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Difficult therapy session - don't try to forgive??

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olwen posted 10/18/2013 04:01 AM

I am currently in psychotherapy with a clinical psychologist for my bipolar and extreme anxiety.

Well since I went on the waiting list I found H had cheated again and 6 months later I am still barely getting through each day. Serious self esteem issues and suicidal tendencies. I last tried in april when I found out about the ea.

anyway we are struggling to get anywhere in sessions cos I am totally absorbed in H's affair and as she says torturing myself with details, comparisons and trying to process it so I can forgive.

Yesterday's session was awful. I sobbed hysterically from start to finish, so bad I got a nosebleed. I was so low about myself she actually said she was scared to speak cos everything she said a used as a stick to beat myself with.

Then she shocked me. She said I couldn't keep thinking of the affair every second of every day or I will end up driving myself completely crazy. she said why are you trying to forgive the unforgivable? Right now you need to focus on you. We need to get you stronger so you can face things rationally and make my decisions later when I am calmer and more in control. Also not hating myself all the time. My self hatred had always been through the roof.

It was strange. She made me see how I am wallowing in all the details and punishing myself for not being good enough. She wants me to practice mindfulness and when I think of affair distract myself. Wordsearch, go into another room, do something I enjoy etc. She acknowledged my problem so bad that literally seconds later the thoughts come back again. She said just keep at it.

For me the key thing she said was I don't have to work so hard to forgive him. That I need to work on me first. That was like being given permission, almost ordered to stop. Just stop.

I actually slept well last night and woke up happy for the first time. MY first thought was 'I don't have to fight to forgive him today' and I felt soooo much better.

I don't really understand why. Of course I need to try to forgive him but right now I am in such a mess it's just making me worse.

Just being given permission to stop fighting all day every day has really helped me feel less swamped.

Does this sound like a good idea? Surely if I want to move forward I have to forgive him?

Thessalian posted 10/18/2013 04:58 AM

This sounds, frankly, like an amazing idea, and good for your therapist.

Sure, if you're going to move on, eventually you may want to forgive him. But you do absolutely not have to forgive him right now, next month, or ten years from now. And, gently, you should really only be thinking about forgiving him when the thought naturally comes to you because he's been doing the work necessary to deserve it. Forgiveness, in my mind, is given from a state of equilibrium and acceptance. Feeling the way you do, I can't even see how it's possible to entertain the idea. The emotional work to forgive does not need to be on your shoulders right now. Forgiveness does not happen at the beginning of the process, it should happen - if it happens - in later stages of the process, you shouldn't be shoving it down your own throat.

All you can do right now is ride the emotional tidal wave. That will take all your strength, just to feel what you're feeling and get through your day. I don't even know how I'm going to be feeling ten minutes from now, and it's completely beyond me to set a goal like, "I have to forgive to move on". I don't know how, if, or when I'm going to move on, accept and (maybe) forgive. It's all I can do just to face down the thoughts and feelings.

All I know is that I WANT him to do the work to earn my forgiveness someday. I want that very much. I'm not trying to actually give it right now. Every week or so I kind of mentally check in with myself and ask "Would I be able to say 'I forgive you' right now and mean it?" The answer right now is absolutely not, not even close, no way. And that's OK.

Maybe I'm putting words in your therapist's mouth, but I think your therapist may not mean "don't try to forgive ever", but rather "don't put any expectations on yourself or make any emotional demands of yourself - you don't HAVE to feel anything. Don't try to force it, just take care of you."

If forgiveness comes, it comes. If it does not, hopefully your WS will keep working until it does.

I would also define for yourself what "forgive" means. What does that look like to you in your head? Does it mean you stop thinking about it? That you trust your WS again? That it doesn't bother you anymore? These are all extremely difficult and, from what I'm hearing around here, take years of work. If that's what forgiveness means to you and you're trying to do this after only 6 months, no wonder you're so stressed!

