I’m Worried I Forgave My Spouse Too Soon After The Affair. I Feel That This Has Made Him Overconfident

By: Katie Lersch:  Almost as soon as you learn about your spouse’s affair, “forgiveness” is a word that you might hear over and over again.  Your spouse might beg for you to forgive him.  Your friends and family might ask you how you will ever be able to forgive such a betrayal.  Or, you might start to wonder if your forgiveness might help you to move on.

Regardless of who brings up the topic of forgiveness, it is often a word that you can’t help but ponder over.  And the perception is often that forgiveness will cause some relief for everyone involved.  So the faithful spouse can feel a good deal of pressure to offer it.  And, much of the time, we offer it willingly. But we may also offer it quickly.  And as a result, as we try to deal with the aftermath of the affair, we may feel some regret for that fast forgiveness.

A faithful spouse might explain: “about a week after I found out about my husband’s affair, we stayed up all night talking about it.  That was honestly the first time that my husband told me the whole truth about everything that happened.  It was so painful.  But we had a real breakthrough that night.  Because my husband touched on why the affair happened.  He talked about his abusive childhood.  He talked about the fact that his father always had girlfriends.  He cried several times.  I felt empathy for him.  Once, when he was sobbing, he asked if I could ever forgive him and, without thinking too much about it, I muttered ‘yes.’  I did mean it at that time.  I was able to see that my husband was genuinely sorry and I understood at least somewhat some of the contributing factors to this. However, a couple of weeks later, I started feeling some regret about this forgiveness.  My anger started coming back.  I started to perceive that my husband thought that since I forgave him, we could move on and not talk about it anymore.  This isn’t acceptable to me.  My forgiving him doesn’t mean that we don’t have a lot of work to do.  Frankly, I’m still angry.  I’m still resentful. And I feel like he’s not working hard enough ever since I forgave him.  But I know that I can’t take it back or undo what I have already done.  How do I fix this?”

You Are Allowed To Make Adjustments As You Go Along: I’m certainly no expert, but I think that this can be fixed.  So much about this story shows that you have made a good start.  Your husband has shown remorse and has been open and honest.  You have made a good-faith effort to try to move forward. So, a lot of good has already happened.  You are on the right track. Now, you just have to back away from what is not working for you.   And understand that you do have that right.  Just because you have offered forgiveness, this does not mean that you do not have any say about what happens next.  Frankly, recovery after an affair is a process.  It is not finished in days or weeks, at least for most people.  It is a moving target, requiring adjustments as you go along.   Most of all, it requires constant communication.  New questions and feelings come up.  New anger and confusion may surface. It is normal and it does not mean that you’re doing anything wrong.

Insist On Honest Communication: It’s important that you’re honest with your husband about this.  It can be confusing to him if you’re receptive one day and resistant the next. And he may not know what is bothering you unless you tell him.  So, probably the easiest way to start fixing this is to have an honest conversation.  You might try something like this: “I know that I said I forgive you and I stand behind that.  But I need to be clear about something.  Forgiveness doesn’t mean that we are finished in our healing.  Forgiveness doesn’t mean that we don’t have a lot of work ahead of us.  Or that I am not going to need you to work hard to restore my trust.  It doesn’t mean that we don’t have some serious work to do in order to fix our marriage.  It doesn’t mean that I feel as secure as I want to feel.  It means that I am willing to work with you and that I want to move forward.  But it doesn’t mean that our work is finished.  Our work is just beginning.  Do you understand the difference?  I want to be clear because I feel that we both deserve to move forward in a healthy way.  And I need to be honest about what I need so that this can happen.”

Notice that nothing above was mean or unkind.  You’re just telling him that you need a little more from him.  And that’s perfectly understandable.  Because if you don’t ask for what you need, you may not get it.  Frankly it’s very easy to get frustrated and to feel that he isn’t making the effort.  But if I’m being honest, I have to tell you that the whole process is easier if both parties make an effort.    You have to determine what you want and need and tell him. And he has to be willing to provide it. Forgiveness doesn’t magically make this happen. It’s a nice start. But it is only a start. And that distinction sometimes needs to be made clear.

I believe that most people are very confused about what forgiveness truly means after an affair.  I forgave my husband, but that didn’t mean that I forgot any part of the affair or that we closed the book on it.  My forgiveness only meant that I wanted to begin the process of letting it go.  But the process was only the beginning.  You can read beyond the beginning on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com

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