I Just Can’t Forgive

Forgiveness

Whether a conflict is minor or earth shattering, forgiveness is an essential part of moving forward. Sometimes, though, we can be too caught up in feeling hurt to think clearly about forgiveness, or simply hold too much anger to want to offer it at all…

Let’s take a step back though, and explore what forgiveness actually means.

Real forgiveness has two parts: letting go and moving forward.

Letting go is a big hurdle on its own, because it means releasing feelings of anger and resentment over a perceived offense. Now, it’s important to remember that idea of perception – no matter what the problem at hand might be. You and your spouse will have different versions of what happened, and even if they are totally at fault in your eyes, they might not see it exactly that way. Regardless, letting go of that resentment and anger is the only way to prevent the issue from paralyzing your marriage.

The next step, moving forward, is just as important. It means doing away with any desire for punishment, retribution, or restitution for the wrongdoing. If you still want your spouse to be punished, then you are still harboring resentment.

You have to understand: the past is the past, and it cannot be changed. No matter how angry you are, how hurt you feel… What’s done is done. Forgiveness – both letting go and moving forward – is all about the future. You can’t change the past, but you can certainly make choices that will influence your future. You keep your marriage “in prison” if you focus on the issues of the past, and you set it free when you let go of problems that have already happened to start focusing on solutions.

Forgiving, however, is a little easier said than done. There are a few major roadblocks that prevent people from getting to a place of forgiveness for their spouse. To overcome them, we first have to understand them:

1. Believing Forgiveness Condones Behavior

Just because you forgive your spouse, it doesn’t mean that what they did is ok…

You aren’t condoning the behavior, you’re just making your future a higher priority than holding onto a grudge. Forgiveness is not about saying everything’s ok. It’s NOT ok. Instead, forgiveness is about understanding how mistakes are made, understanding that you can take responsibility for your future, and deciding that your marriage is something worth fighting for!

2. Scorekeeping

We may do it unconsciously, but holding on to resentment is sometimes a way of keeping score. “She hurt me worse” or “he deserves to feel terrible after what he did to me” are just going to keep you and your spouse further apart. Keeping track of (and retaliating for) who hurt who will only bring more trouble. Your marriage can’t win if you’re keeping score against each other.

3. Different Standards

One of the hardest obstacles to overcome is realizing we may be holding difficult-to-meet standards – or at least, holding our spouses to higher standards than we than we do for ourselves. This can be tough to admit, but if you can realize that we’re all just human, that people make mistakes, and that it’s unfair (and unwise) to hold people to standards we can’t personally meet, forgiveness comes much easier.

4. Expecting A Guarantee

Your spouse can know that what they did was wrong, they can regret it and apologize profusely. They can do everything in their power to prevent the mistake from happening again, but they can’t guarantee it. There are NO guarantees here, just the best intentions and your best efforts. Accepting that things can’t be perfect, and that you’re never 100% certain the problem won’t happen again – or that YOU won’t make a mistake just as bad – allows you to move past the problem and work on building a marriage where the issues are less likely to happen.

5. Ineffective Apologies

If the apology doesn’t seem sincere, it can be very difficult to forgive. Unfortunately, many people who might mean every word of an apology don’t actually get their message across successfully. There are several important steps to presenting a sincere apology, and if they are overlooked, the breakdown in communication can make the apology less than effective. If you’re having a hard time forgiving, revisit the “apology stage” and go over what went wrong, how you both feel about it, and what can be done to make it better.

6. Lack of Understanding

To forgive your spouse, you will likely want to know how and why the issue happened in the first place. This can involve some tough admissions of your own role in the problems – or at least the climate of your marriage that led to them. It also involves doing some “outside looking in” investigating to see exactly what happened, evaluating how it can be avoided in the future, and looking for changes that can be made to help ensure a better future.

7. Holding On to Power

When your spouse is trying to be forgiven, and it’s your choice to accept their apology or not, you’re holding all the power. While it might feel like a good dynamic for the relationship – a way for you to see the changes you’d like, a way to punish your spouse’s mistakes, etc. – it’s actually poison for your marriage, and will only breed more problems and resentment down the road. Healthy marriages are about cooperation and support, not one person holding power over another.

If you can’t find a way to forgive your spouse for their mistakes, large or small, you won’t be able to get past the hurt they’ve caused – and if you’re holding on to the pain, you won’t be working toward a better, healthier marriage. Learn to forgive so you can create the marriage you deserve.

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For more advice on how to strengthen your marriage, check out the StrongMarriageNow System today!

