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Wayward Side :
On the topic of Forgiveness

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 DaddyDom (original poster member #56960) posted at 3:06 PM on Monday, December 27th, 2021

When I read the news the other morning, I learned that Desmond Tutu had passed away. For those that don't know the name, Desmond Tutu was a noble peace prize recipient and best known for his influence and work during apartheid. He wrote an excellent book called "The book of forgiving" which I highly recommend for WS and BS alike. In it, Desmond comes to terms with the process of trying to forgive the unforgivable and helps to define what forgiveness actually means and what it looks and feels like. There is a chapter in there especially for people like us, those who have hurt others and now face the impossible task of figuring out how to, and if we even can/should, forgive ourselves. This book brought a lot of clarity to both my wife and me during our recovery and helped us to reframe what forgiveness means to us, and how to implement it in our lives and our recovery efforts.

Forgiveness is a hot topic on SI sometimes. There are those that believe forgiveness is a "white-wash" or rug-sweeping. Some feel that forgiveness implies that "everything is now okay" and that life is "back to normal" as if nothing ever happened. My point of view, and the one that Desmond espouses in the book, is that forgiveness is for the victim, not the abuser. In fact, Desmond states that the abuser need not even know that forgiveness has taken place, because it's not for THEM. It's for YOU. Forgiveness is not a "pass". It is not a justification nor an absolution. Rather, it is a release. It is a decision to stop carrying around pain and anger that serves no purpose other than to hurt ourselves. Hate and anger are trauma, they are traumas that we willingly inflict on ourselves, a self-punishment that we inflict on our own psyche in order to "punish" the guilty by proxy, except it doesn't work that way, does it? You can hate on someone all day long, it doesn't affect them, it only affects you. Holding on to anger, grief, hate and fear is a self-punishment. We carry it around because sometimes it feels as if that's all we have. It becomes our identity, our history, our story, and as confusing as it may sound, it can be scary to let those feelings go even though they only serve to hurt ourselves. We don't want to invalidate our own pain and hurt. Sometimes it can feel as if we let go of the hurt, that it might mean it becomes forgotten, that WE become forgotten, or that it never mattered to begin with. We embrace the pain because we know it well. When we wake up every morning and feel the hurt, the grief, we know we are still alive and that our pain hasn't been forgotten or dismissed as unimportant.

Forgiveness is not about releasing the abuser from their culpability and accountability. It is about letting go of that anger, and finding ways to use our pain and grief to grow, to motivate ourselves to heal, to become better people as a result. It is about not seeing our pain as our identity, rather it is about seeing ourselves as survivors, as good people worthy of living a life free from daily and constant hate and dismay. It is like taking a shower and washing off the debris of pain. It is a conscious decision and choice to let go of that which hurts us and serves no purpose, and instead of replacing it with thoughts and feelings that raise our quality of life, and that brings us closer to loving ourselves and living our best lives.

So how does that work when you are the abuser? How, and why, do we seek to forgive ourselves as WS's? What does that look like and why would we want to do it? Most of all, is forgiving ourselves just more rug-sweeping and avoidance of accountability? How do we forgive ourselves while still focusing on our own accountability? How do we use it to promote change? How do we define it when questioned about it?

I thought this might be a good topic for discussion, and with the new year upon us, perhaps it's a good time to step back, take stock of our own feelings and goals, and figure out how self-forgiveness plays into "the work" that the WS must do.

For me, self-forgiveness was paramount to getting out of the "pit of shame". The shame I carried from all the hurt I caused and damage I've done was overwhelming to the point where it was impossible for me to see, hear or care about my spouse... or anyone else quite frankly... because it created a trigger that was set off every time the affair or anything about me was mentioned. It is a sad, pathetic and painful way to live, and it solves nothing. In fact, after infidelity especially, it makes things worse. It blocks the very things we need to find in ourselves in order to recover and heal from our sins, all of them, not just infidelity. Shame is a great tool to initiate change, but like anything else, it is to be used sparingly and in reasonable amounts. Think of shame like water. In small amounts, you can drink it, or cook with it. But in large amounts, you'll drown. Most WS's I speak to these days are drowning in it. I know I was too. The way to stop that is to reduce our shame, and increase our self-respect. And to that end, we begin with self-forgiveness.

If I could offer one piece of advice to WS's stuck in shame, it is this. Your life is a story, an ongoing story, and the affair(s) you had are simply chapters in that story, not the end of the book. The story of your life can take a dramatic and unexpected turn (the best books always do!) and how that change takes place is up to you. You can wallow in your shame or you can do something about it. You made poor choices before and they landed you in the doghouse. So what effect would making better choices have moving forward? LEARN from your failures, don't BECOME them! I get it... these things are easier to say than do, right? That's true. But nothing in life comes easily. Think about how much work went into having the damn affair in the first place... the lying, sneaking, hiding, gas-lighting, living a double life at all times... and you did all that for a shitty result. Ugh. So at least be willing to put in that time and effort towards getting a BETTER outcome. Love yourself and your partner enough to make finding a better outcome a priority. Even if your marriage ends... trust me, your spouse would STILL want you to pull your head out of your ass and grow as a result.

