Ann’s face fell. “You have to forgive your husband, you know,” said Sherry. “That’s what the Bible says.”
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13
“But, he betrayed me,” Ann whispered, wiping back the tears that flowed unchecked. Guilt flooded her broken heart. Could she forgive her husband?
When my husband revealed his pornography addiction, he asked if I could ever forgive him. While I knew that I needed to forgive him, I struggled.
Forgiving your husband does not equal trust.
Once broken, trust takes time to rebuild. The offender and offended both have roles in rebuilding trust.
Each time you:
- tell the complete truth,
- back up your words with supportive actions, and
- keep your promises,
you build trust with the other person. Failure to do so continues to erode and damage your relationship.
Forgiving your husband doesn’t remove the consequences of the offending action.
When Jesus hung on the cross with the two thieves, one mocked him. But one thief recognized Jesus’ innocence. Jesus spoke to this thief, forgave him of his sins, but didn’t exonerate him from death on a cross. The consequences of the thief’s choices and actions demanded payment. It’s the same way in our marriages.
When we extend forgiveness, sometimes, the consequences must work themselves out.
Forgiving your husband may not be a one-time act.
Too often, we quote the above Bible verse out of context. The whole passage helps us understand the difference of living life selfishly, trapped by sin, with a life lived according to Jesus’ sacrificial death and redemption of those sins. This life involves a daily choice to walk freely in God’s ways and because of His forgiveness of my sin. Yes, I forgave my husband for what he’d done. Yet, the anger I felt told me I had a lot of work to do to walk out my quickly-spoken forgiveness. As I healed, I often forgave him moment by moment. I chose to forgive when the doubts crept in based on his actions up to that point.
When you’re wounded, fear magnifies your doubts. And when that happens, I have to choose to forgive again. Just like I want forgiveness each time I screw up, wound my husband, or use words like daggers to shred his heart, so I choose forgiveness. It’s not an emotional response, but an act of the will.
The #1 Mistake you can make when forgiving your husband? Choosing to go back to normal.
Your life up until now got you into this mess. Don’t go back to normal.
According to Rick Reynolds, Founder & President of Affair Recovery,
“You can’t go on living life as normal if you want to bring healing to your marriage after a betrayal. Normal is what got you into this. Changes need to be made to give your mate assurance that you’re taking responsibility for your problem and being proactive to prevent it from happening again.”
The first clue I had about this possible addiction happened quite surprisingly late at night. However, in my shocked state, I refused to probe further. Instead, I blew it off, covered up my fears and feelings, and got back to life as we knew it.
Nine years later, the BEST thing Dave and I did after his confession was to seek immediate help. Coming clean hurt. Hearing my husband give details about the depth of the addiction ripped the wound wider. I hated it. Yet, our life could never be what it was. Thankfully!
Wrapped up in our normal life to this point were several unhealthy patterns.
We didn’t argue. Yes, we discussed issues, but if either one of us felt the tension, we’d back away by ending the conversation or switching the topic. Naively, I thought we had a great marriage because we didn’t fight. But that avoidance didn’t resolve anything. It stuffed our emotions, choosing to be false with each other instead of seeking a healthy resolution to our conflict.
Without realizing it, as a young teen, I took an inner vow not to be hurt by another person. That decision drove my people-pleasing need to make others happy. I avoided revealing my real thoughts and feelings, believing others would be disappointed, angry, or embarrassed by me. It’s exhausting to live this way.
Heightened need to be needed.
When we identified this behavior pattern during one of our coaching sessions, I felt stunned. I’d believed I was an independent woman and thinker, able to take care of myself. However, the truth revealed my neediness. Whether at work, home, with friends, it didn’t matter. I needed to be needed by everyone. Crazily both my husband and I suffered from this same malady.
Lack of healthy boundaries.
Boundaries protect you and me. They help us know where one person ends, and the other begins. Drs. Cloud and Townsend equate boundaries to property lines. We didn’t know and respect each other’s needs because we hadn’t erected noticeable property lines. We were hiding our feelings and steering clear of any emotionally charged exchange.
These are just a few of the unhealthy patterns. Yet, to move beyond the trauma and pain of pornography addiction, massive changes needed to happen.
Normal needed a new definition.
Over the last thirteen years, we continue to work on authentic living, total honesty, and resolving conflict well.
While I wouldn’t wish what we went through on anyone, I’m thankful for that shock. God redeems when we run to Him and rescues when we call His name. He restores the broken.
Forgiving my husband for his betrayal involved honestly facing that betrayal head-on. We stared down this monster, then chose a different path for life. One that necessitates changes for both of us. The result is a remade relationship built on trust, faithfulness, forgiveness, and vulnerability.
Dear one, are you shocked by your husband’s pornography addiction revelation? I get it. Your wound is real, deep, and devastating.
You can get to the point of forgiveness, but maybe not today. It is not a simple process to work through the damage wrought by this addiction. The first step is to acknowledge the personal and soul assassination you’ve experienced. Sound too harsh? Not if you’ve lived it.
It’s time to reach out for help. I offer free resources, a tender heart, and one-on-one support through my short-term After Shock Recovery coaching. You deserve to heal whether he decides to change or not. You don’t have to live with that pain. I can help.