Rebuilding Trust: Should You Forgive Your Spouse for Having an Affair?

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Finding out your partner has cheated can be one of the most jarring and traumatic experiences of your life. When you find out that your partner has betrayed you, your first instinct will be to punish and to hate for the humiliation and pain they’ve caused you. You will hear countless stories of “once a cheater, always a cheater” and will probably have friends and family advocating for the end of the relationship, but what if it’s possible to move past an affair?

What forgiving means

When people hear of forgiving their partner for cheating, they may incorrectly assume this means forgetting about the infidelity or pretending it never happened. They think it means that you are something condoning or excusing the person’s behavior and that by staying you are allowing yourself to be taken advantage of. 

But forgiveness is not about giving your partner a “pass” on their infidelity. It’s about understanding what led to the infidelity and how you both feel about each other and how you feel about your partner. Forgiveness should be seen as an important part of the journey that will allow you to move on with your life (with or without your partner) after you have been betrayed. Forgiveness is about protecting and nurturing your mental health, not about letting someone “off the hook”. 

How forgiving helps you move forward

Forgiving infidelity is not easy. There’s a reason why infidelity is grounds for a divorce in the UK and that’s because it is one of the greatest betrayals a partner can commit in a relationship. But because forgiving is more about your feelings than the cheater’s feelings, it has many benefits that could help you live a happier life. 

Forgiving is the first step towards trust

If you are going to salvage your relationship, you have to start with forgiveness. Whether you are forgiving your partner so that you can rebuild the relationship, or to have success with future relationships, forgiveness is where it starts. Cheating fractures your ability to trust and it makes you question a lot about yourself. Many people who have been cheated on report issues with self-worth and confidence after the affair comes to light. By forgiving, you take the first tentative steps towards mending these feelings. Without forgiveness, you will build resentment, which you may carry for years and which will prevent you from saving your relationship or from building new ones. Don’t let a partner’s mistake damage your character.

Resenting is exhausting

Allowing resentment to build after you’ve been cheated on can be an easy route to take. Unfortunately, your mind has limited resources to expend on emotional turmoil. Spending a large part of your time focusing on the anger you feel towards someone that cheated on you does nothing to help you grow and move forward. 

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If you want to continue trying in your relationship, resentment will prevent you from doing so. If you want to move on, resentment will keep you trapped in the past. By dwelling on your anger and confusion, you ignore the positive outcomes you could be facing. Allowing yourself to forgive and let go of the anger will allow you to live more fully and presently at the moment.

Forgiving is healthier

Our emotions have a very real toll on our health. Sustained feelings of anger and resentment can negatively affect your physical and mental wellbeing. According to the Mayo Clinic, forgiving and letting go of anger can help lower your blood pressure, reduce feelings of anxiety, stress, and hostility, give you a stronger immune system, and improve your heart health.

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