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20 comments

poida 7 years ago

As I get closer to divorce being final I have realised that I have still not fully "let go" of my wife emotionally. Logically and practically, sure, a long time ago, but emotionally it would appear not.

poida 7 years ago

As I get closer to divorce being final I have realised that I have still not fully "let go" of my wife emotionally. Logically and practically, sure, a long time ago, but emotionally it would appear not.

Beatrice 7 years ago

So my husband had an EA with one of our employees. It has been a long process of trying to decide how to cope. Basically I moved out in December. I decided to not expose the OW to her spouse. Now comes the part where you can all slam me I decided with help from my therapist to just let go of all the anger. I started feeling so much better. I got my focus back, started sleeping better, and was coming out of the dark. Now the part that is weird I started befriending the OW. I started attending social functions that my company paid for and we even went to counselling together. Since I got my life together now my WS wants me back. I have been letting him back on my life just a little bit.

Beatrice 7 years ago

So my husband had an EA with one of our employees. It has been a long process of trying to decide how to cope. Basically I moved out in December. I decided to not expose the OW to her spouse. Now comes the part where you can all slam me I decided with help from my therapist to just let go of all the anger. I started feeling so much better. I got my focus back, started sleeping better, and was coming out of the dark. Now the part that is weird I started befriending the OW. I started attending social functions that my company paid for and we even went to counselling together. Since I got my life together now my WS wants me back. I have been letting him back on my life just a little bit.

Mike_Olsen_SMN 7 years ago

Hi Poida, Maybe you two are not ready to say goodbye. https://www.strongmarriagenow.com/happier-divorce/

Mike_Olsen_SMN 7 years ago

Hi Poida, Maybe you two are not ready to say goodbye. https://www.strongmarriagenow.com/happier-divorce/

Mike_Olsen_SMN 7 years ago

Hi Beatrice, it sounds like you are taking the right steps to reconcile your marriage. I hope you both can continue counseling together and make the right decisions for you both. https://www.strongmarriagenow.com/save-marriage-regain-trust-its-destroyed/

Mike_Olsen_SMN 7 years ago

Hi Beatrice, it sounds like you are taking the right steps to reconcile your marriage. I hope you both can continue counseling together and make the right decisions for you both. https://www.strongmarriagenow.com/save-marriage-regain-trust-its-destroyed/

James Anderson 7 years ago

I understand that it is devastating for both men and women to be cheated on. Below, I am only addressing the man's point of view, so please read it with that in mind. Here is the ongoing problem with this and most all other "affair repair" websites. For men, the affair cuts us more deeply than women in that most of our self esteem is thoroughly bundled into the feeling of being the most attractive man in the world to our spouse. With men, they spend literally almost all efforts in their lives doing what it takes to be attractive to women (job titles, wealth, cars, etc.). Having the love and loyalty of our spouse is what gives us our deepest sense of pride, self esteem, self worth, etc. Right or wrong, this still is the psychological reality with men. What is so frustrating is that most counselors and experts (no matter how many letters they have behind their name), almost never seem to address this most fundamental point. The point that when a woman cheats, it takes away a man's pride, self esteem and most importantly, his feeling of attractiveness and sense of manhood. (In other words, his feeling of masculinity which literally is his very state of being). Again, remember, from almost day one of puberty, the man is constantly undergoing every step that he (correctly or incorrectly) perceives is what it takes to be the man that women all want. All this culminates to that final goal of when the man lands that "right" woman who agrees to marry him. (Again, this is what they think and perceive and am not stating it is correct). When the wife even has even an EA and even if they reconcile, the problem is that the man's deepest devastation is the complete emasculation that happens to him. As far as he is concerned, "she has found a man that is better than him and more attractive and manly than him." That is real issue and it is almost NEVER addressed. This needs to be addressed nearly FIRST when repairing the marriage and discussed from that time forward. Why? Because a man will spend the rest of his life looking across the dinner table at someone who makes them feel bad by their very presence. (I.E., he will have the near daily thought of, "This woman found another man better than me... I am not a desirable man"). So even if they "rebuild communication" and "rebuild trust", etc. this emasculation factor is going to keep the marriage from fully restoring as he will withhold large parts of himself or eventually act out due to this unaddressed fundamental need. So I implore that makers of this website address this most basic and fundamental point. Again, that point is that the marriage repair of when the wife cheats absolutely MUST having her making clear immediately (and then routinely) that he is and WAS still more attractive than the other man. Do not just only address the excuses of the previous relationship dynamics of the why it happened. How to do this? Well, I assume that it is different for every man. But the point is that counselors have to tell the wife to address this and incorporate this as the foundational part of rebuilding the marriage. Otherwise, at best, even if they "work it out" and stay together, the wife is only going to get back a broken and defeated man that will harbor internal resentments of her and most importantly, of himself.

