10 Reasons Why Rushing Forgiveness Ruins Intimacy

by | Aug 6, 2019 | Uncategorized | 74 comments

Why rushing forgiveness after an affair ruins intimacy
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When you discover that your husband is cheating on you, or using pornography, should you forgive right away and work on rebuilding the marriage?

Or if you discover that your wife is cheating on you, should you put that aside for the sake of the marriage and work on restoring the relationship?

That’s the question that I was asking earlier this month when I looked at a book that Focus on the Family was publishing which had the wife asking the question “what role did I play in the affair“? I disentangled that and explained why both parties may be responsible for drift in marriage, but only one is responsible for cheating. And you cannot work to rebuild until the cheating is confessed and repented of.

In doing so, several side conversations started where people on Facebook and on the blog were saying something to the effect of:

You can’t control your husband’s behaviour. You need to leave that up to God. To require your husband to repent is to try to control him. Instead, you just do what you can do to love your husband and then entrust your marriage to God’s hands.

Now, this sounds like you’re being giving and sacrificial, and isn’t that what Jesus calls us to?

But I actually think this is quite harmful teaching when it comes to affairs and other big betrayals, and I’d like to delve into that today to see what the Bible says about restoring relationships that have been broken by one person’s sin.

1. A Covenant is a Two-Way Street, with requirements for both parties

In Scripture, God compares His relationship with His people to a marriage, so that gives us a helpful comparison to use when we’re trying to figure out what the marriage covenant should look like. God created a covenant with Israel, where He would be their God and would bless them, and they would obey Him and follow Him and not go after other gods.

But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. But

those who hate him he will repay to their face by destruction;
he will not be slow to repay to their face those who hate him. 

Deuteronomy 7:8-10

NIV

He also says repeatedly that He will bless the Israelites if they follow the commands, but He will curse them if they do not. Thus, God’s blessing is conditional on Israel keeping the covenant that He has made with them.

If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the Lord your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your ancestors. 

Deuteronomy 7:12

NIV

2. A covenant, like a marriage covenant, can be unilaterally broken by one party cheating

Even though God has promised that He will be Israel’s God, and will bless them, that relationship can be broken unilaterally–by one party not fulfilling the requirements of the covenant.

What wrong did your ancestors find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthless things, and became worthless themselves? (verse 5)

I brought you into a plentiful land to eat its fruits and its good things. But when you entered you defiled my land, [you] made my heritage an abomination. (verse 7)

Jeremiah 2

NIV

God had nothing whatsoever to do with this; the people themselves had done it. That doesn’t mean that when covenants are broken there is always only one person to blame; it’s just that it’s incorrect to say that it takes two to break a covenant. No, one person’s sin can do that all on their own.

3. When a covenant has been broken, keeping a facade up that nothing is wrong becomes offensive

When Israel was in full covenant with God, there were all kinds of things that they were supposed to do to show their worship and devotion to Him–the “trappings” that signified their relationship to Him. However, as soon as Israel turned away from God, these trappings were no longer pleasing to Him. They actually made God sick:

When you come to appear before me, who asked this from your hand? Trample my courts no more; bringing offerings is futile; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation–I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity. Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, and I am weary of bearing them. 

Isaiah 1:12-14

NRSV

When the core of the relationship has been broken, acting as if everything is fine is an abomination. It’s a lie. It further tramples upon the covenant, because it treats it as if it meant nothing.

4. It is better to live in truth than to live a lie.

God did not allow for the facade of a relationship. He held back His blessings and His protection when Israel was cheating and was running around after false gods and ignoring his commands. God did not allow Israel to have the benefit of a relationship with God while also cheating.

And, when it went far enough, God Himself issued Israel a certificate of divorce. This wasn’t God breaking the covenant; this was God publicly acknowledging that Israel had already broken the covenant, and so that covenant was null and void. Here the prophet Jeremiah is talking about how God divorced Israel, but the nation of Judah (for at that time, the two nations were separate) wasn’t taking the hint:

She [Judah] saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce…

Jeremiah 3:8

NRSV

Why does God do this? Because God is not interested in a relationship with us that is based on a lie. He doesn’t want the outer trappings of a relationship with us; He wants a real relationship with us.

5. God does not unilaterally restore the relationship. He requires repentance.

So what did God require in order for this covenant relationship with Israel to continue? It was actually quite simple. He just wanted Israel to return, and when you read the minor prophets, that’s the message you get, over and over again: “return to me”:

‘Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the Lord,
    ‘I will frown on you no longer,
for I am faithful,’ declares the Lord,
    ‘I will not be angry forever.
 Only acknowledge your guilt
    you have rebelled against the Lord your God,
you have scattered your favors to foreign gods
    under every spreading tree,
    and have not obeyed me,’”
declares the Lord.

“Return, faithless people,” declares the Lord, “for I am your husband. I will choose you—one from a town and two from a clan—and bring you to Zion.”

Jeremiah 3:12-14

NIV

All they had to do was return, and then God would be their husband again. But they had to return.They had to confess and repent.

What we learn from God’s actions, then, is that the covenant is serious. When one party breaks the covenant, you can’t ignore it. You can’t get the benefits of the covenant without keeping the vows of that covenant. The relationship can be restored with repentance, but it can’t be restored without it.

Let’s now look at how we should act when the marriage relationship is being compromised:

6. A marriage is based on trust

The covenant between Israel and God was based on several fundamental things: That God would be their only God, and that they would follow His commands, and that if they did that, they would be blessed. (There was more to it than that, including circumcision, and much more, but in a nutshell, that’s it).

The modern marriage covenant is also based on a few things: that we would be each other’s sole sexual partner, and that we would love and cherish each other until death do us part. This means that marriage is based on trust.

So let’s separate these two things for a moment:

The Commitment: I will stay with you and love and cherish you and have you as my only sexual partner until death do us part.

The Relationship: I will live with you, do life with you, serve you, be sexually involved with you, and carry your burdens.

The relationship is based on trust that the other will abide by the commitment. One comes before the other. Just as God did not give the blessings if Israel was not obeying the covenant, so we cannot have a relationship if the commitment has been broken, because a marriage has to be based on trust–on keeping that promise.

What I was being told by people on Facebook and here on the blog was that you should continue to have a relationship with someone who has broken the commitment, even if they don’t repent, because God calls us to be faithful to our marriage vows. But that’s asking us to do more than God even does! In that Isaiah passage above, God says: I won’t have the trappings of a covenant (the relationship elements, in other words) without having the commitment. We’re getting things backwards, thinking that if we give a cheating spouse the relationship, we’ll lure them back to the commitment. But when we do that, we deny the very nature of marriage, which must, first and foremost, be built on that commitment, not the relationship.

There’s a reason that God allowed divorce in the case of adultery–because adultery is a very special case. Adultery annihilates the very covenant that marriage is built on. It shouldn’t be treated like just another mistake, because it is unique. 

That’s why, even if you were involved in breaking the relationship apart because you weren’t a good spouse, you still can’t repair that relationship until the trust is restored. The commitment to the marriage must be present to work on the relationship. You can’t rebuild without that commitment.

