Are There Times When We Shouldn’t Forgive?

Time to Forgive AdobeStock_59582002 copyAre 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.”

How To Forgive

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.

Accept Apology and Forgive?

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.

Protection and Perspective

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.

Marriage Missions Note: 

Here is an example that discusses this issue. You may or may not be in this type of situation, but you can still learn from the varied advice given in this article. AND you may or may not agree with all of the advice given. That’s OK! Pray, read, and glean through the info and ask God what you should and should not apply to your situation.


Don’t Ignore

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.

Attend to Your Safety

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 it’s not done by moving out, maybe consider 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.

What About Lying?

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.

Forgive When There are Chronic Behavior Problems

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.


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.

Wilma and Fred

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.

Impasses When You’re Trying to Forgive

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.

“Act As If…”

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?

Forgive: A Biblical Confrontation

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.

A Third Party Perspective

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.

Refuses Counseling?

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.

Church Can Help

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.

Forgive? But What If the Affair Continues?

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.

Being Set Free After We Forgive

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 but I need your help.”

This article is edited from the book, “The Marriage Mender” by Dr Thomas A. Whiteman and Dr Thomas G. Bartlett (no longer being published). 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.

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Filed under: Bitterness and Forgiveness

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81 responses to “Are There Times When We Shouldn’t Forgive?

  1. My ex husband always spouts God and the peaceful Christian way. His mistress is likewise a Christian always quoting Psalms, Bible verses in her facebook. Many times I’ve asked very politely if something is going on but she lies straight to my face while being super nice. But private investigation pictures do not lie, nor does surveillance.

    I am Catholic and for years I have endured my husband’s repeated infidelity. I think this mistress is number 6 or 7? I lost count. In addition to that my husband has been beating me up once or twice a week at least, verbal abuse, gaslighting for the past 20 years. I can’t take it any more so I left him for a separation.

    Every time our paths cross he tells me I will go to hell for being an unbeliever. While I think he is a hypocrite, I have lived my life righteously. I never did anything to hurt anyone, kept my marriage vows sacred. Offered the other cheek to him despite the many abuses over the years thinking a good example starts with me so he can get the message.

    He tells me I will go to hell because I cannot forgive, nor can I forget. He tells me that I have no right to be righteous since I’m not a Christian, therefore I will not be saved. Even when I have been beaten down, he used to beat up on me until I lose consciousness. Is that what a Christian is? Many times it bothers me and it angers me that I will not be saved as he says. Why God has seen fit to let me endure him and his mistress parading around.

    He said I never once tried to listen to him and that he needed to make the marriage work. But 20 years of trying only made me hate the sight of my bruised and battered body to the point that I hardly recognize the person in the mirror. He said that he was the “leader” and the head of our family despite having no children. That I never learned to respect him. I cooked, cleaned, never answered back, consoled him, made him feel important, and pretended things were his idea when they were in fact mine just so he could feel validated.

    God is so unfair but despite being Catholic, I have faith that this could not be what He meant my life to be. Many times I have cried out to Him to help me. No answer. My husband years ago just got worse and worse. He even fooled our pastor being the Narc that he is. It came to a point that no one believed me until I dialed 911.

    1. Cleo, your husband is not right. I can’t say you’re going to heaven, but Christ is Just. I can say that each person will answer to a very real Christ for good or bad. I myself, see both in my life. We need Christ for the gift of Grace, and I see the grace of Christ in you. You have no obligation to answer your husband, because you are to Love God with all your heart, mind and soul, then love your neighbor as yourself. You should look at how much you loved your husband to put up with that much abuse and then let yourself see that you need to love yourself as just much by Christ’s own interpretation of the Gospel.

      We are not to be lovers of self, in the sense of pride and seeking our Glory above God’s, but you can stake the claim as His child and as one He redeemed with His own blood, sweat, tears and constant sorrow. I struggled with the same kind of spiritual abuse as I was married in the midst of learning how to walk as a Christian. I definitely took a big stumble, ended up nearly losing everything, but God is the one who chased after me. I hope that he put me here to chase after you with my testimony.

