The 3 Barriers to Forgiveness after an Affair


One of the most difficult decisions you’ll make post-affair—beyond whether or not to save your marriage—is whether or not to forgive yourspouse.


The choice is yours, and there’s no right or wrong. You’ll either want to grantforgiveness, or it will be something you can’t abide the thought of doing.

In this blog, we’ll look at three barriers to forgiveness, if you find yourself stuck. Read on…

Forgive or Not Forgive: What is the Cost to You?

Forgiveness is more about you as the victim than it is about the cheater. While it may make the cheater feel better to know that ‘all is forgiven,’ this does not mean that you will feel better.


After you’ve learned that your spouse cheated, you will have a range of negative thoughts, volatile emotions and a string of haunting images with which to deal. The very thought of forgiving the person who perpetrated this sort of pain on you is probably enough to make you feel indignant, insulted and more than just a little queasy.


It is said “it is human to err, but forgiveness is divine.” You can look at that one of two ways:

1-       You need to be a divine being to even consider such a thing, or

2-      You will feel divine once you have granted forgiveness.


There are also two ways of looking at forgiveness in terms of what it means to you. If you refuse to ever forgive your spouse, you may be signing on for long-term anger, resentment and bitterness. However, if you offer forgiveness, you may find yourself at peace with the world—and your spouse.


Either way, your spouse doesn’t receive a free pass for cheating. It’s not a matter of you saying “Hey, what you did was fine. Please feel free to shred my heart again in the future.” What forgiveness can signify is your readiness to move into the future and not become caught permanently in this dark spot of the past.


There is another option, which may be the best option for you, especially after I tell you about the barriers to forgiveness in a moment.

What about considering acceptance? This simply means that you find a different kind of peace: you accept the circumstances for what they are—a bad turn in life, but one that has happened and cannot be erased, it simply is.


Acceptance may be the only option you will have, simply because there are barriers in place. Maybe not all three that we are about to look at, but if even one barrier remains, then consider acceptance as a gift to yourself. It’s another means of finding peace and letting go of any anger or bitterness you may be harboring, which only serves to sicken you.

The 3 Barriers to Forgiveness


In a marriage, you’re emotionally involved, which is why you are capable of experiencing such pain. If your spouse was some random person that you don’t know, the fact of his or her affair would have absolutely no impact on you from an emotional level.


Most people have a tendency to have an intellectual reaction to hearing about someone’s affair, but it doesn’t hit the heart the way having your spouse do it to you can.

Here are 3 barriers to forgiveness you may experience:

Barrier 1: You’re Not Ready

Before you can decide whether you should forgive, or simply accept the affair, there is a progression of healing you need to go through. Remember those volatile emotions and negative thoughts I mentioned earlier? These must be dealt with first and foremost before you can even consider moving forward, whether it’s to consider forgiveness or if you should stay in your marriage.

Your initial healing phase begins with taking care of yourself and working through the enormous amount of pain you are experiencing.

Barrier 2: Lack of Cheater Remorse

It’s difficult to forgive someone who shows absolutely no remorse. There are some cheaters who seem incapable of understanding the pain they’ve caused their spouses, and refuse to take responsibility for their actions. Or, your spouse may not have fully broken off the relationship with the paramour.

This is a barrier to forgiveness. You may decide to grant it, but not through any good faith actions on the part of your spouse.

Barrier 3: The Cheater has Not Apologized

A heartfelt apology is usually the prerequisite to forgiveness. The person who has caused injury may say, “I am truly sorry for the pain I have caused you. Can you ever forgive me?”

The victim is much more inclined to give consideration to forgiveness when the cheater comes to them with a heartfelt plea such as that. And, piggybacking on barrier 2—when the cheater truly shows remorse and is doing everything they can to show that they’ve changed their cheating behavior.


Now, it’s your turn:

Are you experiencing any of these barriers to forgiveness?

Do you feel you’ll ever be able to offer forgiveness to your spouse?

What do you think about acceptance, which isn’t contingent upon your spouse’s level of remorse?


Please share your ideas and personal experiences on this topic with other members of the community.


Remember….You are so much stronger than you think!


Savannah Ellis

Founder, The Infidelity Recovery Institute


“Here Are 3 Things You NEED to do RIGHT NOW to begin to Forgive and Stop a Divorce…”

How to Survive an Affair: A Step-by-Step System for Saving Your Relationship after It’s Been Shattered by an Affair  My complete 30-year comprehensive step-by-step system, designed to help you work through the healing and restoration of your relationship after an affair.


Phase I: Individual Healing – Understanding Personal Feelings and Sorting through Emotions


  • Take control of the paralyzing emotions.
  • Regain your sense of stability and get rid of the images.
  • Eliminate the paranoia and restore your self-confidence.
  • Cut-off the affair and move back to your spouse.
  • Replace the lies with truth and start over.
  • Understand why the affair happened.
  • Uncover what was missing and how to add it.


Phase II: Healing As a Couple – Working Together to Identify and Resolve Key Issues


  • Accelerate the healing process: Protect your relationship from further harm.
  • Discover how to talk about the details.
  • Transform your relationship with a heart-felt apology.
  • Generate new honest communication.
  • Ignite a renewed life-long commitment.
  • Capture peace of mind with true forgiveness.