[This message edited by Thessalian at 4:59 AM, October 18th (Friday)]

callmecrazy posted 10/18/2013 04:59 AM

I constantly remind myself that forgivness and trust are different. I can forgive you for breaking my heart, but I dont have to hand back trust without you earning it, nor do I have to do it at all. Good luck olwen

olwen posted 10/18/2013 06:38 AM

Thanks guys,

Thessalian - I think you're SPOT ON with what my therapist meant. That's how I took it too. Basically right now I need to work on me and not even think about forgiveness until much later. She wants to get me to a place where I no longer hate myself and am calm and confident enough to face this rationally whatever I decide. I am not well enough to be making decisions or pushing myself to.

I Plan to work on me, then on 'accepting' what happened without hating myself for not being good enough -which everyone tells me is the case but I am just too ill at the moment to accept that - it will take work and that work has to come before I consider forgiveness.

The way I usually approach forgiveness is understanding. Putting myself in his shoes and understanding how he could do it. Then forgiving him for his actions and facing the future. I may have to redefine my idea of forgiveness though as I may never understand how he could do it. Maybe I will change my idea of forgiveness to accepting what has happened and also accepting I will never truly understand his actions but let it go anyway. For me forgiveness is not holding it against someone, putting it in the past and moving on. Not forgetting it but choosing to let it go.

I can kind of understand it in an abstract way, he was low and craved attention. He was struggling with my diagnosis etc but emotionally it all flies out of the window. He didn't have to choose to cheat, he could have talked to me or someone safe. How could he do it after years of promising me he never would? How could he touch another woman knowing how insecure I am?

How could he be with someone younger, slimmer, oozing confidence and hard as nails? The total opposite of me. then come back to my deeply flawed body and say it's what he wants??? She doesn't have my scars and has a good body so in my opinion he has had better than me and is now settling cos it didn't work out. even her 'bits' were neater and tidier than mine - yep I really do take my self hatred that far! I hounded him for this information and he hated giving it. HE has spent months trying to build my confidence but he can't do it. Only I can.

Being given permission NOT to think about it and make a decision is like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I need to get myself right, then accept what he did then maybe one day I can forgive it.

I have been running everything round in my mind on a loop thinking if I can understand it I can accept it and move on with our lives but cos that's not working, I am just making myself worse so it's definitely time to try a new approach. Taking a big leap backwards seems to be worth a try.

He is fully supportive of this, even if in the end I chose to leave him. He just wants me to feel better.

olwen posted 10/18/2013 06:44 AM

Callmecrazy - I can't seem to do either. Trust or forgive. I guess I need more time. I trusted him for years not to hurt me but he did it twice. I can't forgive him for breaking my heart cos he knew how deep the wounds would go with me yet chose to do it anyway.

It's weird to think I don't HAVE to do either right now. I thought if I decided I couldn't forgive or trust him it meant we had to separate and I love him so don't want to do that.

Now I realise I am allowed to just try and get through this as best I can without putting him first.

I felt bad not getting over it quick enough. I hate seeing him hurting and wanted to make him feel better by forgiving him and putting A in the past.

Now I realise it's just not possible to decide 'right I am going to put it in the past' cos I am just not ready, it won't stay tucked away. It haunts me in my dreams and torments me day in day out that I am not managing it.

So for now enough is enough. I can't trust and I can't forgive. That doesn't mean I won't in time.

broken81 posted 10/18/2013 07:59 AM

Maybe you have to think about what forgiveness is to you.

For me forgiveness means saying it is ok. Our MC kept talking to me about thats not what it means, do it for you etc. But I just feel how i feel. I have never "forgiven" anyone. I have never said I forgive you or felt that I wont remember what they did. These are my thoughts on what would have to happen for it to be forgiveness.

Maybe in everyone elses idea of forgiveness i have given it. I have worked toward being happier, given him trust and respect that he has earned but i've never said those words. I'm completely ok with it. I dont need to forgive, i need to be happy.

I had to stop working on something that wasnt what i needed.
He would probably love to hear that (forgiveness) but he is happy with everything else i have given.

StillStanding1 posted 10/18/2013 08:45 AM


I think you've gotten some great advice above. I definitely think it's great that you feel liberated by giving yourself the freedom NOT to think about forgiving for the time being... Work on you. Care for you. You are wonderful and you need to love yourself first.

