Ask us – How Do I forgive? Should I forgive?

Two years ago, I learned that my husband had been having an affair with a woman in one of his overseas offices. This had been going on for about 10 years before I found out – although others in the company knew of the affair. He has ended things and we have tried to move on. However, I am finding it very hard to forgive him. Part me of me thinks I ought to forgive him (because I’m always being told it’s the right thing to do), and because I think it might be better for me. But I’m finding it very hard to do. Maybe it’s because there’s another part of me which wants to hold onto this forever, and never forgive him for what he has done. Can you help me with this?

I’m really sorry you are going through this Colleen. It must have been incredibly painful to learn about the affair, and especially if you think other people knew about it. That makes the whole thing a whole lot worse!

In your email you talked about wanting help with forgiving your husband.

Let me begin by saying that forgiveness is something you do for yourself, and it’s something you offer on your own terms, and when you feel you want to forgive. And not before you are ready to forgive. The decision and timing have to be yours.

When you have suffered as deeply as this, you can’t just ignore it, and pretend it didn’t happen. Even if your spouse is genuinely remorseful. It’s caused too much damage, and affected you too much. That would be completely unreasonable.  

Also, we carry a sense of justice in our hearts, and we feel that serious wrongs should be righted in some way. People who have harmed us should be held accountable. They should make restitution for the damage they have done. And especially if it’s someone we had trusted and loved, and someone we had made ourselves vulnerable to.

So when we’re treated like this, we can’t ‘forget it and move on’. It’s an act of self-respect to stand up for ourselves, and to demand that our suffering be treated seriously. We can’t let it be downplayed, trivialized or ignored. In fact, if we forgive too soon … because we’re told to forgive then it’s likely to slow the healing process down. It will feel like you don’t matter. That you don’t have a voice. That no-one really cares that you’ve been treated in this way.

And that’s not going to help your self-esteem at all. It will feel like you’re being wounded all over again. So you deserve to be angry, and to put yourself first. And to take all the time you need for this.

Then, when you feel you’ve reached a place where you want to forgive – because you honestly believe it’s the right thing for you – then that is the time to start thinking about this.

But the decision, and the timing, and the pace must all be yours.  

Every one says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.” C.S. Lewis

21 thoughts on “Ask us – How Do I forgive? Should I forgive?

  1. Thank you for this. It has been weighing heavily on my mind and heart when people close to me tell me I have to forgive. I feel im lacking in some areas when I fail to do as they say. It makes me feel guilty and that tends to make me angry. I feel it is my pain, not theirs. And i feel they should respect that. I will do it on my own terms, not theirs. Thank you for validating that. God bless 💜

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sorry you have come under this pressure, Therese. We have to be able to say “No, I won’t forgive – because I respect myself, and I have been mistreated. This was unjust. I don;t deserve to be treated like this.”
      It’s great if we can eventually forgive some of what was done to us – but it truly is a journey – and it can’t be forced or delivered on cue.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. “It’s an act of self-respect to stand up for ourselves, and to demand that our suffering be treated seriously.”

    I love how you said forgiving too soon can negatively impact one’s self esteem. It’s easy for a trauma survivor to think they were at fault.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s interesting isn’t it. Standing up for ourselves, and almost demanding that mistreatment of us be seen and acknowledged, is important for our self respect and self esteem. As you say, trauma survivors often feel that, somehow, they deserve some of the blame. And it’s important that they assert ‘they don’t!’

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ten hears he was having an affair.

    That is a double life, a second pseudo wife.

    How do you forgive that or want to be with someone that treacherous?

    How would you ever trust someone who lied and cheated for ten years

    I doubt if this is his only time cheating

  4. Love this and your astute professional words.
    Good thing they have your support!
    Off the cuff I would have given him the boot with nail on the tip and one word:
    “Get out” and thrown all his stuff on the lawn”!


  5. I definitely believe forgiving is the hardest. It comes with letting yourself mature enough to understand some things are beyond our control and forgiving gives peace to our mind more than for the others. Thank you for this 💜


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