How to Forgive the "Unforgivable"
After an Affair
By Susie and Otto Collins
On the day that you and your spouse spoke your wedding vows
to one another, being monogamous "until death do us part"
probably seemed central to those promises.
Even if you and your partner are not married, you may have
made a relationship agreement to be monogamous and it's
highly likely you took that promise seriously.
But after infidelity happened in your marriage or love
relationship, you might be in shock.
It may feel that you partner breaking the monogamy promise
you made to one another is an unforgivable act.
Trust may seem significantly weakened or even destroyed as a
A part of you might want to stay in this relationship and
try to rebuild trust while another part of you can't see how
you could possibly forgive the infidelity.
Julie never thought this day would happen.
When she and Clay stood in front of their friends and family
and vowed to be true to one another, she couldn't imagine
feeling more trust in another human being.
Eight years later, now that Julie has discovered that Clay
recently had an affair, the deep and abiding trust she felt
in him and in their relationship seems irrevocably broken.
Even as unforgivable as infidelity is to Julie, she can't
bring herself to leave the relationship-- at least not yet.
She feels caught between her desire to heal and move on from
Clay's affair and her hurt and outrage because he violated
his promise to her.
Give yourself permission to decide.
Depending on your beliefs and values, you might find it
difficult to even allow yourself to consider ending your
relationship-- especially if you are married.
Some people feel strongly that you just don't "give up" on a
If you have children together, it might be even more painful
to contemplate "breaking up" your family. You might be
worrying as much about how your children will be impacted by
your decision to leave than about your own self.
On the other hand, you might hold honesty and integrity in
such high esteem, it is abhorrent to you to think about
staying with someone who cheated.
We aren't suggesting that you leap to any decision-- whether
it be to stay in this relationship or to leave it.
We do advise you to give your self permission to make a
fully-considered decision. As much as you may not want to
think about divorce or a breakup as a possible option, we
encourage you to include it.
When you box yourself in and limit your possibilities, you
also limit your chances of happiness.
Create some time and space for yourself where you won't be
disturbed. Try to quiet your mind and then tap into heart.
When you think about staying in this relationship, healing
from the betrayal and moving on with your partner, how do
When you think about ending this relationship and then
healing and moving on with your life, how do you feel?
You might not feel overjoyed by either of these options (or
others you might come up with).
But the important thing is that you offer yourself a wide
range of possibilities to choose from.
From this quiet mind, tuned in place, you can more easily
know the decision that seems best for you at this time.
Trust that inner knowing and sense of clarity.
Choose to forgive.
Julie takes a weekend away by herself to be with her
emotions and make a decision about what she wants to do
She rents a hotel room and takes her journal to
write about her feelings and thoughts.
After acknowledging to herself that she actually could
divorce Clay or she could stay with him and try to work
things out, Julie decides to stay in the marriage for now.
She realizes that, for her, as unforgivable as infidelity
is, she is more upset about potentially losing Clay.
There are so many things that she loves about him-- she is
not ready to give up on their relationship.
Once you give yourself permission to decide what you really
want for your future-- including all options-- you might
find a greater sense of space within.
As you remind yourself that you do have a choice in this
relationship, you can know that you have a choice in all
You can choose to forgive your partner for the infidelity.
This might not happen immediately-- or even very quickly.
But as soon as you make the decision to begin to forgive,
you can take gradual steps toward releasing the past and the
pain and the hurt.
You can open up, little by little, to an ever-increasing
sense of re-connection with your mate. And you can also feel
more and more ease with where you are and eagerness about
where you're headed.
In order to genuinely forgive, you need to give yourself the
freedom to choose.
You can choose to start the forgiveness process just as you
choose to stay in your relationship after an affair.
You are the one who gets to make these (and all) decisions.