Marriage Missions International

Are There Times When We Shouldn’t Forgive?

Freedigitalphotos.net - Stuart Miles

Freedigitalphotos.net – Stuart Miles

Are there times when we shouldn’t forgive? When hurts or wrongdoing are chronic and deep, you may find yourself in the position of wondering whether you should forgive at all.

Doing Fresh Start divorce recovery seminars around the country, I run into this question all the time. People are dealing with hurts that go well beyond their human ability to forgive. “Why should I forgive him?” I’ll hear. “He’ll just think that what he did was okay. Maybe if I don’t forgive him, it’ll teach him a lesson.”

Certainly God wants us to forgive and be reconciled, even when the wounds are deep. But there are some legitimate parameters regarding how we do this.

A woman stalked up to me angrily after I had spoken about forgiveness at a seminar for separated and divorced people. “You Christians are all alike,” she ranted. “You judge me and tell me what I should do, but you don’t have to live in my shoes!”

“Back up,” I begged. “What do you think you heard me say?”

“You told me that I needed to forgive my husband and be reconciled. But he was abusive to me for years. I took the abuse far too long because my pastor told me I should submit. Then when I saw him begin to abuse my children as well, I gathered the courage to leave him for good. Now you tell me I have to forgive him as if it never happened.”

I thanked this woman for coming to me immediately and not walking away with a misconception; I needed to clarify some things. When wrongdoing is chronic, reconciliation is difficult and perhaps inadvisable.

We can forgive within our spirits, but the full restoration of a relationship requires the commitment of both parties. Forgiveness means that we don’t harbor ill will toward the person who wronged us, but it does not mean that the wrong was right.

Here’s a trivial but helpful example. I have a friend who is always late. Before I knew this about him, I offered to carpool with him to church on Sunday mornings. The first time he was to pick me up, he arrived about a half hour late, making us a half hour late to church. Well, I’m one of those people who really wants to be on time, or even early, so I let my friend know how I felt. He apologized and offered to make it up to me by driving next week, promising to be early.

As you might guess, he was a half hour late again but apologized profusely, promising that he’d never let it happen again. He even offered to come an hour early the next week and treat me to breakfast at a diner on the way to church. Not only did we miss breakfast the next week, but we were late to church again.

Do I need to forgive my friend for being late? Yes. I need to accept his sincere apology. I should not let his chronic tardiness destroy our friendship. He feels terrible about this, and I should release him from his debt to me. Yes, he made me late to church a few times, but that cannot be undone. I choose not to hold a grudge against him, which would only wreck a relationship and poison my spirit.

But will I let him pick me up for church next week? No, thank you. I’ll drive myself to church. So it is in marriage, when there is chronic abuse, lying, or affairs. Wronged partners need to get to a point of forgiving their spouses, but they should also take steps to get out of the position where they can be hurt deeply again.

As a Christian, I believe wholeheartedly in the sacredness of the marriage commitment. But I also believe that there are times when an abused partner must separate himself or herself for protection and perspective. It’s a simple issue of safety.

If a wife is being physically abused by her husband, she should move out —and then work toward reconciliation through counseling. I recommend that an abused spouse not return until there is strong evidence of behavioral changes in the abusive spouse.

If your spouse repeatedly has affairs, it is not your Christian duty to ignore the problem, to “forgive and forget.” Your errant spouse is violating the marriage commitment, and you need to stand up for those promises you both made. If your partner is truly repentant, you need to work through the forgiveness process together, demanding an end to the infidelity.

How can you tell if your spouse is truly repentant? You need more than an apology (although it starts there). Your spouse should take strong steps away from the misbehavior and toward the marriage —cutting off ties with the other person, staying out of tempting situations, agreeing to counseling, committing time and energy to you. If your spouse is not wiling to offer these fruits of repentance, you should question his or her sincerity and take steps to protect yourself from future infidelities.

If your partner continues to break your marriage vows, you may need to attend to your own safety by putting some distance in the relationship —if not moving out, maybe moving to a different bedroom (especially with the possibility of sexually transmitted diseases). You’re still committed to the marriage, but your spouse is flouting that commitment. You’re saying, in essence, “Meet me here at the altar of our sacred marriage vows. But if you have no interest in that, I need to look out for my own well-being.”

In cases of chronic lying, you may not have grounds to leave the person, but you want to make sure you protect yourself from hurt. You simply cannot trust your spouse’s word, so you’ll need to rely on others for reality checks. Don’t feel guilty for double-checking and verifying the stories of your lying partner.

If he or she says, “Would I lie to you?” your appropriate response is, “Yes, you have done so on many occasions, and I can’t afford to trust your word anymore.” It is hard to maintain a relationship without trust, so you will almost certainly need counseling to restore a healthy relationship.

There are many chronic behaviors that are less damaging, but still annoying. Your spouse may be late or disorganized or forgetful or rude. Good communication is crucial in dealing with such issues. You must let your spouse know how much the offensive behavior hurts you. While you do not expect perfection, you do expect effort, and you hope for improvement.

One problem with a lot of chronic behavior in marriage is that both partners get used to it. The offending spouse gets tired of asking for forgiveness and the offended spouse gets tired of raising the issue. So the behavior continues, and grudges grow. Steady communication keeps the issue on the surface, where it can be dealt with.

Another problem is that the apology-and-forgiveness process can be watered down. When the problem is chronic, the words “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you” are repeated so often that they can be misunderstood.

“I’m sorry” can begin to mean “I’m sorry that you’re upset about this (but hey, that’s just the way I am).”

It should mean “I was wrong; I’ll do everything possible not to do it again.”

“I forgive you” can be understood as “It’s all right; no problem; no damage done.”

It should mean “Yes, you hurt me, but I will not let that action poison our relationship.”

