Question: A year and a half ago I had an affair. My spouse says he forgives me, but it’s obvious that he still has a lot of anger. I’m doing everything I can to show him that I love him and that I’m repentant. I’ve asked God to forgive me, and I believe He has, but I want to feel that my spouse forgives me too. What can I do to help him stop dwelling on this? How can we move forward in our marriage?
You’re to be commended for confessing your fault and asking forgiveness of both God and your spouse. That took a great deal of humility and courage on your part. Without that necessary first step there can be no restoration of the relationship. But it’s important to remember that it’s only the first step. Nothing shakes up a marriage quite like an affair, and you can’t expect to reverse the damage overnight. Your spouse is still reeling; he feels betrayed, and you have to allow him to work through the pain and anguish of that experience. It’s easy to say that "time heals all wounds," but the fact of the matter is that very little healing can occur unless a paradigm shift has taken place at the heart of your marriage. Without that shift, you can become hopelessly trapped in an ongoing pattern of grief, anger or depression.
Work together with your spouse
You’ve made a hopeful beginning, and there’s much you can do to keep moving in the right direction. At this stage in the game, you and your spouse need to work together to discover the distorted thought processes and root issues that led to your adultery in the first place. Many times these lie so deep that they actually pre-date the marriage. It usually takes two people to make a relationship more vulnerable to negative influences, and unless the causes of this vulnerability are ferreted out and exposed to the light, you run a very real risk of falling into the same trap again at some point in the future. The fact that you’ve confessed and asked forgiveness in the present doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be equipped with healthier coping skills the next time trials or temptations arise.
Speak to a counsellor
Given the rawness of your wounds, it’s unrealistic to suppose that you and your spouse can resolve these issues on your own. No one expects cardiac patients to perform surgery on themselves. In the same way, a marriage that has been through the devastation of infidelity needs the healing touch of a highly skilled third party – a trained professional therapist – if it’s to survive. For this reason, we’d strongly suggest that you and your husband seek christian marital counselling together. These can be life-changing and life-giving experiences. If your spouse is unwilling to join you, we’d recommend that you go ahead and begin the process by yourself.