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

Reader Question of the WeekToday’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!

When Your Marriage is in Crisis–Fight!

Fight for Your MarriageThere’s a great scene in the movie Laws of Attraction when Julianne Moore and Pierce Brosnan, who have been in crisis, meet up in a grocery store. And Julianne Moore says, “Sometimes they say you have to fight for your marriage. Do you want to fight?”

So let me ask you today, “are you willing to fight“?

Because sometimes we’re too quick to give in to defeat and feelings of anger and bitterness and disappointment and even just plain hurt and heartache.

Let me tell you of one email I received today, which is quite typical. Here’s the situation:

She’s always been sensitive about her body. She’s a little overweight and not very well endowed. But she used to have fun buying cute lingerie and making herself pretty for him. Then, when she was pregnant, she found out that he was watching porn and that he had cheated on her. He’s now done a complete 180. He’s strong with God. He’s a great dad. He’s truly repentant. He’s got accountability, and he’s not using porn.

It’s not really about forgiving him, she says. That’s not her problem. The problem is that now she doesn’t feel sexy. What’s the point? She used to do all these “fun” things to attract him and they didn’t work. He strayed anyway. All that work in preparing herself and all the while he was looking at women with totally different bodies. He simply isn’t attracted to her. And every time he touches her she feels that. So they just don’t make love anymore, and she doesn’t know how to get past it. How can she ever feel attractive to him again?

Do you feel her pain? I certainly do. That would be so awful; to feel like your husband went for a totally different body type. To feel as if no matter what you did, you could never be good enough. The rejection would be huge.

But here’s the thing: it’s precisely because that hurts so much that it is such an effective weapon. And so you now have a choice:

1. Do I give in to what are perfectly legitimate feelings? Do I let the anger drive a permanent wedge between us?

2. Do I fight against these feelings and try to rebuild intimacy?

Most people choose #1 because they don’t see a choice. That’s how I feel, after all. I can’t change my feelings. And he’s the one who cheated! It’s not me who is wrecking the marriage; it’s what he did.

I realize that. But so what if you’re right? What does being right get you? It lets you feel perfectly righteous all the way to divorce court. It doesn’t rebuild a relationship. Or maybe you never split up, but you lead two completely separate lives under the same roof, and that is not good for your children.

I truly think the only option is #2. You’ll never find peace or intimacy if you pursue #1. You may say, “he needs to make it up to me,” but how can he? He can’t take it away.

And so the ball is in your court–even if that feels unfair.

So fight! Here are some thoughts on how:

1. Recognize that your husband is not the enemy

This is a tough one. Your husband was the one who did wrong. Your husband cheated on you. But right now, he is not the enemy. He loves you and wants to rebuild the relationship. The enemy is Satan, or, if you don’t like that, the enemy is all of these negative thoughts that are in your head trying to pull the two of you apart.

Think about it this way: what would you do if someone threatened your child? You would fight with every ounce of strength that you had to protect your child.

Divorce hurts kids. And what is threatening your child right now? It’s not what he did. It’s those thoughts that are tearing you apart.

If you would fight a stranger tooth and nail who was trying to hurt the kids, then put that same energy into fighting those thoughts.

Yes, it’s hard. They’re legitimate feelings. But that’s why you have to FIGHT. Fight is not a calm word. It takes energy. It takes emotion. It’s difficult. But you have to do it.

2. Rebuild Trust

Right now you’re fixating on all the ways that he chose other women over you–again, very understandably. But if you’re going to move ahead, you have to build something new–build some place in your relationship where he’s obviously choosing you. So work on your friendship. Do things together. Go for walks after dinner just to talk. Share dreams. Plan about where you’d like your family to be in five years. Make financial plans together. Make vacation plans. Plan for what you want to do with your children.

If you can play together, and do things together, and look at the future together, you’ll start to think of yourself as a unit again.

3. Pray

Sex is more than just physical. Sex is also supposed to be a true spiritual connection. Making love is not the same as having sex. What your husband did was have sex with other women–and fantasize about other women. But what he has with you is far deeper. It’s about a total becoming one flesh. It’s a complete connection. And ultimately he chose you. Maybe you worry he did that because of the kids. That’s understandable. But even that shows that there is something special that you share that no one else does. Your connection is deeper than theirs.

