Reader Question: When You’re The One Who Needs Forgiveness

Reader Question of the Week
Today’s question is one I often hear different variations of–how do I get my husband to forgive me?

Maybe you need forgiveness for cheating, or for debt, or for something else big. Here’s one woman’s conundrum:

My marriage is down the drain and mostly it is my fault. My excessive spending and taking loans (which have now amounted to [a significant debt]) without consulting my husband has created a big rift between us that seems unrepairable due to the fact he doesn’t think I will changed.

I must admit that the first time he found out, he tried to forgive, but I did It again and this time he has had it. I no it is going to take time to pay all this debt off but I don’t want to loose my family (we have a 3yr old girl) and my husband because of my selfish actions.

I feel like I am getting depressed by the unhappy environment because we barely talk only when necessary. How do I regain his trust in me and our marriage? This was surely not what I had envisioned for my marriage.

Here’s another one:

Last year my husband was traveling a lot for business and we were having some various marriage problems at the same time. I developed feelings for a neighbor, and we ended up having an affair. I broke it off after a few weeks, but my husband knows, and he’s having a hard time forgiving me. He’s not leaving me because of the kids, but he doesn’t talk to me unless he needs to. I feel so stupid and mad at myself and ashamed for what I did, but no amount of apologizing seems to do any good. What else can I try?

Both these questions have the same root: a wife has done something really horrible and broken her husband’s trust. Now how can she get her husband to forgive her?

Here are a few thoughts:

"How do I get my husband to forgive me?" Thoughts on what to do when you've broken his trust.

1. Apologies are Best Expressed in Actions, Not in Words

Saying “I’m sorry” is absolutely necessary when you’ve messed up and you need your husband’s forgiveness. But that’s only the beginning.

What your spouse really wants to know is that you are committed to never having this happen again.

So what can you do to show your spouse that you are changing? In the case of an affair, can you suggest moving or switching jobs if it will take you away from the guy? Can you ask your husband if he will share email accounts or Facebook accounts with you so that he never has to worry about what you’re doing? Can you give him your cell phone and give it up for a while?

In the case of money, can you cut up your credit cards and hand them over? Can you download a spending app on your cell phone that you can share with him to show him where the money is going? Can you consult a debt specialist about the best way to pay off the debt, and then make a plan and share it with your husband, with specific goals that you can show him that you have met? Can you figure out how you can take on the responsibility to pay off the debt, and not leave it all to him? Can you get a part-time job? Start cooking more efficiently and spending less on groceries? Have a massive yard sale?

In other words, putting yourself in a situation where you are accountable and transparent to him, and where he can see that you are serious, will often go much further than a simple apology.

2. Give Him Time to Be Angry

Your husband is really hurt. His trust is broken. You, on the other hand, are desperate to know that your marriage is going to be repaired. And it’s very hard to stand in that limbo time, when your husband is trying to work through his feelings. You’ve already worked through yours; you’re sorry, and you want things back to normal again. You want to put this behind you.

But you need to give him time to grieve. That is his right, and he needs to see that you have changed. That takes time.

In this period of limbo, throw yourself on God. Spend more time on prayer. Read your Bible a lot. Join a women’s Bible study. Find some people who can help support you and who you can talk to while your husband is working through his issues. That way you don’t have to crowd your husband and put pressure on him.

3. Truly Repent

Remember that not only have you sinned against your husband; you’ve also sinned against God. Work through your repentance with God. Read Psalm 51 on a daily basis for a time, and pray through it. Develop some true humility. That will help you work this through.

And as you’re doing that, you’ll be able to accept God’s forgiveness, which is very freeing. No, perhaps your husband hasn’t let it go yet. But you can feel restored by God, and He can help you move forward with that new humility and that new gentleness that comes from recognizing that you are fallible.

4. Do Random Nice Things

It’s tempting when he stops talking to you or when he reacts in anger to act similarly in return. Don’t. Simply be nice. I don’t mean be luvey-duvey; sending him love notes in his lunch is not appropriate, as much as you may want to do this. You can’t force the romance back. But you can get up early and make his coffee before he leaves for work, without demanding a thank you. You can take the car in for an oil change without him having to prompt you. You can buy his mom a birthday card so he doesn’t have to, and leave it for him to sign. You can just simply BE NICE.

