For better or worse, that's usually how many marriages begin. We are familiar with the "for better" part and it's wonderful when you experience it in your marriage. The "for worse" part is what usually stops most of us in our tracks and leads to internal questioning and doubt of the relationship. Sometimes you can get through it and sometimes you can't fathom how you could. What happens when the transgression is so huge or so hurtful, that the "for worse" part is unbearable? How do you go about forgiving your partner so you can repair the relationship?
Let's first look at forgiveness. Following the Enright process model of forgiveness, we learn that forgiveness is a journey leading toward beneficence rather than resentment or revenge towards the person who has hurt you. Forgiveness does not require approval or condoning the actions of the offense, reconciliation with the offender, or even remorse from the offender. However, forgiveness serves the one who gives it because it allows you to move forward in life without holding onto anger or resentment.
Forgiveness is often much needed in marriages, and sometimes very difficult to give. I can't say what betrayals in a marriage should be forgiven or not. However, it's very likely that a marriage will not withstand much further without forgiveness. So if you're reading this to figure how you can practice forgiveness, then I can offer what the process of forgiving looks like.
Start by reflecting on who and what was done to hurt you and then confront how the hurt or betrayal has changed your life. You can't forgive your partner until you acknowledge what they have done and the physical or emotional consequences of their actions. You may stay at this step for awhile, but that's ok. Forgiveness is a process.
Deciding to forgive is the next step. Forgiveness is a free choice and only truly frees you from pain when you choose it. It cannot be forced or forged, it must be genuine. Sometimes this takes a really long time because the hurt runs so deep. Beware that it is common for us to become accustomed to the anger and hurt we hold onto. So allow yourself time to reach this step, but be mindful not to stay too long.
Finally, you work towards forgiveness by opening your view to yours and your partner's thoughts and feelings, walking in your partner's shoes when he/she hurt you, and courageously bearing the pain of the betrayal. This does not mean things go back to the way they were or that forgiveness erases any emotional scarring from the betrayal. However, it allows for a possibility of rebuilding trust.
Betrayals are painful reminders that we are human and that marriages are imperfect. Getting through the "for worse" part of a marriage can sometimes take months or years. This may be one of the reasons why getting through it is so difficult and people quit before they do get through it. But there is always a path to forgiveness if you are willing to take it. Although forgiveness may not be the cure all for the betrayal, it's a place to start healing.