A committed couple who wants to try and move forward with betrayal begins in the process of forgiveness long before any overt act of forgiving occurs, through movements that ultimately result in forgiveness and restoration of the relationship.
These movements can best be conceptualised as a dance, consisting of separate yet inter-related movements for each partner.
The person in the relationship who cheated on their partner must show empathy towards their actions and take responsibility and accountability for what actions they have caused their partner.
The person in the relationship who cheated must apologise. Apology is a complex process that includes a clear understanding of the damage done, the injustice involved and an acceptance of responsibility; an acknowledgment of the losses and painful experiences of the person who was cheated on. It’s an expression of deep regret and remorse, a pledge to be faithful and a commitment to do whatever is necessary to help facilitate healing wounds caused by the person in the relationship who cheated.
Just as the person who cheated has engaged in apology processes throughout this journey, the other person has been engaged in forgiving processes.
Through empathy, humility and softening, encouraged through the offender’s movements, that person has been able to recognise and acknowledge the injustice and express their feelings and tell their story and process the trauma; gain insights and understandings through contextualising the betrayal; accept responsibility for their contribution to relationship difficulties prior to the betrayal; arrive at a new understanding of themselves, their partner and their relationship.
In essence, what has emerged is the view that forgiveness is alive, it grows overtime and requires nurturing. It is both fragile and robust and it experiences ebbs and flows in the relationship.