Do you have a hard time asking for what you want?

You can change the dynamic in your marriage and make talking about your own needs easier!

If your marriage is in a communication rut, it’s time for some change.

7. Intimacy requires vulnerability, which requires trust

To take it even further, a true marriage relationship is supposed to be about intimacy–about truly knowing the other person. So let’s add another element:

The Commitment: I will stay with you and love and cherish you and have you as my only sexual partner until death do us part.

The Relationship: I will live with you, do life with you, serve you, be sexually involved with you, and carry your burdens.

The Completion: I feel as if I am known, and am fully known. I feel loved and accepted, and I love and accept you in return.

When we have the commitment, and we practice the different elements of the relationship, we achieve the completion of the covenant: the feeling of true intimacy, the “knowing” each other intimately that is talked about in Scripture.

However, often in our desperation we think that we can achieve this “knowing” and this “loving” simply by acting out the relationship elements.

If I serve him enough, if I’m nice enough, if I’m giving enough and sexual enough he’ll love me. He’ll leave that other person and he’ll love me.

But you can’t build intimacy on the back of a lie. Intimacy requires truly knowing a person. Knowing someone requires complete vulnerability, where we’re able to share ourselves. Vulnerability, however, requires trust. You cannot open up to another person if you fear that, by opening up, they will leave you or will continue in an affair. Thus, we cannot create intimacy without the backbone of commitment. It just doesn’t work, no matter how nice you are, because:

A marriage is a joining of two people’s spirits, meaning that two people matter.

You matter, my friends. YOU MATTER.

The advice that is often given to women (and to men whose wives cheat on them) is that we should be self-abasing like Jesus was, and deny ourselves, and love sacrificially so that we can woo them back. However, this is not how God acts. In order to start a relationship with Christ, for instance, you need to repent and confess.  Yes, Jesus is all-forgiving, but Jesus does not unilaterally restore us; He requires us to confess first.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 

1 John 1:9

KJV

8. When we put the marriage first, we make an idol of it–over truth. God never does that. God lives in reality.

When we say, “I committed to this marriage, and I will not break up this marriage, even if my husband strays”, then we do more than God even does and we run the danger of making marriage into an idol.

God does not value marriage above all. God values us. God values people. God wants people being transformed into the likeness of His Son. When we enable sin by not drawing boundaries and holding others accountable for what they have done, we are not valuing truth. We are valuing the trappings of a marriage over the heart of the marriage, over Truth.

Be careful about making marriage into an idol, or trying too hard to make a marriage work, at the expense of your relationship with God. Keeping a marriage together does not always end up advancing God’s kingdom, as I talk about here:


Other posts  you may like:


9. Betrayal causes trauma. Ignoring trauma causes long-term problems.

When we are betrayed through infidelity (whether it’s an affair or pornography use), that sears our soul. Our very personhood has been rejected. This person who was supposed to completely know you and love you has betrayed you. That can cause trauma. The first reaction many of us have when we discover a spouse having an affair is to panic. We don’t want to lose the marriage. And so we turn ourselves inside out trying to keep that trapping of a relationship intact. What that does, though, is further destroy our sense of worth. Our spouse did that by betraying us; now we are agreeing with our spouse that our needs don’t matter.

If  you try to reconstruct the trappings of a relationship without confession and repentance on the cheater’s part, you further wound yourself. Those wounds will resurface later–that’s the very nature of trauma!

And all of that is why:

10. Real forgiveness requires admitting the fullness of what the other person did, not choosing to ignore it. Reconciliation never occurs without repentance.

We are called to forgive, yes. But we are not called to reconcile necessarily, because rebuilding a relationship cannot be done unilaterally. It can only happen when the other person repents.

To rebuild and restore real intimacy, you need honesty. You can’t minimize the harm that’s been done. You can’t forgive that which you’re too scared to actually name.

You have to face it full on. You have to admit it. You have to not shy away from looking it full in the face. And then, and only then, can you truly choose to let it go. That’s the forgiveness part.

But you can only reach the restoration part when your spouse similarly looks it head on, names it, and admits it. Only when your spouse does that can the restoration and rebuilding part start.

First the commitment; then the relationship, and THEN the completion. It must be done in that order. You can’t rush it. You can’t shortchange it. And you can’t minimize it.

God didn’t. And God does not ask more of you than He did Himself.

What do you think? Do we try too hard to rush forgiveness? Let’s talk in the comments!

 

Want more information? Here are some other posts that may help:

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

Related Posts

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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74 Comments

  1. Sam

    Yes! To all of this. The “what role did I play in my husbands affair” only made the trauma worse. Initially I thought it was my fault, not because what my husband said. He never blamed me, but I thought had I been a better wife this wouldn’t have happened. The truth is that it was his choice. He never once talked to me about his feelings and struggles. Then when it came out I thought it was me.
    He repented and I eventually forgave. The trauma is so real. It pops up every now and again. It’s been 7 years since it happened. Number 9 really spoke to me. Thank you sheila for all you do.

    Reply
    • Emmy

      So right. Rushing forgiveness is never good when there has been a major violation. A would like to add one should not rush for forgiveness in cases of abuse either. In fact, I’d find it easier to forgive an affair than abuse. I believe one has the right to divorce an unfaithful spouse, but one has almost the duty to leave an abusive spouse, especially when there are children.

      I often imagine forgiveness as a gift you wrap up and send to the offender with a note: “There is forgiveness available for you. Please sign the enclosed documents and pick it up.” You have been ready to forgive. You have wrapped the gift and shiped it. However, if the offender will not come to pick it up (s)he wil not receive it but the package will remain at the “post office”.

      Why do so many forgiveness packages remain at the post offices? Many times offenders think they do not need the delivery, or instead of foregiveness, they want something else. They may want understanding, or they might want the offended one to acknowledge it was not their fault after all. Or they want the offended party to admit the offence was unavoidable or not that bad, or at least partly the fault of the offended. Or they want to hear “it’s OK”. But these “trinkets” are not forgiveness. They are something else. But these things are not in the delivery package. The package contains forgiveness, and they will not get it unless they “sign the enclosed documents” and acknowledge that forgiveness is what they really need. Otherwise, the delivery will remain at the post office.

      And even if by any chace, the offender manages to sign the documents and walk home with the package, (s)he will not be happy with the contents unless forgiveness was the thing (s)he wanted and needed. If (s)he wishes for understanding or sharing or shifting blame or “it’s OK”, (s)he will be disapointed finding “just forgiveness” in the box, so to speak.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Very well put, Emmy! I think with abuse you need a lot more than just repentance, too. It needs to be shown over time, realistically during a prolonged separation, that there is real character change, or else it’s just not safe for anyone to put themselves in that position again. Definitely abuse would be its own category.

        Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so sorry for what you’ve suffered! And I’m so sorry for the lies that you believed. I pray that you can move on and move past this, because many have!

