No one goes into a relationship expecting to be cheated on.
At least, I don’t. I go into it with the highest of hopes (regardless of past experience).
Unfortunately, many of us will encounter infidelity in some form in our lifetimes.
Blame it on easy access (social media, websites catering to affairs, etc.), the media’s glorification of cheating, or changing beliefs on whether monogamy is natural or even possible—being unfaithful seems easier and more prevalent than ever.While there has been debate over just how many people cheat and are cheated on, I know one thing for certain: I was one of them.
Not only was I cheated on, I was also apologized to, which is probably rarer than the act itself. When the apology was issued, I had a choice. I could choose to cling to my anger and bitterness and self-righteousness, or I could forgive.In the span of a few sentences, I told the woman that I had already forgiven both her and my ex and that I wished her well.
And that was that.
I didn’t schedule a coffee date to catch up and gossip or plot against my ex a la John Tucker Must Die. I have no interest in any of that. I very succinctly did what I felt was right and necessary: I offered her my forgiveness.
If you had asked me if that was possible a few years ago, I would have simultaneously laughed, cried, and shouted, “Not in this lifetime!” My decision to forgive did not come easily or immediately, and it garnered mixed responses from my friends (as I am sure it will from my readers), but I purposefully made this choice for a few reasons.
I chose forgiveness for the present and the future. I can’t go back and change the past, and I obviously don’t want to relive it. By holding on to the anger, I realized I was only allowing something that had already happened, something I couldn’t control, steal the joy of the present moment. Wonderful things are happening, and I am surrounded by the most beautiful people on this earth. I can’t afford to miss out.
I also have big dreams and plans for the future–professional goals, personal dreams, and hopes that my children grow up deliriously happy, fiercely loved, and well adjusted. I can’t achieve any of that if I’m breaking my neck looking backward at my past. Instead, forgiveness allows me to direct my vision to the future, a future that undisputedly looks better than my past, a future where anything is possible.
I chose forgiveness for my children. My children deserve the best version of their mother possible. That means working hard, making lasting memories, and, for me, forgiveness. At different points in my life when I’ve felt wronged, I’ve said to myself, “I can’t wait until my kids are older and I can tell them about all of this. They’ll never forgive someone who hurt their mama.” I hate to admit that, but it’s the unadulterated truth.
Fortunately, forgiveness has softened my heart and changed my attitude. I know that one day when my kids are older , they will have questions about my past. Now, I hope when that day arrives that I’m able to be honest with them but also encourage them to forgive others and themselves as necessary. Our time and lives are just too precious to fill with hate and anger.
I chose forgiveness for myself—a selfish reason, but a reason nonetheless. I’ve made mistakes in my life and had to ask for forgiveness, and knowing my human nature and the messes I sometimes get myself into, I can see it happening again in the future. What a hypocrite I would be if I continued to ask for forgiveness for others when I was unable to give it myself.
I also believe that you will get out of this world what you put into it. Call it The Golden Rule, Karma, or whatever you want. Some may perceive my positive attitude as feigned or my optimism as naivete, but it’s how I choose to live my life. There are so many naysayers and critics already. I choose to be a cheerleader for survivors of divorce, single parents, women, human beings—and forgiveness allows me to do that.
Now, as a culture, we have accepted a few myths about forgiveness that I don’t buy into.
First, forgiving someone does not mean that you condone their actions. I do not agree with cheating for any reason. It’s the coward’s way out. If you want to be with someone else, end things with your current partner first. Period.
Second, forgiveness does not always lead to reconciliation. While I have forgiven my ex, we are both content leading our separate lives, and I don’t see that changing in the foreseeable future.
Finally, forgiveness, much like love, is not a one-time act. It’s a choice that you have to make over and over again. But the good news is that it gets easier, and you will come out stronger.
As the ever wise Tami Taylor put it, “There is no weakness in forgiveness.”
Author: Lindsey Light
Editor: Erin Lawson