our everyday life

Forgiving an Adulterous Spouse

by Jill Avery-Stoss

The betrayal of infidelity can shatter even the healthiest, most solid marriage. Whether it was a brief, nonphysical fling or a long-term, intimate affair, the non-offending spouse is likely to experience intense grief, anger and utter devastation overall. Including forgiveness in a plan for healing can facilitate the process of moving forward from the trauma.

Understand Forgiveness

It's essential to understand forgiveness and its function. Doing so will help you decide whether you are presently truly prepared to forgive your spouse. Initially, forgiveness is about choosing to no longer want to hurt the person who hurt you. In "Forgive for Good: A Proven Prescription for Health and Happiness," Frederic Luskin clarifies forgiveness further. He explains that forgiveness is an act you do for yourself, not your spouse. It doesn't mean that you're condoning or excusing the adultery, nor does it mean that you are ready to reconcile with your spouse. Forgiveness is taking responsibility for how you feel. It's acknowledging that you can't change the past, but will not stay trapped in anger and hurt over things you can't change. Forgiveness allows you to reclaim control of your feelings.

Work with a Counselor or Therapist

It's not easy to forgive an adulterous spouse -- and to let go of the hurt and anger you feel. A qualified counselor or therapist can offer support and help you work through the process of forgiveness -- individually and with your spouse. With this help, you can identify and safely work through your emotions, as well as learn to cope with them in healthy, empowering ways. A counselor or therapist can also allow you to gain insight as to your contribution in any marital discord prior to the affair.

Plan for an Apology

You should expect an apology from your spouse, especially if you're hoping for reconciliation. There is no guarantee that your spouse will apologize, although without one, there is little chance for a restoration of faith in the relationship, according to a 2005 article by Brian Case, Ph.D., published in the "Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy." Your spouse needs to acknowledge and understand the effect her infidelity had on you. She should ask for your forgiveness, as well as explain her action plan for the future by telling you how she intends to behave going forward to ensure that adultery does not occur again.

Restore Trust

If are able to work through the trauma resulting from the infidelity, accept an apology and desire reconciliation, you should consider how to go about restoring trust in the relationship. You need to work toward reestablishing a sense of fairness and balance so you don't continue to feel wronged and your spouse doesn't feel continued guilt for wronging you. Restoring trust might take place via slow, subtle changes, or you might mark the restoration with a specific event like resuming your sexual relationship or renewing your vows.

About the Author

Jill Avery-Stoss is a graduate of Penn State University and a writer and editor based in northeast Pennsylvania. Having spent more than a decade working with victims of sexual and domestic violence, she specializes in writing about women's issues, with emphasis on families and relationships.

Photo Credits

  • George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images