      Reply
      • Emmy

        This just crossed my mind and I thought I’d like to add it as an extra thing to think about it. Some time ago I realized there are people who use asking for forgiveness as a trick they use in order to avoid responsibility and a way to refuse to work on issues. This goes for any matter, big and small.

        It goes something like this: you confront the person who wronged you and (s)he makes some kind of an apology, which you accept, as a christian. You ensure the person it is forgiven. Then, when you wish to talk about it in order to avoid the same issue in the future or to understand what went wrong…the person tels you you have no right to “fish” and you should leave it to the past because you told you have forgiven it. And the fact you want to talk about it proves you in fact have not forgiven.

        So, rushing for forgiveness in general is not wise.

        Reply
        • Kate Becvar

          Is pornography use adultery? I say yes but my husband says no. After many years of hoping it would resolve itself, the trauma of past wounds in our marriage is just now surfacing. It is really rough.
          Also is apologizing the same as repenting?

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Hi Kate! I’m so sorry for what you’ve gone through. I really am. It is a real trauma. Jesus definitely said that whoever lusts after another, it’s as if they committed adultery. It is a deep wound.

            Repentance means to turn from what you’ve done. It’s to acknowledge what you did and see how bad it was, and then it’s to take steps so that it doesn’t happen again. It’s a real turning. So it’s not just a heart change; it’s showing by your actions that you are different. In this case, I would say it’s seeking out help via counseling or a support group; it’s making sure you leave your devices and computers in a central place and don’t take them off by yourself to quiet parts of the house. It’s sharing your passwords. That sort of thing. I’ve written a lot about pornography, and I’d encourage you to read some of those posts too!

  2. Phil

    The person who has been violated needs time to morn. I believe the person who has been violated needs space and time to morn and process. Time can heel if the person who has done the harm has repented and made changes to their life and the other person is willing to trust again. The thing about it is this: It is a long hard road and for me the effects are still present at times. My wife will deny it but I know it still has effect on our marriage. She just doesnt see it. I know it has to still have effect. Because I hurt her so much. By the grace of God it gets easier and the farther we get from it the easier it is.

    Reply
  3. KellyK

    Well Sheila, as you are well aware, my husband cheated on me. I discovered it through shared emails. When I confronted him, he was sorry….but didn’t reveal the full truth until I kept questioning him based on what I’d read in those emails.

    He repented. Then I demanded we go for counseling. Which we did, until I found out I had cancer.

    However, reconciliation would’ve NEVER been possible had he not repented. Only when he proved I could trust him, did I forgive him.

    It hurt me deeply. I was DEVASTATED. There’s just no other word to describe. His mother told me how crushed my husband was when he discovered his first wife’s infidelity. I didn’t think he’d ever do that to me. Until he did. 🙁

    We aren’t 100% but have stuck it out for 20 years. 🙂 Had he not repented & stopped contact with the other woman, we’d be divorced. And you know one of your posts regarding children & divorce was the impetus that made me stay.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Kelly, I love your story so much. I love how you thought about the future for your son, too. And I love how you both took it seriously and worked through it. That’s wonderful!

      Reply
  4. Fallen

    Recently I had to confess to my wife that I had fallen into porn again. It wasn’t easy but I couldn’t go on. Without confessing I would have fallen deeper and deeper. I didn’t want that. Even if it means that she would leave me I needed to be honest. So I told her. It hurt her a lot. My selfishness and my addiction has hurt her a lot. It’s only been a week. She has forgiven me but it is a long way to make things work and sometimes I wonder if she trying to rush forgiveness. I don’t want that. Part of me thinks about divorce at times. Partly because of the shame I feel. I have hurt her and I deserve that punishment. But also because she is an amazing woman who deserves better. She hopefully can find a man better than me. At the same time I don’t think divorce is what she wants. I have mentioned it before and she got very angry with me.
    At the same time I just don’t want her to feel like she has to forgive me. I just don’t know how to get everything out of her. I have told her before to talk to someone but she doesn’t want to. She isn’t so cold towards me. We hug and so and she has even been making sexual advances. I want to be with her but I feel a lot of shame which makes it hard for me to engage sexually and I off course don’t want her to have sex with me just because she thinks that will fix things. I have tried to be clear with that it’s not a sex problem but it’s my sin. And I notice that it’s something she wants to do but I am hesitant.

    I know I need to talk to her more about this. I want to put up more filters. One reason I fell back into it was that we have things that aren’t blocked. Blocking things irritates her and I understand that but it has to be done. She hasn’t wanted to talk much about this so For now I am waiting. I don’t feel
    Tempted now and I feel at peace but I know that whole the weeks go on the temptations will start again. I can’t fool myself so I need to talk to her. I just don’t know how it will work. She doesn’t like to talk much about it.

    How honest should I be in the future? Should I tell her every time I am tempted? She will wonder why and I myself can’t answer why I can get an urge to either watch or read something poronographic hence why I need to block things no matter how irritating it is for us.

    I have sinned against God and her and I hope I can fix this but I wouldn’t blame her if she wants to leave, on the contrary I would help her. She deserves better. I don’t know how to talk to her about forgiving to early but I must try. She sadly doesn’t like marriage blogs. She thinks they mess with my head so she wouldn’t read this even if I send it to her. Thanks for the article

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s so tough! And I’m so glad that you confessed. That shows a tremendous amount of character and a tremendous willingness to put Jesus first and truth first.

      I think what you both really need is some help around you. You likely need some sort of an accountability group where you can go if you do slip up again, and you definitely need filters. She also needs someone to talk to, and you likely would both benefit from seeing a licensed therapist. You also need to deal with the shame.

      This stuff is hard. Really hard. But it sounds as if you’re both committed to trying to move ahead.

      Reply
    • Jacob's other son

      Hi Fallen,

      I couldn’t help myself from replying after reading your post. I have been where you are, and the good news is that if I could be helped, then so can you! I am married to my second wife (and most wonderful woman in the world) after a long marriage to a woman that was mostly not interested in sex or intimacy, and who wasn’t able talk about it.

      The many years of sometimes not being sexually intimate with my then wife for months at a time, led me to porn. I was already a likely candidate, but it turned me into a proper addict. A lonely sad person in private, happy in public. I felt shame afterwards every time, but all my prayers and efforts seem to fail me. Once I got remarried I took the porn with me. Less of it because we had a healthy sexual relationship, but I still couldn’t go without it. When I got remarried (God’s plan B for me), I promised myself that I would never lie to my wife. And I never have outwardly, but I was lying to her by not telling her more clearly and in all detail of my porn addiction. I was still masturbating most days that we didn’t have sex and most of the time while watching porn.

      Its not like she didn’t know, but she was shocked to learn the frequency. When we spoke I realised that it was a habit that I carried from my previous relationship and it was fueled by my warped appetite for intimacy even after God had sent me a woman that is willing to do anything to fill my intimacy needs. She asked me not to masturbate because it meant that she misses out on intimacy with me. She offered many ways of helping me cope. I was frightened because I had relied on self pleasure for many years and it was like asking me to give up my pacifier. We prayed. I committed to not masturbate or watch porn thinking that I had no chance of actually succeeding, but that I would try. But the first time I was tempted I realised that I would have to tell my wife about it or lie to her…..

