Having trouble forgiving your man after he cheated? Make your relationship stronger in 5 steps.
When you're hurting, forgiveness can become the new F-word. As humans, mistakes are guaranteed, but when trust has been broken or your man has let you down, putting infidelity behind you and forgiving him can seem impossible.
I work with people with criminal histories who often find asking for forgiveness a huge challenge. Often, they don't feel worthy of forgiveness, so talking about it can be painful. Men in particular can have trouble verbalizing an apology, so pay attention to your man's actions. If he's showing you he's sorry, owning up to what he did, and working to turn it around, you should try to forgive him and move forward.
Reuniting after a betrayal can be one of the most powerful things two people can do for their relationship. Couples who overcome mistakes with forgiveness are likely to become stronger and more connected, and they communicate better after they've found forgiveness. But, it takes work.
1. Don't force it.
Being wronged and having your trust broken by someone you love can lead to feelings of grief that may take a while to heal. Forgiveness will only be possible when you're able to communicate openly and honestly with your man about what happened, and it can be that much more difficult to do when your hurt is fresh. If you need some space, let him know. Then, take a little time to "do you."
2. Find empathy.
Forgiveness can be a little easier to swallow when you remember your own experiences instead of focusing on your boyfriend's mistakes. Think back to a time when you were desperate to be forgiven. Maybe you didn't know how to ask for forgiveness, or maybe you were forgiven but thought the other person was secretly holding a grudge. Reminding yourself how important the hope of true forgiveness was should put you in a more forgiving mood.
3. Focus on yourself.
Along with remembering times when you wanted forgiveness, focusing on the power of forgiveness for yourself can also give you the strength to let go of the past. If you won't do it for him, do it for yourself. Forgiving your man helps you get rid of all those negative emotions you've been carrying around. Forgiveness is not "forgetting;" it's freeing yourself. It's a decision, and it's one you may need to make over and over again.
4. Work together.
Moving forward from a betrayal is not just your responsibility; it's his responsibility, too. Once you forgive, full healing and reconciliation won't happen unless you work together to heal your relationship. Before you begin reconciling, it can help to write down what happened, how it hurt you, and what you need your man to do for you to move forward. Then, write out a statement of forgiveness and read it aloud until it feels natural to you.
If you need some extra assurance to trust him again, like having access to his phone or checking in with each other throughout the day, make specific requests and see whether or not he is willing. Working through this together will help repair the damage that has been done and will make your relationship stronger.
5. Check in regularly.
In the movies, forgiveness happens as soon as the guy says he's sorry, the girl realizes she still loves him, and they kiss. We assume they're going to live happily ever after, but in real life, truly forgiving someone is hard to do; the hard work continues long after the romantic reunion moment. It's important to keep checking in with each other to see how you're both holding up to determine whether thoughts or worries about the past are reappearing, and to remind each other of your love and loyalty.
Even if you're still mad, forgiveness doesn't have to be a dirty word. By building honest communication into your everyday life and focusing on what you have to gain from forgiveness, you can turn your hurt and resentment into a strong, loving relationship again.
Catherine Hoke is the founder and CEO of Defy Ventures, a national nonprofit that serves people with criminal histories. Defy "transforms street hustle" by providing entrepreneurship training, executive mentoring, startup funding, career development, and job placement. Defy hosts "Shark Tank-style" business plan competitions in which people compete for $100,000 in startup funding. Defy is currently enrolling its next class of entrepreneurs. To find out more about how Defy Ventures can help you or someone you love, click here.