      Protect yourself, love yourself, be okay with the fact that you loved your husband because it was good for you to do that, but also be okay with the fact that loving him now means to pray for him as he is stuck where he is in sin while building yourself upon the foundation of Christ. Your brother in Christ, Eddie

      1. Eddie again, I just want to make something more clear, I’m saying trust God and not your husband. Rely on God and not your husband for the answer of your salvation. Jesus is a real person who works in hearts and who we have to face up to at the end of the road (hint: None of us will ever make it unless He forgives us). You are not alone in suffering and you are not stupid or wrong to be mad. You can forgive your husband but he condemns himself. Christ is a forgiver who loves us so much that He will try to persuade us from destroying ourselves but in that same love, He allows us to choose that path away from Him. He has the Words of Life, where else can we go?

        It’s not about you being stronger, it’s about you telling Christ that you just can’t do it all. He can, He did unto death. He already saved you, you just have to call out to Him. I’m not going to knock your Catholic faith at all. A prayer to Mary was my first answered prayer. If you ask a protestant, is Mary alive and in the presence of Christ? They will either say she’s in Sheol if they’re trying to be clever or admit that all the believers are indeed sharing in the spiritual resurrection of Christ, and Mary is among the foremost of women saints regardless of your idea of what a saint is.

        To me, we are all saints if we believe and canonization is just a formal recognition (many canonized saints have the miracle of martyrdom and nothing else, for example). So what I am saying is that if you lean on Christ He will take your burden and you can enrich your Catholic faith as well as be convicted in your own weaknesses and weaknesses in the Church to lean on Christ more. You are not a mistake and your tradition of Catholic faith was given by God to you for a reason. Be proud of who God is and let Christ shine through your broken heart.

        1. I hope a third post is to show you that God is really trying to get me to say the right thing. There are so many people who cry out to God but they don’t believe in their own salvation. They are miserable because they don’t even love themselves and they are putting up with horrors that nobody should face alone. As one of those people who God reached out to, I can tell you that you are heard and not alone. I had to break and stop being angry at God before he could start working in my heart. I was initially mad at him because I was raped by another boy when I was twelve. I thought He should have protected me. I’m still healing from that one.

          I hope what you get from this is that you don’t have to doubt that you are saved because it is up to Jesus, not ourselves to save us and if He has His way with our hearts, each and every one would be saved. You don’t have to bow to a sinner and be obedient to a hypocrite. Sometimes love is throwing over the money tables. Sometimes it is laying down and having Christ stand, and sometimes it is going out on the stormy sea as Christ bears you up. Get out of that abuse. He won’t learn another way. I was abusive too, not as bad yet no better. Losing my family almost ended my life but as I hung from a belt and was saved by the only Christian I knew at the time , a desperate prayer saved me too. Talk until someone will listen.

    2. Get out now…God would never want you to be abused like that. Your husband is a fraud, if he was capable of loving God in the true sense he would never be able to do the things he does to you. It’s disgusting and very non christian behaviour. Get yourself somewhere safe, and surround yourself with the good true Christians who show you compassion and love, not violence and disrespect. Him telling you that God will not love you unless you accept his disgustung behaviour is devil manipulation. He is manipulating you among his many other sins. God would want you to protect yourself and be safe. When you’re happy and secure you will find God will be able to help you again. Right now God is being blocked by your abusive husband because you are choosing him over your own values and relationship with God. God loves you, he wants you to be safe. Get out and find your true path in life. Xx

  2. What do you do with some one who changed their ways overnight, but will not fully cut ties with the one they may have had a affair with? This person is also known for committing illegal acts but my spouse is insistent that they still connect. I’m going crazy. I’ve already tried separating. He doesn’t acknowledge that his continued communication with this person is killing me inside. Sure, I’m all smiles on the outside, but I’m sick to my stomach on the inside. I feel he’s putting on a dog and pony show to distract me from what’s really bothering me.

