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Acceptance VS Forgiveness

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Arais posted 7/13/2013 19:38 PM

It has been a long long difficult journey since DD. Unfortunately for us that journey is leading to D. It is the long goodbye. My WH is desperate to stay married, desperate to make good the wrong he has done but he can't seem to be able to give me what I need - open and freely given communication about his A. Last week I got an email from him telling me that he thinks we have been going about this the wrong way. He has been looking for my forgiveness and I haven't been able to give that. So for the last 2.5 years that was his aim. To demonstrate how sorry he was and for me to forgive him and hopefully for us to start again. This week he recognized that forgiveness is not the next step afterall. He feels that we haven't - either of us - accepted what has happened. He says (and he only realized this himself) that he cannot accept what he has done,he cannot accept that he is the man that has betrayed his wife. Until now I didn't realize that I have not accepted it either. It is as if we have both been in this bubble of horror that just won't let up - going round and round in circles and getting nowhere. We seem to get so far and then it all falls apart again.
I cannot accept that my husband did this to me and our family. I can't grasp it. I can't make the dots join. I look at him now and he is a stranger. The man I married and lived with for nearly 3 decades could not do this to me, again. I can't get passed that. This might seem obvious to others but how can we possibly move on if we are both stuck in this state of limbo? If he cannot accept his actions how can we hope to move forward. Since DD he has always resisted giving any information about the A. When he does it is always accompanied by his anger at me for insisting on knowing details. I just couldn't figure this out - why was he angry? He didn't know himself until now. The man that I keep making him confront - the cheater and the liar = is not someone he recognizes anymore. He cannot accept that he has done these terrible things to me. Does this sound crazy?
How can I forgive something that I have not yet accepted? And now I don't know where to go from here. What does acceptance mean?
Will this ever end?

OldCow18 posted 7/13/2013 20:30 PM

Wow. I'm one month out from d-day and could have written exactly what you wrote. I can't accept it either. To read that you are 2.5 years out and still where I am is terrifying. I feel I could be you. I'm so sorry. I know I'm not helping, just wanted you to know I get it.

jjct posted 7/13/2013 20:38 PM

Accepting that it happened does not make it acceptable.

Just me, I knew I had to forgive, so I asked upstairs for help making that happen.
It's not a linear thing, or an all at once thing. It can be.

But my destination is not carrying it around. It's indifference. I'm divorced.

HFSSC posted 7/13/2013 21:03 PM

When I first started trying to get sober, the idea of acceptance was anathema to me. I just could not get it. There were all these rotten, horrible things that were done to me and were unacceptable. It seemed to me that acceptance was giving all these people who had abused and treated me so horribly a free pass. It was saying that it was okay that my uncle molested me, that my parents didn't protect me, that I was raped and impregnated.

It took me 11 years of relapsing and sinking further into the hell of addiction to grasp that acceptance doesn't mean all that stuff was okay. It means all that stuff happened and I am okay. I lived I survived. And I can choose to not be defined by it.

So, Arais, when you realize that you are and will be okay no matter what, you'll be on your way to acceptance. I hope it comes for you. Don't waste 11 years like I did.

5454real posted 7/13/2013 21:09 PM

What does acceptance mean?

acceptance doesn't mean all that stuff was okay. It means all that stuff happened

IMO, You can accept and not forgive, but I don't think it's possible to forgive and not accept.



kansas1968 posted 7/13/2013 21:33 PM

We had been married for 33 years when my husband started his affair and I am still having trouble accepting that it happened. I think that is the hardest thing about all of this, the brutal knowledge that it did happen, and that fact will never change. We are not going to wake up tomorrow and find out it was a dream. It is a finality, like death. You can not escape it, and that has sent me into many a panic attack, just that thought that I will have to live with that knowledge for the rest of my life. I think I am getting close to acceptance, but forgiveness is still a long ways off.
That will come when he does some things that he needs to do. He also does not like to be reminded of the fact that his is the person who has done this, so he avoids. When he can quit avoiding and face that knowledge like a man, I will forgive. Until then, I think acceptance is a good as it get, at least for me.

We will stay together, we care about each other, and it would benefit no one to do otherwise. At least the pain has been reduced to a tolerable level by time.

inconnu posted 7/13/2013 22:16 PM

Acceptance, to me, meant coming to terms that it really did happen. That the person I never thought would betray did. That the now-ex really was the kind of person who could do that, and not the person I thought he was. It meant coming to terms with the fact that I had spent a lot of years wanting to believe now-ex was a better person than he really is. And since now-ex wouldn't tell me things, it also meant accepting that I'd never know how much of my marriage was a lie.

ifinallyfoundme posted 7/14/2013 11:40 AM


Your expression of acceptance is how I choose my life and to forgive. Arais you are stuck, don't waste another minute in this terrible limbo.
Your WS 's behavior did indeed happen, you were manipulated, lied to cheated on, and any number of horrific things that were done. You can't change the past or others actions, but you do have control over your actions and your future.