You don’t have to announce that you’ve done these things–”did you like me getting coffee for you this morning?”. You can just do them. And gradually, as you treat him well, with respect, you may notice a thawing.

5. Work on Your Friendship

Conversation often returns before the real expressions of love, and that’s to be expected. You only start rebuilding trust one level at a time. Once you are conversing again, and you’re able to be in the same room again, start doing things as friends that don’t require a screen. Get out of the house this summer and go on hikes, or bike rides. Play golf. Do a puzzle. Anything! Just find things that you can do together that are low stress that aren’t necessarily romantic. That way you’re not forcing a relationship; you’re forging a new one.

6. Allow Room for Anger

You may think that several months have gone by, and things are progressing, so he shouldn’t be angry anymore. But it’s often just as you are starting to talk that his anger starts really surfacing. Now he may have a lot of questions–what did you do with that guy? Tell me in detail! What were you thinking when you spent all that money? etc. etc.

When he starts demanding answers, don’t say, “I’ve said I’m sorry! What else can I say? You seem to want to punish me indefinitely!” That may be natural, but he does need time to get his questions out. I’d advise answering them as honestly and succinctly (you don’t need to go into a lot of detail) as you can.

Also, avoid the impulse to defend yourself. “I wouldn’t have had the affair if you had shown some interest in me!” Or “If you hadn’t spent so much time on video games maybe I wouldn’t have felt so lonely!” Those are real issues, and do need to be dealt with. But leave them for another time, or bring them up with a counselor. For now, let him express his anger. Once you have talked about his issues, you can say, “I don’t ever want to be tempted in this way again. Can we talk about how to build our relationship so that neither of us ever strays?” Then you can mention some of your issues–video games, for instance. But leave this until after he has had a chance to deal with his anger.

6. See a Counselor

Finally, when major trust has been broken it’s often a good idea to sit down with a third party and talk things through, especially if your husband has a lot of questions, and you providing answers doesn’t seem to be satisfying him. Sometimes allowing your husband to ask you these questions with a third party present can help you figure out how much to share, and can help put limits on how many questions he could/should ask.

7. Decide What to Tell the Children

I’m a big advocate in not keeping secrets. Children pick up on things anyway, and when they know there is tension in the house, but they don’t know why, they tend to assume that they are the cause of it. Telling your children what you did, at an age appropriate level, is likely a good idea. If you had an affair, for instance, you don’t necessarily need to say “I had an affair”, but you could tell a young child that Mommy did something that hurt Daddy. That way you’re letting the child know that you are the cause of the tension. If they’re teens, it’s likely a good idea just to be honest. They’ll find out one day anyway. Before you tell the kids anything, of course, talk to your husband about it. Say, “this is what I’d like to tell the children.” But my advice is always to be honest.

During the period of time when you’re trying to get your husband to forgive you, it’s tempting to get your emotional needs met from the kids. You’re heartbroken, so you pull them closer. Don’t do this. It’s not emotionally healthy for them. If you have emotional needs, seek out a friend, not your kids.

If your husband sees you accepting responsibility in front of the kids, and not trying to sugar coat things, that will also go further in showing him that you are serious about your apology, and help your husband to forgive you faster.

If you’ve messed up your marriage, the road back can be very long. But so many marriages have found themselves even stronger several years down the road because they have worked through these issues, and they’ve learned better communication techniques and put in place more boundaries. So don’t despair–fogiveness is possible!

And ladies, if any of you have ever walked through something similar, and had to get forgiveness from your husband, and you now find your marriage stronger, can you leave a comment? That will reassure so many of my readers. And if you have any other thoughts on how to encourage your husband to forgive you, please leave them in the comments, too!


  1. A reader who wants to remain anonymous sent me this to post:

    As the daughter of someone who cheated I agree wholeheartedly with Sheila’s advice on telling the children when they are old enough to know what that means. My sister and I had the unfortunate experience of hearing it from a still very angry and bitter woman whose husband cheated on her with my mom. We had known there had been huge problems in our home growing up and a lot of neglect and abuse resulted from it. We received the emotional scars without knowing why and then found out from the one person who could paint the situation in the very worst way. She was hoping to devastate my parents by telling us, however, it crippled me and my sister as well.