So deepen it. Spend time praying together, even if it’s tough (that’s where the fighting comes in again!). If you can start to feel like you’re spiritually one, it’s easier to break through other barriers. And it’s easier to want to feel intimate in other ways again.

4. Be Honest

You’re insecure. It’s okay to tell him that. It’s okay to ask him to go slow and to try to woo you again. Ask him to show you that he enjoys your body, too. And if he’s having a hard time because he’s all tied up in guilt, take things slowly. Don’t necessarily make love, but spend time naked together. Be intimate. Just kiss. Start small and see if feelings return.

It’s okay to make love while you’re crying for all the things you’ve lost. It’s okay to make love while your heart is breaking. And his probably is, too. That’s just being honest, and sometimes when we’re honest the sexual feelings come even more powerfully. So be honest, but don’t avoid intimacy. Just try to build it based first and foremost on you being one flesh, not on it just being about sexual desire.

5. Take Pride in Yourself

One last thing: if you become so insecure about your body, and say, “there’s no point in even trying because I wasn’t good enough when I did try”, who do you end up punishing? Your husband? Certainly, because men are visually stimulated.

But I think you punish yourself more. If you let yourself become dumpy, for lack of a better word, how are you going to feel about yourself? How are your children going to see you?

You are a beautiful woman. God created you just as you are. Whether your husband rejected you or not, you are still lovely in God’s eyes. It’s not about how your husband sees you; it’s about how you see yourself and how God sees you. If you become dumpy, you’re letting the world know, “I don’t think I’m worth much.” But if you put effort in, and take pride in your appearance, you’re letting the world know, “I like who I am. I’m comfortable with me. If other people don’t share that feeling, that’s their problem, not mine.”

Which do you think is more beneficial to you, and your kids, in the long run? Putting in effort, or letting yourself fall apart?

You see, my friends, if you give in to those negative feelings, all you do is punish yourself (and your kids, and your husband). They’re legitimate, sure, but it’s not worth it. So FIGHT. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it takes effort. But God loves a good fight, and He is there to do battle for you. He is waiting for you to put on your armour and say, “I’m entering the battle field.” Do that, and He will show up, big time, and will fight for you.

It reminds me of this graphic I put up on Facebook this week:


How Do I Forgive My Husband?

What Does It Mean to Really Forgive Your Husband? A different way of thinking about it...

I get the emails or comments on this blog all the time: “My husband confessed he uses porn, and I can’t get past it. How do I forgive him?” Or “my wife had an affair and I can’t see my way through this. How can I ever treat her normally again?”

Forgiving your husband (or wife) is hard.

A while ago I reviewed Vicki Tiede’s book When Your Husband is Addicted to Pornography, and she said something very interesting about forgiveness. In essence, she said that God does not ask us to forgive in a way that He does not. He asks us to forgive AS He forgives. And how does He forgive? He forgives fully and graciously, but only when people repent and turn to Him. He doesn’t forgive everybody.

1 John 1:9 says:

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

The confession comes before the forgiveness.

Jesus’ blood covers everyone’s sins, but it is only applied to those who repent. And if that’s how God forgives, then God does not ask us to forgive lightly, either. God does not say that if someone confesses a sin, but doesn’t really turn from it, or doesn’t really have any intention of changing, that we need to forgive.

I thought about that long and hard, because that’s quite contrary to what I’ve normally thought about forgiveness. Yet Vicki makes a good point.

She says that “cheap forgiveness” can do more harm than good.

Let’s say a guy is addicted to porn, for instance, and his wife finds out. He acts all contrite because he knows he’s in trouble, and asks her to forgive him. She does, because she feels that she has to, and so she tries her best to treat him exactly the same as before. He goes on sneaking around behind her back again because there is no need to actually change.

God wants us to do the hard work of healing and repentance, and if we offer forgiveness quickly, when there is no change of heart, we take away the need to do that hard work.

