You want to forgive your partner but he or she lied, cheated and betrayed you. No wonder you ask yourself, can I ever forgive an affair?
So let me tell you a story about Eva Kor, 81, who is s survivor of Auschwitz and the medical experiments performed by Dr Mengele but at the trial of Oskar Groning – the so called accountant of Auschwitz – she told him she forgave him and all the other Nazis.
I could not have imagined doing this 22 years ago. Back then I was a very good victim. I was angry with the world and I hated everybody. I yelled a lot. I was very unhappy.
What changed her? She met Hans Munch who was a doctor in Auschwitz and would look through a peephole in the gas chambers to check nobody was still moving and sign a death certificate. He agreed to sign an affidavit about what he witnessed.
I was very excited that I would have a document that, if ever I met a revisionist saying there were no gas chambers, I could shove that letter in their face. I was grateful and I wanted to thank him. I thought about a letter of forgiveness.
When Dr Much signed his document at Auschwitz in 1995, she felt that she was no longer a victim or Auschwitz or a prisoner of my tragic past.
So what has she learnt about forgiveness?
- “Forgiveness is an act of self-healing, self-liberation and self-empowerment. I do not need anybody’s approval or acceptance.”
- “Reconciliation takes two people, this is why it is so difficult.”
- “I also call forgiveness the best revenge against the perpetrator. And anyone can afford it. If you do not like it, you can take it back. No one can stop you.”
- “Anger is a seed for war. Forgiveness is a seed for peace.”
- “I forgave the Nazis, not because they deserve it but because I deserve it.”
I know the parallel between war crimes and relationship crimes is tenuous but I found the story inspiring and think it makes several important points.
- It takes time to heal enough to forgive. Don’t expect too much of yourself too soon.
- Forgiveness needs to be thought about and given with an open heart – not as knee jerk reaction or an attempt to get your partner back.
- Ultimately, forgiveness sets you free to love again – either your partner again or to move on and make a fresh relationship.
So can I ever forgive an affair? I would like to think YES.
It has not been long since my partner discovered my infidelity of some years ago. He says he has forgiven me but once in a couple of days he always tells me whether he has been loving a fake person all along. He says I have tricked him by telling him now, because back then he loved me less and he would have ‘digested’ it more easily but now he loves me more and it hurts him more. Sometimes he also tells me that maybe he would have broken up with me if he knew of my infidelity right after it happened or that he would have learned to love me in a different way by knowing it. I feel lost by his reasoning. I feel like he has not truly forgiven me.
If I am right, what does a true forgiveness mean?
Andrew G. Marshall says
It will take your husband a while to get his head around your infidelity but the fact that he’s telling you about all his complex thoughts is a good sign – much better than keeping them to himself. Be patient with him, listen and apologise for the hurt (it truly will help him).
We like to think forgiveness is a one off deal and black and white. You forgive or you don’t. Sadly, it’s that simple. You can forgive the infidelity but find it harder to forgive keeping the secret of infidelity (as these are two separate betrayals). You can find out new information or you suddenly realise new betrayals (for example: you didn’t come to my office party because you were meeting him) and these need to be worked through before they can be understood, packed away and forgiven.
Finally, you can have made the intellectual choice to forgive (because you want to be that sort of person) but your heart takes longer to catch up or have good days and bad days.
I wonder what it would be like if you forgave him for finding this whole process so tough?
I forgave my husband’s affair even though he didn’t ask for forgiveness or shared all the details of the affair. The reason I forgave the affair was because I knew our marriage was a bumpy ride and after the affair I couldn’t image the kids or my life without him. So I decided to stay in the marriage because he told me the OW didn’t mean anything.
Test (me again) says
My husband admits to having an anger issue and he also blames me for triggering it. He is a person who gets angry over the smallest things and then gives me silent treatments for days or even weeks. Life for me has been like walking on an egg-shield. One minute we are laughing next minute he is lashing in rage.
One day I gave up on trying to be the peacemaker and left him after spitting in his face for tolerating him for a decade. He decided to be reasonable and take responsibility for his action and convinced me to return back in just two days. I did see changes in him. He was less angry now but I could also see that he wasn’t completely over the spit part. He always had the habit of shutting out and never let me in. I always wondered if only I could read his mind. If he loved me anymore. We did have a great sex life. Unless I misread his high sexual desire for a passion for me. He would never tell me he loved me unless I asked.
