by Peggy Vaughan
This was a previous Question and Responsebut I'm posting it as a permanent part of the website so it can be available to the large number of people who continue to request information for the third party.
As for the fact that in this instance it "happened 5 years ago"… recovery only begins when you openly face it and begin actively dealing with it. ("Keeping it hidden" is like "burying it alive," and it's just as strong when you bring it out to face it as it was in the beginning.)
As this letter clearly illustrates, often the hurt spouse is not the only one who has a difficult time "forgiving." When a person who has had an affair fully faces up to the reality of what they've done, they may find it extremely difficult to forgive themselves.
They are likely to be gripped by many of the same feelings of loss and regret as their spouselike thinking "if only..." this hadn't happened. They might say they'd give anything if they could go back and avoid inflicting this kind of pain.
But learning to live with the sense of regret (and guilt) is part of the challenge of dealing with any life crisis. It involves accepting the reality of the fact that life is now different and nothing will change the past. But going beyond that to focus on what they can do now and in the future that may make a difference.
It's important to accept the fact that our actions can not be erased or undone, but that we can dig deep inside and discover some way to become a better person by virtue of this experience. This focus and process can be of great help in counteracting the feelings of guilt or regret.
So the first step is letting go of "in only..." and looking toward "what can I do to demonstrate that I've learned an important lesson" from this experience. And, further, how can I take this learning and use it to become a better person. No matter how difficult something is to deal with, there's always the potential for learning from it. And using these learnings to forge a more responsible and more fulfilling life can be of great help in counteracting the feelings of guilt or regret.
Frankly, a great deal of the "strength of character" that people exhibit comes from the process of surviving some crisis that has severely tested them as a person. To paraphrase a famous saying by the philosopher Nietsche: "That which doesn't kill me makes me stronger." Every crisis we face in life is also an opportunity to grow stronger, and responsibly dealing with the fall-out from this experience can actually strengthen you as a person.
It's not what mistakes we make in life that define us; it's how we deal with those mistakes and use them to learn and grow and improve. The "best" people are usually those who have been tested and failed, but then rose to prove themselves anew.
For more of my comments on this issue, see the page permanently posted on my website:
Finally, as the writer of this question mentioned, it's difficult to find material written specifically to help the person who had an affair. So I'd like to pass along information about locating one book that concentrates exclusively on the role of the unfaithful partner during the early stages of affair discovery. It was written by a former betrayed spouseto help the offending marriage partner in their efforts to save and heal their marriage.
The author says that not only was this book written specifically for the partner who had an affair, but she asks that it NOT be read by the hurt spousein order to give the your partner the chance to undo the damage on their own. She also notes that she has included Biblical scripture throughout the book, but that it was written for everyone of any religion or no religion.
The title of the book is "Infidelity Crisis: How to Gain Forgiveness and Respect After Your Affair." The author is Katie Coston. (The book is only available as a pdf file to be downloaded from the author's website: AfterTheAffair.net)
Note that I have organized - by topic - all previous Questions into 3 separate collections of 151 questions each. See: Collections of Questions. (Collection 3 is specifically aimed at those who are "Involved in or Affected by Affairs.")