Thanks for your response, great stuff there! I was raised as a fairly religious Jew, and when I was a kid, I assumed I'd be a rabbi one day. I was wrong. I'm not religious at all these days (I sometimes go by Atheist or Humanist). Strangely enough, my sister married a wonderful Catholic man and converted. So my family is a mixed bag of both religion and belief (or lack thereof). But I digress...
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.
I'm so glad you wrote this because this is really along the lines of thinking that prompted this post, and where I struggled for so long because I couldn't work through it from the mindset of shame and regret.
For me, as a WS, I cannot allow my recovery to either be stalled or derailed by my spouse. We've said many times on SI that both the BS and the WS must heal on their own, at their own pace and in their own way. I can't heal my spouse and she can't heal me. And in my experience, that is completely true. We heal ourselves first, and then we can heal as a couple.
So what about the reverse then? If our spouse cannot help us heal, can they prevent or pervert our healing instead?
Should a WS be waiting for forgiveness from their spouse until they can feel human and "of value" again?
If we are never forgiven, does that mean our lives are forfeit?
Are we unforgivable by our very nature?
Is being forgiven a necessary component for healing and growth?
Here is the thing. Other people only have power over us that we give them. (In a logical/emotional sense, not the physical sense). Ultimately, who we are, what we do, what we believe in and what we stand for, is on us. If a WS finds themselves stuck in shame because their BS hasn't forgiven them, that is NOT on the BS. That's on the WS. Our spouses do not determine nor own our self-worth. We own that. We control that. And to be honest, it's unfair (and abusive if you want my opinion) to put that pressure and responsibility on our BS's. They have no responsibility, and often no reason, to forgive us for what we did. And I think it's unfair to ask them to do so, especially without giving them some reason(s) to do so.
So that's where self-forgiveness comes in. I can forgive myself for the choices I made and the actions I took. That doesn't mean that I'm okay with what I did, in fact, I spend most every minute of every day hating what I did, and demolished by the hurt I caused, the trauma I thrust upon my wife and kids, the happiness that was destroyed forever... those things will never be "okay". But I can either live in shame, which accomplishes nothing and honestly just makes everything else worse (at the end of the day, shame is a very selfish and self-serving emotion that has no value), or I can decide to see my actions for what they were... something that I did, not who I am at my core.
For me, cheating is something that happened before today. Moving forward, I get to make better choices. I get to think differently. I get to know myself better, to build better coping mechanisms, to improve my sense of empathy and understanding for others, to define and keep what I consider to be healthy morals and thoughts. I can take positive and healing actions. I can show love and support to my wife and kids. I can even get myself through my own bad days because I really love the new person I am today more than I hate who I was.
I will always be the guy who cheated on his wife. I can't change that. But I don't have to be that guy for the rest of my life. I can also be the guy who overcame his demons, did the best that he could with what he had, and who became a better person as a result of it, rather than the f'ing cheater who stayed lost in shame for the rest of his life.
I will add this. If you want to make it easier for your BS to forgive you someday, then you have to first make yourself forgivable. You have to prove, to yourself and to your spouse, that the person who made those painful choices before, is someone better now, and someone who will never make those same choices again because that's simply not who they are anymore. People who love themselves don't cheat. They don't need to. They don't want to. Because that would destroy their own self-love, not to mention the damage it would do to others.