      In that instant God answered my ongoing prayers and healed me from addiction! That was two years ago! We are still working on our intimate relationship, and this blog has helped a lot, but we are both happy and committed to aim for an extraordinary sexual and intimate relationship, and our baseline is the same.

      God sent an answer to my prayers, it was there all the time I just had to activate it! My best friend, my wife, she understands my problems, my desires good and bad, and she wants more for me than I want for myself. Her act of forgiveness, pro-activeness in working with me, and her belief in me gave me the self believe and most importantly the WANT to be genuinely healed. While I always wanted to not be addicted to porn, the alternative was to go without completely, so deep down inside I don’t think I wanted to be healed.

      The thing is that if I didn’t tell her everything, she wouldn’t have been able to respond to everything, and we wouldn’t be in a place now where we are accountable for each other’s intimacy needs. According to God, when we marry we become one flesh, when one hurts, so does the other – how is it then even possible that we can keep anything from one another?

      Tell her everything my friend, even the things that you think don’t matter and even if it annoys her. And most of all keep praying, God sends healing in the most amazing ways.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Thank you for sharing your story.

        Reply
    • Wifeofasexaddict

      Fallen, look for a Pure Desire group in your area. They will.give you good advice for these questions.

      Reply
  5. Swty

    True. I forgave my husband quickly when he watched porn, just to rebuild our marriage. But after reading this article, I remember he didn’t even apologised. And I think in my relationship he has taken me for granted.

    Reply
    • Swty

      But if I have not done that what was the other option to rebuild marriage? Should I had let it go?

      Reply
      • Rebecca Lindenbach

        I don’t think the option is either forgive quickly or divorce right then right there–not at all.

        But when someone does something that breaks a covenant, if they do not repent and work hard to fix the marriage there need to be boundaries drawn so they can feel the weight of what they have done. If there is a husband who has a porn addiction who is unwilling to deal with it, the wife can bring in family and friends to help confront him to start, can lay out some boundaries that would make her more comfortable (e.g., passwords to all accounts, blockers on computers/devices, internet turning off at certain points of the day) until the trust has been rebuilt (or in perpetuity, depending on the situation).

        But at the end of the day, if someone is repeatedly unrepentant and refusing to change and refusing to stop cheating/looking at porn/whatever it is, you can only do so much. And at some point, even if you want them to repent, saying, “If this is not dealt with, we cannot be married anymore” is warranted. But it doesn’t need to be the first step in every circumstance.

        Reply
      • Kali

        Thanks for this article Sheila. I wonder if you could add a little about asking for forgiveness. How specific should I expect my husband to be? There’s so many little things I want him to acknowledge that were all part and parcel of the adultery. It took place many years ago now and we have spoken about and I have forgiven some things. But we have never spoken about it all and he has not repented and asked for forgiveness for it all. In my heart I have forgiven him now. It took a long time to get to this place. But he only ever asked for forgiveness once or twice very soon after, when I was not in a place to forgive.

        Reply
        • Voly

          Kali,
          Affair Recovery affairrecovery.com has a lot of good free info which might help you.

          They also have online classes for the Betrayed, the Unfaithful and for the Marriage, as well as a EMS weekend retreat.

          They do teach that you can forgive with out all the facts, but that forgiveness is for your benefit so that you don’t get into bitterness and and resentment.

          If you don’t have all the info you want/need, then how do you know what to forgive and how is the marriage to be restored to how God designed it to be? They also teach that in order for true reconciliation and intimacy, the Unfaithful does need to repent and be transparent.

          They are very careful not to shame the Unfaithful but do try to get them to be honest.

          I also know from experience that there are couples using AR that the infidelity was a number of years ago. I add that in so that you do know that it is never too late to get help. And if not for the marriage, then yourself.

          To healing in spirit, soul and body!

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Voly, that sounds like a very helpful approach in that counseling! I’ve never heard of it myself, but it sounds like they’re dealing with the root of the issue.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, that’s so sad! Yes, there definitely needs to be acknowledgment of the depth of the hurt caused, and an apology for it.

      Reply
      • Swty

        I forgave him quickly because I think I am responsible for watching his porn. Because he was not sexually satisfied. He was the one who did everything, and I just lied there and enjoyed. But honestly I wanted to do something for him but I didn’t know what to do and how to do? I have never watched porn. I used to imitate him. And when I googled about it, I didn’t find anything different. Our sex life was boring. I am married for 4 years and now after subscribing to your newsletter, my sex life has transformed. Recently I am trying your 29 days to great sex series and I have seen the change which I thought was impossible.
        Now I always have something new to do and we are very happy. Now it’s sexy. I can’t say sexy is back, because it was never sexy. Now I am excited to make love more than my husband. Now I often initiate sex, last night I asked my hubby wasn’t he initiating? He replied, “I did all the work for 3 years and now it’s your turn.” And he smiled. He knows I am reading something about sex and I always have something new and it’s very exciting. Now even he is happy. I don’t mind initiating sex but I am worried if he will take me for granted. Please suggest something. How often should I initiate?
        Lots of love and thanks to Sheila.

        Reply
        • Nathan

          Swty, I’m so happy that things are on the mend! I’m no expert, but my advice is to initiate as often as you want, and if it leads to something more, great, and if it doesn’t, take a rain check and snuggle instead.

          Reply
        • Recovering from betrayal

          You are NOT responsible for his porn use! Please don’t take that on yourself. No matter what you did or didn’t do- he made a choice to use porn.

          I believed I was responsible for over a decade. It’s simply not true. Please don’t believe that lie.

          Reply
        • Taniqua

          SWTY – I second that you DID NOT promote his porn use any more than he might promote you to use get drunk. Both are an immature response to stress. Please, please keep a wary eye on the porn topic. It is straying, it is saying that one is not sexually satisfied in the marriage so they will seek satisfaction elsewhere. AND the slippery slope of that is that porn is an endless supply of NEW stimuli that is there only to meet his every need. He and his needs or desires are the center of a universe for the time he is watching porn. That can really warp the mind as to what marital intimacy really is supposed to look like.

          I am soo excited to hear your sex life is great, God made it to be great! I just want you to be clear that we NEVER cause someone to sin. We all sin when we are dragged away and enticed by “OUR” desires. The other option is to act like an adult and find adult solutions, hopefully as a couple, to the rough situations in a marriage. That is how we grow and become one. The opposite is how we grow apart and become 2, more separate than ever.

          You stumbled upon a great thing here, not only a solution that permits you to overcome something together and grow closer but the correct path that with the next marital hurdle, you do the same. Your search for a way to fix it together and become even more unified.

          Reply
  6. Nathan

    Forgiveness isn’t the same as saying “no big deal”. You can be forgiven, but there’s often a road to repentance, and consequences for your actions even if you are forgiven.

