Recovering from Infidelity: Why Does Forgiveness Feel So Dangerous?

Recovering from Infidelity: Why Does Forgiveness Feel So Dangerous?

Recovering from Infidelity: Why Does Forgiveness Feel So Dangerous?_ichhori.webP

Infidelity, in my opinion, is one of the most difficult issues a couple may face and seek to overcome. In my work with folks who have experienced infidelity—and may still be reeling from its consequences—I've seen certain parallels between their diverse situations. While some people come to me days after discovering something, while others may wait decades, many people seeking therapy share one common experience, regardless of how much time has passed: the pressure to forgive.

While many partners who have been unfaithful and wish to save the relationship seek forgiveness, often almost immediately, many partners who have been betrayed are unwilling to forgive until they are certain their spouse knows the agony the act has caused.


Infidelity can take various forms, and it is not usually associated with a sexual relationship. Infidelity frequently manifests itself as a new relationship outside of the current relationship. Infidelity may be invisible to all parties involved in some cases. An affair typically implies that an individual was unfaithful over a period of time with an affair partner who was an active, knowing participant. Some define infidelity as having secret thoughts about someone other than a partner or developing an emotional connection outside of the primary relationship. A partner can be disloyal by concealing income or debt.

Infidelity is typically demonstrated by:

  • Guilt for breaching relationship boundaries, especially if one partner is unaware of what occurred.
  • Acts or thoughts that one partner keeps hidden because they know the other partner will not approve
  • When the deeds or ideas are discovered or revealed, there is a sense of betrayal.

Unfaithful people may be unaware that they have crossed the line into infidelity. They may also not have intended to hurt their companion. However, in the aftermath of unfaithfulness, they frequently learn that the anguish felt by the other person is much deeper than they could have imagined.

A deceived partner may discover that their worldview, feeling of safety, and basic identity have been shattered. Many of the patients I see have both physical and emotional symptoms, such as intrusive thoughts throughout the day, difficulty sleeping or eating, or depressive symptoms, to name a few. These side effects, as well as the discomfort they cause, may fade over time. However, because time does not immediately heal the wounds of infidelity, there is no set period for forgiveness. Couples who want to recover from the trauma of infidelity must usually invest a significant amount of time and effort in repairing their relationship.


When adultery is discovered, the individual who was unfaithful may expect to be forgiven right away. While forgiveness may be a vital aspect of infidelity recovery, it does not usually occur at the start of the process. In my experience, forgiveness usually occurs at the end of the process. For the betrayed partner, forgiveness typically means the end of the journey. Why? Because forgiving can be perilous.

Forgiveness can feel risky because it may reveal beliefs that others do not necessarily support. Let's take a look at a couple of them.

I will never again be harmed or upset.

When an affair is found, couples attempting to reconcile may find themselves in opposing roles. The betrayed partner is the "good" partner, while the unfaithful partner is the "bad." They will remain in these positions until the "good" partner sees the "bad" partner begin to comprehend the hurt caused by the "bad" spouse's behaviour.

Hurt caused by a breach of trust, such as infidelity, can result in emotions and symptoms that interfere with daily activities. In this scenario, the betrayed spouse may believe that forgiving is better for the sake of the relationship, but that doing so will take away the agony of the event. They may believe that by forgiving, they would never be able to heal from the suffering or learn what is required to prevent it from happening again.

However, forgiveness does not erase or negate the grief or suffering caused by an act of betrayal, nor does it imply that the person who was deceived no longer feels those emotions.

I am excusing or accepting your behaviour.

Many spouses with whom I've worked struggle with the notion that forgiving infidelity does not imply that the behaviour is appropriate. Some compare it to parenting: if there are no repercussions to dissuade bad behaviour, the bad behaviour is excused. Partners who have been betrayed may believe that by forgiving, they are handing the unfaithful partner a "get out of jail free" pass.

Most couples struggle to find a solution to lessen the pain of infidelity, and forgiveness may appear to be a less-painful way out. Unfortunately, when a deceived partner rushes to forgive, the result is frequently additional anguish and distance.

However, both spouses must work together to discover a method to separate the anguish of the breach from the liberation of forgiveness. The truth is that forgiveness is only for the forgiver. It can help to imagine forgiving as throwing the weight of your own anguish and pain into the ocean. By forgiving, you are stating, "I no longer wish to bear this burden of pain." A person can still be hurt as a result of a conduct but choose to forgive in order to begin healing.

Now I want to restore the relationship.

A spouse who has been unfaithful may feel that once forgiven, the relationship will revert to its previous state or would automatically be restored. However, this may not be the case. Even if a person is capable of forgiving, they may not be ready to rebuild the relationship at that time or at all.

Infidelity recovery does not necessarily aim for restoration, and it does not always involve both couples. One or both couples may prefer to heal alone at times. To some, forgiving an unfaithful partner may imply ending the relationship. Some partners who have been unfaithful may also choose to end the relationship.

I teach those I work with that there are many levels of recovery.

  • The first stage, forgiveness, entails freeing oneself from the grief of one's actions. When people are absorbed by pain, they may struggle to heal.
  • The following level is reconciliation. This amount varies from person to person. Many couples may find that this is the most comfortable objective of counselling because they want to construct something new together out of the ruins of their previous relationship. Recognizing that the previous relationship was no longer viable, they decide to focus on developing a new one that integrates their earlier experience. This can be a risky approach, as the betrayed partner may continue to examine the relationship for signs of danger well into the healing process.
  • Restoration is the highest level of forgiveness. This is a level that many couples strive for because it generally signals that the relationship has been restored to its prior status.

For most people who prefer to recuperate on their own, the first stage is sufficient. Reconciliation is required to rebuild trust, but it is crucial to understand that forgiveness does not immediately lead to reconciliation.

Now I must be ready to trust completely.

I've heard unfaithful partners claim, "If you forgive me, you have to trust me." I strive hard to teach kids that forgiveness and trust are two distinct events. Forgiveness can indicate that a spouse wishes to trust again at some point, although it may not be possible at this time. Forgiveness allows the person who is forgiving to be free of sorrow, whereas trust allows the forgiven to be free of guilt. Rebuilding trust necessitates the participation of both spouses.

Most couples struggle to find a solution to lessen the pain of infidelity, and forgiveness may appear to be a less-painful way out. Unfortunately, when a deceived partner rushes to forgive, the result is frequently additional anguish and distance. While forgiveness may be impossible in some circumstances, being unwilling to forgive may prolong the agony in others.

Finding the point at which forgiveness is beneficial can be a delicate process, and patience, with both oneself and one's partner, is more likely to aid recovery than forcing the process. There is no timetable or shortcut to recuperation. Whether couples choose to quit a relationship or strive to rebuild it, recovery is difficult. In either case, recovering from infidelity can provide an opportunity for both spouses to discover strength and grow, and couples counselling can be an important part of that process.

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