James Anderson 7 years ago

I understand that it is devastating for both men and women to be cheated on. Below, I am only addressing the man's point of view, so please read it with that in mind. Here is the ongoing problem with this and most all other "affair repair" websites. For men, the affair cuts us more deeply than women in that most of our self esteem is thoroughly bundled into the feeling of being the most attractive man in the world to our spouse. With men, they spend literally almost all efforts in their lives doing what it takes to be attractive to women (job titles, wealth, cars, etc.). Having the love and loyalty of our spouse is what gives us our deepest sense of pride, self esteem, self worth, etc. Right or wrong, this still is the psychological reality with men. What is so frustrating is that most counselors and experts (no matter how many letters they have behind their name), almost never seem to address this most fundamental point. The point that when a woman cheats, it takes away a man's pride, self esteem and most importantly, his feeling of attractiveness and sense of manhood. (In other words, his feeling of masculinity which literally is his very state of being). Again, remember, from almost day one of puberty, the man is constantly undergoing every step that he (correctly or incorrectly) perceives is what it takes to be the man that women all want. All this culminates to that final goal of when the man lands that "right" woman who agrees to marry him. (Again, this is what they think and perceive and am not stating it is correct). When the wife even has even an EA and even if they reconcile, the problem is that the man's deepest devastation is the complete emasculation that happens to him. As far as he is concerned, "she has found a man that is better than him and more attractive and manly than him." That is real issue and it is almost NEVER addressed. This needs to be addressed nearly FIRST when repairing the marriage and discussed from that time forward. Why? Because a man will spend the rest of his life looking across the dinner table at someone who makes them feel bad by their very presence. (I.E., he will have the near daily thought of, "This woman found another man better than me... I am not a desirable man"). So even if they "rebuild communication" and "rebuild trust", etc. this emasculation factor is going to keep the marriage from fully restoring as he will withhold large parts of himself or eventually act out due to this unaddressed fundamental need. So I implore that makers of this website address this most basic and fundamental point. Again, that point is that the marriage repair of when the wife cheats absolutely MUST having her making clear immediately (and then routinely) that he is and WAS still more attractive than the other man. Do not just only address the excuses of the previous relationship dynamics of the why it happened. How to do this? Well, I assume that it is different for every man. But the point is that counselors have to tell the wife to address this and incorporate this as the foundational part of rebuilding the marriage. Otherwise, at best, even if they "work it out" and stay together, the wife is only going to get back a broken and defeated man that will harbor internal resentments of her and most importantly, of himself.

guest 7 years ago

This is a very good point. I have cheated on my wife and when she found out shr7 cheated on me. And I now fell this way. Not sure why? She said that we are even. But I hurt more now because of what she has done.

guest 7 years ago

This is a very good point. I have cheated on my wife and when she found out shr7 cheated on me. And I now fell this way. Not sure why? She said that we are even. But I hurt more now because of what she has done.

Mike_Olsen_SMN 7 years ago

Hi James, I think the most important aspect of your comment is "Well, I assume that it is different for every man." It's true you may feel that way if your wife cheats, but not everyone will. If you are feeling like you need to be the most attractive, you can address that with a counselor.

Mike_Olsen_SMN 7 years ago

Hi James, I think the most important aspect of your comment is "Well, I assume that it is different for every man." It's true you may feel that way if your wife cheats, but not everyone will. If you are feeling like you need to be the most attractive, you can address that with a counselor.

Mike_Olsen_SMN 7 years ago

Hi Guest, Of course you will hurt more now, because you were the one being cheated on, not the one doing the cheating. You and your wife need to both find someone you can trust to talk to to reconcile your marriage, and what it is you are looking for outside of it. https://www.strongmarriagenow.com/7-steps-to-survive-an-affair/

Mike_Olsen_SMN 7 years ago

Hi Guest, Of course you will hurt more now, because you were the one being cheated on, not the one doing the cheating. You and your wife need to both find someone you can trust to talk to to reconcile your marriage, and what it is you are looking for outside of it. https://www.strongmarriagenow.com/7-steps-to-survive-an-affair/

