To the Woman Who Wants to Forgive Her Cheating Partner,
I’m not here to reiterate what 95% of the internet, women’s magazines or your girlfriends are likely to tell you. And I’m not here to place blame on any entity: the cheater, the other woman, patriarchy, the media, God.
I’m here to welcome you to this experience.
This might seem strange, but hear me out. What has just happened to you is undoubtedly awful. You’re feeling things no person should ever have to feel in this life, although many of us do. Regret, anger, blame, resentment, self-pity, maybe even self-hatred. Please note that these feelings are normal. Don’t shut them out. Don’t drown them in too many glasses of wine. And don’t let them dictate your next action. Just witness them. Feel them. After all, they’ll be gone soon. I promise you that.
I’d rather focus on something else. Because the fact that you are even considering “forgiveness” as an option means something extraordinary. And the world needs to celebrate the extraordinary much more than it glorifies the wicked and the vengeful.
Considering forgiveness means you have entered a new era in your life. I’m not talking “era” in the way people sometimes refer to adolescence as the era of innocence or the twenties as the era of recklessness. This era has nothing to do with your age. But it has everything to do with your humanity.
Gandhi said, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”
In this sense, you are a warrior now. You have witnessed battle and been wounded, but you are valiant in your resilience. Forgiveness is love and love has no equal in power.
In fact, forgiveness is probably the most important lesson you’ll ever have to learn in this life, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be difficult. Holding resentment like a clenched fist inside your very being takes much more effort. Forgiveness is the simple act of letting go. An unclenching of the fist to allow an opening. A sigh of relief.
I know you might be thinking that it’s impossible, you’re not ready, you can’t see how you’ll ever forget what has happened. Stop trying. You likely won’t. But something else will happen to this memory as it becomes anchored in your history like a scar or a tattoo. As days, weeks and years pass, you will start to redefine the memory as something else. Your partner will become an unintentional teacher, not because his actions were noble, but because the grand design of life that allowed for these actions to occur is.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to stay.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to leave.
But maybe you can’t. Maybe there is too much pain and you feel battered and broken in its wake. Forgive yourself then for being unable to forgive him. This doesn’t mean that you will never forgive him, and that this lesson is not for you, but that you’re just not ready right now. Be gentle with this knowledge and know this: the lesson may come to you on another dark hour of another painful night. Maybe not in this form. Maybe not with this person. But you will be presented with this opportunity again. And again. Life is full of repetition, and the lessons deemed most important for your soul will come to you, whether you will them or not. It is always your choice to move forward or stay fixed. Be always prepared, but never worry. Worry is a waste and an inverted intention. You are already strong. You are already extraordinary. It’s time somebody told you that.
Erica Garza is a writer from Los Angeles. Her essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Salon, Substance, The Manifest-Station, Narratively and HelloGiggles. She is also a staff writer at Luna Luna Mag. Read more at www.ericagarza.com and follow her on Twitter @ericadgarza.