After the whole disrespect incident, in the fear of losing me again, he was less expressive of the only feeling he often expressed and that was his anger. He was often moody. I thought I needed to allow him time to get over it. But a year later I learned from a stranger that his wife and my husband were having an affair. He brought to me a week of their text exchanges. Where my husband constantly wrote to this woman he loved her.
When I confronted my husband he told me he was never this way. I was his first and he’s been faithful to me for over a decade. It was a year after the incident he gave in to this woman’s constant pursuit of him. He said she was really nice to him and he really liked her but there were no other feelings for her. He said since I left him once, he believed I was going to leave him this time for sure, therefore, he didn’t even ask me to stay. I almost signed a lease but I couldn’t imagine moving in without him. So I decided to talk to him and get all the details and see if I want to still stay. It was only after I chose to stay he confessed. He told me the OW didn’t mean anything. They were colleagues for few years. She was apparently in a lot of distress and he lend her listening ears. He was also helping her get rid off a stalker. People find his personality intimidating. To his surprise this woman found him the best to be around. From the texts I observe two points, 1) If she regretted getting involved he could just disappear. 2) That he had been texting her this way from last two months and if she would like to meet him outside work. I learned from her husband and mine that she had a condition where she required a lot of attention from men. She had to pop anxiety pills even to get to work. Meeting his outside work was perhaps out of question for her. My husband gave me 3 reasons why he got involved with her: 1) I pushed him too far. 2) He liked the attention. 3) It was all more like a game and he was still unsure of her intentions.
She is bipolar and has the habit of cutting herself so my husband was concern to cut off from her. He said he may need to slowly cut her lose. But he sent her a text to tell her I learned about their texting and that he couldn’t offer listening ears to her. She wrote him back he didn’t know just talking could ruin two lives.
Test (me again) says
She wrote him back that she didn’t know just talking could ruin two lives. She said good bye.
So as you can see my marriage has more issues than him having this text affair. He says he sees this marriage working now. But I am still concerned and wondering why! Because I decided to look beyond his affair!?. I am still heart broken that he could give another woman what he holds back from me. He still barely says he loves me. She had a nicer version of him. He is trying to be nicer to me. But I still see the angry side of him. He’s still not letting me in but we talk more now. I have his passwords now and in a older device I found their text exchanges from couple years ago, I saw a somewhat seductive video of hers from a bar. To which my husband didn’t reply but after she asked him for his thoughts he said it would have kept him awake if he hadn’t fallen asleep already and seen it the next morning. From those old text I could see that the woman constantly told him she wished he was around. He was her favorite colleague and she loved him. He barely responded to her but he also didn’t get rid of her. Which he apologized to me for. I sometimes feel as if he has manipulated me into staying.
They still work for the same company but run into each other once a month sometimes as per him. He is willing to change work but will still have to be part of this company. I was becoming less and less threatened by her existence until I learned that she is accusing him of her 2nd talker now. Her story didn’t sit right. So I told my husband that I have no way of knowing if he is stalking her. But my intuitions says a man with ego as high as his cannot stalk a woman also from her past and her condition I can see she loves dramas and goes to any extent to have her way. I told my husband that I am going to trust him. He’s been telling me the more I trust him the more he will give me reasons to stay with him. Then he tells me he had spoken to her one more time after their my finding out about it. He talked to her at work to break things up with her. I told him I was disappointed that he was telling me now about it. He said he just had to end things in a better way than a text. I told him I’d have understood. After requesting him to tell me what exactly he said to her during that final conversation with her, he told me he may have shared some details I told him to explain to him how important he was to me and that I couldn’t imagine my like without him. Apparently he disclosed those private conversation with her told her why he needed to end things with her rather than saying what they were doing was wrong. Also when her husband was still receiving all the texts, he told the OW that it wasn’t her fault and our marriage was already broken. He described me to her as a woman he was living to insult him, I guess he didn’t want to admit to her that he’d been wrong about me. Whatever the reason I find it difficult to believe this woman meant nothing to him . I am wondering if he is trying to just minimize my pain. I am wondering if sooner or later he will develop the same hatrate for me again and level me as his anger trigger all over again.
