How to forgive and forget a friend’s past indiscretion

Jo Lamble offers some advice on how to forgive and forget a friend’s past indiscretion.

Jo Lamble is a Clinical Psychologist who has been in private practice for over 25 years. She sees individuals, couples, and groups and specialises in parenting and relationship issues. Jo has been a regular contributor on Channel 7’s Sunrise and is the resident psychologist for the online magazine The Carousel.

Eva is struggling to put the past behind her, and has asked YourLifeChoices relationship expert Jo Lamble for some advice on how to forgive and forget a friend’s past indiscretion.

Q. Eva
Years ago, my husband cheated on me with one of my friends. My husband and I decided to stay together because of our children. But my husband still sees my cheating friend’s husband. The men have somehow managed to get over the betrayal, but I find it very difficult to be around her. I’d like us to be friends again, but is it possible? How long does it take to forgive and forget? Is there a way you can help with this?

A. Your lingering pain is understandable. The betrayal we feel if a partner cheats can be stronger if it’s with a friend. First, it may not be that your friend’s marriage has been unaffected. We never know what goes on in someone else’s home and it’s just as likely that they have struggled as well.

I’m assuming that you have forgiven your husband, so you’re now considering how to reconnect with your friend. To be able to resume the friendship, you need to know that your friend is sincerely remorseful. Has your pain been validated? An apology is often not enough. We need to feel understood. We need to feel that the perpetrators of the betrayal truly know the impact of their actions. If our feelings are acknowledged but then we are told to move on too quickly, then resentment and jealousy can remain for years and years.

Your friend may not have given you the validation you need because she is embarrassed or ashamed. But it’s not for you to make her feel better. If you think that your friend has empathised with your feelings, but you’re still having trouble forgiving and forgetting, remember that you have a choice. You did not choose for them to have an affair, but you chose to stay with your husband and you can choose whether or not you want to reconcile with your friend. It feels better when we know we have a choice. Ask yourself what you miss about the friendship and see if the positives outweigh the difficult emotions that are triggered by seeing her.

If you decide to work on this relationship, take it slowly and ask for your husband’s support. Spending time with her will probably cause spikes in your feelings of betrayal, and he needs to be patient and understanding during the process.

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    3rd Nov 2017
    Tough situation!!
    3rd Nov 2017
    Forgetting is impossible. Don't even try. The more you try not to think of something the more it is burned into your brain, and a few words, a song, whatever, can hard wire you back into that situation of pain.
    It's important to define what is meant by "forgiving." It doesn't mean that what happened is now OK. It means that you no longer allow the person's actions to have power over you by continuing to cause you pain. Who is being punished? You. Not the perpetrator. Nobody says this is easy. But at this point of understanding does the advice above come into play.
    3rd Nov 2017
    Wise words, Jennie. Forgiving = letting go. And perhaps passing it on to God.
    3rd Nov 2017
    Well my dear - it is absolutely crystal clear. Your husband has the upper hand. You can continue to be a door mat in your relationship our you can prepare to move on.
    Ultimatums do not work so don't waste your emotional strength.
    Me, I would have too much pride to stay. If you leave you will have peace, freedom to make your own life choices and self respect. If you stay you will feel just the way you do today - worthless and trapped.
    Your choice.
    3rd Nov 2017
    It's always two ways.. start from there and seek not to support the whines of victimhood.

    That is definitely passe` in Century 21, the century in which this and other nations can no longer afford such luxuries as victimhood industries.
    3rd Nov 2017
    Where does it say she feels worthless and trapped? She has asked for advice on how to reconcile with the female friend.

    I think it would be impossible ever to have the same sort of relationship she had before with this woman - and I would not even bother to try.
    3rd Nov 2017
    Maggie if she felt OK she wouldn't be seeing a Psychologist.
    If the husband wanted his marriage to work he would have made a complete break from the other husband and wife.
    - He is going round to their house to visit the husband - sure he is.
    - and why did this lady want to keep her friendship with the other wife? Very odd.
    3rd Nov 2017
    Dear Eva, I certainly do not agree with -Rosret - it's one thing to come to terms with your husband and it is for no one to judge this as they do not know the facts of the situation. And children are very important. HOWEVER ... I'm afraid that your so called 'friend' has betrayed you in one of the worst ways. It is my view that you must let her go ... she could not ever be trusted again and that is a bad basis for any relationship to go forward on. You deserve much better that this very uncomfortable situation, in particular your partner remaining friend with these people. If it were me in this situation I would become very independent, join new groups of similar interests and make new friends that you can trust. Concentrate on your life and wellbeing and that of your children. I wish you the best outcome.

    3rd Nov 2017
    I forgive and forget as I urinate on their graves......

    Just saying..... get 'em in the ground and it's easy to forgive....
    3rd Nov 2017
    psychology is a pile of crap. just my personal opinion
    3rd Nov 2017
    I agree. Psychology is a ridiculously expensive scam. The only psychotherapy I ever came across that was efficacious was a thing called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprogramming) - administered by a bloke from the Anglican Counselling Service.

    3rd Nov 2017
    Her husband doesn’t seem to mind that your husband hangs around at his place and seeing his wife
    They could still be having sex but there’s probably no emotional investment on both sides
    He still wants to stay married , and if it keeps him sexually happy then perhaps it’s a blessing
    3rd Nov 2017
    Exactly Raphael - the husband has made no adjustment to his MO whatsoever.
    3rd Nov 2017
    It seems strange that your friend's husband is still willing to be friendly with yours! Unless he is unaware of the relationship between his wife and your husband, or simply didn't care. It seems that the friendship between the two men is of greater importance than their marriage relationships. I see this as a rather bizarre situation, and can't see how I could deal gracefully with it at all. Perhaps everyone is keeping their feelings partitioned away and focusing solely on the welfare of their children, who may have their own bonds of friendship. It seems that you are being expected to "suck it up" for everyone else's benefit, whether you like it or not. If you can do it, then you are a better person than I could be.

    3rd Nov 2017
    Forgiveness is one thing; forgetting another. I was able to forgive my late father for over 25 years of severe abuse (mainly physical and verbal violence), because he expressed contrition - only once - and I understood why he was exactly the way he was. There is a religious dimension to it too: if we don't forgive, then God won't forgive us (Mark 11:26).

    Now I am in need of forgiveness from my 88-year-old mother, but she is at present unable to forgive me (despite my contrition). I hope she can do it before she passes on - for her sake and mine.
    3rd Nov 2017
    "kick em' all to the kerb" - can never be the same again! Ever!
    3rd Nov 2017
    What’s wrong with a bit of nookie on the side ?
    Not that I have this problem , but the older one gets , u understand there are less opportunities , especially if the wife is always checking up on you
    4th Nov 2018
    Never forget, never forgive. kick them both for six.

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