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Q: I recently discovered that early in our relationship my now-fiancée had been cheating on me. It was a long time ago (four years), and she was the one who told me about it and said she was sorry, and I’ve tried to forgive her for it, but it still makes me question our relationship. I want to be forgiving and not hold her past mistakes against her, but I don’t know what to do.
—Forgive and Forget?
A: I hear in your question that you want to forgive your fiancée but that you are struggling to let go of what happened in the past. I want to commend you for honestly and earnestly grappling with a tough situation, and I’d like to share two thoughts that come to mind as I consider your quandary.
First, forgiveness takes time. You mention that you just recently learned of your fiancée’s infidelity. This is a hard reality to have discovered, and however long ago it occurred, it is new information for you. New information changes not only how you look at your fiancée now but also how you understand your past four years together, and, well, that’s a lot. It’s OK to need some time to wrap your mind around this new information, and it’s OK to not immediately feel forgiving toward a person whom you love but who has hurt you.
The second thought has to do with how we define forgiveness. Is forgiveness acceptance of what happened in the past, and erasure of any hard feelings surrounding those events? Or is it a willingness to move forward, even as you still feel hurt and possibly angry over what happened? Is forgiveness a feeling, or is it an active choice that we make? Is it something that we will into being, or do we only experience forgiveness of another through the grace of God?
I ask you to consider what forgiveness means to you, and to perhaps discuss with your fiancée what forgiveness might look like in your scenario. I suspect that how you answer these questions may impact how the path of forgiveness will take shape in your life and your relationship.