Your partner has revealed all of the details. You’ve received daily apologies according to the books. You know that your partner has owned the responsibility for breaking your trust. You know that the two of you are working hard to finding ways to communicate and to understand what caring about the other means. But there’s one problem. While you may feel that your partner sincerely loves you and is trying to make up for the pain that the infidelity has caused, you find yourself terribly cold at times and unable to lower your defenses to trust again. You keep interrogating your partner and going over and the details like a police detective. Deep down you are not sure that you can ever forgive.
Of course forgiveness in this situation requires time. You need evidence that your partner lives up to promises, and does not responds defensively when you need to call to check. However, when you recognize that your partner is reaching out to you in all of these ways, and you cannot reach back many times, you know something has to change within you. You begin to realize that you have been unable to forgive, because this infidelity has kicked off something very painful in you.
You see unknown to you before, you have always had a deepest fear. You may have feared that there was something so wrong with you that you would be abandoned. Adults can usually pull in resources to deal with this. However, if you had painful moments in childhood where you feared this often, you may find yourself, each time you think about your partner’s affair slipping back into those childhood experiences
You relationship with your partner may have protected you from a deep fear about you. One of the things that you found most attractive about your partner was the affection and readiness to affirm your most positive qualities. Now those same affirmations feel hollow and empty. You can no longer let them buffer you against a deeper sense of deficits. Somehow you cannot get it out of your mind that this would not have happened if there was not something very wrong with you. Your partner realized the real truth that you simply are a flawed human being, undeserving of love and commitment.
At this point, nothing your partner can say will break through the devastating truth that who you are simply unacceptable. You may now realize that you have always feared this, but now the betrayal has resurrected that fear so that it stares you in the face unrelentingly.
You have two choices here. You can either feel like a total victim or you decide that this belief while false can only be changed as you wrestle it to the ground yourself. No one else can help you believe in you again unless you permit yourself to realize and appreciate all that you do have to offer. Finding the freedom to do this sometimes requires you to confront a part of you that has basically made you believe that your worth needs to be always questioned or validated from the outside.
If your parent constantly needed to denigrate you unmercifully, you may have come to believe that this was something you simply had to come to accept as truth. A fatal flaw lay at the heart of your very being. When you first met your partner you were amazed that this person seemed to see something different. But still you may have not held your partner at arm’s length simply to be safe. Eventually your partner moved away because of a fear that you were not receiving the love.
If this sounds like I am suggesting that you are responsible for the infidelity, please let me hasten to reassure you. Your partner carries the responsibility for breaking the expectation of fidelity. Still, your growth and ability to trust will emerge as you begin to appreciate how whole hearted you swallowed a picture of yourself as unacceptable.
Sometimes you will feel this most clearly if you imagine being a best friend who sees you struggling with the depth of the feeling of being fatally flawed. As a best friend, you would quickly realize how far from truth this is but in fact have empathy for how deeply entrenched this belief has become in your friend.
Let yourself imagine as a friend taking on the mission of helping your real self discover the truth of how much you, too, deserve love and commitment.