Phase III: Negotiating a Renewed Relationship – Understanding How to Rebuild and Sustain a New Trust-filled Partnership


  • Eliminate the suspicion with complete transparency.
  • Restore your sex life without haunting visions.
  • Affair-proof your marriage for life.
  • Develop lasting safety, honesty and intimacy.
  • Accept the past without being tormented





August 16, 2013 at 3:04 pm

It’s been25 years since my wife had an affair. Hurt like nothing I’d experienced before then or now. We were extremely young, highschool sweethearts. I’ve had all those feelings people write about. I know i I have a harder time forgetting than forgiving. My wife is a great wife and mother, I just struggle. I have several businesses and have always been in control of situations and employees, I think more than anything my ego has been smashed by the affair. Would love nothing more in this world than to be able to forget.



August 16, 2013 at 12:20 pm

MGTOW-man in reply to Suzanne McCarley



August 15, 2013 at 4:43 pm

They say that the best revenge is to be HAPPY!!!



August 15, 2013 at 4:40 pm

When I found out that one of our closest friend was helping my ex set up hidden phone line so he could communicate with the other woman it was very hurtful, but I’m glad I found out, now I surround myself with people with better moral character, positive people, and that is life ” like a box of chocolates …..” So get rid toxic people like that and always remember we are all humans, we all make mistakes and at the end you have to take care of yourself, sometimes when you feel the pain remember you have the power to set up boundaries and don’t allow them to hurt you anymore, I learned to always see things from different perspectives I do not want to be remember like the bitter old ex- wife.



I know people say forgiveness isn’t letting them off the hook, it is supposed to make you feel better not them. I don’t agree. The people clamouring to make you feel guilty for not forgiving are those who want to be off the hook, or those who want to reserve the right to act the same way and say it isn’t that bad.

I reached out to forgive the people who sided with the affair. I figured they had no clue the hurt they caused. What did I get for it? Told I was the bad guy or he wouldn’t have cheated.

I didn’t feel better, I felt cheated out of my right to be permanently disgusted with them. Hatred takes energy but disgust is just- meh. That’s what cheaters and their supporters deserve, not forgiveness. And giving more than they deserve just makes me angry. So I settled for disgust.



August 15, 2013 at 1:04 am

I’ll stick with the anger, resentment and bitterness, it’s been 43yrs since her 5yr affair, if SHE doesn’t like living like this then get the Divorce you owe me.
SHE knew where the Doors were.



August 14, 2013 at 9:25 pm

To Maggie and all: Discovered affair 26 years into marriage, separated first, now divorced. Husband has never apologized we remain in good terms, I realized that I needed to let go, for me you do it for yourself, when you let them know how much they hurt you without the blame, sooner or later it clicks and maybe they can not expressed remorse sometimes they don’t know how, the amazing thing is that after I let go good things started happening to me at work, better relatioships with our daughter, felt like a huge weigh was off me, and I started seeing myself not like the poor victim, but as someone kind, mature, and capable of taking care of myself, it is a process give it time, intime you’ll be able to understand him, yourself,your marriage and why it happened better.



August 14, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Happy Birthday Shattered!!!

Forget the idiot and have a blast!!!

I didn’t forget your birthday. I hope you are doing better and I am thinking of you. Big hugs for you, on your special day



August 14, 2013 at 1:02 pm

My spouse cheated our entire marriage. I just didn’t know it. Only 3 years ago when the cheating became a full affair with no control I knew.

Like so many others it destroyed me. I am a strong woman, but it broke me. I knew I couldn’t remain with him. I told him that. In every other regard he is a great guy, which made it extra hard to reconcile what he did and learning more each conversation and who is he when he isn’t doing that.

The first year was just trying to put it together and reconcile. The 2nd year was acceptance. Like CP said, I would get SO VERY ANGRY when people told me to get over it, or forgive. How in the world could I forgive the pain that I had never felt so deep in my soul? Then this year I decided it was time for my own sake. I don’t know which of the self help emails I read, maybe Oprah’s, that said to forgive, another or yourself, Inhale while saying ‘I forgive you’, and exhale and say ‘I release you’. I put that on my mirror and did it every day while getting ready. I’ll be darned. A sense of peace overcame me. Don’t get me wrong, on the anniversary months, (July and August) I still had breakdowns, but I don’t blame, shame or accuse anymore. I am lucky in that he has aplogized and means it. He wants us to reconcile. There is no possible way I could ever trust him. But, I forgive him and still lean on him when I need it.

Karen- believe in yourself. Walk away. You do not deserve to be treated like that. If he doesn’t hold you in the highest regard then you do not need to be with him. You are special and deserving of all of his love. No one should ever spit on you or threaten you. When he does that look at him like a spoiled child that just got caught and you will see through the anger at the fear of really being caught and not being able to do it anymore or having to deal with the shitty thing he did/does. My ex told me walking was the best thing I ever did for him. Maybe you will have that luck. If not, you have you. that is all you need.