    I have been the one in my family who broke the trust with spending. Get rid of every possible temptation now! You do not want to keep making that same mistake. I thankfully did not end up divorced but it took a long time to prove that I had changed. (Years.) It does get better though with time.

  2. Your advice is right on. Being the woman that screwed up. It was a hard road back and has been a work in progress for 13 years. It never disappears, and the scar is permanent. But just like the physical scars of an injury. The pain fades, even the scar fades, every once in a while you look down and see the scar again. Forgiveness is key to recovery- but it’s a process. If you both decide to stay be prepared for a long journey in love- actions!

  3. It has been 15 years. I have gone to counseling for my own issues of abandonment as a child, and a marriage counselor for 2 years. My husband has refused to go. It is a tough scenario. I don’t want to leave but I want more from our relationship. I feel as though I have shown I am sorry for my actions. I don’t want to be the one to break up the family. Even though our sons are in college, it would be devastating for them. Sigh!

  4. I have had minor contact with exes that I shouldn’t have my husband found out and now he says he is done with me. We have Ben together. For 15 years. But only married 1 I’m completely broken and have no idea what to do.

  5. As being the betrayer, it was the worst mistake of my life. me and my husband were married 13 years, have two small children. financial stress was at an all time high, my husband was always working, i was always working, taking care of the kids, cleaning and all house responsibilities. Most of the time I was i was alone with my children. Weddings, family parties, outings, birthday parties, doctors appts, school activities, after school activities, church- always just me and the kids and I was starting to get so bitter because my husband was never around. This situation went on for years, never dating anymore, then hardly talking. I was very stressed and lonely and lost myself in an extramarital affair. When my husband found out, my world was forever changed. He was so angry and raging and said in 3 months he would be divorced from me. Crying, grieving and remorse were so heavy for 5 months (he didnt leave, says he is staying for the kids). In the beginning, I broke down on how badly I hurt my husband. I prayed everyday and still do. For those 5 months following, I researched and have been mindful that actions speak louder than words and in the worst of it when I felt so overwhelmed with shame and remorse, God was always there and never gave up on me. He will not sleep next to me still but now we are starting to talk again like friends and everyday I pray and make it a priorty to be so gracous for him and my children and that he has not left or filed for divorce. How could have been so selfish? I do believe my constant effort to.change to be more thankful for what I have, not to complain on frivolous things that were just causing more stress and an unhappy home; have thawed the situation considerably. I realize now that communication is so vital in a marriage as well as the way you communicate. Actions make a huge impact. At 7 months I still sleep alone and get sad and lonely but I am perservering to hopefully gain forgiveness as well as a reconciliation. It is a rough journey but to me is worth all the effort and I am changing for the better also.

  6. This post was very helpful to me. I love all the things that you said. Thank you.

  7. Hi. I am a husband on the otherside of this issue.
    I found out my wife cheated on me. It destroyed me. It was a total collapse of my reality.
    The greater part of a relationship with your partner is trust, honesty, and physical intimacy. So after infidelity what is there? Every thing in that relationship is now covered in a disgusting coating of betrayal.
    I read this because my wife keeps asking me how long she must suffer. And asking why I cant just forgive her. And what she can do to prove she is sorry, and prove that it will not happen again.
    The answer is exactly what I read here I think. Acts of love. Because you have shown that your sweet words and promises of devotion and love are just that. Words.
    There is a great line I remembered from a movie when this happened to me. ” the bank of fidelity and trust is a tough lender”.
    The marriage we had is gone. Its dead. It will never be the same. Even if I decide to stay with her.
    My grief and anger come from the death of my wife. Not in literal. But in the essence that who I loved and married was a lie. Because who would live or marry someone who they thought would cheat on them?
    I sure as heck wouldnt. So my wife (who I thought she was) died that day.
    Thats what you have to fix ladies. Mend the heart of a man who’s wife and partner just died.

  8. This post gives me hope.

  9. I did something bad and I spent all of the money in our savings account. I lied to my husband about it and i completely lost his trust. What would be something I could do to make up for this to show how sorry I am?