I was going to mention a book that my DD's youth minister (who worked for the International Forgiveness Institute) recommended "Forgiviness is a Choice" for you to look at down the road. I went to amazon to try to remember another title that I've seen recommended here. While on amazon, I saw an e-book titled "The Power of Self-Forgiveness"

I don't know if it might be of help to you, but if you have the option, it seems like it might be $1 well spent!!!! I'm an avid reader and often find that these self-help books help me a lot.

Please be good to yourself, first and foremost. My MC/IC always tells me to let go of the outcomes and just work on what I can fix. I'm trying really hard to do that!

I hope and pray that you can find peace!

blakesteele posted 10/18/2013 09:25 AM

Dear is the post I posted upon discovering I had forgiven my wife...think it might help you as I, too, struggled very hard to forgive my wife. I posted this back on Sept 4, 2013. I believe it now more then ever.

I am at forgiveness with my fWW because I no longer have the extreme rage when I see her or think of her affair. In addition, I have a new sense of compassion and saddness revolving around the whole event...and for all involved.
One thing I read recently is that you know when you have arrived at forgiveness when you see the offending person (WS) and your reaction is one of compassion and pity.

Funny, up until me actually feeling like that (felt it for the first time 2 weeks ago, but too nervous to trust what I was feeling)...I kinda thought forgiving my wife would be this triumphant victory.....

I felt this feeling...then two weeks later read this definition of what forgiveness "felt like"...and it appears to make sense to me.

....for me, forgiveness came in as quietly as someone taking their last breath.

Forgiveness as a "whisper" seems almost anticlimatic compared the the INSANE turmoil I felt along the path to it.

God be with us all.

p.s. I am still a bit nervous about this...but I have faith that this is forgiveness.

I can sense in your post you are in the "extreme turmoil" state I was in as I was wrestling with fortgiveness, what it meant, how do I achieve it, how do I know I have done it and not just rug-swept to it, how do I know it wont dissolve....

Unfortunately, I can't tell you how I actually got there. Alls I can say is you are doing much of what I was doing...fixating on what it means, counseling, reading, praying. You may also be thinking it will be an "ah-ha" moment type of event for you. And I think all of that is natural and healthy...just don't know which of those things was necessary and which were a waste of energy.

I also know that I run low on energy I try to determine what my priorities are and put my limited energy to the top priorities. Forgiveness was a top priority for me...I wanted to 1. Figure out if I had the ability to forgive and 2. Once I determined it was possible for me to forgive, how could I get there with the least amount of energy!

It is crazy making...but it is possible. I just wanted to support you...let you know I feel much of the same anxiety you do.

Keep the faith.

[This message edited by blakesteele at 9:31 AM, October 18th (Friday)]

olwen posted 10/18/2013 09:32 AM

Thanks everyone - I will absolutely look at those books, thank you!

Blakesteel - your words are lovely and a comfort as usual. I am so pleased you got there!

blakesteele posted 10/18/2013 09:38 AM

I do think it is possible to forgive adultery. But also think it is fine not to.

I read a book "How Can I Forgive You?: The Courage to Forgive, the Freedom Not To".
by Janis Spring PhD.

To be sure...I didn't have any "ah'ha" moments after reading this, nor did it give me instant forgiveness for my wife. But it was an important part of my journey towards forgiveness.

....another key component to the process of forgiving my wife? Was the ability to forgive myself. Thats a post unto itself.

God be with you.

[This message edited by blakesteele at 9:40 AM, October 18th (Friday)]

olwen posted 10/18/2013 09:53 AM

I do intend to forgive my h the problem is I have been trying to force it. Thinking we can't move forward unless I can give h assurance we will be fine and I will get over it. I have been making myself ill thinking 24/7 even in my nightmares. Thinking if I can just forgive all will be well. I am realising it's not good for me to be trying so hard to push myself

PhoenixRising88 posted 10/18/2013 10:20 AM



Then she shocked me. She said I couldn't keep thinking of the affair every second of every day or I will end up driving myself completely crazy. she said why are you trying to forgive the unforgivable? Right now you need to focus on you. We need to get you stronger so you can face things rationally and make my decisions later when I am calmer and more in control.