I agree with her. I do. And yet I was uncomfortable with this line of thinking. I have tended to think of forgiveness as something we offer partly for ourselves. We grant forgiveness because it frees US. We can’t carry around this anger anymore, and we can’t live always tied to something from the past. We need to walk forward with God.

Perhaps much of this problem is that we mean so many different things by the word “forgiveness”. Vicki was using it to mean a fully restored relationship: you cannot have a fully restored relationship if there has not been a change of heart from the one who has done wrong. Reconciliation demands true honesty and repentance.

But there is an element of forgiveness that does not depend on the other person, and this is how I’ve come to see it:

To me, forgiveness means taking the hurt, no matter what it is, and placing it in God’s hands and saying: I don’t want it anymore. Take it from me. I leave it to You to bring justice. I leave it to You to work out dealing with my offender. I leave it to You to fight for me. As for me, I will walk forward, with this left behind me.

That’s saying, “God, I believe that you are a just God who loves me and will go to battle for me and will work out your purposes for me and for this person, and so I trust you. I’m not going to try to manipulate the circumstances or extract an apology or demand restitution. I’ll leave it all up to you, and I trust you with it.”

How to Forgive Your Spouse

Forgiving your spouse is really more a matter of trust than anything else.

And forgiveness is about letting go. When I walked through the whole forgiveness process with my father, who left when I was very young, I had to come to terms with the fact that he would never apologize, because he didn’t really understand what he had done. He did not get the magnitude of how much he hurt me. And I realized that a part of me was hanging on to the dream that one day he would sit down and spill out all of his offences, and apologize for them, and ask me to forgive him. Forgiveness, though, means letting go of the dream that he will one day ask that. Forgiveness means putting that dream in God’s hands. God will be the One to fight for you. There is justice, and God will work it out. Perhaps the person will come to repentance and will claim Jesus’ forgiveness. And perhaps they will not. But regardless, God will go to bat for you. You don’t have to. And if we let go of this dream of an apology or acknowledgement of our hurt, then we can move forward.

Recently I was out with a young friend of mine who had been a victim of a violent random attack. She’d been skittish since this happened, and had experienced a difficult time processing it. We were just chatting about nothing in particular, but I was in the middle of writing the review for Tiede’s book, so I was just talking out loud about some of these thoughts. And I told her what I was thinking about forgiveness: it’s not saying it didn’t matter, and it’s not saying we’re best friends now. It’s just putting the whole thing in God’s hands and letting Him deal with it. It’s letting go of the need or dream of any apology or acknowledgement because you know God will handle it. And it’s turning away from it and walking forward.

Trust in the Lord

A few weeks later her mom called me and said, “I don’t know what you said but she’s been so much LIGHTER.” That made me lighter, too.

I think in marriage that this can be the hardest thing. We want the other person to pay. We want them to list out all their sins in great detail and grovel. And yet I believe the proper model is that if there is true repentance, which is always accompanied by confession, not secrecy, and by a dedication to work hard to ensure that it doesn’t happen again, then you forgive your husband, let it go and are fully reconciled. If there is not that repentance, and the sin is one that could seriously endanger the marriage (like adultery, or addictions, or porn), then you act smart. You draw boundaries. You do not become fully reconciled yet.

But you also leave it to God. You don’t punish your spouse. You don’t demand. You don’t play scenarios over and over in your mind where your spouse humiliates himself or herself before you. You hand the offense over to God and ask Him to take care of it. You let go of the need for that sin to ever be fully acknowledged, or to ever receive a full apology. That’s what that waiting period means: you trust in God to take care of it. And in the meantime, you act in love, but also in wisdom, not reconciling when there isn’t full repentance, but not living trapped in this sin, where everything in your life revolves around your anger and your need for restitution.

Forgiveness, then, is not so much about the sin as it is about trust in God.

And that’s hard. It’s so, so hard. But it’s also so freeing.

What have you found? Have you ever had to forgive and leave something in God’s hands? Have you ever had to let go of the dream of a full apology?

Products Featured in this Post:

When Your Husband is Addicted to Pornography by Vicki Tiede
Blessed are Those that Trust in the Lord plaque

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Reader Question of the Week: Is it Trust or Accountability?