Whether the offense is as major as an extramarital affair or as minor as leaving the cap off the toothpaste, the full process of forgiveness requires repentance rather than excuse.

THE UNREPENTANT PARTNER What if your spouse never asks for forgiveness?

There are reasons that he or she may not ask for forgiveness. The most obvious is that your spouse doesn’t think he or she did anything wrong. You can debate the facts of the case forever, but at some point you may need to make a unilateral decision to forgive. Just let it go. You let go of it even though your partner doesn’t admit there was an offense.

Let’s examine the incident between Wilma and Fred. Let’s say that Wilma knows that she did not throw away Fred’s memorabilia. She suspects that Fred threw it away carelessly years ago, but that he just wants someone else to blame.

Fred believes wholeheartedly that Wilma threw away his stuff and that now she’s lying about it. Neither one can apologize—both genuinely believe they’re innocent. In a case like this, if there is an apology, it’s probably an appeasement: “If I did something wrong, I’m sorry.” You’re just saying the debate is not worth wrecking the relationship.

That’s a noble decision sometimes, but if you find these impasses are happening regularly, it can become frustrating, even maddening. (And watch out for the passive-aggressive response, offering a quick apology but determining to get even later.)

The solution approach is helpful in a case like this. Rather than focusing on the past problem, look toward the future. Where do you want to go from here? From this perspective, it doesn’t matter who’s right and who’s wrong. What will it take to live together peacefully? You can agree to disagree about the facts of the case —just agree to move on.

The two partners can employ the act-as-if method. They give each other the benefit of the doubt. Fred may still believe that Wilma threw away his stuff, but to keep peace he decides to act as if she didn’t. He releases his grudge, even though Wilma never agrees to having done wrong. There’s another reason a person might refuse to ask for forgiveness: He or she may be lying.

Let’s look at the case of Art and Sylvia. Let’s say that Sylvia knows that Art is having an affair, but when she confronts him about it, he angrily denies all wrongdoing. He might even accuse her of being paranoid or crazy. But the facts are clear —Sylvia has undeniable evidence that Art is having an affair, even though he’s not willing to take responsibility for it. In such a situation, how should Sylvia proceed with her forgiveness?

In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus spoke about trying to make things right with someone who has wronged you. If the initial confrontation with the person doesn’t result in repentance and reconciliation, Jesus said, Take one or two others along. This makes a lot of sense, even in a marital situation. You need perspective. With just the two of you, you could argue forever, your word against your spouse’s. But if you bring a counselor into the picture, or a church leader, or some mutually trusted friends, you can better establish the facts of the situation.

In counseling, we sometimes set up an intervention, where we call together significant friends and relatives to confront a person about a problem he or she has been denying. This is especially helpful if the person is dealing with some kind of addiction. In such cases, a certified addiction counselor would be the best one to lead the intervention. In cases of chronic affairs or lying, mature Christian friends or church leaders might be best.

Why do you need to get someone else in on your personal problems? Well, maybe you are being paranoid. If so, the third party can tell you so. If you have undeniable evidence, then the third party can confirm it, and your spouse will be forced to own up to his or her wrongdoing.

The purpose is not one-upmanship or humiliation, but agreement. If your relationship is going to be healthy again, you and your spouse need to agree on where you both stand. Often just the threat of airing your dirty laundry before others will force the errant spouse to admit the transgression.

What if your spouse refuses to see a counselor or some other third party? There may be legitimate concerns about who the third party is; if so, negotiate this as best you can. But if your spouse stubbornly refuses to see anyone, you should see a counselor or church leader on your own. This will give you much needed support and valuable advice on how to proceed.

What if your spouse sees the third party with you, but continues to claim innocence? Jesus said that if the errant person will not listen to the two or three witnesses, “tell it to the church(Matthew 18:17). In their efforts to follow this teaching, some churches have public denouncements or messages in the church bulletin, but we should remember the goal of this whole process: love and restoration.

I believe the church can and should have a part in healing the marriages of its members. This can be done in a number of gentle ways, through there may be a point where an unrepentant philanderer may need to be reprimanded by the church or even removed from its membership. (The church should also provide special support for the wronged spouse.)

If the offending person refuses to listen to the church’s reprimand, Jesus said he should be treated as a nonbeliever. This does not mean that the person in no longer a Christian, but it does mean that we can no longer expect godly behavior from this person. We should still treat the person with the love and respect we would show to any unbeliever, but our relationship with this person changes. What’s more, this person’s marriage changes.

Let’s say Art continues to deny the affair he had. Sylvia and Art meet with their pastor and a few trusted church leaders, who look at the evidence and support Sylvia’s charges. They urge Art to repent, but he refuses. After all of this, according to Jesus’ teaching, Sylvia needs to treat Art as an unbeliever. This does not mean she has to divorce him, but there will be a new distance in the relationship. She needs to establish firm boundaries, protecting herself from further hurt from Art.

Can she still forgive Art? Yes, though it’s not easy. Her response is like the cry from the cross: Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:34). Sylvia can decide on her own to drop the issue-not to excuse it or shift the blame, but simply to say, “I will not let this pain and hate rule my life anymore.”

We have seen interventions work with many couples. We have seen them work for alcoholic marriages, for abusive and adulterous relationships, for spending and gambling problems, for husbands who refuse to work, and for wives who refuse to care for their children. Sometimes people do admit their wrongdoing and seek restoration. In those cases, forgiveness is easier. It’s never a cinch, but it’s easier when the person is seeking forgiveness.

The worst case of all is when a wrong is done and never acknowledged by either party. One suffers in pain, the other in guilt, but both suffer in silence. The bonds of matrimony soon fray as forgiveness is neither sought nor offered. That’s why we encourage solution-based approaches to mend the marriage relationship.