    1. You should avoid such a person, as they are not being honest with themselves or you. For that matter, I really think you aren’t being honest with yourself. If they really changed, they will cut those ties. Coming from someone who really changed (not finished changing and it definitely wasn’t overnight).

  3. Thank you very much. I am a solo parent (mom) for almost 6 years now and a church disciple. Although my spiritual parents and the messages during church services never lack anything for me to know and do these: Forgive and Forget… every time my husband visits our 2 sons, it is very evident with my words and responses that I haven’t totally forgiven him. I am struggling from this ever since he abandoned us and chose his other woman. I kept begging and praying God for me to totally release forgiveness and to be fully delivered from this hatred/bitterness. I used God’s words to move on but deep inside I know I still have a little anger or maybe bitterness against him. I testify when I’m street preaching that “Praise God He help me to learn to forgive my husband…” but at the back of mind I know I am lying. I always treat him rudely. I don’t wanna be nice because I don’t want him to think that what he did was okay and I want him to repent and ask for forgiveness and work things out for our family to be restored.

    I know its between me and God now. I’m done of going back again and again to my spiritual parents asking for advice on how to totally forgive an unforgivable husband who is unrepentant and boastful of his wrongdoings. So I tried to search for messages like this to give more insights on what to do in order to achieve my goal: to be free of all hatred, anger, and bitterness against my husband. I don’t want my sons to feel the same way too. I want them to love and respect their father even though he is an unbeliever as of the moment. God knows I wanted for our family to be restored and to serve him until our last breath. Dear writers and editors, Thank you very much!

    1. Hi Klarence, I just read your text and hope you read these comments below. I can sincerely attest that bitterness carries a very high price, and is certainly not beyond repair. I can completely understand you of course. Very much so. It’s NOT fair and it’s NOT right. You do NOT deserve this. It is clear that your husband has caused you grevous hurt which can only be inderstood by those similarly betrayed.

      As a Christian, I know that unforgiveness is not right. I have seen firsthand what unforgiveness can do over a longer period of time from when I was very young. Specifically with my twin brother, because of events we went though when we were children. He is now overweight, he has problems with his heart, and he has been unhappy for most of his life. He has been though 2 marriages, he rarely sees his 3 children, and he is basically angry at the world. Anger and bitterness, if allowed in your heart, will rob YOU of the basic joy of living. They can severely affect YOUR health and even shorten YOUR life. And the offender may not even know!!

      Our daughter was in an abusive relationship for 8 years. When the boyfriend with his very young son needed a place to sleep, we let them stay with us so they did not have to sleep out in the rain. This same boyfriend was physically violent toward our daughter, threatening her with a knife on one occasion. I do not exaggerate when I tell you that sometimes we feared for her life. They have a daughter together… our granddaughter. My daughter was required by court order to have our granddaughter brought to his house every week, and to pick her up 3 days later. I was the only person who could really do this. So I brought her every week for 9 months. The boyfriend attacked me once in my car, and on another occasion pepper sprayed me and a friend without provocation. He attacked our son, and hit him in the head with a bat. Had the point of impact been only slightly back from where it was, our son would have been brain damaged or dead. What I am saying with all this? I’m saying that sometimes I could have written your text above to describe how I felt. Fathers have a special connection with their daughters you know. Enough said.

      Forgiveness means giving up any and all desire to “get even” with the offender, or to wish the offender harm. Forgiveness means stepping aside, and allowing God to deal with the offender. Forgiveness means letting go of the past, and of wishing the past had been different. Forgiveness is an act of the will, It is a conscious choice. It is a process. God Himself can, and will, help you to forgive when you ask Him from your heart. Forgiveness will set you free, will preserve your health, and will increase your joy of living. Forgiveness will open the way to allow God to work in your husband’s heart. Any path other than that of forgieveness will end up hurting YOU more in the end.