'Questions?' photo (c) 2008, Valerie Everett - license: weekend I like to throw up a question someone sends in and let you readers have a go at it. This week’s question is about trust in marriage and accountability.

I have noticed a lot of discussion among my friends for years about how much “keeping an eye” on your spouse is “normal” or healthy. One of my friends thinks that if you don’t go thru emails, text messages, and even the finances looking for odd dinners, etc. then you are just naive and stupid. Another friend says it shows lack of trust to check up on your spouse. But what do you and your readers think? Where does healthy accountability end and paranoid spying begin?

What do you think?  Leave your thoughts in the comments!

Don’t forget this summer: The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex makes a great gift for any woman about to get married!

What to Do When You Discover Your Husband’s Having an Affair

Discovering Your Husband is Having an Affair: Your Next Steps
If you’ve landed at this post, it’s likely because you just discovered your husband is having an affair. I’m so, so sorry.

It’s a cliche to say “it could happen to anyone”, but I do believe that’s true. While affairs may be more likely to happen in relationships that are distant, that have unresolved conflict, or that have tension sexually, they’re not confined to those relationships. A while ago I wrote how emotional affairs especially can pop up at work, or anywhere men and women naturally spend extended time together. Sometimes people in even good marriages do terrible things.

I remember being stunned when a neighbour of mine announced that her husband was leaving her for another woman. This was a family that did everything together–skiing trips, volunteer work. They had even taken a sabbatical and taken their kids sailing around the world! They were “Family”. Yet the husband met somebody at work, and devastated his wife and his kids in the process.

I have seen affairs happen after couples have put a lot of work into their relationships, and I have seen affairs when the relationship was already a mess. It isn’t always straightforward.

And so today I’d like to talk to the women who find themselves devastated because they’ve discovered their husband’s infidelity (and even if you’re not there, please read along, because chances are all of us know someone who will walk through this one day).

1. Surround Yourself with Help

You’re going to be devastated when your husband confesses he’s having an affair. Sometimes we don’t want to tell anyone because we’re hoping it will all go away; he’ll wake up and realize what a mistake he’s making, and then we can just go forward like nothing happened. Don’t do that. You really need some help. You need someone to talk with, and someone to pray with, and someone who will support you in your feelings.

When you feel sad and betrayed, you tend to want to go to your husband with those feelings because he’s usually the one you talk to about important things. Find someone else. You need to get some perspective.

'worth a thousand words' photo (c) 2007, Jesslee Cuizon - license:

2. Realize That Just Because Your Husband Is Having an Affair NOW, Your Marriage is Not Necessarily Over

Here’s the most important thing: while Jesus allowed divorce in the case of infidelity, he did not command it. And I know many couples who have survived affairs and emerged strong from it (I won’t say they’ve emerged better, because I don’t believe that; but I do think that God brought good out of the situation and helped them cling together).

One couple I know ended up separating for a year and a half. He needed some time to get his head on straight, and once he did, he realized he didn’t want to lose his family–he chose his wife over the “other woman”. It took several years for his wife to trust him again, but she was eventually able to. That was over fourteen years ago now, and they’re doing great.

Sometimes, too, affairs haven’t even been consummated. Maybe he’s announced that he’s “in love” with someone, and doesn’t know what to do. Physical affairs often begin as emotional affairs, and if he feels “in love”, he may think he needs to confess. But that doesn’t mean that he will necessarily act on it.

That’s why it’s important to look at the individual situation. Is your husband following Christ? Is he open to the Holy Spirit? Is this out of character for him, or is it another in a long line of affairs? Does he check out every woman and make comments about women’s appearance, or has he generally stayed faithful in mind and body beforehand?

Sometimes an affair will signal the end of the marriage, especially if a guy never really has been fully faithful. But other times it’s a mistake that he’s made, and he’s really confused, and really hurting, and it won’t mean that the marriage is over. So do not despair!



3. Take Stock of Your Anger

Now it’s time to deal with the anger that you’re feeling. In some cases, it’s not the affair that leads to the divorce; it’s the anger of the other partner. He confesses, and a big part of him wants the marriage to work, even if he can’t bring himself to say that because he’s so confused. But in her anger she pushes him away and decides that she can never trust him again.

