Welcome back to to the final post in the series of How To Get Over A Breakup After Cheating.
If you missed the first two posts, start by reading them here.
This week I share with you a concept that can feel triggering, challenging and sometimes impossible.
Yes, today we are looking at forgiveness as part of the healing process.
In my book Break Up and Shine I cover a whole chapter on forgiveness, specifically about the misconceptions of what it means to forgive.
I believe that the reason we find forgiveness such a challenge is because of the way it is perceived. We often have huge resistance to forgiving and, quite rightly, question whether it’s something we should be encouraged to do at all.
Today, I am not debating the necessity of forgiveness after cheating. It is a choice that is personal and should never come at the expense of denying your valid emotions about being betrayed.
Instead, I’m sharing what I take forgiveness to mean, and how I was able to use it to overcome the strong feelings of bitterness and resentment which were making it impossible to move on.
I learned what forgiveness did not mean
My initial obstacles to forgiveness came from my interpretation of it, and I don’t think I was alone in the way we view forgiveness.
It’s very common to see it as:
- Condoning your ex-partner’s actions or letting them off the hook in some way
- Denying your right to be angry and devastated by what they have done
- Having to trust someone again or allow them back into your life
- Being obliged to outwardly or explicitly offer them your forgiveness
This is some of what I believed forgiveness required. If you’re the same, then it’s no wonder that we find it so difficult. Many of these actions may feel unsafe or an overstep of boundaries. They may be in complete contrast to your integrity.
But I knew that peace would come from forgiveness, so I had to form an understanding of it that worked for me.
Eventually, I learned what forgiveness did mean
My life hit a breakthrough when I read the famous quote “holding onto resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die“.
It taught me to reframe what I understood forgiveness to be. Below I share my main discoveries of what forgiving really came to mean for me:
Accepting that someone else can act from their own beliefs, wounds and perspective, which make sense to them, even if it’s not what I would do.
Honouring the painful emotions but actively choosing not to permanently carry the effects of them moving forward.
Choosing not to be eaten away by a pointless resentment that was only hurting me, and having zero effect on the person who had wronged me
Not needing my healing to be conditional on an acknowledgement or apology from my ex-husband
Recognising that someone else’s “karma” is not my business
At certain times I was even able to enter a more spiritual awareness of forgiveness, where I knew that every situation in life can provide a positive lesson necessary for our growth. In this dimension, there is technically “nothing to forgive”. because the cheating and betrayal had actually happened for me. (I’ll admit, our human selves find it very hard to stay for long in this one!)
Ultimately, forgiveness was letting myself off the hook. But while it gave me a sense of freedom, it required a lot of deep inner processing.
When I struggled with forgiving, my self-reflective question was always “Would you rather be right or happy?” This took away all of the debate when my inner argument arose that he “didn’t deserve forgiveness”.
Forgiveness work is questioning, challenging and requires self-compassion. The ultimate realisation was that I was doing it for me, not my ex-husband.
Someone else’s choice does not define you
In this series of posts, I have revealed that healing from a breakup after cheating will always add an extra layer of pain and complexity of emotion. It might dig into past wounds and will certainly raise issues of trust in future. But as with all breakup healing, moving on comes when you find the ability to change the story and find new perspective.
Being cheated on says nothing about your inherent worth. In the simplest terms, it is a choice that someone made because that was the limit of their ability to deal with the relationship.
Give yourself permission to feel all of the emotions that arise with this kind of betrayal; they are normal and legitimate. But don’t let this experience define who you are. Do what it takes to let it go and move forward.
With love and support,