How Do I Learn To Forgive Myself?

I was in a relationship for over six years. Everyone was sure we were going to get married, including the two of us. We bought a home together and lived a relatively peaceful life. We had some major issues though. I did not like his family, and he was a very family oriented guy. Dinner 2-3 times a week....random stop-ins. Oh yeah, and they all lived down the street from us. I started drinking a lot cause I couldn't stand always being around them. Then the drinking led to drug abuse...all of which I did discreetly. Once in a while, he would catch me, but I always promised to get help. I even started seeing a psychiatrist and went on anti-depressants. The frequency of sex decreased slowly until it just came to a stop. I felt alone, and I felt awful about drinking and doing drugs behind his back. He was such a great guy though, and I kept telling myself I needed to just be content with the life I was living. Then a one-night hook-up with a married man happened, and suddenly I was having an affair. I felt so guilty, and I tried to break it off multiple times. Then it seemed that the closer I got to the married guy, the further away I became from my  boyfriend. Needless to say, my boyfriend caught us and broke it off. It was devastating, and I thought my life was over. I continued to see the married guy who I was falling more and more in love with. He was in an unhappy loveless marriage; his wife cared so little about where he was that we got to spend all of our free time together. Three months ago, he filed for divorce. A month after my break-up, I stopped doing drugs. Then the drinking decreased to socially once a week. He even suggested I try to go off of my antidepressanmts. And today here I am, drug free, alcohol in moderation, and prescription free. I guess sometimes you just find the right people at the wrong time. I am much happier, but I cannot seem to shake off the guilt either. The guilt for what I did to the wife and to my boyfriend. How do I ever forgive myself for this?
artoopotato artoopotato
7 Responses Jul 4, 2010

I just found this forum and had to add my thoughts! I DO think it is the responsibility of the "other" woman to apologize to the wife. I had an affair with a married man last year. He also said he was in a "loveless" marriage with a cold, condescending woman. I actually believed it and for some reason, it helped alleviate the guilt about the affair, at least for a time!<br />
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What I know now, after ending that affair, is there are always two sides to the story. We don't live with the people to know if what they are saying is in fact true. The wife could also be saying the same things to others, she is married to a cold, condescending man and so forth. Even after I ended the affair, which was so very hard to do, I still had lingering feelings of guilt that were more prominent on some days than others but still, I was finding it increasingly more difficult to move on with my life.<br />
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Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with 'his' wife and ask her to forgive me. It is one of those things in of those defining moments you hold so dear to your heart. She forgave me. The happiness I got from that forgiveness is unparelled! No matter what kind of marriage 'they' were in, she didn't deserve to be hurt and humiliated. He should have done what grown responsible folks do and get a divorce rather than hurt a woman who he proclaimed his vow of faithfulness to. <br />
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You may not agree with all I say but you must admit that there's a reason you're have lingering feelings of guilt. It is because you have unfinished business and need to make ammends with the ones you have hurt and should not have been hurt....your ex and his ex-wife! Regardless of whether they forgive you or not, you will be at peace for trying to right your wrongs! Best to you.

I would say that as long as you make a commitment to change in a positive direction and to reach the next level of maturity, which includes courage to avoid escaping into self-destructive behavior, in other words, courage to solve the problem, not run away from it, as well as the maturity to understand what real love is, then you can forgive yourself. But, if you continue with the same behavior and pretend that you don't have control, then you should not forgive yourself. In other words, you need to keep pushing yourself to reach the next level of maturity, which will bring you great satisfaction and joy, much less pain caused by self-destructive behavior. This takes constant self-awareness. Drugs don't help with self-awareness, although I think you probably figured that out already.

There is research that seems to show that the strength of parents marriage is a factor in the success of their children's marriages. a) My parents remained together. (b) there were alot of stress which, because of a lack of communication cooled the marriage down to almost nothing. (c) to the best of my knowledge my father never had an affair, but he was certainly handsome, and wild in his younger days...I noticed later after having moved out and often wondered if it would have been better if they had split.. All this is to say that when I look back on my parents family it was truly amazing that they stayed together, A strange kind of persistent loyalty? In any case I think we both receive some influence from our parents conditions, good and bad. <br />
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Looking at our spouses parents helps us understand the mechanisms that are working in our spouses, Looking at our own parents helps us better understand the psychological mechanisms in ourselves. I have had some interesting discussions with my wife about her parents, The weaknesses she noticed in them have played out in in our family. So I have joked with her that her mother (a dominating and super-controling person, married my father, by this I mean "like mother like daughter" marries "like father like son". Sigh, so what does this mean as far as flexibility for changing the weak points so that we all become better and more fulfilled? I think these character flaws take more than the next generation to change, assuming the marriages and families last a long enough time, and the people try to change them.

Hi Koma! Things are actually going pretty well for me. As for my parents' marriage, they have been together for about 40 years, and they have never had serious problems. They spend every moment of free time together, and the same goes for my current boyfriend's parents. A strange thing to see these days, but I guess we both have old-fashioned parents.

Hi Mary Jessica. Thank you for sharing your experience with me, and I am very glad your current marriage is working out. I would not call my first relationship “loveless” per se. I wrote him an apology letter a few months ago, and he wrote back that he may forgive me one day, and that he still hopes good things for me as a person. His exact words were “we brought out the worst in each other…we both did things that are out of character.” So I think I finally have some closure with him. I also hear from others that he seems very happy and positive, and I am very grateful for that. <br />
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As for my current boyfriend’s wife, I did not know her. So you are right, I did not do anything to her, it was him. Their divorce is almost final, and as time goes on, I am starting to realize that it takes two people to make the relationship work / fail Their marriage was falling apart years before I came along, and I think I was the last straw rather than the catalyst. Because of what we had done in our past, my current bf and I are very open and honest with each other. We also learned from the past and know not to put ourselves in potentially dangerous situations. Time will tell, but I feel very positive about our path.

yes, I have the same thoughts as Maryjessica, I am wondering as followup over time, how are you dealing with things? And I would also ask out of curiousity based on research I have read about your parents' marriage. Was it stable, and together and long lasting?

hello artoopotato. i was in a "loveless" marriage, fell in love with a married man (also unhappy in his marriage) and we had an affair. both of us (and our respective spouses) went to marriage counseling. my marriage eventually ended in an amicable divorce, his continues and i really don't know if he is happy or not now. i suspect that he is happier now then he was during the affair (though all the drama was intoxicating at times). i know that once i moved away and hadn't seen this man i was much happier myself. and i recently married a wonderful (different) man. so, my story is not the same as yours, but i still feel guilt over the affair (which ended five years ago) -- that's what lead me to this forum. i think all that we can do is admit we made mistakes and try to learn from them (don't deceive people who trust you and don't be with unavailable men). we can also tell the people we hurt that we are sorry (but not expect their forgiveness). you could try writing a letter to your boyfriend expressing your regrets for hurting him and wishing him well. i don't know what your relationship was to the other man's wife. did you know her? do you feel that you deceived her -- i know that your partner did, but he, not you, had the relationship with her. although i feel bad for the "other" wife in my story, i don't feel obligated to apologize to her (i certainly hope that her husband has since apologized, but that's not my business). anyway, i understand your guilt, but don't pile his bad deeds ontop of your own. let your partner deal with his part of the past, while you deal with yours (and i do think it's great if you can help each other). one more word of advice -- 2nd marriages (or committed relationships) born of affairs rarely last, in large part because of the guilt. you and your partner may want to seek couples counseling to give yourselves a better chance. i wish you luck.