    • If you are truely remorseful, show through actions as they speak more than words. Offer to get another job without complaint and offer to immediately have your checks deposited into a savings account and offer to show him a weekly or monthly status of the account. Write a letter to him, sometimes expression through writing can get your point across. Dont give up yet, broken trust will take time to rebuild.

  10. I just wanted follow up to my previous post from October. God has truely helped and guided me on the road to rebuilding myself to be ever so gracious for everything and be a better person. With persistance and daily prayer my family has cpme togeher and I am so much happier and am ever so forgiving of others. How can I expect forgiveness if i dont forgive? I realize that i have caused so much pain and anguish to someone who loved me and i am repenting and changing for the better.
    Going through this has literally been the toughest and worst thing i have ever gone through but I do believe that Jesus uses some of the most painful things in life to be more like him.
    I can understand how painful and awful people on both ends of the ordeal can feel and the anger, bitterness and rage that can come from it because i lived it. If remorse is truely felt, please dont give up hope. God has listened to me everytime i spoke to him. My life is forever changed and I know that my husband believes my remorse and realizes my actions to repent to make amends. Its still hard and 8 months later we are still sleeping apart but to me all the hard work I have been doing to make our relationship better is worth the chance to have our marriage work out.

  11. I cheated on my fiancé. The anger he has towards is sometimes more than I can bare. He wants details, and once I give him details there’s more anger. I feel so remorseful I cry so many times in a day. I can’t eat. I have lots 14 lbs. I can’t sleep. I’m in a nursing course and I can’t function to study. I lied so much it spiralled out of control. I kept lying he kept digging, finding out everything. I’m willing to do whatever it takes. He wants to hurt me by doing what I did, but he said he’ll tell me he’s going to do it. Im dying inside. I don’t know what to do. Please help.

  12. Thank you for this advice.

  13. AJ Collins says:

    It has been 18 months since my husband discovered my emotional affair. The road is a rough road to travel. .. but you have to walk it, sometimes hand in hand, sometimes silently at either side.
    What got us through is prayer and intentional acts of love, and 3 months of marital counseling.
    You just have to keep working at it. Keep talking. Keep making physical contact (if you can), hugs, kisses, back rubs, anything for connection. It is hard, but worth it.
    AJ Collins recently posted…Finding Grace in ExhaustionMy Profile

  14. I cheated on my husband and am pregnant from the other man. My husband is so loving and forgiving, I just don’t understand why he keeps loving me. He needs me to completely break it off with the other man and I haven’t been able to. He is the father of my child and I don’t know how I can just not allow him to be a part of this pregnancy but that is what I have to do to save my marriage. They both are telling me they love me and want me to be with them. I need the strength to make the right decision. I hate what I have done and the pain I have caused everyone. I need prayer. Thank you.

  15. Jeff and Cheryl Scruggs healed from an affair

  16. I am a deployed Soldier to be called by his wife of nearly 18 years that she has had a relationship with a guy from the gym. She then calls me the next day to inform me that she invited him into our house two days before Thanksgiving while kids were in school to help bake pies and have what she swears was only a kiss, this was not to long after talking with me on the phone. Being deployed this tore me up I lost all trust and the fact she shared something with him that she said she loved doing with just me. I felt like a second rate citizen and the things I loved doing with my wife going to the gym, cooking I can not do no more. I am still not sure if we will fully recover, I am very protective of my feelings and she was my only one who I had entrusted my heart to. I wanted a divorce, but we have four kids and I do have feelings for her. It will take time and I am not sure it will ever be the same and I am not sure she is telling me the truth that there was no sexual just kissing, but for me the emotional and the fact that she brought him into what she always called a safe haven our home hurts me the worse.
    We do continue to have prayers over skype because I do not want them to know but eventually I would imagine they will have to know although I am deployed which makes it easier in not explaining, they do not see the tension. When I get back I really cannot put a time limit on recovery and if I sense that she is holding back I told her I will leave. So be honest and things DO NOT GET better with time. If struggling in trust then get a base line by have her or him take a polygraph. I have considered this. I will tell you the advice in this article is good and my wife is following it, do not take the victim role it was your choice to commit the act and your husband, like me, will go into his cave and you will not hear from him if you cannot realize what you have done.

