If your spouse cheated and your marriage is in crisis, your New Year’s resolutions more than likely involve saving your marriage.

But the wounds inflicted by the revelation of infidelity may still be fresh, and you have so much anger, you don’t know how you’ll ever get to the point where you are able to move forward.

Your spouse may have said “I’m sorry,” but it rang hollow to you—the words not giving you the closure you thought they would. Or, maybe you are still waiting to hear your spouse express remorse, and you feel your life is on hold until he or she does.

In this blog, you will go through an exercise to help you examine some of the underlying feelings you may be experiencing and what the idea of forgiveness means to you. It may provide you with a new idea of how to move forward into the New Year.

What “I’m Sorry” Means For You

If you are waiting for your spouse to apologize for having an affair, there are a range of reasons why you, personally, need to hear those words—and know that your spouse truly means it with all of his or her heart.

When a cheating spouse says “I’m sorry,” it validates the pain you are feeling because this person you loved and trusted stepped outside of your marriage. It also shows that your spouse understands that their actions have caused you pain, negative thoughts and emotions that have left you devastated.

A heartfelt apology can be the first slat in the bridge you’ll need to build to save your marriage. And if you haven’t heard those words yet, you may feel you can’t move forward because you’re still waiting for this person to come to you and unlock the door with admissions of guilt and responsibility, and recognition that you are the victim.

A cheating spouse owes an apology. Period. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean the victim of an affair is going to receive a request for forgiveness. Some spouses never hear an apology.

So should you stay rooted in limbo, waiting for words that may never come? Or, as the victim of an affair, should you make the decision on your own as to whether or not you should forgive your cheating spouse?

Whether you decide to forgive or not—it’s your decision. No one can make this decision for you. Whatever you decide, you must understand what forgiveness means to you, to healing the devastation to your marriage, and ultimately—to saving it.

The idea of forgiveness can be confusing. Culturally, many of us have learned that true forgiveness is something only a divine being is capable of. We’ve also learned that old adage, “Forgive and forget.”

If you’re in pain after learning your spouse has cheated on you, you may wonder how your spouse saying a simple “I’m sorry” is going to make you forget all about the ugly after-effects of the affair. You wish it were that easy to escape the painful memories and images, but you know it’s not an instant cure for the pain.

Here are some steps you can use in determining whether or not to forgive your spouse, and whether it really will change anything for you:

Step 1: Define what “forgiveness” means to you

Think of everything you’ve ever heard about the idea of forgiveness, whether from your religious background or what you’ve witnessed in your personal life.

Write out your thoughts on what you understand forgiveness to mean.

Step 2: Examine what “I’m sorry” means for you

Hearing your spouse say “I’m sorry,” what does this mean to you? How will it affect your life? What do you see changing? How do you visualize yourself feeling, or what do you see yourself able to now do?

Write out your thoughts on forgiveness as it relates to your world.

Step 3: Imagine what no spousal remorse does to you

If your spouse were never to ask for forgiveness, what would this do to you? How do you envision your life and how you wish to live it, with no apology in hand? Do you think your life will—or should—remain in limbo? Could you ignore the whole idea of forgiveness, and simply rebuild the marriage?

Sometimes, the only way to move forward so that you can rebuild your marriage, is by redefining your own ideas. Take your time in doing this exercise. Afterward, you may see things in a new light, that the words “I’m sorry,” expressed with remorse or not, may not hold the power over you they once did.

I would like to hear from you regarding your thoughts on forgiveness and how it relates to saving your marriage …

What has been your perception on the idea of “forgiveness?”

After doing the steps in this exercise, did your ideas solidify? Did you redefine your own ideas?

If you’ve heard the words from your spouse, what did it mean to you? Were you instantly relieved? Did it change the amount of effort you put into saving your marriage?

Please share your thoughts and experiences on this topic by leaving a comment below.

Wishing you hope and healing for your marriage,

Stephanie Anderson


Marriage Sherpa

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