How do we forgive after an affair?

M. Brown
Sarah Cervantes via Unsplash

**This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events that I have experienced firsthand; used with permission.

Sometimes I wonder where he is. I wonder if he ever thinks of me. I wonder how he’s aged after a decade.

I wonder if he’s felt sadness, joy, or regret over how things transpired and ultimately ended between us.

I wonder if he’s still married to the same woman — and if so is he still betraying her? Does he still get a thrill from chasing the next best thing? I wonder if he’s found some sort of redemption in his life — or gained any sort of ability to reflect upon his own actions.

When I think back to the damage done — the mess left in the wake of the affair I participated in — I am still struck by the boldness of the fool I once was.

I shake my head when I remember how easily I gave in to his every demand, to his every whim. I take comfort in knowing that I finally broke through the spell, the magic — the thrill of a relationship that should never have been.

Do I regret having the affair? Not anymore. I’ve written about it. I’ve spoken about it. I’ve addressed the guilt. There's no reason to prolong the self-punishment part of the equation. Been there, done that.

There’s a reason why so many readers have responded and resonated with my writing on my experience as ‘the other woman.’

Others have related to my mistakes and also to my journey of catharsis through writing. It’s like therapy to relate. It’s as human as it gets.

When we find out that those who may seem ‘together’ on the outside are actually a hot mess on the inside it really rings true to one of our most primal instincts — which is to know that someone else feels what we feel. To know that someone else has experienced what we’ve experienced.

Is it natural to wonder where a person you spent many illicit years entangled in an affair with is after so many years? I think so.

Is it normal to wonder what their life is like now? Probably. But who’s to say what’s ‘normal’.

I have a beautiful family now, a devoted husband, and two lovely children. But I still think about the affair. And I still wonder if I’ve achieved redemption yet.

But, where does the real redemption come from?

Perhaps real redemption is just knowing that you did something wrong in the past — acknowledging it — and realizing that you are doing everything you can now in the present to be a good human being.

My own sense of redemption means that you learn to live with others as honestly as you can while still honoring what you really need for yourself. It's showing your true intentions and admitting when you’ve made a mistake.

I occasionally wonder if he’s out at the mall, at a restaurant, or at a baseball game smiling with his wife or laughing at a joke — as if nothing had ever happened to turn my world completely upside down. I wonder if he ever thinks about the carnage he created — the wreckage of bodies left behind him.

All of the affairs, all of the women. I was just one of many.

Alas, I will never know. All I can do is move on with my own life. I can’t force anyone else to seek their own redemption nor can I create it for them.

Sometimes we never get those burning questions about the ghosts of our past answered and, quite often, we really don’t need those answers at all.

All we can do is to continue to learn from our mistakes, teach others from our mistakes, and keep our eyes focused on our own path going forward.

Sometimes we never fully recover from a traumatic relationship — especially one that’s shrouded in deceit and pain. However, it is possible to learn to live with the choices you’ve made in the past and come to terms with the consequences peacefully.

In the end, we can only seek redemption for ourselves and we can only receive it from ourselves.

If there’s one thing I did learn from being a part of an affair, it’s that we can only be responsible for our own choices, for our own happiness — and that truly moving on is a choice we ultimately have to make on our own.

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