Can you move past it? Can you get over and forgive something your husband did?
Every Wednesday we talk marriage! And today I want to tackle how to get past a major hurt in your marriage.
Deciding to Move Past the Hurt
Every week I get dozens of emails from women whose husbands have used porn; had affairs; gambled away their money. And many of them ask the same thing: How do I move past this?
Here’s one letter I recently received:
A year ago I found an app on my husband’s phone that lets him talk to women anonymously. I found out that he had been sexting other women and telling them about our sex life (which was almost non-existent at the time). I confronted him (with the help of some friends) and he apologized. We saw a counselor to try to work it through but that was useless. I did say I forgave him, but I feel like it more got swept under the rug. Now I find myself always resenting him and I never want to have sex. How can I move past this?
That’s such a hard situation, and rebuilding trust can’t be rushed.
Often we do rush it–we say “I forgive you” because we think that’s the only way to hold on to the marriage, and we’re desperate to keep that marriage together. But then we never really examine our own grief or anger, and we never deal with the underlying causes.
I wholeheartedly believe in taking some time to have hard conversations, and taking a period to rebuild trust. I believe in putting controls on your phones, tablets and computers when these have been tools used to violate the marriage covenant. I believe in mentor couples and in setting up accountability partners. I believe in taking time before we try to rebuild a sex life after a major betrayal, because rushing physical intimacy before there’s emotional and spiritual intimacy can wreck a sex life.
And quite often to move past it we need a third party to walk us through.
So I would advise this woman to find another counsellor, or at least a mentor couple, and make sure that things haven’t been swept under the rug. You need to have those hard conversations and hash things out openly and honestly.
In fact, I’ve written about how to deal with some of these difficult problems in these posts:
- 4 Things You Must Do If Your Husband Uses Porn
- What to do when you Discover Your Husband is Having an Affair
- Are You a Spouse or an Enabler? (about confronting major sin)
- Ten Truths About Emotionally Destructive Marriages
- How to Forgive Your Husband
And then I’ve written about how to move forward–slowly–and rebuild intimacy, in these posts:
- How to Rebuild Trust After a Porn Addiction
- When Do I Let My Husband Back into My Bed? (about when to start having sex again)
- Rebuilding Intimacy After a Porn Addiction (about how to start having sex again)
But that being said, I now want to say something that is going to sound harsh.
Once he has repented; once he has shown that he is trustworthy by getting those filters and that accountability partner; once he has committed to make some changes–then the ball is in your court.
There is nothing he can do to change the past.
There is no magical formula for moving past any of this.
There is no book you can read that can heal you; nothing that he can say to fix it; nothing that any counselor can do.
Ultimately it is a decision that you–and only you–can make.
And it is a decision that you MUST make, one way or the other.
Deciding to stay in the marriage takes more than just deciding not to leave. It also means deciding that you will commit to rebuilding intimacy.
Again, as I said before, this can’t be rushed, and if things have been swept under the rug, then of course lift up that rug and start having those conversations.
But at some point you will need to answer this question:
Do I want an intimate marriage again, or do I want to remain angry and bitter and caught up in the images of what my husband did?
I know forgiveness is so, so hard. But our God is a forgiving God. Our God is the God of reconciliation. He loves bringing together two groups that were previously enemies and making them intimate friends! He loves reforging those bonds and making them stronger than ever.
That is who God is. That is His very nature. And you were made in the image of God! When you run after Jesus and start acting like Jesus by practicing that kind of lavish forgiveness (again, only after repentance and trust has been rebuilt), I believe that God laughs so joyously. I believe that this is the biggest victory in your marriage–it’s not the fact that your husband stopped the porn or stopped the affair; it’s not the fact that you both decided to work on the marriage. It’s the fact that you let the debt go.
In Matthew 18, Jesus is talking about how to deal with sin. After giving instructions for how to handle a fellow believer who is sinning against you, He says this:
I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them (verses 18-20).
Think about this spiritual power: when we forgive here on earth, it has heavenly repercussions! And interestingly, in this passage about sin and forgiveness, Jesus then talks about prayer. He says that when you agree together, your prayers will be answered, and He will be with us.
In some amazing way, forgiveness is the gateway through which the power of God flows into your marriage.
But once again, forgiveness is up to you.
I can’t tell you how to get past it or how to move beyond the hurt, except to say this: it’s a daily, even hourly, choice that you make. As I said in my book, 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, it’s that decision, when you are reminded of what your husband did, to take that thought captive and discard it (2 Corinthians 10:5). It’s that decision that you will think on positive things about your husband:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9).
Do you see what’s neat about that? When you decide to think these positive things, then peace will follow.
Sometimes we need to let go of a marriage
I am not saying that all marriage situations need reconciliation.
But if you have decided to reconcile, then you must also decide to forgive
And that decision is an active one. It may not be something you feel at first, but it is a decision to think and act a certain way. And that changes the whole dynamic of your marriage! He no longer is in this impossible situation of always having to fix the past, which he can’t do. And God’s power is released in your marriage in an amazing way.
I firmly believe that some of the most amazing work that God does through our forgiveness. And I believe that God wants to help you forgive.
But ultimately He leaves it up to you.
The one thing that you cannot do is reconcile but then choose to keep dwelling on the infraction. If you are going to reconcile and commit to the marriage, then you must also commit to moving past this and forgiving him.
The ball’s in your court.
What will you do?