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Wayward Side :
On the topic of Forgiveness


 DaddyDom (original poster member #56960) posted at 4:57 PM on Thursday, January 6th, 2022


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.

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 8707951

MIgander ( member #71285) posted at 5:59 PM on Thursday, January 6th, 2022

Thanks DDom, your posts are really helpful and thought provoking. Sometimes I get stuck in my progress and other days I seem to "get it" more. Luckily I'm in the "getting it" flow right now.

Families are interesting in how they handle the whole religious bit. My side is a very mixed bag, but BH's is all Catholic (except for his Lutheran aunt- Lutherans can be a "catholic lite" in some ways... but anyhow).

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.

THIS is what I'm trying to accomplish. Your other comment about not tying my own self-forgiveness to my BH is key too. I can't put that weight on him and hold up my own healing in the mean time. As for forgiveness from my BH being necessary for my healing and growth, strictly speaking, no. It's not completely necessary for me to heal on my own. However, I do believe that if my husband wasn't working towards forgiveness of me for my A, I wouldn't be able to cope with remaining in the marriage. That was what motivated me to write up D papers. He was not working on forgiveness, he was abusive in his anger and rage and he wasn't getting the help he obviously needed for it. The D papers were as much for me as for him. The hurt, rage and brokenness in him from my A were killing the man he used to be. And he seemed content to stay in that and wallow. All while lashing out at me, while our kids were looking on. I told him, "this abusive behavior has to stop. I can't live like this anymore. Either you go to IC or I will D you. The papers are written up, it's up to you." He did make the choice to enter IC. From that point on, his behavior improved and I believe it's one of the major reasons we are still together today.

He's chosen to work on forgiveness, that alone amazes me. There's still ups and downs and time where he is one foot out the door. However, I see him making the effort to pull himself back together and try and stick this out. More than that, I see him actively trying to improve the way we interact and communicate. It's amazing. It's really contributed to my ability to pull myself from out of my recent shame spiral and be present with him.

So yeah, my healing isn't predicated on his forgiveness, but oh how helpful and healing it is when he is showing me grace.

posts: 295   ·   registered: Aug. 15th, 2019   ·   location: Michigan
id 8707969

This0is0Fine ( member #72277) posted at 11:24 PM on Thursday, January 6th, 2022

I highly recommend the book by Janis Spring, "How Can I Forgive You".

It has a slightly different bent to it than what DaddyDom describes in Tutu's book/method (which I'm not personally totally familiar with).

What he calls "forgiveness" is much closer to "acceptance" according to the way Janis Spring describes things. Acceptance can be reached with or without any further action on the part of the offender. You accept that something bad has happened to you. You heal from it, and you don't dwell on it any longer. Genuine forgiveness, as she defines it, must be earned because it has to do with restoring a relationship between the offender and the victim.

Indeed the victim can reach acceptance, heal, and release anger, hatred, or other energy previously directed at the offender without the offender doing *anything*, and that's great. But genuine forgiveness is transactional.

The offender must make amends, show true contrition, and if they want a relationship (friendship, business, romantic...) with the one they offended, they need to earn it. The victim, can then grant the gift of earned forgiveness. Of restoring a health back and forth instead of regarding that person as unsafe to deal with.

Forgiveness does not have to be all or nothing either. It doesn't mean you restore the relationship to the pre-offense state. It doesn't mean you never mention the offense again. It means that you don't use the offense as a weapon or low blow in situations where it isn't pertinent.

Love is not a measure of capacity for pain you are willing to endure for your partner.

posts: 1648   ·   registered: Dec. 11th, 2019
id 8708059

straightup ( new member #78778) posted at 12:35 AM on Friday, January 7th, 2022

Great discussion.

The only thing I can add is to put a Roman gloss on the need to give and receive grace, and hold yourself to a standard.

Ovid - (la) Ut ameris, amabilis esto.
If you want to be loved, be lovable.

Seneca - Si vis amari, ama.
If you wish to be loved, love.

I was thinking I first read the notions combined in Emerson ‘if you want to be loved - love and be lovable’ but can’t find the reference and might be wrong about that.