    Having an affair, for example, is a sin against God, but it’s also a violation of the covenant that two people have sworn to each other, so it’s not enough to just pray for forgiveness and that’s it. You need to fully own what you did, repent, understand the hurt you caused to your spouse, and know that it will take time to rebuild trust and intimacy. Only then can you begin the true path to forgiveness and rebuilding.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Exactly, Nathan!

      Reply
  7. Nathan

    Sheila says
    > > You likely need some sort of an accountability group

    You’ve often talked of the value of an accountability partner or group, and I think that’s a great idea. The reason I came here in the first place is that, some time ago, a friend of mine was watching porn (had been for some time), and his wife came home from work early and caught him. They asked me to mediate things, since we’ve all been good friends for a while. I researched around, found this site, and found about Covenant Eyes, which is a great tool for monitoring your internet activity.

    We installed it on his machine, and he suggested that I install it also, so that we can team up for accountability. I said sure thing, even though my internet activity is rather dull and boring by comparison, but I thought it would be a good idea for all of us. We have our reports sent to each other and talk about it. He’s slipped a few times, but I think he’s getting better. Overcoming porn is definitely a marathon, not a sprint, and it’s going to take a while for them to heal, but having a support group really helps him.

    I’ll give him credit for one good thing. He IMMEDIATELY owned it and took full responsibility for what he did. He never said that his wife drove him to it.

    Reply
  8. Abby

    Hi Sheila,

    I completely agree that affairs bring deep brokenness into marriage and that repentance is necessary for healing, but I don’t know that I’m totally on board with your interpretation of Biblical covenants applied to this situation.

    This is because while God’s covenant with Israel was a conditional one, not all Biblical covenants are. Israel’s covenant was a “king-servant” covenant, as you said, where God promised to bless them if they followed him and obeyed his guidance.

    But other covenants, like God’s covenant with Abraham one Genesis 15, was an unconditional one. God promised to love and bless Abraham and bless the world through him no matter what he did. Literally, in the ceremony of the covenant (where animals were cut in half and both parties walked between them, so as to call such a punishment upon themselves if they broke the covenant), God is the one who walks through the animals (as a “smoking fire pot and flaming torch” 15:17). Abraham never walks through the animals because God took both sides of the covenant on himself.
    This is true as well of our new covenant in Christ. God’s forgiveness and grace is not dependent on our behavior but on the work of Christ.

    So looking at the marriage covenant, I’m interested to do a study of what kind of covenant it is shown to be in the Bible. That’s something I want to dig into. I would be cautious to automatically label it as a conditional covenant since there are at least four kinds of covenants presented in Scripture.

    Again, I don’t disagree with your premise, but I’m concerned about drawing a direct correlation between the God/Israel covenant and marriage.

    What are your thoughts on this? Are there Scripture passages that point you to seeing marriage as a conditional vs unconditional covenant?

    Thanks! 🙂

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Hi Abby,

      God actually made two different covenants with Israel–the Abrahamic covenant and the Mosaic covenant. The Abrahamic covenant was unconditional–God said that He would bless the Israelites, and make them as numerous as the stars in the sky. And He would curse those who curse them, and He would give them the land. That covenant is still in effect.

      The Mosaic one, however, is built on a promise that two parties give each other, which is why it was instituted by Israel also choosing on this day whom they will serve. The Abrahamic covenant was unilaterally done by God; the Mosaic covenant was two parties who had to pledge to it. Thus, the Mosaic covenant bears more in common with the marriage covenant than the Abrahamic one, and that’s also the one that God uses with the marriage analogy.

      I hope that makes sense!

      Reply
      • KellyK

        Thank you Sheila for mentioning the Covenants. I was not aware of them. So I read the passages you referred to in this post. I’m fascinated now. 🙂 <3

        Reply
      • Kristen

        In a sense we all commit spiritual idolatry nearly every day; whenever we put anything as more important than Jesus and pour all of our time and devotion to it. I am so grateful that He will never leave me, though I mess up regularly (which lines up more with the Abrahamic covenant). He is always waiting to forgive me. I want to be that way in my marriage as well. If marriage is a picture of Christ and the church then how do we justify divorce? I’m not advocating to continue in relationship (or the facade of one) with an unfaithful spouse. Sheila is right. There must be repentance in order to move forward (and separation can be healthy). However, I do think it is possible (in the Spirit) to remain faithful and steadfast while waiting and praying for a spouse to repent and desire reconciliation. I think we jump to divorce too quickly instead of embracing a slow timeline for healing and allowing God to work in a rebellious person’s life (would we walk away from our rebellious children so quickly?).

        Reply
  9. Neil

    Well done, Sheila. Spot on. It may sound harsh but love requires that sort of thing when the occasion demands. I’m currently working my way slowly through Jeremiah in a detailed study and the idea of covenant is fresh in my mind. As I was reading your post a thought that came to my mind was that perhaps we disguise denial as forgiveness and want to forget things and move on. Truth is, we can’t move on until the situation has been rectified.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, that’s a great way of putting it! We disguise denial as forgiveness. Yes!

      Reply
  10. Natalie

    So true! Great article.

    Forgiveness and trust are two totally different things and journeys you have to go on after betrayal.

    I know my situation with my husband isn’t nearly as awful as if he were to actually cheat on me, but him constantly lying about his lifestyle habits and binge eating has been a huge betrayal in our marriage. And it just keeps on happening again and again. I forgive him for lying to me fairly quickly probably because I’m an optimist and truly do believe he could grab control of his life if he wanted to, but my trust in him hasn’t fully been there for year. I trust him with certain things but definitely not everything! And I know it won’t be until he finally proves himself to me with his actions. Words are cheap. Actions are the only things that matter after a betrayal. The same is definitely true after cheating.

    I don’t blame myself for his eating disorder. Sure, I probably should’ve been more understanding and empathetic in the past, but this is his issue. I don’t beat myself over anything I did, and thankfully our society doesn’t look at my husband’s issues and think “why don’t you ____.” They realize you can’t lose weight for someone. You can only get healthy yourself. The same is true with a spouse cheating. Their actions are solely their responsibility.

    Reply
  11. Hope

    God also says repeatedly that He will bless the Israelites [his children] if they follow the commands, but He will curse them if they do not. Thus, God’s blessing is conditional on Israel [his children] keeping the covenant that He has made with them.

    Think about it. Really think about it.

    Reply
  12. Arwen

    Sheila, it was very clear to me the first time you explained it. The truth of the matter is, there are many people who would rather be in a dysfunctional relationship instead of being alone. In my 28 years of life i have observed that around me. They will take anything instead of being by themselves and be with God. I’ll never understand it. I prefer to be miserable alone than be miserable with another person. Unfortunately that’s not what i have observed from others. They love company for their misery. Anyone that will hold on to dysfunction for the sake of not wanting to face the reality of being alone forever or for a time, is a lost cause. Sorry.

    Reply
  13. Nathan

    > > there are many people who would rather be in a dysfunctional relationship instead of being alone

    I think so, too, Arwen. Our pastor gave an example when a woman will say something like “I can’t break up with Tom! That’s like saying I’ve wasted the last two years of my life!” (no matter how bad the relationship is). The alternative, then, is to waste the REST of your life being with him.