Look, self-forgiveness may not save your marriage, and I'm not claiming it will. But it can and will save YOU if you let it. And I think you may be amazed at what a profound effect it has on your daily life and in every relationship you have, including the one with yourself. Once I was able to get out of the pit of shame, things in our relationship started to change, for the better. When I wasn't busy crawling under a rock every day, I then had time to spend working on repairing what I had done. When I wasn't buried under messages of "you're a bad person", I was then able to actually hear and feel and understand what my wife was saying to me, how SHE was feeling and what she needed. It made my relationships at work better, the relationships with my kids too. I am a happier person today, heck, I'm a BETTER person today than I was before. It sucks to no end that infidelity was the catalyst for this change and I'd give anything to change that ugly fact. But the extreme price paid also motivates me to put all the more effort into it, and to make sure I never go back down that path again. The changes I put into place all but guarantee that. My life is easier now because I know who I am and what's important to me, and I now have healthy boundaries and self-respect that answer most questions for me regarding "how to feel or respond" to things. In all cases, I do so in a way that preserves as much respect for myself and others as possible. I put myself first in all things, but in a HEALTHY way, and sometimes, putting yourself first means taking a step back and allowing another to shine, or hurt, or have their moment. You don't have to become a rock star, you just have to love yourself.

Me: WS
BS: ISurvivedSoFar
D-Day Nov '16
Status: Reconciling
"I am floored by the amount of grace and love she has shown me in choosing to stay and fight for our marriage. I took everything from her, and yet she chose to forgive me."

posts: 1190   ·   registered: Jan. 18th, 2017
id 8706129
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Bigger ( Attaché #8354) posted at 4:08 PM on Monday, December 27th, 2021

Standing up from my chair to clap.

"If, therefore, any be unhappy, let him remember that he is unhappy by reason of himself alone." Epictetus

posts: 10172   ·   registered: Sep. 29th, 2005
id 8706140
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HouseOfPlane ( member #45739) posted at 5:03 PM on Monday, December 27th, 2021

In fact, Desmond states that the abuser need not even know that forgiveness has taken place, because it's not for THEM. It's for YOU.

This is so critical to understand. You can forgive a parent who passed away 10 years ago, or the guy who cut you off in traffic. They'll never know, but you'll have relief. Just so with the spouse. They'll know without you telling them, either.

DDay 1986: R'd, it was hard, hard work.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
― Mary Oliver

posts: 2801   ·   registered: Nov. 25th, 2014
id 8706147
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BearlyBreathing ( member #55075) posted at 8:22 PM on Monday, December 27th, 2021

STANDING OVATION. Great for the WS and the BS.

Me: BS 54 (49 on d-day)Him: WH. 64D-Day 8/15/2016 LTA
Kinda liking my new life :-)

**horrible typist, lots of edits to correct. :-/ **

posts: 4363   ·   registered: Sep. 10th, 2016   ·   location: Northern CA
id 8706163
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EllieKMAS ( member #68900) posted at 6:16 PM on Tuesday, December 28th, 2021

My point of view, and the one that Desmond espouses in the book, is that forgiveness is for the victim, not the abuser. In fact, Desmond states that the abuser need not even know that forgiveness has taken place, because it's not for THEM. It's for YOU.

I didn't know I shared this thought with Desmond Tutu, but this is how I have viewed forgiveness for years now. I read something once that carrying hate and anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die from it - ultimately they won't but you sure will.

Thanks for this post DD - I think this is a spot-on topic for everyone - for WS's struggling to make those steps towards self-forgiveness (which is a huge and key part of the WS journey IMHO), but also for BS's. The BS piece of it has a couple layers though - first is not conflating forgiveness with reconciliation, because those are not mutually exclusive. Secondly is the work I know I had to do to forgive myself for ignoring so many issues pre d-day. I can't say with any certainty that me confronting things would have changed the ultimate outcome, but that was a hard piece for me to reconcile in myself.

For anyone struggling with this still, I hope the new year brings healing and peace!

"No, it's you mothafucka, here's a list of reasons why." – Iliza Schlesinger

"The love that you lost isn't worth what it cost and in time you'll be glad that it's gone." – Linkin Park

posts: 3294   ·   registered: Nov. 22nd, 2018   ·   location: CO
id 8706289
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ISurvivedSoFar ( Guide #56915) posted at 11:04 PM on Tuesday, December 28th, 2021

Here's the thing and I can say this now. I really, really hope that WS's learn to forgive themselves (not absolve themselves). Living in shame is not a healthy emotional recipe and even though a WS is the perpetrator, it helps nobody to continue or substitute undesirable behavior. That just perpetrates the unwanted outcomes and unhappiness and I wouldn't want to see their partners or families needlessly suffer more than has already happened.