Anger is real. Anger is even justified, I believe, when someone has betrayed you like that. But don’t make decisions in your anger, and, as much as possible, try not to push him away because of your anger. Talk to someone else about your anger. Try to work through it with a mentor. Anger is not a good partner for making decisions.

4. Focus on the Children

When you’re both confused and hurt, the thing that it’s easy to talk about is the affair itself. How could he do this? Why her? Is she better than me?

While there is a time and a place for that, it’s often better to work through the whys and the hows of the affair after you’ve made the decision whether or not you’re going to stay together.

So let’s talk about something on which you have common ground, and which can rescue the relationship: namely, the children. I wrote a post a while back on what to say to a friend who is contemplating leaving her husband. And I suggested that you steer clear of taking about the affair, because the unfaithful spouse can always justify that in his or her mind. So focus on the kids instead. Do we really want to do this to the kids? Do we want to put them through this?

Talk about what you’d like for the kids, and how you’d like them to grow up. And then perhaps it will be easier for him to choose to stay.

5. Don’t Be a Doormat


Finally, don’t be a doormat. While some women react in anger, others do the opposite, essentially saying, “I’ll do anything as long as you stay.” That’s not healthy for the relationship, and it’s likely to backfire, for one simple reason: you can’t respect a doormat. In order for him to stay, he has to want to be with you. He isn’t going to want to be with someone he can’t respect.

The best book I have ever read on this subject is Love Must Be Tough by James Dobson. It walks through how to save a marriage when only one partner wants it saved, usually because the other partner is having an affair. And he goes through the feelings that you’ll experience, shows you how to run to God with your issues, how to find your own pride and your own identity once again as you turn to God in prayer, and shows the most successful route for saving a marriage. He believes that entails allowing the wayward spouse to experience the full consequences of his actions. So rather than lying over and taking whatever he brings in his confusion, you draw clear boundaries. I highly recommend it.

I get emails every week from women who have discovered their husbands are having affairs. Some of these are online relationships; some are at work; some are at church. Some of the scenarios I read and think, “that doesn’t sound like there’s much hope (outside of a miracle)”. This is a pattern for him (and often extended even before the wedding). But others I read and think, “that could be rebuilt”.

If you ever hear that devastating news, I just pray that you will find yourself someone to talk to, read the book, and then pray about what course you will pursue. Reconciliation, if possible, is usually the best option, for you and your kids. But it is not always the best option. And whichever route God leads you through, He will always be there to carry you.

UPDATE: A reader rightly pointed out that I should have had a sixth point, namely, pray! Of course! So sorry. I assumed it throughout the points, but I should have been more up front. But prayer is so needful, especially in these hard times. This is one of those things that you can’t logically think through or logically figure out what to do, because there’s so much going on you can’t see. You need God to work–not just on your husband, but also on you to give you strength to do what’s necessary, in whatever direction. So pray! God will show up.

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Wifey Wednesday: How to Stop an Emotional Affair

How to Stop an Emotional AffairIt’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you follow up either by commenting or by writing your own post and then linking up!

On Monday I wrote a post about why affairs happen–we let seasons of distance become seasons of carelessness, and we find ourselves emotionally bonding with someone else, which can lead to more. I really should have saved the post for a Wifey Wednesday, but it came to me and so I just wrote it!

Since then I’ve received a number of emails from women who didn’t want to leave a comment saying basically, I’m in that very situation. There’s a guy I’m attracted to. What do I do?

I want to address this today in two steps. First, we’ll look at how to keep distance in your marriage to a minimum; and second, we’ll look at how to handle this guy that you’re attracted to.

1. Stop an Emotional Affair by Keeping Distance in Marriage to a Minimum

You cannot eliminate distance in a marriage, so don’t feel guilty when it happens. There are months, for instance, which are rather dry for us in the bedroom because I travel a lot, and instead of cooperating and doing-that-thing-that-prevents-sex-once-a-month while I’m gone, which would be very convenient, it seems to hit right when I get home. And then by the time I leave again for the weekend, it’s over.