    Being alone is NOT the worst thing possible. Being with the wrong person or an outright bad person is much worse.

    Reply
    • Arwen

      Exactly! Nathan. I have also noticed it seems to be easier for men to be alone than for women. That’s usually why if a woman cheats on a man just ONCE he will drop her while she will take a cheating man back 100 times. I have a younger sister with a boyfriend that treats her like garbage, she has a baby with him, and she chose to have another child with him again! The hell he’s dragged her through and her refusal to leave him just makes me grateful i’m a far stronger than a lot of women around me. Being alone doesn’t mean being lonely. You can fill the gap with volunteering, serving others, etc. Paul was alone/single and yet was a busy, busy man. Even the Bible says single people can do more for God than those who have spouses.

      I just wish women can realize there are far more devastating things that can happen to them than being by themselves. Being single/alone is not a sin being in a dysfunctional relationship however is a sin. I love that on i can do so much as a single woman. Reading books for children at the library, tutoring ESL, volunteering at homeless shelters, grocery shopping for the elderly in my neighborhood, taking them to appointment, cleaning houses, etc. and so much more. I’m rarely home most days.

      We worship a Savior who’s called the Prince of PEACE. Very few things on earth are as pleasurable as having/living in a peaceful mind/environment. Quiet, peace of mind, i cherish them so much!

      Reply
      • Lea

        People judge women more for being single. I’m sure that’s a factor.

        Reply
  14. Sheep

    Oh Goodness Shelia, I can’t even begin to tell you how right this article is on so many different levels. I have experienced SOOOOO much of all of this. I have made the mistakes of “forgiving” too quickly in the desperate hope that my wife would want me instead of her partner/s. I have done what I thought was loving her as Christ loved the church and sacrificed myself for her. I tried to “get” her to reconcile when it should have been her working for reconciliation.

    And then….. I actually studied what God said about marriage, covenant, and divorce. I actually studied what God says love is. And ya know what? It didn’t look like what I had been doing. My honest, but misguided attempt to save my marriage was not love at all. 1 Cor. 13 says that love rejoices in the truth. So then, If there isn’t truth, can there be love? No. My actions weren’t loving because they were ignoring the uncomfortable truth that my wife was not trying or even wanting to reconcile. She was quite happy to use me to meet her needs while I continued to shield her from the consequences of her adultery. She wanted the trappings of a covenant without the commitment.

    Keep it up, there are a whole lot of “well meaning” believers out there that need to learn this. It is soooo unhelpful when they tell the victims of Adultery they just need to forgive and move on, and then try to manipulate them into do it. And all based on a misunderstanding of scripture and their own fears of a marriage ending.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you, Sheep, and I’m so sorry that you had to learn all of this the hard way! It is so tempting to want to let the offending spouse off the hook because we want so desperately to put our marriages back together, but it really doesn’t work. It’s not biblical. And it just makes the situation worse. I pray that your marriage will improve, too!

      Reply
    • Emmy

      Sheep, I’m so sorry for you. Your story reminds me of a young man, a close family member, who is going through a very similar situation.

      She let him and got entangled in a relationship with another man. She got pregnant.

      While he was trying to get over it and go on with his life, it appeared that the new man of his wife was violent and abusive. She left her and announced her husband she was coming back. He was so, so happy to have her back, pregnant and all. He did not insist on anything, just forgave and welcomed her and ensured he would care for her and for the new baby.

      It was way too soon. She did not really appreciate the new chance she got. She soon left him again. She is now with another man (a third one) and she said she is not coming back.

      I believe he should not have her back even if she would. Not without working very, very hard first.

      Reply
  15. Anonymous

    What is the next step to heal from betrayal? How would you apply this to verbal and emotional abuse?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I think in the case of abuse you really need some distance and a counselor. The one who is abusive also needs to show, over time, that they have had an honest character change. They have to change because they want to change and know they have to change, not just to keep the relationship together. If they’re changing just to keep the relationship together, then as soon as the wife returns and the relationship is strong again they’ll revert back to old patterns. It takes a long time, and a lot of honesty, and some abusers never accept responsibility. But I do think that a trained, licensed counselor is often necessary. And couples therapy isn’t appropriate in cases of abuse, because it isn’t a couple problem. It’s a character problem. So both should be going to counseling individually. It is a hard process!

      Reply
      • Mary

        What about when a spouse is addicted to porn and says sorry regularly and maybe he means it, maybe not… But still participates in pornography regularly after years and years of “struggle” and “failure.”?? How do you know when if he/she is lying or does it matter if they are sincere in their sorry?? Repentance as i understand it is when you feel bad for what you’ve done, and don’t do it again. Porn is an addiction and is hard to overcome but at what point is reconciliation futile? Sorry, i forgive you, sorry, i forgive you, i fell bad, lets fight this out together…i love you, i dont know what’s wrong with me… I love you and i dont know how to help you, i can’t be your accountability partner, holy spirit, therapist, or mom..and right now im struggling to be a good wife cause i dont even know what that looks like and add that im supposed to be upholding the name of Christ….ahhhhhhhhh! Also how does Hosea fit in here?? I don’t remember Gomer being repentant… I would really like to know how Hosea fits..

        Reply
        • Rebecca Lindenbach

          I”m so sorry you’re dealing with this, Mary. My first thought is that if he really wants to deal with this, he’s got to be willing to take drastic action. Turn the internet off at certain times of day, get a filter like covenant eyes, bring in great friends as accountability support, and start seeing a counsellor so he can gain the coping skills he needs to resist temptation and deal with stress/boredom/discomfort in a more productive way.

          If he’s not willing to actually put measures in place, that’s a red flag that true repentance hasn’t really happened, since repentance knows that something has to really change.

          I hope he is able and willing to overcome this, because you do not deserve to deal with rampant porn use in your marriage.

          Reply
  16. Anonymous

    Another thing, God gives us the Holy Spirit to follow. He will show us what to do in our life, if we ask Him. My dad cheated on my mother, and she tried to leave twice, but the Lord stopped her. Once with a broken ankle, once with throwing up severely, so that she could not leave. She continued to cry out to the Lord and seek Him. My dad did truly repent, and they reconciled and have a beautiful marriage now. My point is, for those reading, it’s okay for a little time to go by if you are seeking the Lord. Don’t panic. God will lead your steps and make it all perfectly clear to you. Seek Him. Abide. And try to rest. And He will show you if you need to leave, who to go to for community/counsel, and all of the details.

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      I found my husband masturbating, and he would have denied it if I didn’t have total proof of what I saw. Later I asked him about it and he said that it was the only time he had done it (but I know of other moments, though). He knows that I lost trust in him and he also says that he wants to regain my trust. A big issue always has been his phone, he’s so secretive about it, I can’t even see his notifications! I asked him if I could look through it; we got in a huge fight and he only let me look at it a few minutes and I was so shocked and confused that I didn’t even know exactly where or what to look at. How am I supposed to make boundaries if he won’t follow them? I have tried talking about this with him and his last answer was: “I thought we had fixed everything.” Which for me, I don’t know what’s fixed. He hasn’t apologized, either. Should I just not have sex with him until he opens up or something changes? I am so confused!