Forgiveness can set a person free. It can breathe new life into a tired marriage. But it’s hard work. Forgiveness is not a shrug of the shoulders—”Hey, no problem.” Yes, there is a problem! The forgiving person often has to be willing to wake the partner up, to figuratively “shake the offender by the shoulders” and say, “Hey, look! You hurt me. I am willing to let that go, but we’ve got to do something to fix this relationship. I want you to work with me. I need your help.”

This article is edited from the book, The Marriage Mender, by Dr Thomas A. Whiteman and Dr Thomas G. Bartlett, published by Navpress. This book gives solution-based tools for rebuilding marriage. With illustrations and exercises, it teaches how to look to the future of your relationship instead of focusing on the past with its problems.

Dr Thomas A. Whiteman is a licensed psychologist who practices with Life Counseling Services in Paoli, Pennsylvania. Dr Thomas G. Bartlett is also a licensed psychologist who practices with Behavioral Healthcare Consultants in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. They both work with troubled couples and have conducted seminars on marriage and divorce recovery through Fresh Start Seminars.

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Comments

39 Responses to “Are There Times When We Shouldn’t Forgive?”
  1. Alexander says:

    (KENYA) The advice in this website is really helping most men & women who time to time find it hard to forgive, their either friends or even their spouses. To me it has made a u-turn in my approach to forgiveness. May God bless you all for this beautiful article.

  2. Rose says:

    (S.AFRICA)  To all those hurting and heartbroken spouses. Today I have made a decision to “let go” and move on with my life. After 35years of marriage my husband has left me for an old girlfriend he met up again with on “face book”. I warned him that this contact with her could go beyond just a friendly chat but he carried on all the same. He left home last September 2008 to have time to “think”. He came home again on the 18th January this year and I praised God for answered prayers. I also learnt that she had flown out from New Zealand and they had spent a three week holiday together over Christmas, they were also engaged. It was a bitter pill to swallow but I forgave him and gave myself to him in body and spirit. I then was told that he had signed an overseas working contract without my knowledge and he left again on the 26th Feb (my 56th birthday) for Libya. He promised me that he would be back and that this working contract would enable us to retire financially secure. He left me at the airport and his last words to me were “don’t worry, everything will be ok”. I believed him.

    Well from the moment he left I sensed something was wrong. All my e-mails of love and concern for him lacked little love or emotion in his replies. I have prayed to God to save this marriage. I have shown nothing but kindness and concern for him but to no avail. The moment he touched down in Libya the affair started up again. He receives a three week break after every three months of work but has never returned home to see me or his two grown up and married children but chosen to fly to New Zealand to be with her instead. He wants a divorce. With Christmas a few days away I have cried bitterly for the one I love to be with me. The loneliness has been terrible.

    When I really think hard about my situation and my husband’s actions my heart breaks but I have come to the point where I realise I am worth so much more. I will carry on as hard as it may be but will never give up my self worth. The challenges and problems he has left behind are overpowering at times but with God’s strength I will overcome. I have forgiven him and feel no jealousy or hate but just the deepest sadness that can be imagined. Is this the same man I married? Is this the father of our two beautiful children? Is this the same man I have dedicated my life and 35years of marriage? No. That wonderful and loving husband and father has gone. Satan has got him in his grips and he has changed. The power of sin is never to be underestimated.

    So I wish him and his new wife-to-be a Merry Christmas far away in New Zealand. It will be her third marriage and I wish them both well.

    I have given up trying to make this marriage work. Gods power can only work when there is a willing heart.

    So to all those hurting spouses out there I wish you a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year. Remember God loves you and never forget your self worth.

  3. Adrienne says:

    (UNITED STATES)  I believe that Christian marriage counseling that doesn’t include the spiritual battle spoken of in the Bible is missing the big picture. Satan attacks individuals and marriages/families through pornography, alcoholism, drug adiction, adultery, etc., in an effort to “steal, kill, and destroy.” Spouses need to recognize that Satan is the real Enemy, not their wife/husband, and they should be taught how to use their spiritual weapons to defeat the common Foe.

    • Daddy L says:

      (USA)  Some of us humans are representation of satan himself to others. In this case you probably should not forgive the individual, because they know what they are doing and will do it again. You forgive yourself.

      • Anthony says:

        (UNITED STATES)  Not forgiving is NOT scriptural. Jesus said that if you do not forgive others, he will NOT forgive YOU. To not forgive is to let yourself be sent straight to hell just as any other sinner.

        I implore you not to so easily let your love wax cold, and to read of God’s faithfulness to Israel in the Old Testament. God is still as faithful now as He was then and will continue to be. When it comes to sin, you always know what you’re doing, even if you’re not strictly thinking of the consequences thereafter.

  4. Tyrone says:

    (USA)  You are in no position to tell people that they must verbally complain about what God has given a clear punishment for doing, i.e. adultery which you water down to call ‘infidelity.’ You said, “If your partner is truly repentant, you need to work through the forgiveness process together, demanding an end to the infidelity.” You cannot supercede God’s judgment of such behavior with your opinions.

    It is written that adultery is a stoning offense. Even in the New Testament it is a stoning offense. Before you try to dismiss the stoning punishment by Jesus’ famous quote, “let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” let me remind you, that it is well known that this scenario is an interpolation in John, and not part of the original. Check your Bible history. What makes it very clear that it could not have been from Jesus, is that Jesus himself did not stone the woman or this was an admission that he himself was a sinner along with the men who supposedly dropped their stones. No one has the right to ‘forgive’ what God says to punish. Saul got punished for that, and so did Samuel’s mentor. Do you think you are more merciful and know better than God? You need to revise your statements and inform your audience of the truth.

