How to Forgive Yourself after an Affair – Even if it Seems Unlikely
I know that it is probably inconceivable to you that you could forgive yourself after an affair.
I mean, you have gone against everything you thought you knew about yourself and you are, most likely, stuck in this place of self-loathing.
What I can tell you is that it is possible to forgive yourself after an affair, that there will come a time when you will be able to hold your head up high and trust yourself again. You just need to take some action steps to get there.
Here are 5 ways to forgive yourself after an affair. You can do it!
#1 – Have compassion for yourself.
I am guessing that you probably hate yourself right now. You have let yourself, and everyone you know, down and it’s something that you never would have expected of yourself.
I am also guessing that you believe that you are stupid and weak and immoral and friendless and you are feeling embarrassed and angry and sad and overwhelmed.
And all of those things are natural. They are the things that we think and feel when we have let ourselves, and those around us, down.
But I encourage you to have compassion for yourself. After all, you are only human!
I had a client who was absolutely destroyed that she had had an affair. Both of her parents cheated and she never thought that she would do the same. But she did.
What we came to realize as we talked about it was that she had been really struggling. Her mother just died, her kids were teenagers, the finances were tight. And, as a result, she was vulnerable to doing something self-destructive to mask the way she was feeling. Usually she used ice cream or wine to self-soothe but this time it was different. This time it was man and an affair.
This is not to say that she dove right into the affair. She and this man were friends. They confided in each other. She could explain to him what she was struggling with in a way that she couldn’t explain it to her husband. She felt safe with him. She trusted him.
She barely even noticed that she was developing feelings for him until one day, out of the blue, he kissed her. Before you knew it, there were on the slippery slope down to infidelity.
Why I am telling you her story is this – my client never set out to have an affair. She was in a really dark place, vulnerable, and she opened herself up to someone else for comfort. She was not an evil person – she was a person in the world, a vulnerable person who made a mistake.
Having compassion for yourself is not justifying your cheating but, rather, it is a way for you to forgive yourself after an affair. If you can understand that you are only human, that you were in a place where you needed something to help you cope and that you never set out to be unfaithful, then you will be well on your way to forgiving yourself.
#2 – Commit to walking away.
I know that for most of my clients who are having an affair, walking away is the hardest thing to do.
‘But I love him,’ they say. ‘How can I live without him?’
Because they believe that their affair partner is the only person who can make them happy, they can’t walk away. As a result, they just continue this cycle of letting themselves down which, in turn, only leads to more self-hatred.
I truly believe that the reason it’s so hard to walk away from affair is not because of your affair partner but because of the person you are when you are with them.
Think about it. Think about who you are in real life. Are you a mother, a brother, an employee, a chauffeur? Do you volunteer and work long hours and struggle with finances and have no sex life? Has it been years since you have really felt like yourself?
When people have affairs they suddenly become re-acquainted with the person they used to be. They feel happy, hopeful, sexy, beautiful, wanted, special. And that is what is so hard to walk away from – being that person again.
So, I encourage you to, if you want to forgive yourself after an affair, walk away from your person. I know that you think that you can’t live without that person but consider trying to love yourself – to stay in touch with the person you were in the affair when you are out of it.
If you can be the person who you want to be in life, you won’t need something else that isn’t good for you. Something that alternately makes you feel good about yourself for a few minutes and then filled with self-hatred a few minutes later!
#3 – Dig into the source.
As I said before, many people who have an affair are people who are in a rough spot. People who were struggling with issues before the affair even started.
One of my clients was in a really tough spot. She was depressed, lonely, lost and unsure what to do about it. It seemed that, no matter what she tried, she couldn’t get out of this spot. We tried working together to get through this but then she disappeared.
By the time she reappeared she was having an affair. She had embarked on one when we were still talking but she had stopped coming because she was in this affair and it was making her feel good about herself, feel loved and feel connected again. She figured she didn’t need me anymore.
But then she came back. Why? Because her affair no longer made her feel that way. Instead, her affair has started to make her feel even worse.
Why is it that you got into your affair? I am guessing that it’s not something that you set out to do but something that happened over time, something that you thought you could manage.
It is important to identify what you are struggling with, what might have been the thing that made you vulnerable to infidelity.
For my client, she had just returned from living overseas and she was struggling with re-entry. She felt like she no longer fit in with her community and she felt lonely and lost. I explained to her that, in order to forgive yourself after an affair, it is essential that you take a good hard look at where you were in the world that would allow you to go someplace that you never thought you would go.
So, what are you struggling with that might have made you vulnerable to infidelity? Think about it. Seek to get help to work on it. If you can soothe yourself, instead of looking to your affair partner to do so, you will be way more likely to forgive yourself after an affair!
#4 – Be honest.
Part of forgiving yourself after an affair is starting to like yourself again. Starting to act like the person you want to be in the world. A person who people can respect. Not the person you are now that you are in an affair.
So, how can you do that if you aren’t honest with yourself and your partner? If you can’t take ownership of what has happened and the hurt that you have caused?
I have a client whose husband had an affair. It had happened a while back but they had never been able to work through it because he refuses to talk about it. She so wants to, so that she can understand what happened but he just won’t get into it.
And, what has happed as a result? Their marriage is actually getting worse and not better because every time he isn’t honest with his wife he knows that he is letting her down. He knows that by acting like the affair wasn’t a big deal he is only hurting his wife more. And that definitely isn’t helping him forgive himself.
So, be honest with yourself and with those around you about your affair. It is important that you all have the space and time to process what has happened so that you can work through it and so that you can forgive yourself and maybe even be forgiven!
#5 – Give it time.
The old saying that ‘time heals all wounds’ is an accurate one. While the pain of the fact that you had an affair might always be with you, over time the pain will dull and you will be able to go on with your life.
That being said, you can’t just sit there and wait for time to pass. It is important that you do the work that you need to do to work through what has happened and why you had an affair. It is essential that you are honest with yourself and with others about the affair and its aftermath. It is important that you work to get in touch with the person you were before the affair, before the struggles started. The person who you looked at in the mirror and liked.
If you can do these things, if you can do things that make you feel good about yourself and strong and capable and not vulnerable to things that aren’t good for you, then time will truly heal all wounds.
As you continue to be the person you want to be, to get stronger, to own up to your mistakes, you will find that forgiving yourself after an affair is possible.
I hope that now you know that it is possible to forgive yourself after an affair.
Getting to that place of forgiveness is all on you, though. You have to do the hard work. This guilt won’t just pass.
But, if you have read this far, I am guessing that you are determined to make change, to do what you need to do, to move forward and forgive yourself.
You can do it!