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How to forgive and move forward after an affair

Kori Ellis is an editor and writer based in San Antonio, TX, where she lives with her husband and four children. At SheKnows, she writes about parenting, fashion, beauty and other lifestyle topics. Additionally, Kori has been published i...

Expert tips on moving forward

An affair can be devastating to a marriage or relationship. If you have decided to stick with your partner after an affair, you need to truly forgive him. You don't want to live your life always suspicious, resentful and bitter. Larry A. Bugen, Ph.D., author of Stuck On Me…Missing You: Getting Past Self-Absorption to Find Love, offers these tips for couples who want to move forward after an affair.

Broken trust

Forgiveness


All affairs are a violation of trust. When there is an affair there is a universal requirement for forgiveness: contrition. The unfaithful partner must be grieving and penitent regarding shortcomings and imperfections. Furthermore, the unfaithful partner must share this grief openly and directly with the person(s) who has been impacted. When we ask for forgiveness we are opening up a dialogue with those who have been hurt the most. We transact. True forgiveness always involves a dialogue, and it is within this dialogue that healing occurs.

At the core of forgiveness lies empathy. Our capacity for empathy reflects our ability to gently lift ourselves out of our own self-absorption long enough to really understand the feelings of another human being. Therapists would say that this capacity to understand is intended to grasp the experience of someone else from their personal frame of reference: in other words, we try to put ourselves in their shoes.

Each of us loves poorly and conditionally, and most of us do not suffer fools gladly.

Empathy

Empathy allows us to let go of our self-absorbed reverie of self-as-victim and recognize that imperfection drives human behavior and all human behavior is destined to be imperfect. People in glass houses should not throw stones. We need only to look inside our own pain to recognize that we each have been forgiven many times by others –- often not knowing until years later.

This is the key. If others have forgiven us because we were worthy enough in spite of our misdeeds or imperfections, should we not be able to extend the same to others? This is empathy. This is our capacity as human beings to renew all. We have a responsibility to do so in our most cherished relationships –- which means we have the ability-to-respond.

Healing

Once again, you will be able to express forgiveness face to face, or in a letter when you truly believe that:

  • The transgressor has taken responsibility for the pain created.
  • The transgressor feels genuine remorse/regret over his/her actions –- has said, "I'm sorry."
  • The transgressor has learned from his/her mistakes – the fall.
  • The transgressor will be mindful of his/her actions from this day forward –-pausing to consider the impact of all behaviors on others.
  • The transgressor gave the gift of time needed to heal and rebuild trust.
  • You are truly special again.

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