    • Anthony says:

      (UNITED STATES)  Jesus said the only unforgivable sin is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 12:32; Mark 3:29; Luke 12:10)… But let me ask you, are you throwing rocks at every single person you see over the age of 10? What about yourself? Your arm has to be getting pretty tired trying to kill everyone by yourself.

      Jesus also said that you are guilty of the SAME SIN of Adultery, if you even so much as look upon a woman with LUST (Matt5:28)! Looking at pornography, looking at that girl at the club, walking down the street, greeting you at the grocery store… I haven’t met a single person yet who hasn’t done this even one single time.

    • Kitty says:

      (USA)  Interesting how the WAY people are taught to view this scripture makes a huge difference in how they understand the purpose of it being in the record of the cannon of scripture.

      Those who brought the woman to Jesus were testing JESUS to see what He would do. Jesus ALWAYS did the will of His Father. Jesus FULFILLED, (DID) the WHOLE LAW. The law was that there had to be two or three witnesses in agreement in order to establish guilt. The point here was not whether adultery was punishable, but were there the lawful number of collaborating witnesses to the act. Without two or three witnesses Jesus would have been a law breaker, had he condemned the woman without such. They were trying to set Him up. He had claimed to be walking according to the will of His Father.

      As GOD is love, righteous AND JUST …he would have to have condemned the sin of adultery and the just punishment had there been two or three witnesses in order to uphold the law.

      The law stood, and that is one reason he warned her to ‘go and sin NO MORE”. If she had, and if there had been two or three witnesses to testify against her, she would be subject to the law and whatever justice would be in place. God does not ignore nor break his own laws. Forgiveness was not really an issue in this particular situation. It is interesting also that sin has withen it’s self, consequences that are various and appropriate with the purpose of turning us to GOD to seek clensing.

      Forgiveness is available for repented sin, but man must apply it to his life. Repentance is something that has to be “granted” from GOD, and is given upon the ‘bringing of fruit met for repentance’ Salvation has been finished by the WORK of the Lord but man must APPLY it to his life, by receiving it, and walking in it. “Continue in my words, then you are my disciples indeed.”

  5. Ty says:

    (USA)  Tyrone (as one Ty to another)… question: Who do you believe Jesus is? A prophet, a good man? Your statement, “No one has the right to ‘forgive’ what God says to punish.” If you believe Jesus is the Son of the Living God and He and His Father are one, Jesus does have the right to forgive sins. On several occasions in the New Testament Jesus states “you are forgiven of your sins, go and sin no more.” He has the authority to forgive because He is the Son of God, Christ the anointed One.

  6. Tony says:

    (USA)  Good luck if you ever approach your church with a sinning spouse using the process spelled out above. When my ex-wife was in her affair, our church refused to do their part in the process. They said it doesn’t work. So I ended up with both an ex-wife and an ex-church.

  7. Tiger says:

    (UNITED STATES)  I sought spiritual freedom from my wife prior to getting a divorce from my wife. My wife continuously did not take care of me in the following ways:

    1. She refused to have sex with me for close to 3 years (that’s extremly hard during your first few years of marriage – violated 1 Corinthians 7:5. God ordained sex in the marriage, therefore, there are three requirements according to 1 Corinthians 7, of not having sex.” The first is mutual consent, second by fasting and praying, third for a short period of time. We sought counseling but my spouse still did not have sex accept for once

    2. She continously violated 1 Timothy 5:8, You are worse then an infidel if you do not take care of your family. This behavior did not change. She also left our 2 year son by himself for an unknown period of time in the apartment.

    3. Galations 5:17-18, because the flesh and the spirit are at odds, I comitted adultery by mind, pertain I was making love to woman and porn, not sure who she was with or if she was abused in early life (if so, I would have stayed if she got counseling).

    Finally, spiritual freedom was 2 Corithians 6:14-17. Verse 17 says come out from among them and be separated and I will be your God and you shall be my people. Then I sought natural freedom through court. Now I want to try one more time. I am part of a single ministry and am talking to a woman that may have reservations of hanging out with a divorced man. PEACE everyone!!!

    • Jeane says:

      (USA) Your wife may have a problem with what deliverance ministers call a spirit husband/incubus/succubus. Even if you are no longer with her, I encourage you to find a deliverance minister in your area who understands this spirit or just do your own research from Christian sources only because in occultic circles this spirit is often revered. It will not permit a person to settle in a marriage or even as a parent. If you confront her, she will probably deny it as most people are embarassed or don’t understand what is happening, but she would have seen it in her dreams sexually harassing her.

      In the experience I’ve had in praying for deliverance for those who have it, it usually manifests and will throw her around but it will go when commanded out in the Name of Jesus and she will have her life back. This spirit enters through different ways which may include any one of the following: sexual deviancy (animals, orgies etc), pornography, occult (even “innocent” palm reading or ouija boards), devil worship, gothic involvement, consulting the dead, visiting mediums or psychics, family historical involvement in groups like Freemasons and other cults, a family history of unexplainable divorces for most of the females in the family etc. It can also happen to men. Most people have sexual dreams and just write it off as nothing. It can even appear in sexual dreams disguised as a husband, a parent, your best friend or even your pastor; that’s how horrible it is. This information will sound weird for most people but for those who have been attacked by this evil spirit, you will understand.

      It normally claims you as it’s wife/husband and will therefore not permit you to settle down with anyone else or be a proper parent to your children. Spouses of those who are suffering from this spirit will often find themselves fighting strange people in dreams or surrounded and helpless. Here is a prayer your wife can say for herself after a period or repentance and praising the Lord:

      1. I command any wicked spirit husband claiming me, to be bound in the Name of Jesus.
      2. I reject any wicked spirit upon my life that is not of the Lord Jesus Christ.
      3. You wicked spiritual husband, release me NOW in the Name of Jesus.
      4. I claim my freedom through the power in the Blood of Jesus Christ.

