When Should I Accept That My Affair Will Never Be Forgiven?

By: Katie Lersch: I sometimes hear from people who are beyond remorseful for having an affair. Often, they would do absolutely anything in order to be forgiven. And, they have often tried multiple things in order to achieve this goal, but have been unsuccessful. This leaves them wondering if there will ever be a resolution or if their one time mistake is going to mean that forgiveness will never be possible and that there is a chance that their marriage can never be saved.

Common comments are things like: “I had an affair about two and a half years ago. In the beginning, my husband said that he would try to forgive me eventually so that we could try to save our marriage. To my husband’s credit, he didn’t leave me. He did stay with me, although our marriage has never even begun to recover. He still has so much anger toward me. I have offered to go to counseling. I have waited for there to be improvements. But there haven’t been any. Lately, my husband has started going out with coworkers instead of coming home after work. I am sure that female coworkers tag along. If he were to cheat on me, I am not sure that I can even blame him. But at this point, over two years have gone by and he still seems as angry with me as when he first found out. I haven’t looked at another man since then and I never will again. But I am wondering at which point I should accept that I am never going to be forgiven. And if I’m not going to be forgiven, then this probably means that my marriage is over, right?”

I am not sure if there is ever any time frame on this. Every one situation is unique and different. And, I’m not sure that I would ever encourage anyone to give up on forgiveness. Sometimes, it does come when it is least expected or when the cheating spouse stops asking for it. And frankly, forgiveness isn’t always necessary to saving your marriage, especially at first. But I think that every one can agree that it is often the gold standard. In the following article, I will offer some tips which might help to put this in perspective in order to help this wife come up with a sensible next step.

Every Ounce Of Healing Does Not Hinge on Forgiveness: I completely understand wanting to be forgiven. I was the faithful spouse, but I know that my spouse started asking for forgiveness almost immediately. People want forgiveness because it signifies an improvement or a sense of relief. It shows that at least at some point in the future, your spouse might be willing to put this behind them and to start over with a clean slate. And this might mean that you aren’t going to have to make up for or live with this mistake for the rest of your life.

I do understand this, but at the same time, it’s important to look at the other side of this in order to understand why your spouse may have a hard time with forgiveness, at least right now. Many people assume that if they do forgive, then they are almost condoning the act of cheating. Many faithful spouses tell me that they are reluctant to forgive because they don’t want to give off the impression that they are ever going to be OK with their spouse’s infidelity or that they are ever going to be able to forget about it.

It can take quite some time for the faithful spouse to understand that they get to define the terms of the forgiveness and that it doesn’t always mean that forgiveness is the same as negating or erasing the affair.

But please don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can’t and won’t make any progress if you don’t get forgiveness. So many people will sort of place everything on hold and think that they can’t move forward or can’t try to improve their marriage until their spouse finally can offer forgiveness. This isn’t the case. And many couples waste a lot of time waiting for this. You absolutely can make progress and improvements without either of you needing to make any firm commitments. I believe that is a mistake to put progress on hold while you are waiting.

Understand That Trying To Force Forgiveness Can Actually Cause Much More Harm Than Not Pursuing It: I can tell you from the perspective to the faithful spouse that it can be very frustrating when you feel pressured to offer something that you just aren’t ready to give. Sometimes, you just feel like telling your spouse that if they aren’t willing to wait or to give you the time that you need, then your answer will have to be the one that they don’t want to hear. It can also make you feel as if your spouse cares more about your offering forgiveness or about your letting them off the hook than they feel about your healing or about your feelings. And this can hurt your marriage much more than forgiveness could ever help it.

This is only my opinion but my advice in this situation would be to hope for the forgiveness but not to demand it or keep pestering your spouse for it. When they are ready to offer it, they will. And there is plenty of progress that can be made without it. It is vital that your spouse understands that your marriage and their well being are more important to you than anything that you are asking from them.

Frankly, I only got more and more angry and frustrated with my husband when he pressured me for forgiveness.  And I actually offered it once he stopped asking for it and placed the focus on my well being rather than his own comfort level.  To be honest, it is much easier to forgive when your spouse is worried more about you than about themselves.  Our marriage did improve before I forgave, but my letting go took a huge weight off of my shoulders.  If it helps, you can read more on my blog http://surviving-the-affair.com

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