Forgiveness is a difficult, and somewhat touchy, topic. It’s something we are ‘told’ that we ought to offer others. But ask anyone, and you’re likely to hear that forgiveness is a struggle if you’ve been hurt and betrayed. And perhaps its not surprising that this should be the case.
Here are some of my thoughts on the matter.
Feeling that it’s hard to forgive and start again (even if, in your mind, you really want to forgive) is a primal, instinctive, self-protective response. The reason’s not surprising: if we let the barriers down and open up our heart, then our trust could be betrayed. So our brain seeks to protect us from further injury.
We fear that forgiveness – or too quick, or forced, forgiveness – could have the effect of minimising the betrayal, and the extent of the damage and the pain that it has caused. Irritations and annoyances don’t really damage us so it’s relatively easy to move on, and let those go. But betrayal devastates us, and changes who we are. It’s a wound that’s hard to heal, and a serious injury.
When we’ve been wounded by betrayal, it is not a single wound. Yes, there’s a major breach of trust; but there are other losses too. There’s the loss of hopes and dreams, of reputation and respect, the loss of peace of mind, and the life you thought you had. Also, there may be serious risks to health due to unwanted STDs, to PTSD, or stress-related illness. So the losses can feel endless – which makes them hard to forgive. It can feel too overwhelming when you’re in a fragile state.
Related this, there are triggers we are battling, and which stop us in our tracks. They remind us of the fact that our healing’s NOT complete.
Although being able to forgive is liberating in the end, as it means we’re less attached to the emotional pain, it’s ridiculous to think that it should happen “just like that!”
It’s going to be a journey, and will take a lot of time, and it won’t mean that the anguish won’t resurface constantly.
Let me finish with some final thoughts from the book Out of the Doghouse:
“Forgiveness is a process, not an event. It doesn’t happen all at once, and it is usually given only when earned, rather than when it’s requested. So if you want forgiveness, you can apologize a million times hoping it will appear, but you won’t get it until you’ve earned it … Forgiveness is not something you should ever expect or demand from anyone, let alone your betrayed spouse. Forgiveness will come when she has done hating you and when trust is restored.
For you, forgiveness may mean, ‘Phew. She loves me again and we are moving on.’ To her, though, it means letting you back into her heart that once again puts you in a position to either love or hurt her. That’s a pretty big difference … You will have to feel the pain you have caused, experience your consequences without becoming defensive, and become rigorously honest in all aspects of life. If you can do that, she will eventually forgive you.”
It is hard for anyone to admit that they’re an addict, or even to admit that it’s hard to just say “no”. We all like to believe that we still are in control, and can choose to turn our backs on the habits we have formed.
And that is why it’s helpful to fill out questionnaires. They make us stop and think, and to look at the cold facts. The following can help if your partner or your spouse is willing to take stock of their attitudes to sex. Perhaps it has a grip that they must face and admit.
Note: The questions below were developed by Sex Addicts Anonymous to help individuals assess whether or not they might have a sex addiction.
the following questions by responding YES or No.
Do you keep secrets about your sexual or
romantic activities from those important to you? Do you lead a double life?
needs driven you to have sex in places or situations or with people you would
not normally choose?
find yourself looking for sexually arousing articles or scenes in newspapers,
magazines, or other media?
find that romantic or sexual fantasies interfere with your relationships or are
preventing you from facing problems?
frequently want to get away from a sex partner after having sex? Do you
frequently feel remorse, shame, or guilt after a sexual encounter?
feel shame about your body or your sexuality, such that you avoid touching your
body or engaging in sexual relationships? Do you fear that you have no sexual
feelings, that you are asexual?
new relationship continue to have the same destructive patterns which prompted
you to leave the last relationship?
taking more variety and frequency of sexual and romantic activities than
previously to bring the same levels of excitement and relief?
ever been arrested or are you in danger of being arrested because of your
practices of voyeurism, exhibitionism, prostitution, sex with minors, indecent
phone calls, etc.?
pursuit of sex or romantic relationships interfere with your spiritual beliefs
sexual activities include the risk, threat, or reality of disease, pregnancy,
coercion, or violence?
sexual or romantic behaviour ever left you feeling hopeless, alienated from
others, or suicidal?
