When your standards of decency have been violated by a marital betrayal, you may feel to feel a desire to hurt back, avoid the partner who hurt you or even leave the relationship. However, negative solutions may worsen the pain and lead you away from your goals or values. To survive a marital betrayal, you must first determine if the offense is forgivable. If you decide to forgive, you and your spouse must be proactive in healing the hurt.
The initial stun of dealing with a betrayal may leave you reeling with emotion and confusion. You and your partner will struggle to make sense of the situation, according to Douglas L. Kelley, professor of social and behavioral sciences at Arizona State University. Your role is to ask questions until you have the information you need to make a decision about your next step. You may want to know how severe the betrayal is, what your spouse intends to do about the betrayal, what the betrayal means about your spouse's feelings toward you and other information pertinent to your situation.
Initially, you may feel like avoiding your spouse, especially if the betrayal was severe, according to Michael McCullough, professor of psychology at the University of Miami. Increasing your effort to interact may provide relief from feelings of anger and improve your ability to resolve disagreements, according to Scott Braithwaite, professor of psychology at Brigham Young University. Interaction can help you maintain more consistency in your day-to-day feelings of forgiveness.
A fresh smile or soft words can signal your spouse that you are willing to begin again. Deciding to forgive will help increase your kind behaviors. Behaving kindly will help you experience more satisfaction from your relationship, according to Braithwaite's study. You may need to be kind even if you do not feel like it, as the desire to be kind is relatively slow to return. Forgiving behaviors can prevent unkind communication from becoming a trend.
It may take months for feelings of forgiveness to replace the desire to avoid or seek revenge, according to Michael E. McCullough. There will be days when you are more forgiving than other days, and you will find interacting and showing kindness easier on good days. Persisting through the process of forgiveness can help you survive the betrayal and continue to savor your relationship.
- Communication Quarterly: An Investigation of Forgiveness-seeking Communication and Relational Outcomes; Douglas L. Kelley
- Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Forgiveness, Forbearance, and Time: The Temporal Unfolding of Transgression-Related Motivations; Michael McCullough
- Journal of Family Psychology: Forgiveness and Relationship Satisfaction: Mediating Mechanisms; Scott R. Braithwaite
- Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images