What to do when you can’t forgive

I still struggle with forgiveness.  What my husband did was such a betrayal of me, our marriage, our children.

A lot of people focus their anger on the affair partner.  Well, I have no respect for her, that’s for sure, but I don’t focus on her.  I did for a short time.  I found out everything I could about her.  I know for a fact that she is just a sorry excuse for a human being.  If you look at what I write about, affair partner is a tiny little speck.  That’s how it should be.  As far as my life goes, my husband was as much to blame as she was, and he was the one who made promises to me.  I have no respect for him, either, when it comes to love and honesty.  I do respect him for other things.  He is successful in his career and is intelligent and inspiring.  He shows true concern for others and for the environment.  He has tried to his best to be a good father.  But where love and integrity are concerned, he has shown his true colors.

It has seemed like it would take some kind of magic for me to get past that.  But I am trying.  I want to make it work.  In our daily lives today, we often laugh and have fun and enjoy each other’s company immensely.  I just have not found a way to bring that into the core of our marriage again.  I harbor fear and pain and lack of trust, and sometimes I still feel that I hold all of that against him and the anger comes back.  So I guess forgiveness is a ways off still.

That sometimes makes me feel guilty.  Am I such a hard person that I cannot forgive?  I never thought that I was hard or mean.  Just the opposite, in fact.  I generally forgive him far too easily.  He will cross boundaries and do inconsiderate things, and I will be mad for a while, and then I’ll forget to be mad and damn, he’s gotten away with something again.  This time it seems I can’t forget to be mad.

I wrote the other day about my coach saying that I needed to see that my husband has changed before I can move forward.  How do I affect that, make it happen?  I’m brainstorming with my coach about that.

Today I came across an article by Dr. Frank Gunzberg.  He is a well-known therapist.  I subscribe to his Marriage Coaching program.  That’s how I found my online coach.  Anyway, his article really spoke to me, so I am copying the link here.  Maybe it’ll speak to you, too.


Love & prayers to you all,



3 thoughts on “What to do when you can’t forgive

  1. aaroncrj says:

    Hi DJ:

    Sorry for not responding sooner to your encouraging post. I took the Enneagram assessment you posted and came out as a 2. It seems pretty accurate to me. I like to think I am a sensitive person (or that I can be) and I often put others’ needs ahead of my own. The only place I really assert myself is in my career, but even that has had to be managed with my family’s and wife’s needs ahead of what would be better for me professionally. And I understand that is how it should be. When I became a husband and father I made commitments to do what’s best for them—or at least do what I could. My wife doesn’t seem to recognize this. She focuses only on what she gave up. She has often that we’re living the life “you wanted.” Such words cut deep because the life we’ve lived is not the life I wanted. It’s the life we made based on a thousand choices and decisions made together (or so I thought) and it includes sacrifices I’ve also made-both large and small.

    I have really been on a rollercoaster this week. The situation with my new job opportunity is really heating up. It looks like it could be a great career move for me and maybe a new adventure for us. Still, I can’t get her to really open up about it. I’ve had a couple similar opportunities in the past three years and would have taken one of them if she had been more excited and interested in making it happen. That position was in Oregon, which has many of the things we both love: mountains, ocean, and lots of beautiful forest. We had what I considered to be one of our best vacations as a couple in Oregon about 14 years ago and I fell in love with the state. I thought she had too, so I thought for sure she’d jump at the chance to move there—especially when they offered to provide assistance to her in landing a comparable position. Yet, she seemed ambivalent about the opportunity.

    Having lived our entire marriage in the Midwest, my wife frequently reminds me that she’s always wanted to live elsewhere. Her ideal location would be Colorado. She visited there often as a young woman (the OM was with her on those trips) and we have vacationed there in the summertime on a few occasions in the past several years. I absolutely love Colorado, too, but must admit that my enthusiasm for it is dampened by thoughts of her and him together in the mountains. I thought of Oregon as “our place,” a beautiful spot where we had and could make our own memories. This employer came at me twice in 2008 and again in 2010. I had to say no three times, though I wanted to say yes. She said that she wanted to live elsewhere when we were younger; now it’s too late. We’re too old and settled in our ways. She said if we moved to Oregon I wouldn’t want to take part in the hiking and camping that she’d want to do (never mind the fact that I am nearly ALWAYS the one who suggests camping weekends for the family and she frankly NEVER commits).

    This has been the pattern of our marriage: she expresses a vague or even specific discontent and leaves it up to me to address it. If I just listen and try to understand, nothing happens and she points out to me that nothing changes. If I try to do something it is never what she wants or there is some other reason why it won’t work out.

    This week marked the 6-month mark of D-day. I don’t think she realized it. One evening after our youngest was in bed we were sitting alone in the living room. We were talking about this new career opportunity and my fears about taking it. Professionally it is a really interesting move and financially it looks to give me about a 50% bump (though that will be mitigated by a higher cost of living). It is not in an area of the country in which either of us ever aspired to live and it is in a large urban area that has an especially bad reputation for crime. We’re both small-town Midwesterners, so the big city lifestyle is not something that really appeals to us. Anyhow, the discussion shifted to some of the old issues in our marriage and I told her that I wanted her to know I was really hurt by what transpired with the OM. She said she knows that and immediately started in on the litany of her disappointments and frustrations in our marriage, using them as a foil to parry against my hurt. I think she realizes what she had done, but didn’t know what to say.

    Sorry for the whine and for writing so much, but this current job situation, combined with the 6-month D-day mark has got me evaluating and analyzing and reclassifying our whole history. As always, thanks for sharing your situation and helping me to understand my own.

    Based on this post I think I gotta get back in counseling soon—or get my own blog…:-)


  2. Not Over It says:

    Ah, now I see why we react so similarly to things – we’re both Two’s! I am proud of being a Two as well.

    It sounds to me like your wife needs to go with you to marriage counseling. My husband was much like your wife at the beginning, but Dr. K finally got through to him on a few things. I don’t like Dr. K for myself. He’s too clinical and opinionated. He doesn’t really listen to my feelings. He listens a little to the situation and then offers a fix or advice on things “really are.” Doesn’t work for getting me through my pain. But it does wonders for my husband’s refusal to see things objectively.

    It’s hard to say what the best thing is for you with this move. My husband moved to the city we now live in for his job. It was also a 50% pay raise, but also in a big city where it is much more expensive and the lifestyle not so easy and safe. He moved first at a time when I could not move. I was caring for my mom through Alzheimer’s and my kids were in high school and in excellent gifted programs that I did not want to give up on. But he wanted that job so he took it anyway. I stayed back until everything was finished. It turned into 5 years before I moved. He commuted weekly, coming home on weekends. This was when he started his affair.

    In retrospect I would never again live separately. My husband is not one who is happy when he is not doted upon. It was rough on us all. And after 4.5 years here, I would still move back to our old town in a second if given the opportunity. We both make more money but the cost of living is so much higher that we don’t live any better. In fact, our house is smaller because we chose to live in town rather than do the whole suburb commuter thing. There is the possibility that my husband can move up the ladder some more, and then we would be doing better, but it’s unsure if that will happen. A little thing called his affair caused him to lose his focus and he is no longer the edgy, motivated, driven person he once was.

    I think your own blog would be wonderful! Then we can post back and forth. Good luck with it!

  3. Not Over It says:

    Oh, and Aaron – the place my husband’s OW lives is a popular tourist destination. I never ever want to go there, not even to visit. Any mention of the city or state is a trigger for me. That’s probably because I found all the receipts, maps, and brochures that my husband got for his trips there. Even the hotel brochure… so yes, I understand about Colorado.


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