If you answered yes to several of these questions, we would encourage you to seek out help.
One of the most difficult questions people ask is “Should I tell the children or our families, or should it just remain between the 2 of us (my partner/ spouse and me)?”
There is no easy answer to this very troubling question. It is something you must think through, and weigh up, for yourself. Also, it is something I would urge you to consider carefully. Don’t give into the pressure to make your mind up NOW. In my opinion, it is better to be hesitant and cautious than to make a rushed a decision which you regret later on.
Here are a few factors to bear in mind as you contemplate what might be the right choice for you:
Once the story has been shared it cannot be ‘unshared’. If you and your partner recover from this, and manage to build a completely different life, other people won’t forget and it may influence how they see you (both).
Although you can choose to turn your back and walk away, to end your relationship, and find someone new, the person who betrayed you will always be the dad or the mom of any children you have had, and raised, together. This is a crucial point to bear in mind. If you disclose everything that your partner has done it will likely affect their relationship with him (or her), and possibly affect it for the rest of their lives.
It’s worth considering the age of your children. For example, what’s appropriate to share with a 16-year old will not make sense to a 6-year old. Also, timing is important as children get stressed too. They have exams, school anxieties, and numerous other issues. Is this the right time to drop a bomb like this? If you decide you’re going to share it, pay attention to the timing.
Are the children at risk? This is a very important question to ask. Hopefully the answer to the question will be ‘no’, and you can take that out of the decision-making process. However, if you’ve any doubts at all, then you must have the courage to face them honestly and openly. You must protect your children, no matter what the cost.
If you decide to tell your children (however old they are) they are going to need support, and may want to talk things through. Ask yourself: Do you have the reserves to deal with this, or should you maybe wait until you’re less traumatized? Also, they have the right to share how they feel with other people. Hence, it may mean that your family and your social group find out.
You might feel like a fraud if you choose to remain silent. You might feel you’re colluding and are sharing in a lie.
What if the children learn the secret later on, or if they learn from someone else, and they argue ‘it’s not true’? Just think about how shocking that would be for them. They may also think that you’ve deceived them as well, and this could influence their relationship with you.
It could be argued it prepares your older children for real life. Your children may be struggling with the same kinds of things, and this could be a way to talk about its seriousness, or to help them with a battle they are facing on their own.
If you’re open with your children (and especially adult children) it may remove some of the shame and the stigma that surrounds a sexual addiction or dependency. Also, a secret can be powerful and can hold a person hostage. If you choose to be authentic, you might find that you feel freer.
It can lead to more support and accountability. If a partner who’s addicted is committed to being free, then others can encourage them to stay true to themselves, and to keep on working to maintain the ground they’ve gained. Also, the spouse or partner can receive greater support as they seek to come to terms with the devastating news. However, you will need to assess if your family and your friends will genuinely support you, and will want the best for you. Sadly, others may be glad when they learn about your struggles – and this could simply add to the pain you’re carrying.
As I said at the beginning, there is no simple solution. Peoples’ situations differ. It requires careful thought. And if you feel dazed and confused wait a while; there is no rush. You can always choose to share when you are ready, and are stronger.
expects to learn their partner or their spouse is addicted to sex or pornography.
It’s completely devastating and it rips your world apart. You can’t believe
what you are hearing; and you wish it wasn’t true. And how do you make sense of
a discovery like this? It messes with your head. You just don’t know what to do.
then start to wonder if your whole life’s has been lie. You had given them your
trust and they cold-bloodedly deceived you. You didn’t think they’d do that. You
thought they cared for you.
if it was alcohol or drugs then you could talk about the pain. You could open
up and share everything you’re going through. But a sexual addiction’s in a
know there would be judgement. Everyone would start to talk. You’d be attacked,
not supported. You’d become the source of gossip. And that’s more than you can
cope with when you’re dealing with this news.
talked to many women who’ve experienced this trauma. It’s completely isolating,
and you feel alone and helpless. That is one of the main reasons we are setting
us this blog.
want to offer you support when there’s nowhere you can turn. We want to give
you information, and walk this path with you. We will tell you what is normal;
what the researchers have learned – so you start to feel empowered, and can find
fresh hope again.