Forgiveness can be an important part of healing and rebuilding after an affair. For me, forgiveness played a major part in the healing process I went through after I cheated on my husband. Without forgiveness, I would have spent the rest of my life living with the guilt and shame and unable to move forward. I would have spent the rest of my life letting that mistake define who I was.
As I learned, there were three steps that I had to take in order to truly give and also accept forgiveness.
Step one: Forgive myself. Until I forgave myself, there was no way I could accept forgiveness from someone else. Working with my sponsor from Celebrate Recovery taught me that forgiving myself was the biggest obstacle holding me back from truly being able to move forward. I also learned that in order to truly forgive and move forward, I needed to be completely honest with myself about why I made the bad decisions in the first place. If I couldn’t learn to forgive myself then I wouldn’t be able to actually believe that someone else could ever forgive me.
So, I knew that I needed to forgive myself, but how was I going to do that? It turned out that the answer was God. I had to remember who God says that I am in Him. God looks at me as His daughter and He loves me no matter what I say or do. I learned that once I asked for forgiveness from Him, it was done. God has already forgiven me and forgotten about my bad decisions. Once I believed that God had forgiven me, going to people that I had hurt and asking them to forgive me became much easier.
Step two: Ask for forgiveness from those I had hurt. Once I finally forgave myself, it was time for me to own my mistakes and ask the people that were hurt by my decision, mainly my husband, to forgive me for my actions. That was definitely one of the hardest things that I have ever had to do. To look at the man I love and ask him to forgive me and put the past behind us was a big deal, and I knew that. I expected to have many long conversations with him about why forgiving me was the best thing for our marriage. I had to be humble and realize that my husband was not going to just let go of everything that had happened. Forgiveness from my husband was not something that was going to happen overnight.
We did have a few conversations and most of them consisted of me just telling him that I was so sorry for the things that I did and the way that I acted towards him and our children. I was so scared that he would not accept what had happened and find it in his heart to forgive me. But to my surprise, after a little time had passed he was finally able to tell me that he forgave me.
Step three: Accept my husband’s forgiveness and move forward. Once my husband had decided that he was ready to forgive me, it then became my job to accept his decision so he and I could move forward. However, accepting his decision to forgive me was much harder than I had expected it to be. I was hoping that his forgiveness would be the key to moving completely forward, but I had an extremely tough time accepting that he was willing to move forward after the terrible things I had done to him.
Was he really forgiving me or just saying that so that he could forget about it? I spent a long time wrestling with myself and trying to convince myself that my husband was telling the truth. However, after many days and nights of second guessing myself, I remembered that God was first in my life no matter what. I decided that I was no longer going to second guess my husband’s decision. I just decided that I was going to accept the situation as it was because I was tired of being down and living in pain and depression.
Forgiveness was a major part of my personal healing process, as well as the healing process for my marriage. Going through the process of asking, giving and accepting forgiveness freed me from defining myself by the mistakes that I made. Whether you are asking for it or you have been hurt and having to give it, forgiveness is key to truly being able to move forward with your life.