      Thank you for your posts, Sheila! They have been a big help.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Anonymous, if he’s been watching porn, you absolutely need to confront it and deal with it. He can’t just say that he’s going to regain your trust and be better and still keep secrets. It doesn’t work that way. I’d recommend that you read this post on 4 things to do if your husband watches porn. It’s okay to tell someone else and ask for help and say, “this stops now. I’m not tolerating this in our marriage.” I’ve said a prayer for you!

        Reply
  17. Linda McLaughlin

    Thank you for this article which has helped me in many ways, and I suspect will continue to do so as I meditate further on what God seems to be speaking to me through it. Married to the same person for more than 50 yrs. Our sexual relationship problematic throughout. Porn addiction and masturbation on my husband’s part confronted, and seemingly, appropriately addressed over the past year. However, our sexual intimacy is still essentially non-existent. This article has helped me to realize that my husband never has made a commitment ‘to be sexually involved with me’, or to care about meeting my sexual needs. The covenant has been unstable all this time but a legal divorce has never been an option to us. Perhaps he will never be able to make that commitment. That’ll have to be between him and God I guess. I’m at the point of being so completely emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually drained. Your article seems to reveal that I have been overextending in ways I should not have been. Small comforts. 🙂 So, I’m wondering what types of boundaries I should be enforcing and how will I know if he is truly repentant as they all seem like just empty words and broken promises, and I can’t allow myself any further vulnerability in this area. Do you have any thoughts or suggestions for me? ( Counseling is still ongoing at this time. )

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Linda, I’m sorry! That’s so tough. I think the big thing about boundaries is that people should not get the benefit of something that they are not building. Like, Paul said, “He does not work shall not eat.” Well, he who is not committed to the marriage should not get the benefits of that marriage. I’m not saying that you divorce; but you also don’t have to keep up the facade of a good relationship which also gives him good standing among his friends and family. You don’t need to act like a unit if he is not committed to you, but is simply using you for housekeeping/status. I don’t know your situation and so I can’t comment completely, but I think it’s okay to say something like, “I have to protect myself from hurt, and I have to act appropriately here. And if you’re not willing to emotionally commit to the marriage, then I have to take a step back and act differently. If you do want to commit to the marriage, and start spending time together, and caring about my needs, and trying to be a couple, I will welcome that whole heartedly and I will try to build something here. But I can’t do that myself, and so I will be stepping back to protect my heart until you’re ready.”

      Reply
  18. Rebecca Nazzer

    Yes! You have pretty much summed up most of the major points I’ve learned as I’ve lived through the hell of discovering my husband’s affairs, separating, being separated for 2.5 yrs while he pretended to be repentant and was supposedly trying to regain my trust – and then discovering he was still cheating.

    The one thing I would add, is that if there has been adultery, there MUST be a period of separation. The covenant has been broken, and if it is going to be restored, there must FIRST be true repentance – and the only way to tell if someone is truly repentant is over time, through actions.

    Even Hosea had a separation before reconciling with Gomer – and neither was with anyone else during that time.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you for that, Rebecca. I’m sorry that you’ve gone through this. So sorry. I can’t imagine. My heart hurts for the intense pain this must have caused you.

      Reply
  19. Kathy Haecker

    In addition to repentance, we need to give the offended time to grieve what they have lost because of the adultery. Many times churches have especially overlooked grief as a necessary part of the process. God, Jesus , and the Holy Spirit all grieved over sin and we need to do the same.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      So very true, Kathy!

      Reply
  20. Stephanie

    Forgiveness and reconciliation are two very different things. I can forgive the debt of another, without any repentance from them. Forgiveness is for me. There is no way my husband could repay his debt. I forgave him but we didn’t reconcile until most items on your list were worked on.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s very wise, Stephanie. Thank you.

      Reply
  21. Kopa

    Wow thank you for this post. My husband just revealed to me after 15 years of marriage that he has been using porn. I am struggling so much right now to overcome this and not feel at fault. I am glad my husband is repentant and puts no blame on me but I truly struggle with number 9 as I am a pro at glossing over my true feelings. I want to rush my forgiveness by allowing intimacy again because in my head I think this will make me feel wanted by him but your post has given me a clear stop sign that until we both work through some things that part of our life will be closed. This post has made me recognize that I truly need to allow myself to mourn the death of my trust in my husband and our marriage vows before new trust can be built.

    Reply
    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      I’m so sorry, Kopa. That is so hard to hear. Can I say one thing, though? The fact that your husband revealed it to you is a good thing. It shows that this is something that is hurting him and he wants to stop. I would recommend talking to him, when you are ready, about when he was first exposed to pornography. Many men start watching porn when they are mere preteens and do not have the tools or resources to understand what it is they are seeing. It can be very healing to understand the depth of the struggle and find compassion for the person your husband was when he was first exposed. It gives it a different perspective.

      That does not at all overwrite what you were saying here, by the way–you are TOTALLY right about not rushing into intimacy/your normal day-to-day before you found out about this. But as a word of encouragement as you both work towards healing together to have patience and compassion for each other. He needs to understand that this hurt you to the core–and this is on him to make things right and rebuild that trust. You are not at fault for this at all–sexual sin doesn’t happen because of something the wife did or didn’t do–it happens because he has a sexual sin issue. Full stop. And it’s wonderful that he seems to understand that, since true ownership of our sin is necessary for repentance.

      Trust your feelings, trust your instincts, and listen to what your body and your emotions are telling you as you go through this difficult time. I said a prayer for you and your husband, and I pray that walking through this difficult time ends up with both of you closer to each other and closer to Christ on the other side.

      Reply
  22. gbolling

    Where has this been all my life?!? Single, Never-Married, Catholic Girl here. These principles are perfectly appropriate in addressing poor, dysfunctional communication around people who’ve been hurt by the church, and I’m going to start using them. Forgiveness is necessary, but you must HELP people forgive, especially if you bear any responsibility to what hurt them.

