Forgiving your spouse’s infidelity won’t happen overnight. Being physically or emotionally unfaithful was a process for your spouse, and learning how to forgive him will be a process for you.
These suggestions for forgiving a spouse’s infidelity are inspired by a wife – Anna – who commented on my article about trusting a spouse after infidelity. Her husband was unfaithful after 17 years of marriage; she shared how hurt, confused, and crushed by her husband’s affair.
On How to Trust Your Husband After an Affair, Anna says she trusted her husband more than anyone in the world. She found out about his infidelity by accident, from text messages between him and the woman he was cheating with. Her spouse doesn’t want a divorce, doesn’t want to leave their home, and minimizes his infidelity. “He has promised how much he loves only me and swears constantly he does not want a divorce,” Anna says. “He has said many times that he will never let me go and will follow me (to a new town, state, anywhere)….we went to a marriage and family therapist. We made no headway and I still don’t know how to forgive infidelity in marriage. I don’t know if I should stay married or leave and move on with my life.”
Below are my thoughts on how to forgive infidelity in marriage. Remember that what works for me may not work for you! These are the things that I know would help me find forgiveness and healing.
I encourage you to share your thoughts on how to find forgiveness after a spouse’s infidelity below. I can’t give advice, but you may find it helpful to express how you feel and what you think. Writing often brings clarity and insight.
How to Forgive Infidelity
“Forgiveness means letting go and knowing that – regardless of how challenging, frightening, or difficult an experience may seem – everything is just as it needs to be in order for you to grow and learn,”says by Iyanla Vanzant, author of Forgiveness: 21 Days to Forgive Everyone for Everything. “When you focus on how things ‘should be’, you deny the presence and power of love.”
Forgiving infidelity will be a daily choice you have to make. Whether or not you stay married, you need to learn how to forgive your spouse for being unfaithful.
Let go of how your marriage “should be”
Accept and surrender to the infidelity. Your spouse cheated on you – it’s not right or good or condonable…but it happened. The sooner you surrender to the fact that your husband was unfaithful, the closer you are to starting the forgiveness process.
You will prolong your pain if you keep wishing the infidelity didn’t happen. Forgiving an unfaithful spouse is about surrendering to the fact that your husband had an affair. He strayed. There was something missing in your marriage, and he found it elsewhere. Acceptance is key to learning how to forgive infidelity in marriage, because with acceptance comes freedom and release.
If you’re struggling to accept the infidelity, read Byron Katie’s Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life. She writes about accepting what is, and it’s so liberating and life-giving! She has helped thousands of people heal after devastating situations, from loss to infidelity in marriage to fatal illnesses.
Talk about infidelity – and forgiveness – with your spouse
It will be uncomfortable to ask your spouse why he was unfaithful and what he was seeking outside of marriage. Talking about infidelity will be excruciating for both you and him…but it is crucial for the forgiveness process.
In What to Do When You Find Out Your Wife Cheated on You, I share a few thoughts from a book about infidelity in marriage. One of the most important tips on how to forgive infidelity in marriage is to communicate about the affair. The unfaithful spouse has to put aside his discomfort at talking about his infidelity, and allow you to ask him why, what, when, where, how often.
Get guidance and support
Conversations about infidelity are painful, emotional, and confusing. It might be helpful to find a counselor, therapist, or even a trusted pastor or wise mentor to keep your discussions on track. You and your spouse may be tempted to veer off into areas that are unrelated or unhelpful.
You don’t necessarily need to attend weeks or months of marriage counseling to learn how to forgive your spouse for the infidelity. Maybe you just need a single session, to learn how to talk about marriage infidelity and forgiveness. Maybe you yourself want to attend a few extra sessions with a counselor so you learn what forgiveness looks and feels like.
Don’t allow your spouse to brush away his infidelity
A guilty husband might be inclined to shrug off his unfaithfulness because he knows the pain you’re in and the extent of his betrayal.
It’s easier to run away from the pain and try to forget the infidelity, betrayal, devastation. This is NOT a healthy way to forgive infidelity in marriage. It is selfish and short-sighted. Stand firm if your spouse wants you to just forget about the infidelity and move on. Part of learning how to forgive infidelity in marriage is learning how to assert yourself in your marriage.
