How to Forgive After Infidelity

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How to Forgive after Infidelity

Discovering that your partner has been unfaithful is a heart-wrenching experience that can seem nearly impossible to forgive. But as a couples counselor, I’ve helped many couples find forgiveness and healing in affair recovery counseling. I can tell you that it is not only possible to find forgiveness after infidelity, it is transformative, for you and for your relationship. In this article, we’ll explore how to forgive after infidelity, heal your heart, and move forward. 

The Gift of Forgiveness after Infidelity

When someone hurts you deeply, forgiveness is a profound gift that you give to yourself. It’s not about forgetting what happened; it’s a process of releasing what is not yours to carry. Holding onto unforgiveness doesn’t just impact the relationship with your partner, it impacts your emotional wellbeing, and ripples into relationships with your children, extended family, co-workers, and friends. 

When you learn your partner has cheated, it triggers the grief cycle — shock, yearning, disorganization, and reorganization. To reach the stage of reorganization, a “new normal,” you must release the emotional burden that your partner’s cheating placed on you. Forgiving your partner releases this burden and propels you forward to recover after infidelity.

But forgiving your partner for cheating isn’t easy. Someone you trusted and loved has betrayed you in a way that feels unforgivable. There may be a part of you that wants to get even, hate your spouse, and hold onto unforgiveness. Forgiving your spouse can feel like you are relinquishing your last ounce of control within your relationship.

Infidelity sets off a storm of questions that run through your mind as you try to make sense of your partner’s decision to cheat. At times, you may question not only their intention, but your own responsibility for the infidelity. Did you not give your spouse enough? What is it that my partner needed that someone else could provide? When you blame yourself for what happened, it extends your pain and makes forgiveness more difficult. 

In relationships, trust is foundational. Without it, we feel afloat and unsafe. In new relationships, trusting someone is a choice. But according to relationship psychologist Dr. John Gottman, restoring trust in a relationship once it’s been broken is more of an action than a belief. It requires consistently trustworthy actions over a long period of time. As you start to re-establish trust in your relationship, there may be times when you still don’t feel sure if you can trust your partner to not betray you again. This anxiety makes forgiveness difficult, because it means that you will be dealing with the emotional fallout of your partner’s actions for a long time. 

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How to Forgive Your Partner after Infidelity

There are many things you can do to pave the way to forgiveness after an affair. For the betrayed partner, express your feelings to your spouse. While it’s normal to want to know exactly what happened during the affair, having long conversations night after night can lead to deepening the wounds that have been created. Don’t push for excessive details that will only make it harder for you to heal. 

Finally, give yourself time and space to work toward forgiveness. Understand that it’s not a fast or easy process. A therapist can help you work through your emotions and take steps toward recovery in the wake of infidelity. 

If you are the partner who cheated, it’s important to be open and honest with your partner, giving them time and opportunity to ask questions. Be willing to answer your partner fully and show remorse for your actions. You also need an opportunity to work through all of the emotions that you are experiencing, possibly with help from a good therapist or life coach. Finally, end the affair, and cut off all contact with the affair partner. These trustworthy actions demonstrate that you regret hurting your partner, and that you are committed to regaining their trust, which makes it easier for them to forgive you. 

As a couple, make sure that before you start difficult conversations that you are both in a relatively calm state of mind, not at a time of day when you are overly stressed, hungry, tired, or busy. Take turns listening to one another and make sure that you have really heard your partner. Give these conversations their place, but place boundaries around them. You don’t want to sit in discomfort every day. Create a time or a couple of times a week where you can really sit and be attuned to one another to work through what happened. 

You also need to start rebuilding the friendship between the two of you through connection. It is important to take time together to rediscover one another, and rediscover a foundation that will help you reconnect. Go on dates together, do things that you both enjoy, start a new hobby or sport together, and talk about things other than the affair that will help you rediscover one another. 

Finally, seek help from a good marriage counselor. Relationships can survive infidelity, but fully healing and moving forward often requires expert support. Make sure you choose a marriage and family therapist who practices evidence based forms of couples counseling, not an individually trained therapist who also works with couples. Learn more about how to choose a marriage counselor here

Support for Forgiving After Infidelity

An affair forever changes the landscape of your marriage. Your old relationship is over and both of you will need time to mourn it so that you can build something new. Forgiveness is one step in that process, and it’s an important one. 

The good news is that couples can and do recover from infidelity and many build stronger relationships in the aftermath of an affair. I’ve been lucky to support couples with this kind of growth and positive transformation many times and I can tell you that it’s real and powerful. 

If you would like to discuss working with me to heal your relationship after an affair, I invite you to schedule a free consultation


Jennifer C., M.S., RMFT, CCFT, RP

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast

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