    Reply
  23. Anchor4theSoul

    This is such a great blog, and I’ve missed out on it until now! I am on the receiving end of the pain and trauma caused by my husband’s recent emotional affair. I was gaslighted for months because I only had a hunch and nothing else. When I did have the proof (denied the 1st evidence but simply couldn’t deny the 2nd evidence), I got a confession that I don’t believe in my heart is the entire story. I spoke to the other woman (yup, I did my investigating), she lied and protected him at first, but once I found the pics she couldn’t deny it. One thing she told me was that she could not tell me everything they had going on and that he would need to be honest with me. Talk about the most heart wrenching words I’ve ever read. This immense pain I was taken through by no one else other than God. There was another one in the fire next to me the whole time. He has restored my joy, has bottled every single one of my tears throughout the past 18 months, and has given me the strength to not dwell on it as I used to (although I have hiccups – clearly). He has restored my passion for life as a mommy and educator. My God never left me even through the darkest of times He was and is always there. But ladies (and gentlemen) this was such a process. None of my healing happened overnight. I buried my mind and spirit in Christ: who He was on Earth and who He is today and how faithful He’s been before! I watched countless sermons at home, annotated my bible with words and tears, and proclaimed that my weapon would not be revenge (though it crossed my mind), but that it would be a melody ! I also read Faith-based books to help with my own issues which I believe contributed to our rift before he strayed. But, I owe my healing to no one else. Not even to the counselor that stopped making it to our appointments and not to my husband who did do things to help me begin to trust again. I don’t believe that Christ would like to see me fooled again – I believe if there is something else to this then he will reveal it in time, and I made it clear to my husband during our counseling that if something more were to come out from this affair, or if he would do something similar, I would leave without notice. Of course, he would always be able to see his children, but I would NOT stick around for this crap again. He agreed and says he’s been 100% honest about the affair. He stopped me from walking out the door SEVERAL times. He did NOT want a divorce. He changed his phone number. He’s been fellowshipping with other believers and when I have heard him tell white lies, he apologizes (this alone is a miracle). He also started to give Christ more time than I have ever seen, and I am continuously praying for him. I wished that there was a cookie cutter answer for my pain. Many times I wished I could have just waved my magical wand and that the pain would be over, that I could just freely leave without repercussions but like my situation each and every affair is unique and requires much needed attention. The best news is our God is NOT a cookie cutter God, and He will bring you through the pain no matter how immense and dark it is as long as you give it to Him and leave it there. My advice: seek out help from a church counselor (not a family member), seek out testimonies that will HELP and not HINDER your healing (meaning stay away from reading an article about how all (wo)men are cheaters and therefore should rot), study Christ’s life and mission, and give yourself TIME to grieve, yet don’t stay there. Please don’t stay there! Christ has a purpose for you.

    Reply
  24. anonymous

    How exactly should a wife set up boundaries with a husband who is in a cycle of “sincerely” repenting of pornography use, only to go back to it and hiding it later on? This is only the second time he has been confronted and “repented” but I do not believe in my heart that it is the last. He has our pastor involved this time and all kinds of software to monitor him, but I feel like this will just mean a longer period before he goes back to it again. What do I do? I definitely caught myself being overly supportive and self sacrificing, and now I just feel like an idiot and I’m really angry about it. But I mean, he’s technically doing what he’s supposed to right now, so I don’t know where that leaves me. To be clear, he has been using pornography on and off for nearly 20 years, so even though I only confronted him twice, it’s not like it’s only happened during those two time periods, and it’s also not like he willingly confessed. What is the right response for me to have? What do appropriate boundaries look like in my situation?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Hi Anonymous, I don’t think the pastor is equipped to deal with this. What he really needs is a licensed counselor who understands about sex addictions. Sex addictions are really a way that men can feel strong without having to be strong; they can go to porn instead of dealing with their brokenness and woundedness and have to face who they really are. Honestly, the best book I’ve read about this is Surfing for God by Michael John Cusick. I highly recommend checking it out and having your husband read it. But likely the pastor is simply not equipped for this. You need a counselor. Just trying harder isn’t enough; you need real transformation, which means dealing with the root issues.

      Reply
  25. Anonymous

    What I am struggling to come to terms with is when there is trauma because of infidelity but there is complete repentance and desire to restore on both sides. I feel as though I was rushed to get over it and just get back to where things were before because he genuinely felt deep remorse and conviction to change. While we have restored in all areas, I feel like I have changed (not for the better) and can’t get back to that place of deep intimacy we used to experience. I don’t know how to get back there again, and in desperately want to.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I understand. And I’m so sorry for this. Yes, often we are rushed, and it’s okay to say, “I need more time. I’m raw. I need to see trust rebuilt.” If he’s truly repentant, he’ll understand. And if you haven’t seen a licensed counselor, that may be a good idea to help you as well.

      Reply
  26. Lonely

    So what happens when there’s an emotional affair and now 4 years later I still feel so isolated from him? It’s like it broke everything and I’m just treading water to stay married. The connection was severed. We were at a good spot in our marriage when it happened and a coworker approached him over and over. I miss who we used to be. I miss who I used to be and how I looked at him. Sex is purely for his pleasure for me (including my own orgasms are just to make him happy) he never even had a sexual relationship with her outside of touch/kiss but the emotional pain lingers. I feel stuck. I’ve prayed and shouted and I thought I forgave him but now I doubt myself because of where we are now. I want to fall in love with him again and not feel like everything he does for us is just simply for more sex. I don’t respect him and don’t know how to. And don’t feel respected or loved by him either. But idk if that’s just my perspective? He says he loves me and he tries to show it. But it all feels so shallow and fake.

    Reply
    • Lonely

      I will add that he did fully repent and feels terrible about the trauma he caused to our marriage and friendship.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        I’m so sorry. That’s so hard. Have you seen a licensed counselor together? Have you had someone help you process the betrayal trauma–because it is a trauma? That may really help.

        Reply
  27. WalkedAway

    I would be interested to see comments from those who worked through their church counseling services and saw little to no change from spouses and were the ones who walked away and had an affair. What was your process? Where are you now?

    Reply
  28. Anonymous

    This is what happened in our marriage. After ten years of strife, my husband admitted to a severe addiction to pornography. All those years, I felt hated, used, and trapped. His confession was only that though, and he would not work on repairing the damage he had caused to me. Twelve more years went by with that huge issue simply stored away. No restoration, no repair. And now it has come back to haunt us. I have not healed from the trauma and we are not emotionally connected at all. Due to neglect and emotionally abusive treatment, we are now separated.

    Reply
  29. jeff

    It seems that the words forgiveness and reconciliation are used as different words at different parts of the article and then used as similar words in other parts, such as the title.
    The Lord’s prayer and other parts of scripture teach us to forgive like God has forgiven us. Jesus knew we were going to commit the sins and paid the price before we were born. We are not reconciled to him until we repent, but we are always forgiven. God counted Jesus sacrifice towards all the sins, even the ones that happened before Jesus physically died on the cross.
    To not forgive harms the person that was wronged, not the person that had the affair. Reconciliation is completely different from forgiveness. There cannot be true reconciliation until there is repentance. Not forgiving causes bitterness. Not reconciling until there is repentance is what God does and is therefore appropriate for us. God has forgiven us of all sins, and has not withheld forgiveness, so withholding forgiveness is not appropriate for us either. God is perfect, holy, and almighty, yet has shown us immeasurable love in sending his own son to pay for the price of our sin and forgives us. Who are we to put ourselves as more offended then God and not forgive?
    No matter how much we have sinned against God, he has shown us love. Even if our spouse has hurt us, we are to show love, not contempt, not hate. Pointing out their sin to bring them to repentance is love, but takes courage and strength. God wants us to win them over so that there can be reconciliation and the angels can rejoice.

    Reply

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