But for a new BS, this concept for a WS may be difficult to accept.

DDay Nov '16
Me: BS, a.k.a. MommaDom, Him: WS
2 DD's: one adult, one teen,1 DS: adult
Surviving means we promise ourselves we will get to the point where we can receive love and give love again.

posts: 2726   ·   registered: Jan. 15th, 2017
id 8706328
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CaptainRogers ( member #57127) posted at 11:29 PM on Tuesday, December 28th, 2021

Wonderful post, my friend.

Forgiveness is not about releasing the abuser from their culpability and accountability.

This, I think, is what many struggle with, both the forgiver and forgiven. For the forgiver, we can struggle with that concept of giving up our "righteous" anger and desire for justice. It just doesn't feel right.

And for the forgiven (my wife, in particular), it is difficult to recognize that forgiven does not mean forgotten. Nor does it mean a perfect "reset" to the time when nothing ever happened.

I can recall one time about 2 years or so ago when my wife said "God forgave me, why can't you?"

My reply "Never confuse me with God. I have forgiven you, but short of a brain injury, I will never forget."

And as ISSF said, it is just as important for the WS to figure out how to forgive and reconcile with themselves. Continuing to keep yourself prisoner in your own mind is a terrible cell to find yourself in.

BS: 42 on D-day
WW: 43 on D-day
Together since '89; still working on what tomorrow will bring.
D-Day v1.0: Jan '17; EA
D-day v2.0: Mar '18; no, it was physical

posts: 3088   ·   registered: Jan. 27th, 2017   ·   location: The Rockies
id 8706331
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GiveTimeTime ( member #45868) posted at 3:04 AM on Wednesday, December 29th, 2021

This is all well and good, and the words and sentiment are pretty, but they don’t apply to me.

When I was going through my divorce, and attending my worthless s-anon meetings, somebody brought this concept up, that forgiveness was for me, and not for my whore fucking husband.

It made sense to a point and I gave it my best shot but sorry, I don’t forgive him and I never will.

Believe me, I wish I could figure out a way to release this anger, but for me, forgiveness is not the way. It’s more just figuring out a way to go forward with the hand I was dealt by him. It sucks, but it is what it is. Moving forward is what I try to do every day. I have no contact with him, and no desire to have any contact with him.

I’ll never be able to forgive that this piece of shit that I gave my heart to and pledged my forever to, threw it all away so he could fuck whores during his lunch break and post on whore review message boards qll the sordid details of fucking them up the ass.

Sorry, just being honest. Apparently, the thrill of what he was doing was worth stealing 20 years of my life, my fertile years where I could’ve had children and the chance that I would ever have a family. Fuck him. I don’t forgive him. I can’t wait for him to die so I can go shit on his grave.

That said, I’m sure forgiveness is nice, but I don’t have it in me to do that.

[This message edited by GiveTimeTime at 3:06 AM, Wednesday, December 29th]

Me: 50 Him: 59Married 14 years, together 19.D-day: 3/6/14Me; loving, devoted, faithful wifeHim: lying, cheating, wh0re fu€king john6/4/15 - Divorced. Done. I wasn't kidding, asshole.

posts: 459   ·   registered: Dec. 6th, 2014   ·   location: Las Vegas
id 8706357
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Bigger ( Attaché #8354) posted at 1:01 PM on Wednesday, December 29th, 2021

I actually think the original post is one of the best thought and worded explanation of forgiveness I have seen on this site.
If I look at your story GiveTimeTime and based on your profile you are something like 10 years from your divorce. I don’t give a hoot about your ex. He can be rotting in a ditch for all I care, but just imagine the free real estate in your emotions and mind he still has while you hold on to this anger. Do you think you ever cross his mind while you scan the obituaries to know when and where to take a dump? I doubt it.

I think you really need to consider the following from the above text:

Forgiveness is not about releasing the abuser from their culpability and accountability. It is about letting go of that anger, and finding ways to use our pain and grief to grow, to motivate ourselves to heal, to become better people as a result. It is about not seeing our pain as our identity, rather it is about seeing ourselves as survivors, as good people worthy of living a life free from daily and constant hate and dismay.

"If, therefore, any be unhappy, let him remember that he is unhappy by reason of himself alone." Epictetus

posts: 10172   ·   registered: Sep. 29th, 2005
id 8706387
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DevastatedDee ( member #59873) posted at 3:08 PM on Wednesday, December 29th, 2021

GiveTimeTime, I married a similar idiot. Plus, I am excellent at anger, so I understand. He deserves every bit of rage you feel, all your judgments and for you to take a dump on his grave. 100%. Fuck that guy. There's no justice to be had and no way to reframe his actions to make them okay. You were profoundly harmed by him. The damage and lost opportunities are real.

