How to forgive a cheating spouse, when they’ve broken your heart, your trust and your sense of security?

The idea of forgiveness is in itself a peaceful one, yet capable of stirring great inner debate and emotion.

In today’s blog, let’s take a look at the controversy surrounding forgiveness and 3 ideas for how to forgive a cheating spouse – your way. Read on…

Controversy Surrounding Affair-related Forgiveness

When offering advice on how to forgive a cheating spouse, there is no “should” or “must” – other than you should do what is right for you. This means I will not say that you should forgive your spouse.

Maybe this will remove some of the anxiety you as an affair victim may feel over whether or not you should forgive your spouse. You may have had well-meaning friends or family offering advice such as “you should be the better person and forgive” or “you should never forgive him/her for doing such a thing to you.” This can lead to you feeling pressured to know what the right thing is to do.

The controversy over forgiveness in terms of a cheating spouse rests in several ideas. If you forgive your spouse, does it mean:

  • It waters down the severity of what this act has done to you?
  • It lets your spouse ‘off the hook’ with a minor slap to the wrist?
  • You’re weak for being forgiving?
  • You’re giving a green light for cheating to occur again?
  • I have to accept his/her apology right now?

This is why forgiveness is such a personal decision. First of all, the timing. Forgiveness is something that you have to be ready to extend when you feel ready to do so. There is no timeline.


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Second, your cheating spouse’s nudging. Maybe they’ve apologized, but the apology isn’t getting through to you just yet. This is also timing, as your spouse may want to make things right immediately, not realizing the extent of the devastation their actions have wrought.

There’s also a concern among affair victims that if they are unable to offer forgiveness, they will become and remain angry and bitter. This is a possibility, but again, individual to each person.

Some people allow their spouse’s cheating to define them and their life, and they do cling to this horrible time period and are unable to move past. They remain in a constant state of pain, angry for having ever been put in this position in the first place.

3 Ideas in Deciding on Forgiveness

What we’ll look at next are 3 tips for how to resolve the idea of forgiveness for yourself, based on what brings you peace.

Idea 1: Accepting the facts

You may not be ready to offer forgiveness – or may never offer it. One thing you can do to help yourself in the healing process is to realize that what is done is done, and there is no moving backward in time to undo it. This is called acceptance, taking the idea of something, the fact of its existence, and understanding that it is a set of facts and information – nothing more, nothing less.

What this also does is help free your mind from a constant torrent of “what if” and “if only” that serve no purpose other than to torment you further.

Idea 2: Separate the person from the act

You may never forgive the infidelity itself, but if you separate your spouse from the act itself, you may find it more palatable to forgive him or her for what they’ve done. By separating the two, you may be able to answer some of those nagging questions we looked at, such as the idea of watering down the severity of what has been done.

You can make it clear to your spouse that while you forgive them for their act, you cannot nor ever will forgive the act itself.

Idea 3: Practice self-forgiveness first

Your first concern after learning of the affair is taking care of yourself, and doing what is best for you during this time. Entertaining ideas of forgiveness will have their time and place according to your own healing process. And, being unable to deal with that question until you’re ready is nothing to feel guilty over.

My best to you as you manage the idea of forgiveness and decide if and where it fits in your life.

Have you had doubts about offering forgiveness?

Do you see forgiveness as a milestone on the way to overcoming post-affair pain?

If you are unable to forgive, what holds you back? And are you able to reach a state of acceptance?

Please share your ideas and personal experiences on this topic with other members of the community.

Wishing you hope and healing for your marriage,

Stephanie Anderson


Marriage Sherpa

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