The next, and most difficult, step in recovery is toward forgiveness. Forgiveness begins with you. You may be surprised, or even outraged, at the suggestion that you need forgiveness, protesting, “What did I do wrong? It was my partner who betrayed me.” That is a natural reaction. However, those who have been traumatized often blame themselves, imagining they could have done something to prevent the catastrophe. They turn their anger against themselves. Similarly, you may blame yourself for not being a good enough partner, for not seeing signs of problems in the relationship, or even for contributing to the problems. Furthermore, you may not like the angry, depressed, insecure, anxious person you may have become since discovering the affair. Rebuilding your life after the affair will require a letting go of the hurts of the past. It will require forgiving yourself.
The journey toward forgiveness entails a grieving process that unfolds in stages. At this stage you may feel a profound depression, an overwhelming sense of loss. The sadness might sap your energy, making you pull back from life. You are well aware of all that you have lost because of your partner’s unfaithful behavior. Likely, you have lost trust in your partner, yourself, and the predictability of your world. You have lost the security of your home, the relationship, and your way of life. Your beliefs about the permanency and reliability of love may also have been shattered. Perhaps, most painfully, you blame yourself for the failure of the relationship, which deepens your depressed mood. The danger at this point in recovery is from two sides. You may avoid the painful and profound sense of loss, covering it up with some addictive behavior. Or you may indulge your self-pity, identify with your pain and sense of helplessness, and remain in the victim role. Such a trap can only be escaped through embracing the pain with the confidence that it will not consume you and learning to be patient and gentle with yourself.
From the book TRANSCENDING POST-INFIDELITY STRESS DISORDER: THE SIX STAGES OF HEALING by Dennis Ortman © published by Celestial Arts/Ten Speed, an imprint of The Crown Publishing Group.