As a BS in recon, I hope to do both.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
Mother Teresa

posts: 40   ·   registered: May. 11th, 2021   ·   location: Australia
id 8708079

gmc94 ( Guide #62810) posted at 1:25 AM on Friday, January 7th, 2022

I enjoyed Spring's book on forgiveness so much I bought a bunch of copies and gave to friends/family. I think it's a "must read" for life, not just those touched by infidelity.

While I'm not in R (so get out the salt grains) IMO, forgiveness (or Spring's "acceptance") has nothing to do with R. Forgiveness/acceptance is a choice the forgiver makes to release the pain/anger/etc for THEMSELVES. It is an act of SELF love - whether the person being forgiven is one's self or spouse or attacker, or anyone. I get a little spidey sense flare when folks (esp a WS) seem to be fishing or pining for, or looking for solace in a BS' forgiveness early on. There are plenty of BS here on SI who consider themselves successfully Rd, and who have - sometimes years later - still not come to a place of "forgiving" the infidelity. That's Ok.. works for them (tho I would assume the WS would have to come to self forgiveness to get to a place where R would really work... but I'm not in R, so I'm just surmising here). And my assumption is also that such BS will have come to a place of "acceptance" (tho not necessarily in the same way that Spring uses the term)... and that form of acceptance is something I believe every BS must do, regardless of their R status... IOW, part of the BS' healing is accepting that it happened, that we cannot change the past, that we cannot control our WS, etc. For me, that kind of acceptance was more of a first step, but had a host of benefits in my own healing (and was WELL after the 1st year, but I'm kind of a slow learner smile )

A WS (or anyone's) SELF forgiveness occurs (or IMO should) wholly separate and apart from anything going on with the BS/person harmed. IMO, BS should not control that or, really have much part in it, other than doing their best to find patience and keep good boundaries about the level of support they are able to provide (IMO / IME that can be tricky in that I would not be comfortable if a BS is expending energy needed to heal their own trauma on supporting a WS' self forgiveness - if that makes sense). I'm not a WS, but have plenty to forgive myself for and that self forgiveness is between me and me. Say, for instance, I was engaging someone I'd harmed - let's use my kid - to support me in my journey of self forgiveness... I have a pretty big concern that engaging the person I've harmed when trying to forgive myself can lead to a ton of short cuts and ways to not dig FULLY into my own crap (e.g., my kid can say "don't worry mom, I forgive you" for whatever reasons/issues THEY have, and I can tell myself it's all good and go about my merry way, without getting to the "hard" stuff that is what really releases my pain and shame, etc over my misdeeds... we humans are pretty damn good at emotional side stepping).

And what Spring calls ACCEPTANCE (which includes a very tricky / likely controversial concept, at least WRT infidelity or a BS, of the offended party's self reflection on any part they may have played in the harm) is also between me and me - it's a personal journey that is done by the one seeking to release the pain being held but the situation does not allow for forgiveness to be earned by the offender. Her oft-used example is when an offender has died / is no longer in the offended's life - so there is no opportunity to "earn" it. This would include a ton of infidelity situations where R was never on the table (or my sitch where the WS is simply unable to take steps needed to "earn" forgiveness, which left me on my own journey to the Spring form of "acceptance", if that makes sense.... the double use of acceptance is tricky, but I do feel there's a difference between Spring's idea of acceptance on the forgiveness spectrum and that which is commonly understood, but "unearned forgiveness" has a different meaning in Spring's framework, so I'm reluctant to use that too)

Anyhow, I think forgiveness is something a lot of folks touched by infidelity contemplate... and for me, Spring's book was invaluable (which I also find interesting, given that I had some real issues with her book on infidelity)

[This message edited by gmc94 at 1:38 AM, Friday, January 7th]

M >25yrs/grown kids
DD1 1994 ONS prostitute
DD2 2018 exGF1 10+yrEA & 10yrPA... + exGF2 EA forever & "made out" 2017
9/18 WH hung himself- died but revived

It's rude to say "I love you" with a mouthful of lies

posts: 3618   ·   registered: Feb. 22nd, 2018
id 8708086
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