      Our daughter left this boyfriend 3 and a half years ago. That was an extremely dangerous undertaking, which I’m convinced was led by God. She is now in a healthy relationship, and she has now a second daughter. Our son is completely recovered. Our family has been brought back together in miraculous ways. Forgiveness is NOT easy. But it DOES work.

      A website of interest:

      I hope to hear from you. WP (Work in Progress)

  4. I have been married for 9 years and have 4 kids with my husband. My husband is a serial cheater who is not remorseful. He believes all men cheat. I have tried all methods from counseling, to asking for help from his siblings and family. His family don’t want to help. I have tried to live with the situation for the sake of my kids because they are very young. I am really stressed, I pray but I feel like God does not hear me. I don’t know what to do; everyone says divorce is not the solution but I am asking myself what is the solution. My husband doesn’t show any affection to me. I am so lonely. I don’t believe in cheating. He is a good father and he does a lot for the kids. We don’t do much as couple, we don’t do couple dating, my husband doesn’t believe in anything anymore. Now the communication is ceasing. I have to pretend like everything is okay, if I talk to him about our problems, he just keeps quiet and doesn’t respond. What should I do?

    1. Hi Leah, First of all, Please be convinced that God DOES hear you! He DOES care! I am a husband married 37 years… we have had our struggles too, and we have had times when God seems far away… but He is NOT far away! …Psalm 139, Psalm 91, and Psalm 121.

      I recall climbing a mountain with my son in Canada years ago. We lost our way- we were completely without a sense of direction in thick woods. After a long time we suddenly came to an open area… which turned out to be the summit after all. I recall that God seemd to say to me, “See? I know where you are all the time. I have been guiding you the whole time.”

      Your point is well taken / you don’t want to cheat, and divorce is not an option… both true, so what now? In a word: My answer would be, Define where you draw the line regarding unacceptable behaviour. Let him know that beyond that line is NOT OK. Beyond that line is an affront to you as a person and to the mother of your children. He cannot continue to get away with behaviour which crosses your line.

      The classic Bible verses on this subject are Luke 16.18 / Matthew 5:31,32. Matthew 19:6-9. Adultery as grounds for divorce seems to be separated out from all other reasons, but the Bible never specifically recommends divorce as far as I can see. Does this make divorce WRONG under ANY circumstances? Personally, I do not think so. But this is a long standing debate, and we will not resolve it here. At the end of the day, you need to be confident that when you seek personal input from our Lord, that He will provide it.

      At some point, you need to take care of the mother of your children. You need to put her out in front, for the sake of her and the children. Perhaps you should ask yourself, “What am I willing to tolerate and where do I draw the line? The children feel the tension, and sense the discord. It has been said that children would rather come from a broken home than live in one. Perhaps food for thought for you. They also see the bahaviour of their father, and the response of their mother.

      I do admire your resolve and dedication- I really do! Your husband does not know the quality of wife he has! (Yet?) Yet he seems to be getting away with “having his cake and eating it too” don’t you think? Have you, without wanting this, ended up being a doormat here? You are being shown no respect or consideration here at all!! NOT OK! Perhaps your husband knows that you are not OK with divorce, and therefore he continues to act with impunity? Seems that way from your first lines above. Perhaps he needs to read your text above? Perhaps an eye-opener for him?

      I hope and pray these ideas will give you some clarification. In the meantime, I am sure that others who read your text will be moved to pray. I will do that as well. God sees your heart, and is guiding your steps. Whatever in this text is not OK with you in your heart… throw it away! Whatever remains… I am happy if it gives you some help.

