Forgiveness is often about letting go of resentment. Genuine forgiveness requires the effort of both people in the relationship, as well as time to heal. If you’ve experienced infidelity in your relationship, here are five tips to help you forgive and move forward.
1. Request open communication.
Infidelity requires a lot of lying. My clients will often say that their partner’s lies were the worst part about the cheating.
After there’s been an emotional betrayal, open communication is essential for you to be able to forgive. Tell your partner you need them to be an open book. This might mean their phone and other technology isn’t password protected for a little while.
To be able to forgive, we all desire an apology and explanation. However, there’s a third component that helps us to forgive more easily. Research shows that if someone has been hurt, they are better able to forgive if there is some kind of retribution. Retribution is basically having the other person be punished or suffer for something they did. In this case, research shows that it may be easier to forgive if the cheater sleeps on the couch for a week or moves out for a little while so that he or she feels the consequences of their actions.
3. Communicate when you’re triggered.
The person who was hurt also has to make an effort if they are emotionally triggered. Time might go by, but the hurt is not forgotten. So even if it’s been several months or years since your partner cheated, you could still feel vulnerable and apprehensive at times. You may still worry if it will happen again and if your partner can stay loyal to you. It takes a while for trust to be rebuilt, and it’s normal to be triggered now and then.
If your partner hasn’t texted you back while they’re away, it’s up to you to tell them you’re being triggered. You need to communicate when you feel anxious or uneasy, because if you hold it in you can develop suspicion and jealousy. If you talk to your partner rather than hiding your feelings, they can help you resolve them.
4. Go to couples counseling.
Infidelity is almost always a symptom of something bigger going on in the relationship. After someone cheats, couples counseling is warranted to deal with the bigger picture. Infidelity is a way of getting something from someone else, whether it’s affection, attention or praise. So if there is unhappiness or dissatisfaction in the relationship, dealing with the cheating alone won’t resolve what’s really going on.
Getting professional help and making changes will help the both of you understand why the unfaithfulness happened. If you understand why it happened, you can begin to do things differently.
5. Remember that forgiving infidelity doesn’t condone it.
People sometimes feel they need to be hyper-aware of their partner’s actions if the partner cheated, or that they need to continually punish their partner for the adultery.
This isn’t an approach that works for anyone. Holding onto anger is poison for you, not the person who hurt you. Your forgiveness does not condone their infidelity or predict that it will happen again. Forgiveness benefits you. With forgiveness you learn the lessons of your experience (there are always lessons), and you let the anger go. If you can forgive, learn and let go of your toxic anger you will experience much more ease in your relationship and your life. This all takes time, so be patient with yourself and reach out to a therapist to help you through this journey.