I feel that I can relate to your situation. After learning of the affair 18 months ago, “working on the marriage”, trying to forgive, I discovered two weeks ago my cs was still in contact with the ow. He too says they are just friends now….sure.

I tried very hard after two other times finding him with her to keep my family together, but the only solution is to end my 26 year marriage. I will never trust him again. I have as well as our children have no respect for this person who has become someone different. I really resisted this option of divorce the entire time, but he won’t give her up, shows no true remorse and has broken everything I thought meant something.

I prayed for the ability to forgive and at times thought I was getting closer, but now realize this is an “emotion” that I will continue to work on for the benefit it will give me. I am, however, done with allowing this behavior to continue in my life. I miss the man I knew, we have been together over 30 years, but I have to move on with my life.

As this article states, forgiveness is a process. It is one that requires the participation of both parties. If he isn’t doing his part the forgiveness will never be accomplished. Be strong in integrity, no compromise. Best wishes.



Forgiveness would be easier to attain if my cs showed any remorse or truly apologized for his behavior after his SECOND affair with the same coworker in the past 18 years . His view seems to be for me to just

“Get over it”, forget all that has happened, and move forward in our marriage. I have known of his second emotional affair for 8 months now, and all I ever get from trying to discuss it is verbal and emotional abuse with a heavy dose of intimidation such as fists raised, screaming in my face nose to nose, actually being purposely spit on, called horrible names like “whore” (I have never once been unfaithful during our 35 year marriage so that one REALLY hurt) and “stupid bitch”…..I could go on but you get the picture. He never hurts me physically, no blood, no bruises, just acts like he is going to. He just doesn’t want to talk about it And only admits to “talking and texting too much”. I have 53 pages of phone records that show the talking texting have happened outside of work hours, at very late hours ( 2:00 am – 5:18 am) on one occasion and one month even had 91 texts and 41 calls…. On almost all months, her number was the most called number (Verizon can show you that ) or was right below the number of calls placed to me. And he says they are just “close friends”. They went on a date a year ago, but he lied and told me it was a work group event. I found pictures of only her on his cell phone, no group pics from the event and he couldn’t name anybody in the ” group”. When I called the establishment, only 2 seats had been reserved in her name.

I could continue with more examples but doesn’t matter….I just don’t know how to forgive this. It’s the second time with the same woman, he is not remorseful and seems to care less how this has affected me both emotionally or physically( I’ve dropped 10

Sizes and my blood pressure has soared as well as not sleeping) I actually am almost to acceptance but the anger and vengeance inside me will not let me forgive and I know I need to for my own health and sanity. Help!!!!



It is also interesting, perhaps, to note that when the mere term ‘forgiveness’ was first mentioned to me (like when I read blogs similar to this or in therapy or even when my husband outright asked for forgiveness), I got ANGRY. Not just a little angry, but REALLY ANGRY. How DARE they tell me that I need to FORGIVE something like that!!! HOW DARE my husband think he can ‘shred my heart’ and not feel his heart shredded too!!! How DARE he think he can just ask for forgiveness and not face consequences for his actions!!!!!!!! Oh, I was extremely ANGRY (and I *still* feel some of those feelings on occasion). In fact, I wanted to SCREAM at anyone who even hinted that I need to forgive. Peace? What’s that? I couldn’t even IMAGINE a life with peace from that point on!!!! Who are these people to presume that me excusing my husband for his actions would lead to my peace????

My problem is that I mixed up forgiveness with excusing the actions. It’s not easy to keep that distinction in your mind either…..or for the person you are forgiving to maintain that distinction unless they absolutely understand the pain they caused.

The anger subsides, the peace will come….but it takes a LOT of work, acceptance first (DBT calls it radical acceptance of what ‘is’), and knowing who you are and what type of soul you want to be at your deepest core.

Kind regards to all –CP


August 14, 2013 at 9:38 am

This article is so true. It’s been three years since I found out about my husband’s affair, two years since I found out the whole ‘truth’. One of my biggest and most asked questions was and is…when will the pain go away? Well, the pain has definitely subsided over time, with a lot of therapy (I recommend DBT therapy highly) and with a husband who is remorseful and who has worked on himself to change. And still…I’m not quite ready to forgive, although I have finally accepted. There is no time limit for forgiveness and saying you forgive someone before you feel it is, frankly, dishonest and does not do either one of you any good. My husband knows I am working toward forgiveness (for him) and also forgiveness for myself….because that’s one thing this article doesn’t talk about: how much you blame yourself and hate yourself for what happened….or for what you allowed to happen (in your mind).

The one biggest and most freeing thing anyone has ever said to me during this process…because forgiveness is not a light switch, but a process… that it happens in each person’s own time. There is no rule that says ‘a year after it happened, you should be able to forgive or your relationship has no future’. No… long as you are both working on your relationship and on yourselves, be patient. Be patient with yourself because, although acceptance takes time, forgiveness — true and sincere forgiveness and subsequent peace — takes a LOT more time to achieve.

I pray that all of you reading this blog find peace and forgiveness.


Posted on June 5, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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