Marriage Missions International

Forgiveness After Betrayal

Forgiveness is one of the most misunderstood of religious concepts. Too many Christians try to offer a weak substitute that lacks the power of the real thing. The freedom that comes with forgiveness is a powerful gift, but it must be entered into with caution —it comes with responsibility.

Forgiveness is not easy. When I extend forgiveness, I’m agreeing to live with the consequences of another’s poor choice —and I must also give up my right to punish. The other extreme is enabling, protecting a person from the natural consequences of his or her choices, stalling that person’s growth.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean that what the other person did was okay, nor is it letting that person off the hook. It must be understood that the person’s value doesn’t change because of poor choice.

Forgiveness, too, is a choice not a feeling. If, for example, I wait until my feelings soften toward an offender, it would take me forever to forgive him or her. Once I decide to forgive, however, the feelings follow. If the offender continues in unhealthy behavior, my forgiving that person doesn’t have to mean that I must maintain a friendship with him or her, or stay in contact with that person. It does mean that if I walk away, I know I did all I could to help the offender learn, grow, and change. I’ve left behind a glimmer of hope, but that person’s changing is all up to him or her.

Forget about the old saying, “Forgive and forget.” If we could forget, we wouldn’t need to forgive. Rather, when our injuries are great, we need to process through layers of forgiveness. I agreed in the beginning to enter into the forgiveness process with my husband. I made progress through the first layer, so when a new layer appeared, I could process through it separately without feeling like I hadn’t really forgiven him at all.

It would have been too simplistic to say, “I forgive my husband for all his poor choices.” I needed time to process through all the consequences I was agreeing to live with. The first layer was forgiving him for the pain of the overall betrayal, but additional layers were uncovered that had to be sifted through. Emotional, spiritual, financial, and family issues are just a few of those layers. It took time for me to realize how many layers there were and how each area had been affected.

Many months after the final discovery of Dave’s full activities, I felt as if we’d sifted through most of the layers of forgiveness. The the topic of money came up on an unrelated issue. Resentment crashed down on me like a giant redwood. It hit me hard that, for all those years, we’d been pinching pennies while my husband was spending money on his addiction. I had to step back and process where the strong emotion was coming from. I realized this was a layer I hadn’t yet dealt with. I had to work through forgiveness again before we could move forward.

My husband knows I’m committed to forgiveness when he sees me process through every stage without condemnation. I’m honest about the pain a particular layer causes me, because it’s a consequence of his poor choices. I don’t throw it in his face or use it as a weapon since I want to rebuild the relationship, not tear it down. At first I went too far the other way, trying to hide the pain because I didn’t want to push him back into his addiction. Then I realized this was unhealthy for both of us. He needed to know how I was feeling, when he handled it without being defensive, we both moved forward in rebuilding trust.

It’s important to recognize that forgiveness is not the same as trust, though they’re closely tied and are simultaneous processes. Trust takes longer to rebuild. So many husbands want their wives to “get over it” and are frustrated by their wives’ lack of trust. These husband feel that they have to account for everything they do or say.

Accountability is essential to rebuilding trust and is a consequence of poor choices. Never feel pressure to trust before you’re ready —but always believe his behaviors. An innocent man should have no qualms about submitting to accountability or scrutiny, especially if he desires to regain trust.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you become his warden, either. His primary accountability should be to another man, or group of men, whom your husband is in contact with on a regular basis. A husband’s submitting to a counselor, pastor, or men’s group who will ask the hard questions is evidence of growth. A man committed to healing should grow spiritually from Bible study, reading, and prayer. Where appropriate, computer monitoring, filtering, and financial controls should be in place. The amount of resistance a husband puts up to accountability says a lot about how serious he is in his desire to heal. Remember —believe his behaviors.

The above article comes from the book, Hope After Betrayal: Healing When Sexual Addiction Invades Your Marriage, written by Meg Wilson, published by Kregel Publications. This is a TERRIFIC book for women who need to experience healing after finding out that adulterous sexual addiction has invaded their marriage. Not only does Meg minister through her own experience, she also gives insight into the lives of several women and the journey they took to healing after finding out about their husband’s addiction and adulterous situations. This book also has sections after each chapter that can also be quite helpful. One of them is called “Path Lights” which contains related scriptures and quotes. Another is called “Journaling,” which poses questions and thoughts to help women to process through this difficult journey through journaling —which is essentially what marriage counselors help you to do verbally. So it’s like therapy of another kind.

— ALSO —

If you are struggling forgiving your spouse for splitting up your family, there is a Crosswalk.com article, which may help you as you read it. The particular article is addressed to a woman who wrote to Dr Roger Barrier. So this is written to a woman. However, the same principles pertain to a husband who is struggling with forgiving his wife. Please change the pronouns, if so. In this article, Dr Barrier answers the question:

Will God Bring Vengeance on My Cheating Husband?