      Almost everyone who has this spirit says after the prayer they see the spirit in their dreams threatening them to stop praying or refusing to go. Some throw up after the prayer and feel like a weight has been lifted. If a person continues to see this spirit after praying for themselves then they need to undergo a deliverance session with an experienced minister referred by your church. We need to understand the spiritual dimensions involved in the unexplainable breakdowns of SOME marriages.

      The Word teaches that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood” but against evil spiritual forces. So if you can’t make sense of strange behavior of a spouse, take the fight to prayer and demolish the strongholds by the authority granted us by Christ. We can’t always reason these things out by expecting the person to change through human persuasion. The Word teaches that you should love your wife “as Christ loves the church”. If we did as Christ, that means we would love our spouses to death and never give up on them as Christ does to this day.

  8. Tiger says:

    (UNITED STATES)  YES! I forgive her (Wife)! from reply 25 November 2011 at 12:44 pm, Signed, Deacon Tony “Tiger”

  9. Lauren says:

    (USA) My husband is an addict. He has been through many interventions and courses of treatment including a year long residential program at Teen Challenge. He has been in jail many times. Now, he just goes on binges about every month. How often must I take him back and forgive him? I am hurt and we have two sons, 13 and 17 and I feel they deserve so much better. I am sick from his addictions and yet I know we cannot afford to live without his financial support. What should I do?

  10. Stephanie says:

    (UK) My husband is a pastor. Last year he had an affair with a common friend. He repented but only to go back to it after trying for 3 months to save a 12 years old marriage. We have 4 children and at the time of the adultery I was pregnant of my last child. Now it is nearly a year like this.

    Once a week he goes to another city to be with her and do business. It hurt me so bad when he goes because I know the reason why. However he keep lying, trying to make it appear lighter than it is. He doesn’t want to leave home because of the children he loved and I want God to save this marriage. However, it is becoming so hard because he refuses to repent and let go of this woman.

    He disregards me but I have to keep my heard up because of the kids. I know the devil has blinded him and it is so difficult for me. I don’t know what to do anymore. Because I am a pastor’s wife I did not tell anyone. I am so lonely.

    • Heavenbound says:

      (GUYANA) Stephanie, I can identify with your pain. I am also a pastor’s wife and I have been there. I thank God for this site. I have been dealing with unforgiveness for a year now. I don’t know how to forgive someone who is unrepentant and tells you they don’t want to discuss it and it’s time I move on. Today I forgive him after reading this article. Is my marriage clear of unfaithfulness? I don’t know. Trust is hard, especially in how he is unrepentant. I read to find healing. Thanks Marriage Missions.

    • Jeane says:

      (USA) It sounds like you might want to save the marriage so I have some ideas for you. Firstly, remember “this kind goeth not out except through prayer and fasting”. You must understand that the devil uses adultery to destroy pastor’s families so you need to declare war in the spiritual realm through prayer. I can assure you that after each time he sees her, he regrets it and vows never to do it again. But he finds himself back there again. So you need to take authority over that spirit of lust and adultery and bind it in the name of Jesus.

      My husband had an affair for 7 years and no matter how many times I fought them both or how many times he’d lie that it’s ended, I couldn’t break them up until I took the fight to warfare (remember: our weapons are not carnal). I stopped blaming God and realized who was really to blame. When I went to war with fasting, God gave me a dream where he revealed everything that was going on and exposed him. The Holy Spirit then ministered to me that I must forgive the woman and tell her so. So I did and much to her shock and horror, I actually held her hand and prayed for God to bless her and to give her her own husband. I really humbled myself that day although my human self really wanted to break that hand instead! I then prayed with my husband prayers to cancel soul ties (from a site called greatbiblestudy.com) and that was it. My husband’s eyes were opened and he was completely broken by what he had done, whereas before he’d laugh and belittle my suspicions.

      You must realize that there are 3 people in your marriage and by that I don’t mean the mistress. There is you, your husband and the Lord. So if you do your part (pray and forgive them both), the Lord will deal with your husband. God dealt with mine to the extent where he actually fears the mistress because God gave him a vision of her with hundreds of snakes.

      Another time after all this when I was feeling low and dejected about what I had been through with him and regretting forgiving him, the Lord harassed him with the words “Proverbs 5″ until he decided to give in and read it. He feels it explained to him why he had lost a good business during the affair as he had been seeking God about this business.

      Finally, don’t give up hope. Perhaps the Lord wants to use you to minister to other pastor’s wives in your position who also don’t have anywhere to turn. Sometimes it’s not easy to seek help within your congregation as it can result in gossip, embarrassment, demotions, humiliations etc. But don’t worry, God is on your side in this matter so you are in the majority. Don’t refuse to pray for him because he’s a pastor and should “know better”. The devil really sends powerful seduction spirits to pastors more than the average person. Also pastors are busy pastoring other people but no one to pastor them so perhaps he does want to be free but doesn’t know how. So fight with the Word of God. Blessings.

      • Ica from Mexico says:

        Wow, thanks for your wisdom! I’m going thru a similiar situation, and this is very helpful.

    • CJ says:

      (UNITED STATES) You need the strength of true Christian prayer warriors. Your husband as a pastor, has a flock to oversee. If his credibility is questioned then you have members of the church who question the Lord. He has to be confronted by the elders of the Church, in Love. He is dealing with a sin that not only would destroy your marriage but the faith of members in your Church.

      Read James 5:16. He needs to confess to be healed. As Christians, none of our sins are ever hidden from God -if you are sick in your physical body -you go to the doctor. Your husband has a major disease and needs a complete healing and you have the power to ask for his healing, in Jesus Name. Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20

    • HDW says:

      (USA) He visits her once a week? Somehow he has convinced you into having an open marriage. The next time he leaves throw his belongings in the front yard and file for legal separation. Quit being a doormat.

