself and seeing myself as unworthy. I have to start seeing myself as being VERY WORTHY, but just a victim of someone else's stupidity. You're right… the love is still there. But I don't know if the trust will ever be there again.

Anonymous June 10, 2009 at 8:42 pm

I NEVER could get the trust back for over 3 years after the first affair, he really didn't do anything to show he had any intention of acting differently, but I really wanted to believe he was being honest when he said he'd never do it again, don't tell anyone we know… I knew divorce was a painful process but so was staying in the marriage. In fact, he did cheat again and then blamed me for it. It hurt IMMENSELY. It still hurts. Being treated like garbage, being told I wasn't normal because of being emotional or having social anxiety just hurts. Our divorce was final 9 months ago. (I divorced him rather than wait for him to emotionally abuse me more.)

I would seriously not make myself vulnerable to a spouse who was not willing to go to counseling or be transparent to me or get off the swinger web sites! – EVER again. I really think you have to be a little tough with cheaters, your heart is worth being protected and they need to be ready to be serious. James Dobson wrote a good book called 'love must be tough' about this. If I had to do it all over again, I'd tell him he was so not touching me, or getting supper cooked or laundry done again until he was ready to be a man, go to counseling, be transparent and start actually acting like a husband!

Please save yourself hurting for so long like me and make sure that the cheating spouse is actually willing to also do their part in working on the marriage – and him or herself as well.

************************************************
"They don't know their own inner power. And often that's what leads to a spouse choosing to cheat on them in the first place."

I find that statement really hurtful and I think this forum needs to be a safe place for those who are wounded and keep in mind many are very freshly wounded and tender, even more so than me.

It's really important to recognize that the CHEATING SPOUSE is very often 'playing the victim' and not recognizing their own inner power (I know my ex didnt). In fact, when you confront a cheating spouse, the very first thing they do is blame and 'play the vicitim'.

I really think a person's OWN tendency to 'play the victim' is what leads them to make choices that are so hurtful to other people. I'm sure if and when I do stuff that hurts people, it's MUCH more likely because of something going on inside of me than because of what's going on with them.

By the way, did I cheat on my cheating spouse because he didn't recognize his own inner power either? Nope. I held to my integrity. 🙂 I had the POWER to do that and to anyone else who also didn't cheat on their cheating spouse. Congratulations, you made a good choice, that integrity is all you, see you do have power and strength.

Anonymous July 30, 2009 at 11:20 pm

thanks so much. this is like balm for a broken heart. it still hurts every day. even if it was "just innocent flirtations" or w.e my husband broke my heart. hopefully one day i'll learn to forgive him and myself

A.

Anonymous September 30, 2009 at 7:12 pm

My husband cheated on me.Yes its so difficult to accept this.When I read his emails and chats, I came to know that he has cheated on me with more than 2 women.I am devastated. I have given myself to him for 3 years and today he blames me for his cheat. But still I am trying to work out my marriage as love is still there in my heart. but trust, it will take time

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