      Our daughter was in a similar situation… unmarried, but physically abused as well as being in a position similar to the situation you describe… for 8 years. She is a very loyal person- she sounds like you in some ways. When her first daughter came along, she realized she had to leave, for the safety and well being of her daughter as well as herself. She is a believing Christian, and is now married (for two weeks now) with a fine young man, with whom we get along very well. God has turned her situation around in truly remarkable ways.

      Surround yourself with trusted friends and your own family… Get help however you can… You don’t need to do all this alone you know. :)) What God can do for our daughter, He can, (and wants to) do for you. Of this I am very confident! Hope to hear from you Leah, readers on this site are with you!! WP (Work in Progress)

  5. I believe in forgiveness with my whole heart. I have been married to my husband for 15 years. I never considered leaving him when he was verbally and mentally abusive. I always gave the good fight and tried to get him to understand that some things you should not say. That it does no good except make a situation worse. An example: I had two previous children from another marriage; they were 3 and 5. My husband passed away and my new husband would essentially be dad to them. I sat down and we had many talks about him wanting to raise these kids. I wanted him to be sure with his whole heart. He accepted, but not a year into the relationship he started to telling me we will never be happy because of these two kids. I spent 8 months trying to get him to understand how hurtful this was, and why that does’t even make sense. He never once apologized to me. He said I was the one that got married so young anyway and he would have never been in this situation.

    I didn’t divorce him; I dealt with the next 15 years of no support, constantly bringing me down, walking on egg-shells, never feeling loved. I told him once I felt like he was my Judge, Jury, and prosecutor. My last straw was trying to get him into counseling because of his cruelness and he went a couple of times, embarrassed me and the counselor and never returned. Then I found out a month before the session he started having an affair with a women 20 years younger than him. It lasted for 3 years, brought her to our house, she moved to live within 3 minutes of him. He told her he loved her. After he got caught he spent 3 months lying about everything. An example: I find out she lived 3 minutes from our house, yet he maintained he never saw her there, just at work. For three days I told him that just does’t make sense. He finally told me I was right but didn’t understand my anger, I knew it anyway.

    He has a personality B disorder. Told me how he has never been able to be emphatic with anyone. I finally filed divorce papers and that is where all hell broke lose. I wanted my space to think, he would come into the bathroom with a giant knife to his chest and scream he was going to kill himself if I left him. His later response, he wasn’t doing that to me, he was doing it to himself, he didn’t see the problem. I filed numerous protective orders, he has broken them 6 times. Been in jail three times. He can longer see his daughter because of this behavior. Stalking, financial sabotage, PTSD I carry. I can’t stay married to him.

    When I argue this to him, this is what I am told. We owe it to our daughter to stay married, we owe it to each other to go to marriage counseling, of course he wants me to drop the protective order. He says he has learned his lesson and that he will never do anything like this again. He deserves forgiveness and a second chance, at least for our daughter. He finally understands what love is about, which is him giving me what I need, because he knows what I need now. He says his pain is so great because he has lost everything and that’s why he has finically sabotaged me, made everything so hard, contempt of court, $15,000 in court fees and counting. I tell him if you loved me at all you wouldn’t do this to your family. He says I’m the one that made it hard because I don’t have to leave. He never loved her anyway. It’s in his pain he does this to me, if I just take him back he would no longer act this way.

    I had to sell our house without his help, contempt of court because he would never sign. I had to get an apartment because he won’t work and lives with his parents who are paying for everything. He can’t see her unless its supervised through the courts. He attends a batterers intervention class – court ordered. He thinks If I just drop the protective order everything will go back to the way it was. I would like to forgive him for our daughter in the name of Christ. He hasn’t done a single thing I have asked of him; give me space, move out for a while, stop calling, stalking, and harassing. I can’t get him to see this is unhealthy behavior; he just goes back to if we are together this behavior will stop. He has never understood the turmoil and heartache he has put me and our kids through. He just says he lost his mind because of everything I took away from him, how unfair that is to him. He doesn’t see his actions have landed him here. What does God think about this?