      If you need a step by step plan visit the forum at marriagebuilders.com. I also encourage you to read Surviving an Affair by Dr Bill Harley

  11. Sue says:

    (USA) My husband broke the marriage vows by doing drugs and possible affair for 5 yrs, put his family in danger by bringing the people into our home. He feels that just because he no longer does the drugs and doesn’t hang around with the people I should be able to forgive him and move on. Well, I moved out taking our two children with us and stayed out for 4 years. I was able to forgive him and speak to him in a cordial way. But I goofed and moved back in with him thinking he might have changed but have since realized he has not.

    I just don’t care about him like a wife should. I mean, I just don’t care what he does, says or anything. I have considered moving back out but the only place I would have to stay is at my father’s home because I can’t afford to rent or buy a place. But I have found out that he has told our children that if I go ahead with the divorce he would kill himself. I have no respect for him and just don’t care. Any thoughts or comments?

    • Lisa says:

      (USA) The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Your husband’s love and committment should first be to honor God with the covenant he made with you. Second, he should seek to win your trust and respect in every way. Third, he messed up when he told the kids he would commit suicide if you left. How does he think this makes them feel? No child anywhere of any age should have to deal with this type of information. He should be proving to the kids that he is their security, protector and provider and if he’s gone mentally and spiritually already, there is no hope for them after he’s gone physically.

      I feel he has abused them mentally by giving them that kind of information. Please seek psychological and spiritual counseling from this point on. Save yourself and your children.

      • Sue says:

        (USA) The kids and I attend Church and we didn’t start until after we had moved out due to him not showing any interest in anything that we did; he doesn’t like the school they attend, some activities they choose to be in. When the oldest was younger he wanted to be in boys scouts; well we participated – by we I mean myself and my son. I took him to all meetings and when the leader moved up a position I was asked to replace him, I asked my husband and he said no he didn’t want to do it so I did it. And now the boys have always come to me for everything. My youngest wants to move back out, he has stated how bad he hates living with his father. I just don’t know what to do because if we move out, I’m afraid of what he’ll do. I don’t think that he would actually kill himself but you never know and then I know he will fight me tooth and nail for custody of our children. He has stated he wants them every other week instead of every other weekend. I have nothing for this man because of what he has done, why is it so hard?

  12. JJ says:

    (S’PORE) Into my 16 yrs of marriage, I pray God set me free because I was losing my sanity as a believer. I don’t know how to extend forgiveness, grace and mercy anymore. I’ve come to realise that if a believer is unwilling to come to a genuine repentance, his soul will be continuously given to satan. We can see it in King Saul when his jealousy, or whatever he was harbouring against David, took over him. God warned me with this message when I struggled in a marriage where I’ve come to realise that my husband withdrew himself from the marriage and I live as his widow for 14 yrs and struggling as a virgin bride in the first 4 yrs of our marriage.

    In my 5th yr, God said He would give me a child and I was puzzled as I was still a virgin but I believed and my son came and the marriage ‘ended’. I prayed and counselling began in 2005 and the last one ended ended in 2009 and I heard God said, it is enough. He will take over my case and there He revealed to me the passive aggressive character of my husband. My sanity began to return as I searched deeper and daily I A.S.K. and in later years God revealed to me the spirits behind passive aggressive behaviours. I am fighting the spirit of Ahab and Jezebel. Adultery cases in marriages are considered very straight forward sin, unlike passive aggressive. In most cases, the person under this spirit of bondage have low self esteem as well as a very high pride and ego. The deadly part is when they are warned and asked to repent, they reject and intentionally do more.

    It is deadly and self damaging to those who are under this captivity unless they are willing to be transformed and renewed by the Word. The people around them suffer especially spouses and children. They have no love ones because they reject intimacy. Their spiritual relationship with God will also be passive aggressive, for they will confess they love God , attend all church’s program and very religious but they worship with their hearts far away. I began to understand when God described the Israel’s relationship with Him. That was exactly how I felt my husband’s relationship with me. All the lip’s services but the heart is far away. He wanted forgiveness, grace and mercy but he will not extend any. His ‘change’ is always temporarily just to ‘ease’ any difficult situation that rises from a conflict. As the years went by, bitterness, anger and resentment build deeper and deeper.

    I tried to solve the marriage issue but every resolution add on more misery because he will ‘get even’ or revenge me in subtle ways. Provoking me to anger and then accuse me of sinning. I gave up my business to be a full time mother but I still have a home based business to help supplement our income. As our child grew, he even used his child to ‘provoke’ me. I thank God for restoring my soul and leading me in the path of righteousness for his name’s sake. Forgiveness does not mean we have to tolerate the unrepentant believer.

    Finally, after 18 yrs, God’s judgement is near, I took up the divorce because he refused to move out even though he has seen his own violence. God led me to make a police report and protected me with my country’s family protection order to keep his verbal and emotional abuse of 18 yrs during this divorce proceedings. As I’ve only worked from home for the last 18 yrs, and I home school my son, my income is not able to rent or buy another flat and we have no place to move out. I am trusting God to be my judge to retain this matrimonial flat so that my son and I have a roof. He insisted in selling because he can pocket almost close to $300k+. He knows that our son would prefer to live with me, so he is getting even at both of us. He refused to listen to his son’s need of a home. He did not realise that all the money he earned was a blessing from God to us. When he joined me as a partner in my business before we were married and there after during the marriage, I gave my resources to the family and even he did not meet my needs as a wife, I faithfully work my roles and duties because I believed this pleases the Lord.