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8 Responses to “Forgiveness After Betrayal”
  1. Errin says:

    (PHILIPPINES) Hi, I’m married to my first serious boyfriend for 9 years. We got married last year oct 2009. I was happy then until now, when I found out that he had an affair that started Jan 2009 and they ended the relationship a month after we got married according to the mistress. She got pregnant during the affair. When my husband and I had been doing protective sex because we planned that we will have children when we are financially ready. I am a Nurse who is pursuing my doctoral degree in Nursing and my husband is a Medical sales Representative. I am 24 years old when we got married.

    I saw him when I was 16 years old; he was 24 at that time. After 10 months of being married, I just knew now that he got this girl pregnant. The girl showed up in their house and was 6 months pregnant and the parents were threatening him and my inlaws (we were not yet married at that time) but we had long distance relationship. After that, there were gunshot threats that they wanted my husband to marry the girl. The girl’s family is not well off. My husband is, according to my inlaws and the girl when i talked, he spends a lot to her and his family. Her tuition in college, baon and etc.

    When we got married he and his family did that to let us marry at the soonest time coz I was really planning to bring him with me to the United States since I already have an employer and am waiting for a visa. It’s just now I realized that this was happening. Nobody from his family told me. I know it after a year (now), Sept 2010, coz my husband might get hysterical and told everybody that if they told me my family might blame them for it. But since this has happened his mom was angry. They do not want their son (my husband) since they are just probably using him for all of their financial needs. And since his mom knows our 9 year relationship is tested already although he cheated once.

    This cheating is the second time around. I forgave him once already. This time this is the second but he got the girl pregnant. My husband and I are good looking. The girl is too. She is 3 years younger than me. This guy is such evil. I don’t know how I can get through this problem. I hope God will help me decide. I still have a good future going for me. His mom had cursed him but I still feel betrayed since nobody even told me and they knew it.

    Our marriage was to save him from the girl gunshot wedding threats from the girl’s family and to save our 9 year boyfriend-girlfriend relationship. The baby is now 7 months old but they never let him see the baby. I am going crazy. I have not talked to my family about this yet coz I know worst things will happen. I still have to go home and talk to the family of my husband Coz I need to tell my mom about my marriage for which they did not know that I was secretly married and plus the affair and the baby. This guy is crazy too. He hurt me and it seems he is the one hysterical and was not even sincere talking to me. I threatened that i will make his life a living hell. WE will find out soon after my 2 days off when we see each other this weekend. I just hope that God will enlighten me and he will guide my husband to changed coz I am definitely going to leave him. Please reply.

  2. Cookie says:

    (USA)  Wow, God is putting you through a very difficult test. Thanks for sharing your story. So sorry you are going through all this, but God will give you the strength to make it through. Think about yourself and take care of you. I will pray for you and ask that others that read this pray for you too. Cyber hugs, Cookie

  3. Wendy says:

    (USA)  So sad for you Cookie. I dont know if you will see or read this since it’s now July, but if you do, I hope that God has intervened in you and your husband’s life. It sounds like he is no good. An adulterer, and an abuser. You have too much going for you. Finish that degree, and get out on your own unless he has done and is still getting some serious Christian counceling. He will only make you miserable unless he changed. Best of luck and prayers to you.

  4. Christina says:

    (USA)  I am having a very difficult time in my marriage. I have been married for 11 years now and have been fighting most of it. I have come to the realization that God has been missing and that I cannot live my life without his guidance. I had a child by my husband before we were married which was my first mistake, but my child was not a mistake.

    I married my husband 10 months after he was born because I felt guilty for not being married. I was only thinking about my own selfish needs at the time. I also knew that my husband had a drinking problem and that if we got married and knew that we had children that he would change. My mistake.

    My belittling, screaming and cussing in front of the kids has been the subject of my marriage for the past 11 years. We live in a very destructive household. But my main concern is adultery. We have both done this at the same time none-the-less, and I have been dealing with it for many years.

    Since I have been going to church I get criticized for my belief. I am very discouraged. I have read scripture after scripture about being forgiven for my sin of adultery and have no idea if I will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. I have asked for forgiveness, but like I said, I am a new Christian and not sure if Jesus is even listening to me since I have committed this awful sin. I either do not hear him or do not know how to hear him.

    My husband is absent from the home most of the time or comes home after drinking. Do I divorce? And will I be forgiven?

    • Cindy Wright says:

      Hi Christina, Yes, when you confessed and expressed sorrow for your past wrong actions, you were forgiven. And you ARE forgiven, no matter what the voices inside of you say. The Bible says in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

      There are a couple of ministries I recommend you contact. I believe you need some on-going help to get past this doubt storm you are going through, and also to deal with past wrongs that you and your husband committed and present circumstances you are trying your best to sort through and figure out how to handle.