Focus on your future and the good in your life.
Quite frankly your spouse is angry because he isn't repentant. He is sorry he did it, he hates he got caught, and how dare you bring it up. He isn't interested at this point in helping you heal, he just wants you to get over it. How dare you make him look at his nasty little behaviors and examine his weaknesses. How dare you ask for power and openness.

He sounds real old-school and these guys have a hard time connecting to, expressing, and exploring their feelings. My WS is old school, you have to approach things from a less modern angle.

[This message edited by ifinallyfoundme at 11:40 AM, July 14th (Sunday)]

BostonGirl posted 7/14/2013 12:56 PM

Janice Abrams Spring wrote an excellent book called "How Can I Forgive You" that is a great guide to acceptance vs genuine forgiveness (and two other outcomes, cheap forgiveness and refusing to forgive.) Really thought-provoking and helpful, definitely worth seeking out.

ladies_first posted 7/14/2013 14:33 PM

I strongly second the recommendation for Janice Abrams Spring's book "How Can I Forgive You?"

She gives a nuanced description to Forgiveness, as well as "cheap forgiveness" and simple acceptance.

Get thee to a library or bookstore; don't reinvent the wheel here.

Blobette posted 7/14/2013 14:46 PM

You can't forgive him because he hasnt done the work. You are 100% right - you can't move on until he can accept what he's done and can take responsibility for it. And he needs to prove this to you by being able to talk about it rationally, not by blowing up with anger at you. You can't move on until you know that he's a safe person, and he will never be safe unto he deals with what he did. Simple as that.

broken <3 posted 7/14/2013 18:48 PM

I still haven't figured out how to quote on my iPhone. But some points that clicked with me were:

1) It took me 11 years of relapsing and sinking further into the hell of addiction to grasp that acceptance doesn't mean all that stuff was okay. It means all that stuff happened and I am okay. I lived I survived. And I can choose to not be defined by it.

2) IMO, You can accept and not forgive, but I don't think it's possible to forgive and not accept.

Ill have to check out that book suggestion. Sorry if I t/j but I wanted to post so that I can reference for later when I'm not typing through tears. It's been a rough day/week/life. Wishing you well, please take care.

cdnmommy posted 7/14/2013 20:52 PM

Wow, it sounds like your WH had a big breakthrough this week, if he is being sincere.

I think he is on to something.

You (Arias) need to accept what happened. You need to do this whether he ever gives you another piece of information or not.

Your WH needs to accept what he did, and then begin the work of healing himself and making amends. That will include giving you what you need to find closure and begin to trust him again.

If, and only if, these two things happen then you may be able to forgive him.

You are right that if he doesn't pull his weight the two of you can't heal together. But you can still reach acceptance whether he chooses to do the work or not. And acceptance will allow you to make a decision you can live with. That decision may be, "you did this to me. I can't change that, and I choose not to continue to be with someone who will not help us heal."

I don't believe forgiveness is a requirement for your healing, but as long as you are in disbelief and denial, it will hold you back.

momoffive posted 7/14/2013 22:07 PM

Wow... I can really relate. And for me its going on 4 years. Why am I still here? Somedays it boils down to the kids.

He is still angry and unwilling to talk about the A and ONS he confessed to 2 years ago. His unwillingness definitely does not make my questions just go away. Not a day goes by that I don't think about them.

I'm not any help but wanted to let you know I can relate.

Ladyogilvy posted 7/14/2013 23:32 PM

I agree with the "How Can I Forgive You" book recommendation. I do think some things are unforgiveable. Accepting that they happened and being able to move on are a perfectly respectable alternative. I do understand, acceptance is more difficult when you're not even sure what it is you're supposed to be accepting. Perhaps accepting that we will never really know the whole truth about the past is the best we can hope for.

Dreamboat posted 7/15/2013 00:30 AM

I opened this post and it was not at all what I thought it would be. I thought this would be another battle of semantics over “forgiving” someone and “accepting” what they have done.

It turns out that this post is about a couple where neither the WS nor the BS has been able to accept what has happened (let alone forgive), but for very different reasons.

I believe that your WS cannot accept what he did because he does not want to face his demons. After the fact, he is horrified by what he did and he wants to deny that HE did those things. Many many WS in this position go into denial and justification. BIG TIME. The fact that your WS has recognized this flaw in himself is a good sign for his self healing. Saying that, it does not mean that you need to be a part of his self healing nor does it mean that you need to stick around for it. If you are done, then you are done. His epiphany may be too little, too late for you and that is your right.

For you to heal, I personally believe that the BS needs to accept what has been done to them. NOT be ok with it. NOT forgive. But come to terms with it. To be able to say “This person I loved did this crap to me. And it hurt me. It was bad crap and it hurt me very badly. But I will not let that define my life nor will I let it define who I am. This happened, it sucks, but I need to move on with my life.” To me, that is what acceptance from the BS point of view is. Simple acknowledgment of what occurred, grieving your loss (whatever it may be), and then the determined effort to continue to live your life despite this crap.