Learn when to stop talking about the infidelity
There will come a time when it’s pointless and even harmful to keep talking to your spouse (or other people) about his infidelity. You can’t keep going around the same mountain repeatedly, or you risk causing further damage to your marriage.
On Should You Leave Your Husband?, Michelle said:
“We started marriage counseling because I just could not forgive my husband’s unfaithfulness. But it was almost pointless because he would cry to the counselor about how he was a changed man and so remorseful.
Because of this the counselor saw no reason to keep seeing us and said I needed to learn how to forgive his infidelity. I still cry daily about the affair and it’s been a year! I feel so stuck in my pain. My husband seems ‘over it’, as if it never happened. When I bring it up he sighs and rolls his eyes. I would divorce him but we have a 3 year old and a newborn. I left my career to be a stay at home mom. I have no family to go to for help with rebuilding a life. I feel stuck…I can’t forgive him because I don’t understand the reason he was unfaithful…I have NEVER denied him nor am I closed minded about sex. So why cheat on me?!?!? I am stuck in my pain. I hate my life. But I don’t want my kids to grow up without a dad like I did. Ugg I’m so sad. How do I forgive an unfaithful spouse when I’m so stuck?”
Get individual counseling if you can’t forgive your spouse
Forgiveness is for YOU. You need to learn how to forgive infidelity because it will ease your pain and cleanse your heart. Regardless of whether you stay married or leave your spouse, you need to work towards forgiveness for your own sake.
If you’re struggling to forgive, ask God to help you see your spouse differently. Sometimes forgiveness is easier when we see life from the unfaithful spouse’s perspective. Understanding the nature of the infidelity and forgiveness from God’s point of view might help you break free from the pain.
Before you can forgive your spouse for infidelity, you have to believe he won’t betray you again. Do you trust your husband? Read How to Know If He’ll Cheat Again. If your instincts are telling you that your spouse will be unfaithful again, then you need to decide if you should make changes in your life and marriage.
Consider a trial separation
I’m not saying that learning how to forgive a spouse for infidelity involves a separation…but if my husband was unfaithful, I’d want space. I wouldn’t want to be constantly reminded of our marriage and his infidelity. For me, healing and forgiving would involve taking time away from my husband so I could rebuild my emotional and spiritual resources. I might go away for a couple of months, or ask my husband to leave.
I realize other factors complicate a separation – kids, money, a husband who won’t leave. But, the hassle of organizing a trial separation might be worth the peace, clarity, and healing you might find.
“Before you can live a part of you has to die. You have to let go of what could have been, how you should have acted and what you wish you would have said differently. You have to accept that you can’t change the past experiences, opinions of others at that moment in time or outcomes from their choices or yours. When you finally recognize that truth then you will understand the true meaning of forgiveness of yourself and others. From this point you will finally be free.” ― Shannon L. Alder.
Help Forgiving Infidelity
In Healing Your Marriage When Trust Is Broken: Finding Forgiveness and Restoration, author Cindy Beall shares how her life changed forever a few days after an ordinary Valentine’s Day. She listened with disbelief to her husband, Chris, a respected pastor, confess to pornography addiction, numerous affairs, and the startling news that a woman was pregnant with his child.
This book will help you learn how to forgive your spouse’s infidelity. With raw honesty and intimate knowledge of pain and of God’s power to resurrect something new out of the debris of betrayal, Cindy reveals how to:
- Seek guidance, counseling, and prayer support when deceptions surface
- Help the family heal from the grief and humiliation
- Rebuild trust after porn, sex, and other addictions undermine a relationship
- Protect a marriage from lies and unfaithfulness
- Rely on God to pursue forgiveness and move forward in new promises
Cindy’s compassion, grasp of God’s Word, and the Bealls’ remarkable story will help you find forgiveness and peace in infidelity. You’ll learn how to trust God with your broken hearts and follow His leading, hope, and redemption.
Your thoughts on how to forgive infidelity in marriage are welcome, but I can’t offer advice or guidance. I read every comment and will say a prayer for you and your spouse…may you find forgiveness and peace that surpasses all understanding.