    I have to settle my case in court because only there God stands as my judge, although I knew that the law here will always make the couple sell off their matrimony flat to settle the case faster and they embrace the father’s bonding and will grant joint custody. But I believe God knows best because this father casts doubts into his son’s mind making a 13 yr old boy confused about God. Now his faith is beginning to waiver but I trust God is sovereign.

    Our Christian counselling did not help him at all because my husband knows how to victimize himself to gain sympathy. But if he sensed God fearing counsellors and those who truly know God’s Word, he will avoid and accuse them of condemning him.

    In 2009, God asked me to surrender because the marriage was no longer between me and my husband, God said it is His (my husband and Him). My prayer in 2008, God heard and kept it. My prayer was “Lord, take whatever (even divorce) to bring salvation and restoration to this family or to me and my son if the man does not repent.” Since then, a series of events happened that I unlearned religion and relearned my walk with my Saviour and Lord. I believed God’s mercy but I also see his wrath, anger towards rebellion and stubborness. These are witchcraft and idolatry to God. 1 Samuel 15:23. His impeding judgement shows His mercy but He is a God of judgment because He is just. Believers who does not fully understand God’s heart will always call for reconciliation without fruits of repentance. Many believers were kept captives by Satan because of having not study God’s Word but man’s doctrines of interpretation. Peace, grace and love is an easy gospel to spread but not discipline and judgment. It takes so much courage and boldness for Jeremiah and Eze to warn people of God’s judgement. They were rejected too. Between 2 believers especially in a marriage, God said He will be with the one that fear His Word and walk in His ways. May the Holy Spirit guide you into all truths and let Jesus set you free.

    • Susie says:

      (USA) Hi, I read your post and I understand and so relate to it… Sometimes you have to get out of the way to let God do His will. I have believed and stood for my marriage for 13.5 years and it was such a cycle of abuse, mind games, manipulation and control. I am working my way to freedom with my children very similar story as yours… Can you tell me how you are doing now?

    • DMarie from United States says:

      Dearest JJ, I am just now reading down through your comment of 2 yrs ago and you must know that as I began reading your account/story, I thought I had written this! I want you to know that our Heavenly Father has revealed much in the same way HE has to you and that I too, had to ‘relearn’ the TRUTH about our Creator and our Savior and the truth about HIS entire character and ‘ways’. HIS WORD is the only reliable source and HIS Holy Spirit will guide, lead and reveal this as we truly seek HIM.

      I am saddened that you have had to endure the pain & hardships of this damaging marriage and I TRUST in the promises & plans that our Faithful Lord has revealed to you. Thank you for your for the clarity & honesty of which you shared HIS truth & insights. I have dealt with the ‘spiritual widowhood’ of being married to an unbelieving spouse… he claims to ‘believe’ in God, but he has rejected Messiah & Savior Yeshua and does not adhere to or fear God or HIS Word.

      He too has passive aggressive behavior & continued to lie, involved in porn, & other provoking, covert ways to hurt me & then too, accuse me of not being ‘holy’ or forgiving. I’ve tolerated 15 yrs of lying etc… and he, like yours, showed no fruits of ‘repentance’… I’ve prayed for a long while, hoping, trusting & believing that he would see the devastation that ‘unbelief; and intentional sinning cause, and to want what God wants for our marriage & family… but he has never followed through w/any of his promises to ‘do whatever it takes’ to save our marriage.

      This has caused great confusion, hurt, for our 14yr old daughter. She, like your son, is receiving a message that serving God is vague & unnecessary. And now she’s starting to exhibit great levels of ‘manipulation’ due to all the division between he & I. I had not heeded the advice of several Faith based counselors over the years… they had told me to ‘GET out!’ but I wanted to extend ‘forgiveness’ and mercy’ and believe that he would come to know & trust in Yeshua and obey God.

      May our Heavenly Father, Yahveh, the God of Israel, bless you and keep you and make HIS face shine upon you! Thank you for being TRUE to Him… HE will continue to go before you because you trust in HIM! Shalom & blessings, ~ Dmarie

  13. LERA says:

    (LESOTHO) Thank you for this website where people can air their views. I have been subjected to many painful acts by a man who has asked me to marry him. Firstly I caught him about to cheat on me with another woman, and he claimed it was because he had heard rumors that I had cheated on him. These of course were not true. Instead of telling this woman off, he refused to do so, calling his cousin instead and leaving me humiliated.

    On an occasion my fiance’ left me in the middle of a deserted road late at night because we had had a fight. He claims he then went looking for me but couldn’t find me. I got home through a good samaritan.

    My fiance’ has a child with a woman from a previous relationship. Everytime I want to meet this child so that I can establish a relationship with her, he tells me hurtful things like his child will never love me.

    He has also been physically abusive, hitting me in the face so badly that I lloked like plastic surgery gone wrong.

    Should I forgive him? I feel he shows no repentance, he just says he is sorry. should I marry this person?

    • Cindy Wright says:

      Lera, You have a user, rather than a giver here. It appears that he uses relationships to please himself and when he can’t get enough from it or from them, he hops onto the next one. BEWARE!!! This guy (I won’t even call him a man, because a true man does not do this) will continue to break your heart and your spirit. I hate to be so blunt in saying this because I’m sure you think you are in love with him… but he does not appear to know what love is and you will be the continual giver here until you run dry and are bitter. So, so sorry to say this. I pray you find better.

  14. Ihuoma says:

    (NIGERIA) Dear Lera, please don’t make the greatest mistake of your life. Flee from that man. You are not married and he treats you this bad…hmmmh! Please you can get someone better. Move ahead.

