Affairs and forgiveness
If you are reading this shortly after uncovering an affair, the idea of forgiveness may seem a very distant and unlikely possibility. However, forgiveness will be a key ingredient for you in helping your relationship to recover.
Forgiveness is a concept that people have very different views on. In this context, forgiveness is not about forgetting, condoning, excusing or even accepting what has happened. However, it is about removing the negative emotions towards a partner and being willing to understand the wider context of the affair. While forgiveness may benefit the person who has been seen to transgress, the real benefit is to unburden someone who’s partner has had an affair from the anger and resentment towards their partner that this breach of trust evokes.
When exploring the reasons behind affairs, it is often the case that all is not well in the main relationship. Understanding this context is critical to gain some understanding of what led a partner to “stray”. It can be painful to realise that you may have in some way contributed to what has happened, but it is important to be very clear that responsibility for the affair lies solely with the person who engaged in the affair. While things could have been different in the main relationship, there are always many options open to someone to address those and an affair is a poor choice to make. Indeed, if the idea of blaming feel’s important, then blaming the relationship rather than any individual may be helpful as the relationship, for whatever reason, failed to prevent the affair happening.
Whilst anger may drive you to see your partner as evil or cruel, once you are in touch with your empathy then you may be able to shift to seeing them as someone who is human and makes mistakes. The affair may in part have been an unconscious way of trying to put attention on the issues in your relationship albeit with devastating consequences.
For the person who has had the affair it is important for them to consider the impact of what they have done. This can be something that they may find very difficult to do and the urge to move on and try to get back to normality may in-part be an unwillingness to sit with accepting the enormity of the impact of their actions. However, it is important to recognise the full extent of how the affair may have devastated you partner, before you are able to give a full, heartfelt and sincere apology.
Recovering from an affair can be a long haul but many relationships become stronger as a result, not least because it forces an open and frank examination of the relationship. However, this takes a certain amount of courage on both parts to be able to contemplate the enormity of what has happened and deal with the subsequent pain. With support the couple may be able to recommit and recognise the vale their relationship still holds.
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About Eugene Gallagher
Eugene Gallagher is a relationship therapist and works with individuals, couples and families to resolve relationship-based issues. Eugene has an MA in relationship therapy and is an accredited member of the BACP.