All of that is cool as long as this isn't something that eats away at you so many years later. I'm ambivalent about the concept of forgiveness, but I refused to give my XWH any more of my life. He wasted enough of it. If forgiveness is the path that leads to us not giving more of our lives to people who hurt us so badly, that's great. Whatever it is, forgiveness or acceptance or whatever mind game we can come up with to put them in the past where they belong, it's important. My XWH is in the "bad thing that happened to me" category. I can't do anything to change the past and I never could have done anything to prevent him being who he was. I didn't cause him to behave that way and I really couldn't have predicted it. He made the choice of being a bad thing that happened to me instead of being a husband. I work on giving myself good things and experiences in life. I focus on taking joy and pleasure in the little things and not taking them for granted. I'm a happy person these days and from what I've heard, he very much isn't. He ruined himself. I take no joy in knowing that. The world would be a better place if he stopped spreading misery to everyone, so I do wish he'd become a decent human being. I'd be happiest not ever knowing what becomes of him because my particular mind game is to make him irrelevant to me. It isn't forgiveness exactly. It's "this person has disqualified himself from being in my life or taking up my headspace". That has worked tremendously. I have a life to lead. I don't have the most important life on earth, but my life is by definition the most important life to me. I prefer not to allow toxic people to poison it by keeping them active and alive in my head. We'll encounter a lot of people who hurt us in life and there's no way around it. We do get to choose how long we let them hurt us, though.

DDay: 06/07/2017
MH - RA on DDay.
Divorced a serial cheater (prostitutes and lord only knows who and what else).

posts: 4783   ·   registered: Jul. 27th, 2017
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sisoon ( Moderator #31240) posted at 5:14 PM on Wednesday, December 29th, 2021

Hmmm ... Forgiveness, to me, means giving up any desire to see the object of forgiveness punished. It's close to indifference, though not exactly the same. My W was, for a time, the main cause of anger, grief, fear, and shame in me. I'm glad I processed those feeling out of my body. I was furious at and fearful of ow for a time. I'm glad I reached indifference. I'm not sure I'd call 911 if I saw her on fire, but I generally don't think of her.

I had a practice of holding onto anger for some decades. I'm a lot better off now that I feel it and let it go.

I was taught that anger is a way of telling oneself that one wants something to change in one's life. When I treat it as that, I can see 2 types of anger. One type is about things I can't change. Knowing I can't change something gets me to stop worrying about it. That frees a lot of energy.

The 2nd type of anger is about things I can change. And I can apply all the energy freed up by not holding onto anger to make the change that I want.

Foregiveness simply does not mean stuffing feelings. I can't get to forgiveness by stuffing my anger. I have to express it in some healthy way. I don't think I'm alone in that.

Esther Perel says she grew up among survivors of nazi death camps. Some, she says, didn't die. Others lived. IMO, SI is about surviving and thriving, not just surviving. It takes some of us longer than others to get to thriving, feeling joy again. (As I said, I held onto anger dor a couple of decades.)

[This message edited by SI Staff at 5:15 PM, Wednesday, December 29th]

fBH (me) - on d-day: 66, Married 43, together 45, same sex ap
DDay - 12/22/2010
Recover'd and R'ed
You don't have to like your boundaries. You just have to set and enforce them.

posts: 26513   ·   registered: Feb. 18th, 2011   ·   location: Illinois
id 8706418
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 DaddyDom (original poster member #56960) posted at 12:27 AM on Friday, December 31st, 2021

GiveTimeTime, I'd like to share part of my personal story with you, in case it is of any value to you.

There are many factors in my life that ultimately contributed to the thinking that led to my decision to betray our marriage. Chief among those however, was the fact that I have lived most of my life harboring an extreme amount of anger and pain and loss over many traumas I was forced to endure in my formative years, while lacking any healthy coping skills or adult support needed to deal with those feelings and experiences. I was abused, neglected, demeaned, raped, controlled and taken advantage of. I suffered great losses, was abused and betrayed by family and community, was never protected or loved, and for most my life, the only messages I received were that I was "wrong", unloved, unwanted, never good enough, and that my only value to others was in how much I could please them at my own expense. I had no concept of self-worth or self-love. All I had was my pain. I honestly thought life was pain.

When people experience severe trauma, such as what I just described here, or what you described about your experience and your marriage earlier, one of two things tends to happen as a result. Some people use pain and grief as fuel and motivation to help them to rise above the shame and anger. They refuse to allow their abusers to define who they are and what they are worth. More than anything, they refuse to allow their abusers to continue to manipulate, control and diminish them anymore. They take control of everything they can in order to offset that which was not in their control before. This is a very healthy way to move forward from trauma.