My MC said almost the EXACT SAME THING to me last night in our joint MC session...

blakesteele posted 10/18/2013 11:27 AM

Thinking if I can just forgive all will be well.

Man....I can sooooo relate to this obsessive thought. The pain is so strong...I still spontaneously cry almost on a daily basis...even in the middle of doing fun, mind destracting activities such as fishing a favorite secluded Ozark stream. Forgiveness is a gift to yourself, but pain does not go away upon giving it.

Hang in there....keep posting. We are not naturally talented in giving birth to full, mature thoughts and emotions right off the takes growth. You are growing.

God be with you.

[This message edited by blakesteele at 11:28 AM, October 18th (Friday)]

StillStanding1 posted 10/18/2013 11:38 AM

Ahh, and Blakesteele comes through with the title that evaded me! (My memory has just been decimated! Way too many crazy thoughts in my head too!)

Olwen, I think you've been handed the key by your C. Be good to yourself. Find your own little piece of happiness. Don't focus on forgiving him as the solution. I think forgiving YOURSELF is your priority. Seeing the good in yourself and why you are lovable.

I am giving you a link to something someone sent me yesterday. (It does have a slight religious message, hope that doesn't bother you.) I plan to watch it everyday. YOU ARE WORTHY!

I bawled like a baby yesterday watching this.

(((olwen))) Take care of YOU!

tushnurse posted 10/18/2013 12:06 PM

Can I just say hurray for your therapist. She is spot on.

I see so many newbies to this worrying and fretting about forgiving. I guess it is something that you feel you have some control over in a situation where the control has been completely ripped away.

As someone who has R'd successfully, I do have to tell you that my self esteem had all but disappeared when we finally had our Dday. That was partially because of how he had treated me throughout the A, the fact that I have always beat myself up pretty hard for any shortfallings, and I was in a job where I was NEVER recognized for the great work I did, but it was a constant not good enough (workiing 50-60 hours a week).
But I realized that it was up to me, and only me to be happy with me. No one else can do that, at least not permanently, they can make me feel better briefly, but to feel like the awesome person I am, and not be hard on myself, that was up to me.

Forgiveness comes, and it takes a long dang time for it to arrive. I too wondered about it, but it wasn't a priority, as a trauma nurse you deal with the worst issues, and go from there, and that's pretty much what I did with R. We focused on the really bad things first, and built from there. It took us a 2 full years for me to feel that I was healed, and he was healed, and our M was Recovered, and stong.

Forgiveness came then, and I can tell you it wasn't met with trumpeting of horns, and angels singing and me sayingI forgive you. Rather it snuck in quietly, with a quiet peace. I found myself happy, and fufilled, I also found that I was peaceful. Then I realized OH this is forgiveness. Of course I enjoyed it all on my own for a bit, before I shared with him that I had reached that point. If I knew it meant a lot to him I would have shared sooner, but for him forgiveness was not a priority. He knew that if he did the hard work of R, and healed himself it would come, but his priority was making me happy, and our family strong.

We are now 5 years out from Dday. We are still happy, and he is a great husband, and dad.

Be easy on you, be kind to you, other people take their cues on how to treat you by how you treat yourself. IT's ok to put yourself first, and to know that even though you are not perfect your an amazing person who is stonger than you ever thought possible.

((((and strength))))

olwen posted 10/18/2013 13:03 PM

Thanks everyone, where else but here do you get such good advice, a shoulder to cry on and inspiration to believe in yourself and kind words too.

You've all really helped me to see my therapist is a good one with some very wise words. For now I am just going to focus on not hating myself so much and just getting through each day.

Dealing with all my mental health issues I have adopted some pretty poor coping skills and they are so hard to change. I want to jump in, make everything alright again and just fight fight fight til I get there. It's a bloody exhausting way to try and live.

I am going to follow her advice for this week and see what she has to say next session. She is quite hard on me which I think I need but it does look like she knows her stuff.

She did say every time I thought of A I should distract myself. I only lasted a couple of hours today but that's something at least. I can't do the whole not think about it at all but if I can cut back a bit it's a start.

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