Discovering that your partner has been unfaithful is absolutely devastating. People who realize that their partner has been involved with someone else often feel as if their world has shattered. They feel hurt, angry, and confused. Or alternatively they may feel numb, as if nothing is quite real. Either way, the world they knew before, the relationship they knew before, has been changed irrevocably.
Infidelity can cause immense pain. But it is possible for relationships to heal and move forward after an affair. Some people may wonder if this is really the case. After all, there isn’t much support for this idea in society. Think of the phrase, “once a cheater, always a cheater.” Even the label cheater implies that a person who has had an affair can never overcome their actions. And there is a certain cultural narrative that suggests that a person who stays with a cheater is naïve or a doormat to stay in the relationship. Yet is this really the case?
Marriages and relationships are complicated things. Presumably yours had both good times and bad times before the affair. You may have had a very long history together, and face the possibility of many more years together in the future. While the infidelity is certainly a betrayal of trust and an incredible hurt, on the balance of all your years together and the many more you may have, could you make the decision to try to forgive? Your answer to that question may change by the day, the hour, or even the minute. That’s normal. And you may find that no one else can understand that you are considering forgiveness. But as Esther Perel, a therapist and writer about relationships and infidelity says, why is there more dignity in divorce than in forgiveness?
If you choose to forgive your partner’s infidelity, know that the decision to do so is an important first step but forgiveness is a process. It will take quite some time for you to truly forgive your partner for their actions. Some days will be better than others. Look for people who can support you in this process, but remember that once you tell someone, you cannot un-tell them. If you choose to tell a friend or family member about the infidelity and you’ve made the decision to forgive your partner, ask your friend for their support in forgiveness. Couples therapy with a trained couple’s therapist can also help you forgive your partner and help the two of you rebuild trust and emotional connection. It may be very hard to believe now, but in time this period might look quite different– looking back on your entire relationship 20 or 30 years from now, this moment in time may come to have much less significance when weighed against the many wonderful moments in your relationship. Couple therapy or marriage counselling can help put you forgive your partner, move through the pain of infidelity, and get on to more of those wonderful moments.