The other thing that can happen is that the person takes on the trauma as an identity, as something they believe they have no control over. Over time, it ceases to be something that is happening to them, and instead becomes the focus of their lives, and they build their world around their pain. As crazy as it may sound, they almost fall in love with their trauma, because it becomes all they know. They forget what life looks and feels like without the pain and grief. Our trauma becomes "Stuck" (PTSD). Without a way to process it, without a way to work through it and grow beyond it, we instead cling to our trauma and pain like it's the last lifeboat on a sinking ship. We refuse to give up our pain because it's OUR PAIN DAMMIT and no one and nothing is going to take away this pain that we've endured for so long and survived through. It is our badge of honor, our scar that proves our worth in battle. We'd rather die with it than live without it. (It is not uncommon for people who take this path to eventually "do unto others" what was done to them).

I know this second path intimately because it was the path I took. My rapist, my abusive family, the school bullies... all of it, all long gone, all long over. The people that hurt me... aren't agonizing over it. I seriously doubt they remember, or were even aware, of the pain they caused me and that I carry to this day. And yet, I remained a victim. I remained hurting and suffering. There was no closure, there was no growth, there was no ambition to be someone better... instead, I chose to carry on the pain, all on my own. With my abusers long gone, I became my own abuser, and I made sure that I, and everyone else in my life, felt sorry for me, and pitied me, because I was such a damn victim.

Every day that you hold on to the pain of what he did, it means you are still allowing him the power to hurt you, to control your emotions and thoughts, to diminish the quality of your life, and by proxy, the quality of life of those around you. And he doesn't have to lift a finger to do it, because you do it for him, by refusing to let the hurt and anger go rather than remove his power by simply choosing to no longer let it control you. Every time you get angry about him and his actions and it ruins your day... he wins. He gets to continue to hurt you without consequences and without effort. Don't give him that power, and don't rob yourself of your own strength and success. There is an old saying, that living your best life is the best possible revenge against those that hurt you, and nothing could be more true. He once controlled you, through lies, and manipulation, and gas-lighting, and abuse. The way you take back your life, and take back your happiness, is to stop allowing your hate for him to matter more than your love for yourself. No one is saying to forgive HIM. He doesn't deserve to be forgiven. You forgive yourself for carrying that pain. You make a choice to pull the ball and chain off your ankle and walk with pride and purpose instead. You swim rather than drown. You run rather than walk. You laugh rather than cry. You find peace rather than pain.

Forgiveness isn't giving something to someone else, it is taking something away from them. It is taking away their power and giving it to yourself instead.

Me: WS
BS: ISurvivedSoFar
D-Day Nov '16
Status: Reconciling
"I am floored by the amount of grace and love she has shown me in choosing to stay and fight for our marriage. I took everything from her, and yet she chose to forgive me."

posts: 1190   ·   registered: Jan. 18th, 2017
id 8706616
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BreakingBad ( member #75779) posted at 1:50 AM on Friday, December 31st, 2021

Snaps of respect from me

Amazing food for thought for all who have experienced trauma.

Me=BW
WH had online affairs
Married 30 yrs now
2 kids, both in HS
Dday#1=2/7/20
Dday#2=2/12/20
Dday#3=2/17/20
Dday#4=11/25/20...1st A with cOW was actually 2 1/2 years
BW & WH in IC & MC. Working toward R, but day

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id 8706628
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MIgander ( member #71285) posted at 1:56 AM on Friday, December 31st, 2021

Thanks for posting this. So much food for thought. Its something I'm going to chew on for the next few days.

posts: 295   ·   registered: Aug. 15th, 2019   ·   location: Michigan
id 8706630
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DevastatedDee ( member #59873) posted at 4:47 PM on Friday, December 31st, 2021

DaddyDom, that was hands down the most eloquent way to say "fuck em" that I ever read. Brilliant and absolutely true.

DDay: 06/07/2017
MH - RA on DDay.
Divorced a serial cheater (prostitutes and lord only knows who and what else).

posts: 4783   ·   registered: Jul. 27th, 2017
id 8706730
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foreverlabeled ( member #52070) posted at 3:36 PM on Sunday, January 2nd, 2022

So how does that work when you are the abuser? How, and why, do we seek to forgive ourselves as WS's? What does that look like and why would we want to do it? Most of all, is forgiving ourselves just more rug-sweeping and avoidance of accountability? How do we forgive ourselves while still focusing on our own accountability? How do we use it to promote change? How do we define it when questioned about it?


So while I don't personally view forgiveness as a must, I do think its crucial to make sure you're emotionally sound. And I think it can be achieved separately. And let me be clear, I'm not condemning self forgiveness (or forgiveness of others) if thats something you need I'm for it, I'm not trying to make an argument against it or be combative. Its an open discussion and I'm sharing my experience and thoughts on it, your miles WILL vary.

So, I'll be honest, I haven't forgiven myself. It will be six years in Feb. Why? I just haven't reached self forgiveness yet. Its not that I'm intentionally holding myself back or anything like that. I'm not trying to punish myself either. In fact there are no real negative emotions surrounding my lack of forgiveness. When I ask myself "do you forgive yourself" the answer is still no. Its not so much about the how, its the why.