Arais posted 7/15/2013 07:24 AM

Thanks for all the responses.
Firstly, I want to say that I know (as much as I can) that my WH is trying his best to do the right thing.He isn't doing very well but he is trying really hard. We can't hear each other anymore. Every time he says something to me I go into the "you said this before and you were lying" scenario and then I begin to shut down. I can't seem to help it - it is nearly a physical thing. This begins the vicious cycle of how could you's.
The acceptance question: how do you accept that the man you married is not the man you thought he was for nearly 3 decades. If for example you believed that your WH was a man of great integrity and you find out that in fact he is a liar and a cheat - how do you accept that? Isn't that like saying I am going to stay married to this man but he is completely different to the man I thought I was married to? This is where I get stuck. So instead of being married to a man that is honest and honorable I am accepting that I am married to the opposite?

The good part is I am no longer co dependent. I was always quite independent and that has not changed but we were intertwined so deeply that I could not see myself as a person without him. I now can. The bad part is, strange as this may seem, that this is the loneliest I have ever been. I liked being overlapped with him. I was happy to be that way. Now I feel adrift and isolated. I miss him so much but now I don't know who I miss. Did I ever really know him? And can I accept that I lived with him for all this time and didn't know him at all.

Thanks for the book recommendation I will order it today.

The funny thing is I would like to accept it and move on because there is no one on earth I would rather spend time with, no one that makes me laugh like he does. Can he be a good man? Can you be a good person and do these terrible things to the people you are suppose to love and care for and protect?

HFSSC posted 7/15/2013 07:44 AM

So instead of being married to a man that is honest and honorable I am accepting that I am married to the opposite?

I think this is the key, right here. Because I'm not convinced that "honest" and "honorable" are permanent states. I believe that we all have the potential to be dishonorable and dishonest. But I also believe that our behavior does not necessarily define our character or our identity.

Is he a man who behaved in a dishonest and dishonorable manner? Absolutely. But if he is working toward resolving the issues that allowed him to cheat and is transparent, allowing you to judge his current behavior as honest/trustworthy, could that be enough?

I'm so thankful that I don't have to spend my life being defined by the horrible choices that I made when I was actively addicted and had no healthy coping skills. I made some really, really bad decisions that caused a lot of damage. But because of the work I have done and continue to do, I feel fairly certain that I won't be making those same choices again. Today. I'll worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.

Arais posted 7/15/2013 10:01 AM

HFSSC: I guess this is where I stumble. I can't see the gray in this area.
Do you think it is the same for you because you were under the influence of a substance that altered your decision making process?

Your point about honesty and honor is really interesting. I think that there are very few cases of black or white when it comes to human behavior but is integrity flexible? If so is it integrity? I hear that we could all do the same thing given the right circumstances but I don't think this is true. I can't see how I could have an A and lie to his face for years at a time. I just can't see it.

When I think about this objectively I know that if he were not my husband but a man I would forgive him. He often says that people who have had terrible things done to them e.g. people in concentrations camps forgive their captors but those people were strangers. There was no personal relationship. They were not trusted loved partners. Is this what he is talking about? Is this the acceptance? I forgive easily in all other aspects of my life but I cannot accept that he did this to me again and I cannot forgive him.

Maybe I had unrealistic expectations of marriage but he knew what my expectations were and he had the same expectations of me for him. So? I just cannot seem to grasp this.

uncertainone posted 7/15/2013 11:22 AM

Your point about honesty and honor is really interesting. I think that there are very few cases of black or white when it comes to human behavior but is integrity flexible? If so is it integrity? I hear that we could all do the same thing given the right circumstances but I don't think this is true. I can't see how I could have an A and lie to his face for years at a time. I just can't see it.

Arais, I never lied to my husband. Never hid that affair. I was honest. Do you think that protected my integrity? Nope. I thought it did at the time. It was pretty black and white to me. Oh, and also wrong.

You can't understand what he did. Without understanding, I'd imagine acceptance would be pretty hard. Living with someone you don't believe can ever escape a choice and continuing to see them through that choice, nurturing it, feeding it, enabling it to grow rather than starving it and letting it die is cutting, to me. It's taking something sharp and scaring yourself every day.

I don't even think it's about the affair anymore. It's about the capability to have that affair and all the mechenations involved in his choices that severed every tie, bond, link you had to him. Now you're being "asked" to live with someone that you don't know and what you do know about their capacity for inflicting pain is enough to keep them as far away from you as possible.

I was talking to a dear friend the other day about this. How one act can destroy us for others forever. I know someone that volunteers, would give you the shirt off his back, cares deeply about others, got in a fight with his wife, stormed out of the house and hit his neighbor's son on his trike. The little boy was 3 years old. Killed him. That one act murdered a child. Think all his good deeds and way he lived his life make up for that horrific choice for the family of that little boy? Not even close. Doesn't even touch it. He will always be a monster to them. They had to move.

He lives with that choice every day. He has gone on and continued to work for his family and community. An exemplary person before that moment and after. That moment is pretty huge, though...and for one family it's everything.

It may be time to let him be a good person where there won't be that constant reflection of his past choices for either of you.

[This message edited by uncertainone at 11:22 AM, July 15th (Monday)]

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