  17. I confided in my husbands family because I was living in fear and we were going through an extremely rough first year of marriage. I trusted his family to help but it has led them to competely cut us off and disown us. It was a big no-no to tell them anything negative that their son and brother had done. I had good intentions but they do not see it that way. My husband is angry and feels I shamed him. He regularly threatens to leave me. He withholds affection, conversation, and love and he curses me and ignores me when I try to talk to him. If I try to initiate something fun for us to do he rejects me. I feel so alone. I’ve begged for forgiveness and have stopped going to others for marital help. He still refuses to forgive me. He is not the same man that I married. I feel so very lonely and I am tired. Everyday I am reminded of my mistakes by the way he neglects me and treats me. After months of trying to do good for him and I break down and cry he just screams at me and tells me that I should not be surprised that our marriage is this way and he reminds me yet again why he doesnt like me. I am desperate for forgiveness and if he will not I would rather him just leave me. It is killing me on the inside. I feel like God had forsaken me. I cry out to him and beg God to forgive me and heal my marriage but every day I am reminded of how much the man I love despises and hates me. Please give me some advice and please don’t say counseling. Someone who hates me this much will not go to counseling with me. He sees it adoesn’t a waste of time. Perhaps me being kind is actually pushing him away??? I don’t know anymore

  18. I cheated on my husband and he forgave me right away. I never experienced so much love and forgiveness. However it has been 4 months, and he still says he has so much hate and anger toward the man. We were talking, and I was getting frustrated he wasn’t over it yet. I know what I did was wrong, but I thought forgiveness was also about moving on. Reading people posting about it taking years to heal makes me sad, but also shows me it’s normal to grieve a long period.

    After two months, he said he couldn’t handle the pain and he thought divorce may be the best choice. A friend told me to fight for my marriage. Although I thought the man is the one to fight for his woman, in this situation I knew I needed to fight hard for him. I’m glad I did!

    He also said he things about the affair 3-5 times a day. That killed me! It hurts so bad to know the man I love so deeply I have hurt so bad. I see I need to pray daily for him and our marriage. Keep fighting!

    • Rachel, it sounds like you have a great husband! And yes, it does take a long time to truly heal and move on. That is normal, but I know it’s hard when you’re in limbo.

  19. Anonymous says:

    I cheated on my husband and wished I could have undone the damage I created. My husband meant the world to me I wish I prayed more over my marriage than turn to infidelity to fix a void in my relationship.It’s been hard and several months have past. I prayed like I never prayed before and my husband forgive me but still won’t forget. He truly loves me and is a wonderful man. Marriage is hard work but i pray someone doesn’t make the mistake i made. Love, fight, God, and prayer is the key to a successful relationship. I thank god everyday for giving me a second chance with my husband our relationship is better and stronger than before.

  20. Sheila, I could use some advice. Ive been married for 7 years. In the past I have had anger outbursts that left my wife and I both feeling horrible. These outbursts have caused her to build a wall around her heart. I have found out she has slept with someone she works with. She says she still talks to him but nothing inappropriate. She says she does not want to be married. I asked her for 3 months of working on ourselves. Not our marriage. Just ourselves. Hoping and praying she decides to try and reconcile. I love her. Even after the affair I would still lay my life on the line for that woman. I can forgive. But will never forget. I feel I was the cause of her infidelity. She was seeking the attention she was not getting at home. I am a stay at home dad. And she works 50 to 60 hours a week. Please help. Any advice would be amazing. Thanks

    • Miquel Rogers says:


      Do not throw yourself under the bus so fast.

      You did not cause her to stray it was her choice.

      Why would you post the same if you became a cripple, or your employment was gone forever.

      Remember the vows “for better or for worse in richer or poorer”.

      Too many betrayed blame themselves, and the decision to stray is already closing of the heart.

      However now you got to get stronger just in case she decides “its over permenantly”.

      Best of support your way.