It seems the concept of forgiveness has on a subconscious level being ingrained as some virtue of good moral. Whether religious or not, conscious of it or not, it stems deeply as something we must do in order to live a prosperous life. That we are somehow poisoning ourselves or punishing ourselves because its not something we have achieved or are willing to do. There is societal and moral pressure to do so. I can't tell you how many times I've read you are weak if you cannot forgive. Forgiveness is the best form of love. Its the greatest gift you can give yourself. Otherwise it suggests that we are doomed to a life of dread, weakness and murky waters. I just don't ascribe to that philosophy. Because I'm living my best life, I'm thriving, I'm genuinely happy, I'm at peace with myself for the first time ever. So, I just don't think one thing needs to happen for the other to. Its not an absolute requirement for a whole and happy life.

I think sometime around the beginning of year two I started to put some mental energy into acceptance. That was the catalyst for change in my personal experience and the closest thing I've felt to forgiveness. I think acceptance is in some ways similar to forgiveness? And I might have confused one for the other in a lot of ways.. I don't know. But I will say acceptance looked like this for me. Its looking back and saying I didn't make the best choices in life, or I may not be okay with what I did and I may never be, but it did happen and now I have new choices to make. Choices that I'll never have to feel that way again. Choices that will take me from abuser to non abuser.

I guess in my mind we cannot give a strict definition of forgiveness because overcoming the negative emotions associated with wrongdoing might be neither necessary nor enough for forgiveness.

I relate to that. I don't harbor shame, anger, or any other animosity towards myself, there is no baggage I'm carrying around and yet I'm not any closer to self forgiveness than where I started. I dealt with these feelings separately, though not with purpose, its just how it worked out. It had to do with regulating those emotions and coping with them. So I overcame those emotions and still its not enough for self forgiveness.

[Self]Forgiveness is not about releasing the abuser from their culpability and accountability. It is about letting go of that anger, and finding ways to use our pain and grief to grow, to motivate ourselves to heal, to become better people as a result.

This plus the quick fire questions I quoted at the top, you could tweak the wording for each and I think the answer for all of them could be remorse. Reading through much of this I kept thinking well my remorse did that, or my remorse made room and allowed for this to happen.

So just a different take here. And like I said I'm not saying self forgiveness or forgiveness of any kind is something I'm against or are trying to talk anyone out of. It just wasn’t pressing for me, it didn't hold me back and it had no bearing on my ability to make necessary changes.

And of course putting some thoughts to this it made me look at forgiveness for my ex. I neither forgive him nor do I not forgive him. Its odd to think about as I've not really put any mental energy there. Again, acceptance comes to mind. And truthfully, for me I'd be more willing to forgive someone if they actually deserved it. I don't hold any resentments or grudges when it comes to my ex, I've accepted the circumstances, and I found a way to let go of all the unknowns I was left with. If forgiveness is for me and not the person who victimized me, I think the choice not to forgive is as viable as the choice to forgive.

And maybe just as I might've confused acceptance with forgiveness, perhaps it is equally true that after completing the grieving process that makes way to self healing it can often look or more importantly feel like forgiveness too.

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Bigger ( Attaché #8354) posted at 10:29 AM on Monday, January 3rd, 2022

I have shared this a couple of times on this site, and it seems some find some wisdom or learning in this (remember – diamonds are found amongst coal!). This is long – even by my standards.

Way back in the days I started a software company around an industry-specific concept. As part of getting funding, we added an investor who insisted on assuming the role of the CEO and CFO. We were all young software guys and he had money and business experience we thought this was a great idea. Other than daily financial management and marketing his role was to ensure our patents and intellectual property. We were struggling financially and there were weeks and months where I came home with maybe a tenth of my expected pay.

Our software had one unique feature that was totally our invention and gave us the potential to edge our competitors. Our biggest competitor and the market-leader queried about buying us, offering an amount that would have multiplied the value of what we had already put into our fledgling company. Our CEO got the job of negotiating a good contract.
After a couple of meetings, the CEO told us the deal was off. He didn’t give any good reason. I had some suspicions, so I checked our accounts and realized the CEO had been making cash withdrawals way beyond his wages, and way beyond whatever amount anyone else had been getting. In fact, it exceeded the total all others had received combined. Had a sale gone through this would have been discovered in the good-faith process.
When confronted he acted indignant and stormed out.

We carried on trying to make ends meet. Our sales dropped because of a strong rumor that the big competitor was bringing out an update, so everybody was holding back on purchases. We struggled but kept afloat. Then the competitors update came along, and the key feature was the same functionality that we had come up with…

We also learned that the former CEO was now on the board of the competitor…

When we contacted our patent attorney, he told us that he had been calling the former CEO for weeks to remind him to send some relevant documentation so he could process the relevant protection to our software. The CEO had always said it would be there in a few days. Turned out that the CEO had even been in contact with the attorney some weeks AFTER he was fired, assuring him the documentation would come soon.