  15. Gladys from United Kingdom says:

    I have been married since 2005. Till date I pay for everything. From school fees to rent to feeding etc. I just found out yesterday that my husband whom I got a job for since 2008, has been lying about his salary allowing me to carry the burden of running the family alone since 2005 till date. My husband lies so much I have never trusted him but I carried on just to make the marriage work. But with what I just found out about him I feel like killing him. Not wanting to stain my hands with blood I think I need a divorce.

    • Cindy Wright from United States says:

      Gladys, I can only imagine the anger you have over this situation. I believe I would also feel as betrayed as you write that you are in your comment. That is absolutely mind-boggling as to how he justified in his mind that this is okay to do this. There’s GOT to be a reason why he would conceal such a thing from you. I’m not sure what it is –it’s quite confusing. Can I ask you first, are you a Christ follower and is he? This is not to judge you or your husband, or to throw stones in any way, I just want to know where you each are coming from so I can better pray about this and know how to better comment on what you have written.

  16. Pamela from United States says:

    (USA) My husband keeps bringing up a past relationship wanting me to call the guy on 3-way so we can all discuss this past issue. The guy is married. My husband has cheated on me many times and now in 2013, he has cheated. But he is talking about something that happened with me in 1988.

    What should I do? I asked him to leave. So he is gone but calls day and night, has told me I was playing games with him, and that he would kill me. I’m afraid. The lady he has been seeing moved from Louisiana into an apartment 3 steps from our house. He can walk out of the back door and be at her house.

    • Cindy Wright from United States says:

      Pamela, You are dealing with a husband who wants to hide under the shadows to justify and continue his own cheating ways. What he is asking of you, concerning this other guy, is not the real issue. It’s a front for passing the blame, hiding behind any shadow he can find so he can better live with his own sin. BUT you need to be careful with him. He is obviously not predictable in what he is capable of doing and can be dangerous. Who knows where his thoughts and actions will take him? And he obviously found another woman who is caught up in his “charm” and his stories, who is shameless in her behavior, as well (in moving so close to you). I HIGHLY recommend that you read through the “Abuse in Marriage” topic we have on this web site and contact a domestic violence counselor. She can give you advice to better help you to protect yourself.

  17. Louise from United Kingdom says:

    My husband said it was my choice to have the children in front of my two children 5 and 2 years old. We were arguing over him refusing to read one of the kids a bedtime story as it was his turn to do do and he was refusing. It really hurt just to hear him say that in front of these children. Later I told him if I had somewhere to go that night I would have taken the kids with me and that would have been the end of us but if he ever says that again, it will be him leaving the house. He called several times the following day from work to apologize for his behaviour and even when he got back from work. I’m having such a difficult time forgiving him. He is a good dad and husband, though.

  18. Hanna from Kenya says:

    Hi everyone thank you so much for this site and may God bless you as you encourage His brethen. I am born again and has been married for 13 years now and I have 2 daughters 7 and 11/2 years. Last year my husband got into a relationship with a workmate a woman who has 2 children from other relationships, a boy and girl 14 and 10. I have tried talking him out of it and sent friends and he has maintained the relationship. Her children call her dad now and sleeps in our houses alternatively today here and tomorrow there. My husband loves money so much because this woman is independent but lately she is demanding financial support of which we cannot maintain 2 houses.

    Apparently the first 3 years of marriage he was in a relationship still with another workmate a lady he used to borrow money until she ended it. He provides everything. We even moved to our family home recently. However he is riddled with debts right left and center due to demands form the mistress. It has been very hard on me since the other woman has tried all means to frustrate me so that I leave him to her, to a point they exchanged our family car with hers. She bought him a whole new ward robe alleging that I don’t know how to dress him. He says that my house is disorderly. I told him then our little toddler should not play so that the house can be neat like that of the mistress whose children are in boarding school.

    He has not been able to fulfil my conjugal rights and when I ask he accuses me of one thing or the other. I was actually contemplating moving to the guest room since it’s frustrating lying with him hearing him whisper to his mistress sweet nothings and my imagination of them doing what we have always done intimately is killing me. I read this article about forgiveness and am thinking spirits are involved here since I don’t see his attraction to an older woman than me who has her own life. In our country getting involved with an older woman than your wife is questionable (since polygamy is allowed; though, in our church it’s a sin and even in the New Testament). I love him so much despite everything and divorce is not an option for me. Do you think meeting with her and telling her I forgive her would work? Please pray with me as I en-back on the journey to forgiveness.

  19. Tammu from Canada says:

    My husband left me when I was pregnant. He is a porn and see addict. He left me with all the bills and moved to the nice part of town, had multiple affairs. Meanwhile he kept lying to me saying he will come home; he just need time to think. His family says they love me and the baby and wants to be in our lives, but their actions do not match with their words. When I needed them the most they completely disappeared. Thankfully my church family jumped in and helped me prepare the nursery, some brought food, some brought used baby clothes… etc. My ex and his family continue to keep at a distance, except when they want to see baby they’ll demand a visit at their convenience. I’m so frustrated at them but legally I have to allow visits.

    I know our God is a relational God but how can He push us to reconcile with people that continue to hurt us?

    My ex mother in law continues to undermine what had happened. She kept telling me her son is a great boy and hey, at least I didn’t catch him in bed with another woman; it could be worse. I feel that I’ve been thrown under the bus and neither my ex husband nor his family care how I feel. Thankfully I have my own family and my church family who are very supportive.

    I know God wants us to forgive. But I don’t think He calls us to be a doormat. I believe God also set boundaries. We can be respectful to those who hurt us, doesn’t mean we have to trust them or even let them back in our lives, especially if they are abusive.

  20. Suzan from United States says:

    I agree with this woman, it’s hard to forget the pain this quick & just forgive. My husband just asked for my forgiveness through my daughter, & before the Divorce is over. I wondered why is he feeling guilty to divorce me now, but I found out that he was getting married before even waiting for what he has started, to get rid of me…

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