James Anderson 7 years ago

Dear Mr. Olsen: I didn't mean to bog my point down with my intentional hyperbole of the "most attractive man in the world" lines. I was attempting to underlie the basic issue most marriage counselors almost NEVER address. That being the perceived emasculation that occurs to a man. All men with even a tinge of self awareness will feel that way. Also, before you (hopefully) read this, remember what so many men will say when cheated on: "What was so wrong with me" (that she chose him over me). The prevalent, cookie-cutter counseling approach of "let's get to the root cause" is analogous to finding out why the plumbing was messed up and how it caused the pipes to burst in the first place. Yes, it will be necessary to address why the pipes burst and how to make sure you repair them so they never burst again. But, it doesn't address the residual water damage that is now in the kitchen. As we all know, when a women is cheated on, it's an insult to her dignity, of course. However, a point rarely talked about is that when the husband is cheated on, it severely damages his VERY BEING as a man. Both are equally bad acts, of course, but frankly, it is much harder on the man due to this perceived emasculation that occurs. Most of the time the betrayed wife is justifiably hurt and angry, but women are much less likely to think 'why was she better than me'. The man almost always will think this (and it will linger and haunt him). This is generally never taken into consideration when counselors address repairing the marriage, post the wife's affair. The age-old, "let's get to the root of what caused the affair" is only a small (yet completely necessary) step in rebuild. But it does not address what will be the ongoing problem that WILL occur no matter how strong the "new" marriage may become. That even if the the man found out the step by step reasons as to 'why' she cheated (and even if he forgives), there still will likely be his unresolved haunting question of, "what was it about him that was so much better than me?" That is not just my hang up. That is something most men will think and this is evidenced by the consistent comments made by jilted men in interviews and their online comments. The wife MUST be told in counseling that she absolutely has to engage in a systemic approach of: "I am sorry. I screwed up. Here's why. But please understand that you were always the better one of the two... THEN and now". I realize that sometimes she may not think that. Those marriages should end in divorce, for his sake, so he can find someone that appreciates him. However, in that the wife stays, it shows she likely thought her husband was always a 'better' man than the other one. Therefore, this MUST be addressed as part of the marriage repair and not just the standard, "here's what you did wrong to cause me to act that way", which is the usual way marriage 'experts' approach this. Sometimes the counselor is competent enough to point out that the reason she cheated is due to her past insecurity or immaturity issues, etc. BUT EVEN THEN, the counselor must have her systematically go through the repair process of repeatedly stating, "I am sorry. I screwed up. But please understand that you were always the better one of the two... THEN and now." This is not the 1970s anymore. Stating the common sense fact that men and women actually think differently (especially when it comes to infidelity) will not get us in trouble. I just do not understand why most counselors (even male counselors) seem to never address the 'residual water damage'.

James Anderson 7 years ago

Dear Mr. Olsen: I didn't mean to bog my point down with my intentional hyperbole of the "most attractive man in the world" lines. I was attempting to underlie the basic issue most marriage counselors almost NEVER address. That being the perceived emasculation that occurs to a man. All men with even a tinge of self awareness will feel that way. Also, before you (hopefully) read this, remember what so many men will say when cheated on: "What was so wrong with me" (that she chose him over me). The prevalent, cookie-cutter counseling approach of "let's get to the root cause" is analogous to finding out why the plumbing was messed up and how it caused the pipes to burst in the first place. Yes, it will be necessary to address why the pipes burst and how to make sure you repair them so they never burst again. But, it doesn't address the residual water damage that is now in the kitchen. As we all know, when a women is cheated on, it's an insult to her dignity, of course. However, a point rarely talked about is that when the husband is cheated on, it severely damages his VERY BEING as a man. Both are equally bad acts, of course, but frankly, it is much harder on the man due to this perceived emasculation that occurs. Most of the time the betrayed wife is justifiably hurt and angry, but women are much less likely to think 'why was she better than me'. The man almost always will think this (and it will linger and haunt him). This is generally never taken into consideration when counselors address repairing the marriage, post the wife's affair. The age-old, "let's get to the root of what caused the affair" is only a small (yet completely necessary) step in rebuild. But it does not address what will be the ongoing problem that WILL occur no matter how strong the "new" marriage may become. That even if the the man found out the step by step reasons as to 'why' she cheated (and even if he forgives), there still will likely be his unresolved haunting question of, "what was it about him that was so much better than me?" That is not just my hang up. That is something most men will think and this is evidenced by the consistent comments made by jilted men in interviews and their online comments. The wife MUST be told in counseling that she absolutely has to engage in a systemic approach of: "I am sorry. I screwed up. Here's why. But please understand that you were always the better one of the two... THEN and now". I realize that sometimes she may not think that. Those marriages should end in divorce, for his sake, so he can find someone that appreciates him. However, in that the wife stays, it shows she likely thought her husband was always a 'better' man than the other one. Therefore, this MUST be addressed as part of the marriage repair and not just the standard, "here's what you did wrong to cause me to act that way", which is the usual way marriage 'experts' approach this. Sometimes the counselor is competent enough to point out that the reason she cheated is due to her past insecurity or immaturity issues, etc. BUT EVEN THEN, the counselor must have her systematically go through the repair process of repeatedly stating, "I am sorry. I screwed up. But please understand that you were always the better one of the two... THEN and now." This is not the 1970s anymore. Stating the common sense fact that men and women actually think differently (especially when it comes to infidelity) will not get us in trouble. I just do not understand why most counselors (even male counselors) seem to never address the 'residual water damage'.