Both this attorney and our business attorney told us that although we could sue the CEO and possibly the competitor for stealing our concept the cost would be phenomenal and the outcome iffy. We simply neither had the financial resources nor the time to seek what we felt was rightfully ours. We could even possibly file criminal charges for embezzlement, but that too was iffy, expensive, and would take time. Time the company simply didn’t have.

Bottom line was we had to dissolve the company. We negotiated most of our loans and debts, but I was left with a hefty personal debt as well as lost income. For the next 5-6 years I worked several extra jobs on to my regular one – bar tending, bouncer, taxi-driver, handyman – while I paid off the debt. I don’t recall having taken a day off or worked less than 70-80 hours per week for that time.

Keep in mind that not only had his actions set me back financially for nearly a decade, but also that IF we had accepted the original offer that was already on the table it would have advanced me financially by a decade. Compared to my peers I was buying a house, getting a new vehicle, taking holidays 6-10 years later than they did. His actions impacted me more long-term than the infidelity of my former fiancé.

Every morning I would get out of the small apartment I rented (2-bedroom semi-cellar with the bathroom across the corridor my neighbors walked to get to the laundry-room) and wait for my friend who gave me a ride to work. I would sit outside looking over the bay at the hills and I could see the large house the former CEO owned. I would be looking at that house and cursing him.

One day I realized that he caused me to start each day negatively. I took negativity with me into the day.

After some thought I decided to change my thinking. When I looked across the bay I would think "poor guy, sacrificed his honor and integrity for some cash. That must be a miserable existence". I noticed that instead of anger I felt pity. I also noticed that instead of the negativity, I would maybe spend a few seconds looking at the house and having the pity-thought, and then spend the next minute simply appreciating the view and the environment. I would start the day in a lot more positive frame-of-mind.

Pity is a strange emotion. It’s not the same as compassion. It’s a negative positive emotion: you can’t respect someone or something you pity, nor can you have any good positive emotion. Nor can you hold a good negative emotion towards those you pity. It can lead to compassion, but only if fed and/or if the cause for the pity seems to be doing something positive to change the cause of pity.

I realized that in some ways I had forgiven him, or better yet – forgiven myself for what he did. Doesn’t mean I like him or want to spend time with him. It just means he doesn’t impact my daily life, nor does my life in any way revolve around him, fear or wish of meeting him, a desire for payback or whatever. He is a non-entity for me.

To me – that can be one face of forgiveness.

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About a decade ago I was approached by the CEO of my present job and asked about this former business associate – the former CEO. My manager noticed we came from the same small city so he thought I might know him, and he was on the short-list for the role of Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for my present job. I chose my words carefully but shared my experience, and asked that IF he got the job, it would be ensured I would never have to work with him. Never heard of him again. My forgiveness doesn't mean I have to like him or want him around. smile

"If, therefore, any be unhappy, let him remember that he is unhappy by reason of himself alone." Epictetus

posts: 10172   ·   registered: Sep. 29th, 2005
id 8707104
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 DaddyDom (original poster member #56960) posted at 4:20 PM on Monday, January 3rd, 2022

Bigger,

Thanks for sharing this story. (And as someone whose been in the software industry for 21 years, I'd love to hear more about this particular tale).

After some thought I decided to change my thinking. When I looked across the bay I would think "poor guy, sacrificed his honor and integrity for some cash. That must be a miserable existence". I noticed that instead of anger I felt pity. I also noticed that instead of the negativity, I would maybe spend a few seconds looking at the house and having the pity-thought, and then spend the next minute simply appreciating the view and the environment. I would start the day in a lot more positive frame-of-mind.

I really love where your head landed on this one, and I'm just curious if you have any thoughts as to "why" or "how" you came to this conclusion? I think it's fair to say that most people would only see their own loss at that point. What do think made your thinking different? Do you feel you had a solid upbringing with parents that taught you to think this way? Is it from therapy? Or does your brain just naturally work this way? Just curious.

Me: WS
BS: ISurvivedSoFar
D-Day Nov '16
Status: Reconciling
"I am floored by the amount of grace and love she has shown me in choosing to stay and fight for our marriage. I took everything from her, and yet she chose to forgive me."

posts: 1190   ·   registered: Jan. 18th, 2017
id 8707141
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MIgander ( member #71285) posted at 2:56 PM on Thursday, January 6th, 2022

I've been doing my own thinking on forgiveness.

I'm a Catholic, so if you don't subscribe to Christianity in general, salt what I'm going to say as you will. I've found that the more I dig into my faith and what it teaches, the more it make sense psychologically. Really, if you believe that God created us and Jesus was God, what He says about it would have to come from a point of deep knowledge of the human condition. We weren't just made by Him, He became one of us too. So yeah, He was probably the first psychologist too.

