"I feel so guilty I had the affair," She said. "I really wish I hadn't, I don't even know why I did it. What was I thinking?"
This is a very typical response from women who I have coached, who are living with (what I now call) affair guilt. If you are a woman who has cheated on her husband or boyfriend and are now dealing with the destructive aftermath of the affair and are feeling extremely guilty, I empathize. I like you have been where you are and it's a difficult place to get out of, if you don't know how.
Having worked with many women who actually take the plunge in going ahead with it, and having been there myself, the reasons for doing so vary - feeling dead inside, boredom, a feeling of neglect, communication break down are among the most popular.
However, whatever the reason the feelings of guilt consume and can eat them up inside, having a tremendous impact not only on their health, mental well-being but also on their children and the relationship that they now have with their ex.
I have found that because they feel guilty for having done what they did, that they will bow down to all of the requests to make things right with him. This of course, is no healthy solution either.
So what can you do to get over your guilt and move on with your life? Below are the steps that I took to get over my 'affair guilt' that I suffered from for over three years that I now take my clients through.
Beating yourself up will be the death of you. It will literally suck all the living force out of you. I remember, running into a church, to beg GOD for forgiveness. I could not forgive myself for what I had done to my ex and those around me. Every day I had to live with the consequences of my own actions.
However, one day I realized that if I didn't forgive myself that I wouldn't be able to live in peace or bring proper happiness to anyone else around me. Because I was too consumed in beating myself up, there was no room for me to give back to others. When I realized this - I knew that it was time to change and give back.
Right now you will be judging yourself for doing what you did. Ask yourself, "What kind of person would so something like this?" Once you have the answer, ask, "What beautiful gifts does this sort of person give me?" Keep going until you have a long list and you feel grateful for having this part of you in you.
I had to accept that what was done was done. I had to accept that I had had an affair and that I had caused a lot of suffering. The practice of acceptance got me to face up to what I had done and how many people had got hurt. At this point of acceptance I realized that I had no other choice other than to accept where I was.
Acceptance is a very important part to being able to move on. The word comes from the Latin word 'acquiescence', which means, 'to find rest in.' Acceptance will also stop you struggling from wishing it had not happened the way it did, or you hurt the people you did.
Surrender Your Feelings To A Higher Power
Offer up your feelings to a higher power. I know this may sound woo-woo, but it really works! We are part of a bigger plan. We are not necessarily in charge of the outcome. By doing this you will be getting out of your own way and you will sink into your own trust and faith that all will be well.
The minute you do this miracles start to happen; situations and opportunities start to open up that you didn't even think were possible. At least this is what I have experienced, and have also seen in my clients.
See the balance
This is a very powerful part to getting you over 'affair guilt.' We live in a world of complimentary opposites. There are no plus without minuses and no going up with out coming down. There is no night without day and you cannot create a dark shadow without light. As there are benefits and drawbacks to every situation, you will need to look at what the benefits are to all parties involved.
Now, this goes beyond justification, beyond wanting to be right - this is about being able to see that just as you may have caused pain to those around you, you will have also caused them pleasure too. Its impossible for this not to be this way as it is a universal law.
Ask yourself what are the benefits of you doing what you did to whom you did it to. They will have benefited from what you did, they always do. For example, my ex-husband is now happily married and with someone that is far better suited than me. Not only that, he got to stand on his own two feet and end the relationship, which gave him the opportunity to re-claim his power back.
Learn From It
And finally, take the positive learning's from the experience and move on. Once I had learned what my patterns were, what beliefs, and parts of myself I needed to work on, I was able to let go of the anger at myself and know that the next relationship would be really different because I would have changed.
This way I wouldn't fall into the same patterns again and not always be a cheater. It is definitely not true when people say, "Once a cheat, always and a cheat." Not if you work on yourself and get the support you need to shift what has not been working for you.
I personally had to change what I thought of myself and what beliefs I had about me. Once I had done this (and do this with my clients) I knew that I would choose a different behavior next time.
Believing you have to suffer for what you have done; does not help anyone. So forgive, accept, surrender, see and learn and watch the guilt dissolve.