Andrew G. Marshall says
Keep talking and listening and improving your communication.
test (me again) says
Thank you so much Andrew for your reply! (And apologies for my original post being broken up in 3 parts. The site kept detecting it as a spam.) I’ve gone through a lot of the posts and your replies. What motivated me to write here were these :
>Your article on why people tend to not remember the
details on their affair and how it’s okay.
> Signs you need more help getting over an affair.
>Your post that it’s possible to have an affair to make
yourself feel better.
>Your response to a woman’s post who shared that her
angry husband found her suggestions as her being controlling. How you helped her see the situation from the both ends.
>Your response on it’s okay if a husband doesn’t say he
loves his wife.
> Communication issues, how a simple question like ‘When will you be home?’ Could be heard as “I NEED to know when you’ll be home, so I can explode if you’re late.”
A lot of these posts have helped be less vague. I was, however, looking for a response to see if there was another way to look at things from my husband’s side. It’s always easier if I was at fault, I can change myself and save our marriage, but if it’s my husband how do I change/fix him.
I had asked him how is it that he cannot tell me he loves me but he could say these words to the OW over and over. He told me it’s easier to write than to say in person. But do I ever receive texts like that!
Anyway back to your advice, keep talking and listening and improving my communication. When I said we’ve been talking more now, I meant we’re talking more about the weather, about what to eat for dinner etc. I learned about his affair four months ago. We talked for the most part of our days for a week. We continued talking about the affair and us for 2 weeks. He expects me to never mention the affair anymore now. He gets very annoyed if I bring her up or conversation starts routing towards the affair. And no it’s not the same you described in your article where not putting the top on juice container leading to the affair interrogation. He is willing to answer where he was at a certain day and who exactly he eat with etc. He gets frustrated when I tell him we need to talk more even about us. Because he worries the conversation will lead to my feelings of the affair. How I am still in turmoil. How do you talk to someone who always gets in defensive and blaming mode. I fail to understand why he is always so angry and resentful. From my perspective we have a great life with two beautiful kids and awesome jobs with no financial issue whatsoever. He always wanted me to be able to work from home which I do while watching the kids. Then where’s the shortfall! The other day I asked him ‘Are you doing something?’ as it looked like he had finished loading our belongings in the car. If he was done he could help me get one of the kids ready while I was still emptying out our vocational place. He got angry as he misinterpreted the question. I told him I never said he wasn’t busy I only asked him if he was available at the moment so he could lend a hand. He said I needed to learn to talk and I responded angrily and said maybe he needed to learn to process correctly. Ten minutes late all the rage and anger was gone. But in the past something like this has ruined the entire day.
Andrew G. Marshall says
You ask what to do when something is not your fault and that’s where I want to start. I am not interested in dividing blame or deciding whose ‘fault’ something is. In my experience, problems are always six or one and half a dozen of the other, So where I start is always ‘how can we do this differently’ because if you start apportioning blame both parties get angry and defensive. Next, I want you to get away from the idea that you need to ‘fix’ your husband. Firstly, nobody can fix anyone – not even a therapist. We suggest different ways of approaching a situation but the work is done by the client. If you start trying to ‘fix’ your husband, he will find that patronizing – like he’s a small child – and he will rebel. It is something I see over and over again, women want to fix men and it drives us up the wall. It makes us feel there is something fundamentally wrong with us and we wonder why we can’t be accepted for who we are. I know you are doing this out of love for him but that’s not how it will be received.So why is he so defensive and angry? I can’t guess but whenever someone talks about their ‘beautiful’ children, it always makes me wonder if they are a mother first by a million miles and then a wife with the few moments left over. So I would like you to look at my book ‘I love you but you aways put me last: how to childproof your marriage’. It is all about getting a good balance back. If this is not the problem, look at My husband doesn’t love me and he’s texting someone else. It will explain how men tick and how they find it difficult to state their case (and just push all their resentment under ground which turns into falling out love, affairs and anger). If you want to know how to communicate better with your husband take a look at ‘Wake Up and Change Your Life’. Remember it’s your communication that isn’t working and you have a joint responsibility for sorting out your half.
I think forgiveness is being able to recognise your own part and take responsibility for it because none of us are perfect. When I forgave my husband for his affair it was for my benefit as well as his.