Anyway...

There's another thread in Reconciliation that talks about feelings for the WS after reconciliation has begun/ mostly finished. In there the posters talk about the debt that WS's have towards their BS after the affair and devastating trauma and loss of relationship. This is a real debt and a VERY heavy one I bear toward my BS.

The debt language made me think of the Lord's prayer though- "forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors" (I think that's the KJV of Mark's gospel... maybe? Correct me if I'm wrong, but us Catholics are known for our paraphrasing and not for our memorization! laugh ).

The debt language really hit me. Leading up to my affair, I was NOT releasing my BH of his debts toward me. I still have days where forgiving him for certain things has to be done ALL OVER AGAIN. However, I know that if I want to be forgiven and shown grace, I have to be the first to extend it. Not tit for tat, but more about becoming the person that I want to be. And that's a whole other post I may start here in a bit...

I have to think that the nature of forgiveness is about extending the grace you wish to receive. I couldn't receive grace that I needed to heal from my BH's wrongs toward me because I was holding tight to his debts to me. The more I held on to it, the more it poisoned me with anger and bitterness. The more poisoned I was by that, the less happy I was. I became more depressed, more anxious and more miserable. Finally I decided to medicate myself with an affair.

I can't help but think that the same poison I used to justify my affair is running through the BS's veins after their WS's A. It is a debt that we WS's can't ever repay. However, if a BS decides to try for R, if they don't forgive the debt, their WS will sense this and it will affect their R. In my case, on my BH's bad days, I sense his lack of forgiveness and it sends me into a pit of shame. I crawl under my rock and then am not present for BH in the ways he needs me. It is something I am working through (my rock crawling in shame), but the more the trigger from BH happens, the more energy I have to spend fighting it. Energy that could be going toward loving and comforting him instead.

It's a vicious cycle.

I think I do have to distinguish between forgiveness and reconciling though. Forgiveness is for the forgiver. I know in a recent bit of work we were doing together, I had to forgive my BH's EA with a college friend of his while we were dating early on. We discussed in detail what was happening in his relationship with her and my insecurities and hurt surrounding it. As I understood better, I was able to more easily forgive him. And I do. I am now more able to forgive his EA with one of my friends. It followed a pattern within his wiring and intimacy avoidance. His EA with my friend (after we were married) mirrored the EA with his friend when we were dating. I could forgive because I could understand.

That forgiveness wasn't the same process as allowing myself to trust him again though. It was a separate decision that I had to make to allow the EA's to be water under the bridge and allow him to show me that he's changed his boundaries with other women. I have decided to move on from his EA's and open myself to him again. This is DIFFERENT than forgiving him. I forgave him in a separate decision from the one I made to allow myself to be open to him again (reconciling).

I think that may be a distinction worth thinking about for BS's. That forgiveness is separate from reconciling. Just because they are working on forgiveness of their WS's (and learning the whys is crucial for that), it doesn't mean they automatically have to let them back into their circle of trust.

It's like judging. We're not to judge people's hearts. I was judging my BH as an abuser as he broke my trust with these other women- giving them the emotional intimacy I craved while saddling me with the responsibility for dealing with his negativity in our relationship. I judged him to be a cold and callous, selfish and hypocritical person. Until I understood that his FOO was avoidant in the extreme and he had no coping skills for dealing with conflict in intimate relationships. Now I understand, now I forgive.

HOWEVER, we are called to judge people's actions and their affect on our lives. If my husband continued his cold, cruel behavior, I would be justified in leaving him. Just as BS's are justified in leaving their WS's if there is no evidence of real progress in changing. I can judge that people who participate in hypocritical, abusive, negative behaviors toward me are not allowed to have a place in my life. BS's are allowed to do the same.

Lucky for me, BH is in IC and starting to own up to his own shit. He's making real changes and I am just amazed at his strength and determination. He is becoming a more self aware, empathetic person. It just makes me so proud of him and so honored to be part of his life after everything I put him through. His healing is so healing to me and is humbling to me.

None of that would have been possible in my heart toward him if he continued in his behavior. And that's the decision BS's have to make. Hopefully after they forgive.

posts: 295   ·   registered: Aug. 15th, 2019   ·   location: Michigan
id 8707922
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Dude67 ( member #75700) posted at 4:16 PM on Thursday, January 6th, 2022

This is extremely profound. The one thought that comes to mind is that it’s possible that in a BS’ mind, whatever negative things they did in the marriage, to which they acknowledge, short of cheating, it will never equal their WS’ betrayal.

In other words, can one make the determination that not all transgressive acts in a marriage are considered equal? Thus, if infidelity tips much more heavily on the transgressive scale, does the BS think, "fine and dandy, he/she forgave me for being an angry (substitute any transgression here short of cheating) spouse, but that will never equal their cheating."

posts: 210   ·   registered: Oct. 21st, 2020
id 8707934
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