  21. I personally have not had an affair but I emotionally hurt my boyfriend a lot and degraded him as a man. He now has backed up to the point of not talking much and the I love you’s have stopped. He has stopped all physical touch. He ignores my texts 99 percent of the time. I love him dearly and he is still here so I know he still loves me and must want it to work out. Reading these posts I now realize I must just show niceNess and try my hardest to not hound him or try to make it turn around faster then he can go. I know in time I will regain his love again patience God and time is what I must remember.

    • Stay strong and make it your number one priority to be respectful, caring, and the person he wants to be with. I have been praying daily, just being nice and always thinking about my demeanor towards him. I emotionally wrecked mine but for 10 months now I just focus on the positive, shake the frivolous, and communicate in a positive constructive way- we now laugh together frequently, dont nag and complainabout ssmall issues- there is so muchcto be thankful for with him. Think of three positive traits you love about him everyday, be nice to each other and happy you are together. It won’t happen overnight,be patient It took a lo time to get to this poit, it will take time to heal but you will feel better too for being better. God bless and good luck

  22. My wife had an affair over a month and a half period during the summer. Like most betrayed spouses it took me by complete surprise. We told each other and everyone we knew that we were best friends and love to hang out with each other we were very proud of that. I understand my role that cultivated be environment but by no means do I take responsibility for the actions she chose. What this does to a man and his confidence is unthinkable. It’s been 5 1/2 months since I learned of about the affair and still I cry on a daily basis. What are the most sad aspects of the situation is seeing my kids look at me after I just cried and say “dad you said you’d never cry” it just breaks my heart. The man that I am now is truly sad…I feel horrible for my kids to see someone often upset sad depressed staring off into space it makes me so mad at my spouse…my wife tells me that she was a different person she was lost, she was drinking a lot, eat..and I believe her because we never really had God our life until now. My wife has done a lot in that aspect…we’ve change churches, got re-baptized, recommit ourselves a reading new Balis at our house with the pastor and church members and our family we say prayer every night before dinner and try to follow God more closely on a daily basis. If it wasn’t for this we wouldn’t be this close to God and we probably would’ve been divorced…but the daily struggles I go through make it so hard to see the goodness that is in our future. She said to me the other day “I don’t know if there’s anything that I can do that where you will look at me lovingly again’.” I believe I will but I believe it’s going to take a lot more time than she realizes because a decision she’s made changed everything…The intimacy part is the most difficult part for me and what I’ve read many men because it’s our job to take care of and defend our wife and when another man has coveted your wife and hurts more than I can ever explain. I never used to cry ever but now the tears flow much too freely. And I read an interesting quote online that said, “tears are words too painful for a broken heart to speak.” That is how I feel every time I cry and I pray to God every day that the pain will go away.

    • Miquel Rogers says:


      You too soon to forget or forgive, Its only been 3.5 months it usually takes 2 yrs for the finality of it all.

      Yes, god is great but same time you must find you.

      Do not over it over with belief system let the feeling flow freely until you are in a comfortable place “take note you” not her.

      Respond for word, brotha went thru it.

  23. I recently found out that my wife of 20 years had a affair with a married man she met while going to poetry shows with my daughter. They became facebook friends and one thing led to another and she went to meet him at a hotel. His wife found the Facebook messages and sent them to me. That was the worst day of my life. The woman I had just recently took to Jamaica on our anniversary had sex with another man. She swears it happened once and it was about 6 months ago but the damage is done. We have 2 adult daughters and a 15 year old son who all live at home. They know something is wrong because of the constant arguments. My wife claims she is sorry and is trying to go to therapy and wants me to forgive her. I just don’t know if I can. The thoughts are with me all the time. If I felt that somehow I was to blame it might be easier to forgive but I honestly don’t think it was me. I’m a family man in every sense of the word. I always tell her I love her, how sexy I think she is. We go on dates regularly, take trips, go for walks together. I just don’t understand. What could make a woman who literally has it made throw it all away on a married guy and a one night stand?

  24. Eric sorry to hear that…I know your pain…it really hurts bad. It’s been almost 6 months since I found out and it still is so difficult to swallow. The pain has lessened a bit but I’m still distraught. Ill pray for you and your family.

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  1. […] to Help you Recover from an Affair When You’re the One Who Needs Forgiveness (if you’re the one who had the affair) Discovering Your Husband has had an […]

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