    1. Dear Pamela, I see that your original post is nearly a month and a half old, so what I have to say to you may no longer be relevant. If it’s not, then I hope that means your relationship has turned a positive corner and perhaps there’s some light on the horizon.

      I am not a pastor or a biblical scholar, so I cannot really guess how God might guide you in your situation. What I can say is this: An unsafe home is NOT a Godly home. If your husband’s behavior is putting you or your children at risk, you have an obligation both as a woman and a Christian to protect them…and yourself. From what you have said, many of his behaviors are irrational and aberrant, and some even border on the criminal.

      This whole thread has been about forgiveness. You can forgive his transgressions if you are prepared to do so, but that doesn’t mean those transgressions are excused and forgotten, especially if there is a strong likelihood he will resume them once he’s back home. God can work incredible miracles, but your husband has to be prepared to work with God in making the changes he needs to make. Remember: Your first priority is the safety of you and your children. If he’s going to make any progress, he needs to know there are boundaries he can no longer cross with you. That’s not cruel or un-Christian. It’s help for him, whether he understands that right now or not.

      In all events, I wish you the very best. Take care of yourself and may God bless you and your family.

      1. Being merciful is not about forgiving people each time they do you harm. It’s about forgiving them when they realize they have done you wrong and ask for forgiveness. Then you should forgive and give them a chance. If they are so stubborn and stupid that they are not willing to see their mistakes then the best punishment is to leave, forget them and go on with your life.

  6. I am finally coming back to being myself after my wife ran off with her boyfriend leaving me and our children. It was hard but how long could I continue to hold on to this anger? I’ve finally “LET IT GO!” After reading this blog I now see that even though I may never get an apology or any other sign of remorse I just won’t be able to LET HER DRIVE ME TO CHURCH ANYMORE. I know that I still have more of myself to work on because my daughter’s are looking to me for leadership and guidance and I will not fail them. I do feel better and I no longer hate her!

  7. So this isn’t about marriage (I’m 15) but one of my friends has been really hurtful in the past and now I have social anxiety because of it. I have tried to move on, but she just doesn’t accept that she was wrong. My mom said to forgive her, and usually my strength lies in forgiving people, but she didn’t ask, and it’s hard to “let go” when I live with what she did every day.

    1. Lindsay, What an amazing gal you are at 15. I pray you keep growing in the wise direction you have been. The fact that you have been hurt by a friend and you are trying to “move on” and forgive, and yet are upset with the struggle shows that you are sensitive to spiritual things. May you continue to grow in God’s grace and maturity! Lindsay, what you are going through is very, very difficult. There is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Usually forgiveness requires going on a journey with God with your heart and intentions pointed towards doing things His way until you are finally able to totally release the bitterness. The fact that you haven’t arrived at that place is okay. Just keep leaning and walking with Him, and you’ll get there.

      But in the meantime, I recommend that you read through the quotes posted in the “Bitterness and Forgiveness” topic that you can find at: Most of these quotes are pointed toward marriage (because this is a marriage web site), but glean through them. Pray, read, and see how God speaks to you through them and what will apply to your situation. I believe you will learn some things that will help you now and in the future. There are even additional articles in the Bitterness and Forgiveness topic that you could also glean through. And with the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you pray, I have no doubt that the Lord will give you insight into what is happening to you, even though the circumstances are different. As you will see, as you read, this person doesn’t have to accept that she was wrong for you to forgive. You aren’t doing it for her benefit, but for yours. It will release YOU from the prison of playing it and replaying all of this in your mind and heart.