James Anderson 7 years ago

Joan, PLEASE read my above two remarks. Your husband has been completely emasculated by this emotional affair that you had. Mike's simplistic, "Maybe the two of you are not ready to say goodbye." is not the answer. If you really want to try to put this back together, you HAVE to take this time to put yourself in your husband's shoes. This includes the necessity to 'think like a man'. Right now, every time he looks at you (with this knowledge of what you did), he feels inferior and bad about himself. Including and most importantly, he feels lessor of a man and unattractive and emasculated. That is one of the biggest reasons he wants out of the marriage. Your very presence is too painful for him. Again, read my comments above, please. Men and women do not, for the most part, think alike. Especially anything relating to sexuality or adultery. What does a man think? His basic thoughts are, 'I am supposed to be your knight in shining armor', etc. 'Your #1 guy'. Trust me Joan, he is now thinking, "What the hell was so wrong with me that you would take up another man and put herself out there emotionally (and sexually) with him. Based on your comment, I am going to reasonably guess that "as much as (you) have tried" did not include stepping back and taking time to realize that you have basically defeated him and gelded him with your actions. The post affair actions of being nicer to him and cornering him over and over so that you could get to talk about the reasons you had the affair are not enough. The age old, "healthy communication" and "learn from our mistakes", etc. is an essential start, but it is NOT THE CURE. You MUST engage him with making him feel sexually superior again. Not just physically, but emotionally. Remember, a man's #1 need is to feel respected. You must admit to yourself AND TO HIM that you engaged in behavior that took it away years of his building up his manhood away from him. YOU MUST ADDRESS THIS AND GIVE HIM REASONS TO BELIEVE THAT HE IS A BETTER MAN THAT THE OTHER MAN YOU HAD YOUR AFFAIR WITH. Period. You are willing to fix the plumbing to make sure the pipes don't bust. Now address the residual water damage in the kitchen.

James Anderson 7 years ago

Joan, PLEASE read my above two remarks. Your husband has been completely emasculated by this emotional affair that you had. Mike's simplistic, "Maybe the two of you are not ready to say goodbye." is not the answer. If you really want to try to put this back together, you HAVE to take this time to put yourself in your husband's shoes. This includes the necessity to 'think like a man'. Right now, every time he looks at you (with this knowledge of what you did), he feels inferior and bad about himself. Including and most importantly, he feels lessor of a man and unattractive and emasculated. That is one of the biggest reasons he wants out of the marriage. Your very presence is too painful for him. Again, read my comments above, please. Men and women do not, for the most part, think alike. Especially anything relating to sexuality or adultery. What does a man think? His basic thoughts are, 'I am supposed to be your knight in shining armor', etc. 'Your #1 guy'. Trust me Joan, he is now thinking, "What the hell was so wrong with me that you would take up another man and put herself out there emotionally (and sexually) with him. Based on your comment, I am going to reasonably guess that "as much as (you) have tried" did not include stepping back and taking time to realize that you have basically defeated him and gelded him with your actions. The post affair actions of being nicer to him and cornering him over and over so that you could get to talk about the reasons you had the affair are not enough. The age old, "healthy communication" and "learn from our mistakes", etc. is an essential start, but it is NOT THE CURE. You MUST engage him with making him feel sexually superior again. Not just physically, but emotionally. Remember, a man's #1 need is to feel respected. You must admit to yourself AND TO HIM that you engaged in behavior that took it away years of his building up his manhood away from him. YOU MUST ADDRESS THIS AND GIVE HIM REASONS TO BELIEVE THAT HE IS A BETTER MAN THAT THE OTHER MAN YOU HAD YOUR AFFAIR WITH. Period. You are willing to fix the plumbing to make sure the pipes don't bust. Now address the residual water damage in the kitchen.