      The first ministry is one you can find on the bottom right corner of our web site. It’s a blue box, which says, “Seeking Direction? Purpose? Hope? Find it Now!” If you click into it there is a link provided to the first ministry (Needhim.org) I recommend you read through and then contact. They will be able to answer a lot of your questions on being forgiven, and whether you will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, and such. It might be most helpful for you to talk to a real person on this. They can make that happen if you want them to. It’s up to you after you look through the info they provide.

      And the other ministry I highly recommend you contact can be found in the “Surviving Infidelity” topic, in the Links part of it. It is called Hope and Healing. We have a link provided there. Go to the “Contact Us” part of it and tell them what you told us. Mona, who is the wife who runs that ministry has a heart of gold. She could help you sort through a lot of your questions about the adultery and being forgiven and what to consider for the future with your husband.

      Her husband committed adultery, but she’s great about working with those who have also been ones who were involved as you were, as well. I have no doubt she can help you sort your various issues out.

      I hope and pray the best for you and your marriage. Yes, there are a lot of complicated issues to sort out, but not so complicated that they are impossible. Nothing is impossible when you look to God to help you. Blessings on your and your precious kids.

  5. Loly says:

    (SOUTH AFRICA) My husband had an affair in 2010 and he promised to end it after I found out. Early this year he confessed that he slept with the woman again and she was pregnant, once again I forgave him. We decided to deal with this issue on our own and not include our extended family. However, I realised that he and his family were going behind my back meeting with the woman’s family. I was furious and told my family. He responded with so much rage and anger and he told me to go to hell and informed me that he was going to file for divorce.

    Before being in involved his family, he showed remorse. But once his dominant and over-bearing mother found out, she made it okay and gave him justification and validation. Once that happened he didn’t see anything wrong with what he did, coz the one person that my husband has always been seeking validation and approval from was his mother. He has always been married to his family more than to me.

    His mother accepted what he did coz the other woman was a lawyer and far more successful than I was. I never lived up to his family’s expectation. We are currently in the process of getting a divorce. We have been married for 9 years and we have 2 kids.

  6. Nikki says:

    (USA) My husband (let’s call him Miguel) cheated on me with a lady from our church. He’s been sleeping with her since Oct 2011. Their relationship has been both physical and emotional. The relationship supposedly ended in July 2012 but they connect again in late July of the same month and continued to hide their relationship from everyone til December 2012 (of course I still knew about it). During this entire time, I’ve been patient (since we have 5 beautiful children together) and waiting for the moment for him to tell me he wants a divorce. However that didn’t happen.

    I know his ex-mistress wants him to leave me and his kids, wants him to support her and her two kids financially and emotionally. His mistress has asked him to move in with her and asked for his money to pay for her expenses and even to take a loan to purchase her a new vehicle, but that didn’t happen.

    To make a story short, she has told Miguel so many times that if he doesn’t do what she wants, she’s capable of hurting him in many ways. She has threaten to go to the police and file false accusations against him if Miguel doesn’t do what she wants. When Miguel stopped seeing her in Dec 2012, she called and told him that she was going to police. Nothing happened in Dec, but as Jan 2013 came along, she called him to go see her. Miguel didn’t go, so she told him she has reported him to the police. A sheriff showed up at the house one late night with a court order.

    I’m tired of this. I’ve been thru so much with his affair. Now I have to go this legal issue with him. I’ve been patient for my kids, but I’m so tired now. I don’t know how long I can last. Yes, I loved him, but our relationship has turned sour. Miguel tells me, he never intended to leave me or marry her, and he’s sorry about what he put me through. I can’t bring myself to believe him or trust him anymore. I know that with this new legal issue, he hasn’t seen her but that does not mean it doesn’t hurt.

    Help me…..pray for me to have strength to go this one more time before it ends permantly.

  7. Nickki says:

    (USA) I am so sorry that you are going through this. I would encourage you to let him go up court himself. He got himself into this and he needs to face this himself. You don’t need additional stress of seeing her or being in a court room.

    I will pray for guidance and encourage you to seek counseling. You are a wonderful mother and strong woman. You deserve the best. Counseling and your husband sounds as if he has an addiction to address to avoid this repeating. You deserve better and your children need to have a role model that is healthy. God bless you in making the right decisions.

    Here is something I wanted to share from my Jesus Calling Devotional:

    April 2

    I have promised to meet all your needs according to My glorious riches. Your deepest, most constant need is for My Peace. I have planted Peace in the garden of your heart, where I live; but there are weeds growing there too: pride, worry, selfishness, unbelief. I am the Gardener, and I am working to rid your heart of those weeds. I do My work in various ways. When you sit quietly with Me, I shine the Light of My Presence directly into your heart. In this heavenly Light, Peace grows abundantly and weeds shrivel up. I also send trials into your life. When you trust Me in the midst of trouble, Peace flourishes and weeds die away. Thank Me for troublesome situations; the Peace they can produce far outweighs the trials you endure.

    And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
    —Philippians 4:19

    For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
    —2 Corinthians 4:17

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