      But you may need to protect yourself from her in different ways. I’m thinking of a few books that might be good for you to read. And with summer coming upon us, you may have extra time to read them. The first is titled, Safe People: How to Find Relationships That Are Good for You and Avoid Those That Aren’t written by Dr Henry Cloud and Dr John Townsend. I looked at the reviews and comments about this book and one commenter said that this is a good book for those that are “10 to 100” so I’m thinking this would be good for you. The teen years are fraught with people who can be unsafe, while many are safe. It’s good to get a handle on this now. It might even help you if you ever get to the place of eventually considering marriage. You want to weed out the bad ones and go with the good one. Another book is titled, Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life also written by Dr Henry Cloud. I’m providing links to these books within the titles so you can read them over and possibly obtain them that way. Plus, you may want to look at the other books they recommend. You may find one or more additional ones that would be helpful. I saw a few, but I think you would know if they would indeed be helpful.

      Lindsay, this is an EXCELLENT time of life for you to be wrestling with these issues. It’s better to work through them when you are younger, rather than older and more set in your ways. I hope you will apply yourself to learn what you can about these matters. I’m so sorry that your friend hurt you. I know what it is like to have that happens and it is so very difficult because you sure don’t expect that from a “friend.” It makes the sting of it hurt all the more. But even so, we can learn from the stings that come from situations like this. I hope and pray you will. Walk the journey of forgiveness (which DOESN’T mean that you give this “friend” the opportunity to hurt you further in the future). Get to the place where you release yourself from the cancer of holding onto bitterness. But also learn how to set up good boundaries so you can better protect your heart in the future. I pray the Lord gives you insight and help with this. God bless.

  8. Hello everyone, I’m a Nigerian and a Yoruba married woman. It is a thing of shame to be separated or divorced not minding the level of abuse you must have gone through, this is a cogent reason for most Nigerian women staying within the confines of marriage. As a Christian wife and mother, my husband bullied me physically in the past whenever he was angry by throwing things and once slapped me, held me by the hair and dragged me in the room, but I managed not to shout for neighbors not to be aware. I got pregnant with our first girl and even in the pastors office he rejected her because he was not financially buoyant, called my family members names even though they were our major support before he got a job.

    We got married without any job, but he was writing thesis for people then and I had plans of running a small shop. After getting married, I tried doing businesses but he denied me the opportunity claiming that I am a literate and I couldn’t stoop low to do such jobs. He too then didn’t bother doing odd jobs while we didn’t have money in order to sustain the family, we were mainly relying on gifts from people, which wasn’t our agreement before marriage and which got me upset since we are not physically disabled. I got so bitter with his nonchalance and continuous abuse until last year around July when I opened up to my sibling and that one was instrumental to my leaving the marriage for a while till he became remorseful.

    Alas my husband went about lying to people that I left him because he didn’t have a job, the same man I went to the altar with, without a defined job, but trusting God that we would make it in life with hard work. Could you believe that almost everyone took side with him that I shouldn’t have separated, that it was because he didn’t have money, not minding the trauma he had put me through. In fact some people believe he never touched me, that I am the liar. I know he loves me, but he has a serious background issue, which he needs God to help him with, we got back together on the 2nd of December, after 4 months of separation. The truth is that he is better than before, but he still hurts me by constantly referring to our past and claiming that he never for once beat or hurt my feelings, he doesn’t touch me physically again, but I’m suffering serious verbal abuse, which I’m not used to.

    Nigerians don’t take verbal abuse to the heart, but the sufferings of just 2 years in marriage has taken so much toll on me that I am hardly deeply happy for his achievements in life. I pray God should turn this bitter past of mine around so that I can see the new evolving him. Moreover, most people around me indirectly taunt me with my past of which they all are not aware of what really transpired in my home, all they just knew was that I walked out of the marriage.

    I know God hates divorce, but I had to save my physical body from hurt then when my husband in anger smashed my phone against the wall and my five months old baby was seated on the bed beside that wall. I got so scared of him that day and in fact I felt like stabbing him at a point, thank God for the holy spirit that helped me. He did same by throwing his phone at me while I was pregnant with my first child. He has sincerely stopped all that, but he is hurting me verbally and the fact that he didn’t confess to all those he lied to that he never touched me still hurts, even he still tells me that I lied against him.