Or perhaps we’re just busy with the kids, going away a lot on weekends for tournaments. This doesn’t happen all year; the way our household is set up, life is absolutely nuts every October/November and March/April, but the rest of the year is doable. So it’s kind of seasonal, and we know it.

You can’t prevent it. You can also have distance because your parents are sick, and you have to spend weekends traveling to help them. Or your husband has extra work.

As much as possible, make sure these are only seasons in your life, and not the whole life. When those seasons are over, celebrate together! Go away for a weekend. Have a few date nights in a row, even if it means you don’t see the kids.

And when you are going through it, try to keep communicating. Call as much as you can. Text. Pray. Keep up to date with your spouse’s schedule so you at least know what they’re doing, and tell him what you’re doing, so you can pray throughout the day or think of him. Send emails every morning telling him what you’re praying for him about. Let him know that you want him home, and you want to be home.

Sometimes in these seasons of distance we start getting annoyed at each other, because we’re busy, and we want him to pick up the slack. Or we’re mad at him for leaving us with the kids. As much as possible, try to stop that. Realize that this is just a season of distance, and it is more important to get through that season with your relationship close than it is to change the way you manage the household or the way he works. The time to address the discrepancies in your life–if you honestly work harder than he does, for instance, or if he leaves you more often than is necessary–is not during the seasons of distance. It’s when you’re reunited again and you’re comfortable together. If you start a big confrontation when you’re already not close to each other, it can drive you both apart right when you need to cling to each other.

If you have real issues, by all means deal with them. But hold them until you’re at a place in your marriage when you really can.

2. Dealing with a Guy You Feel Attracted To–and Preventing a Full-Blown Emotional Affair

Let’s say you’ve been going through a season of distance and you’ve met a man that you feel quite close to. You’ve been sharing some stuff about your marriage, and he’s been sharing some stuff about his. You feel quite bonded to him. You like being around him. You feel like a young girl again, all giggly and desired and in love.

What in the world do you do?

You don’t want to wreck your marriage, but you don’t want the feeling to go away, either.

I know that you feel a lot more connected to the other guy. That’s only natural if he’s the one that you’re really talking to. But you can’t grow your marriage if you continue to confide in him and not your husband. You’ll be expecting your husband to act like this other guy, and that’s not fair. You also probably have an idealized picture of the other guy. He makes you feel great, but what makes you feel great is the intimacy from talking to him, not the day to day interactions. If you were to actually end your marriage and get together with this guy, you’d have the same problems you do in your current marriage. What makes you feel so close to this guy right now is that you don’t have to deal with the reality of life. You just have to deal with sharing emotions, and that’s a very intense, intimate feeling, but it can’t be sustained.

You’ve got to figure out how to get back with your husband, and give up the dreams of these feelings. It’s not realistic to have those same feelings for your husband again, because those tend to occur when a relationship is starting. But they’re not sustainable.

Cut off, as much as possible, your communication with this guy.

Or if you do keep talking to him, don’t talk to him about your husband. Stay on neutral ground. Don’t share stuff that will allow an intimate attachment to grow.

And then talk to your husband about how you can feel close again. Don’t expect to feel totally close to him again right away. Just say that you want to do stuff together like you used to. Try to figure out a schedule where every now and then you each can become your priority. Go watch sports events together, or take hikes, or go biking, or take a cooking class, or anything that interests you. Take an investment course, or set yourselves a goal that you work at together, like figuring out how to spend only $600 a month on groceries and still eat great, or how to save money for Christmas presents, or anything that’s a shared goal.

Just talk to him and figure out what you can do together and what projects you can start together. Stop trying to make him act towards you the same way this other guy does, because it won’t work. What the other guy is offering you is actually something false, because it’s an intimacy without any responsibility, and that’s always more intoxicating than real life relationship. I find that what women often want is to keep that feeling alive, they don’t actually want to live with the guy on a day-to-day basis, and so you’ve got to find a way to build a great relationship with your husband again.

wifey wednesday
Now, what advice do you have for us today? Have you ever had to confront your fantasies and throw them aside? How did you do it? Or do you have something else to tell us? Write your own Wifey Wednesday post that links back to here, and then leave the link of THAT POST in the Mcklinky below. Thanks!

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