    How can I make him confess and repent genuinely, I seem to be tired of praying for him in that regards, it hurts me afresh anytime I try it since he is not admitting to his wrongs.

  9. I read your article on forgiveness today. I have a few doubts.
    Suppose that a wife is often beaten by her husband due to his irrational behavior. I read an article on Psychology Today that said, “forgiveness does not mean you have to reconcile”. And she herself does not want to accept that what is happening with her is okay; she can let go of the anger, however she does not want to have the same relationship with her husband due to his demonic behaviour. She no more wants to share the physical intimacy with her husband. She simply does not feel like it.

    Unfortunately, she can’t think of a divorce because of her children’s future and social pressure.

    What do you think she should do?

    Please don’t recommend showing compassion to her husband. That is just not possible after all the torture he gave her.

  10. My husband of 39 years has spent our entire marriage flirting with other women. This has led him into one occasion, that I can confirm, where he was kissing and fondling another woman. I used to catch him with porn but I have long since stopped looking. He is secretive with his cell, Facebook and email accounts. I also know that in the last 4 years he used to be a member on a site for husbands looking for women. I have reached the point where I want a divorce. I am 60 years old and I have wasted my life with a man who has never had any genuine repentance.

  11. Thank you so much for giving us tools to help us rebuild relationships. I have a question about the story of the friend showing up late to take his friend to church. What if that is your husband that always makes you late? He only cares if he’s on time to the things that matter to him… work, meeting a friend of his. Thank you for your help. 😊

  12. Married my gf 35 years ago because she was pregnant. She acted and used me to work and raise five children, lied by omission, a bisexual sex addict, I occasionally suspected something was wrong. But she lied with a smile and I lost any sense of who she really is. Delusional, she placed all blame on me projecting her faults onto me. I didn’t know I could not believe what started to be evident.

    When the children were grown she tried to facilitate my downfall death. I did the right thing, divorced her when she told me about orgies with women and I divorced her. I am alone, no justice, and all believe her lie about abuse. Stereotypes that men are abusers robbed me of any form of justice. Marriage should be illegal. Humans are not basically good and if I had to do it again I would not believe that honesty, integrity and loyalty are something humans are capable of. My fault was believing in humanity; it’s all a lie.

  13. As a new believer in the early 80’s I told the man I was seeing of my past when we moved towards engagement as it was only fair. I told him everything of the sexual abuse as a child, to a long relationship with an abuser to that from the time I was 14-19 I was a prostitute. He said we all had a past and he didn’t care and we married.

    Things were good until there was a falling out with a congregation; we stopped going to church and he started using drugs and being around people I didn’t care for. Then one night I knew he was with another and I didn’t even have to ask as we were one flesh. I threw him out then later took him back as I didn’t work and I had a small child. Then things got worse. He got into porn and then one night said he wanted to see me with others. The rug was pulled out from underneath the feet as I couldn’t believe the love of my life with asking to go back to what I left in my past.

    In my mind It was just confirming that was all I was good for …so I asked him three times is this what you want? He said yes. I said if I do this I can’t be myself, as nobody can be themselves in that life. He didn’t care. So for three years I went back to my old ways until I snapped out of it, cried out to God and said NO MORE!

    And yes, it affected the rest of my marriage to this day. We don’t have a marriage to be honest. To me he has been only a roommate and I haven’t let him touch me well before 2006 when my father died and he gave me a hug. After 3 years of marriage counseling I have had enough as he STILL won’t acknowledge his part in what he did. I can’t forgive him and he looks at ME as to why our marriage is where it’s at.

    I can’t leave as there’s no money or savings and I’m so lonely as I have no one and no friends. I don’t want to live with this anger and unforgiveness but there is NO WAY I’d love him again. I know God has forgiven me ..but I feel like I’m in a pit looking up. Please pray for me as … as times it’s hard to get out of this depression.