Struggling to Forgive and Trust Your Husband
What does a wife do if she is struggling to forgive her husband for his sexual sin? What is the distinction between forgiving him and trusting him again? Kathy Gallagher addresses these questions and more from her own personal experience.
Kathy, we want to deal with a question today from a woman who has struggled with forgiving her husband. In fact, she wrote "I realize it takes time to forgive your husband, but I'm still struggling. What can I do?" What would you share with a woman who's still struggling with that issue?
That is a big issue for a lot of women who have been hurt by their husband's sexual sin. It's a pretty deep wound and it takes time for a woman to process through all her emotions. I'd say probably the biggest thing that they have to fight through is the forgiveness issue. It doesn't come easily to a lot of women. It's very hard to put it behind you. I consider forgiveness a gift. I remember when Steve came to me and repented for his sin. It came immediately for me. I really didn't struggle very much with forgiving him. I wanted to forgive him and I think that was probably a big thing. But it's a gift. Forgiveness is a gift from God. We don't as human beings carry that around in our hearts. It's not inherent.
Is the fact that someone is struggling with forgiveness necessarily mean that they don't want to forgive?
No, you can want to and still struggle with it; but a lot of the women that I've dealt with confuse forgiveness with trust, and I think that's a big issue. In fact, I just was counseling a lady a couple weekends ago and her problem isn't that she is holding it against him or reminding him of it - those are characteristics of someone who has not forgiven. They keep bringing the past up, they keep rubbing their husband's nose in it, reminding him of the hurt and the pain that he's done to them.
But a woman who is struggling with trust is different. She's not necessarily holding the past against him, but it's hard to forget what's been done. I always counsel women not to confuse the two. In forgiveness, you let the person's debt go; you let them go free in your heart; you're not going to hold it against them anymore; you're not going to keep rubbing their nose in it, reminding them how they have failed; you're going to war against bitterness that wants to well up in your heart. Those are things that you can do. Trusting someone is something that the other person really has to work on. If your husband has sinned against you, he's the one that needs to work on trust.
So it's something that has to be rebuilt?
Yeah, absolutely. Just because you're questioning what is going on doesn't mean you're not forgiving. Because a woman is naturally going to be afraid of it happening again, she'll ask questions. I know I did with Steve. You come home from work, "how is your day?" You try to ask discreet questions without coming right out say and saying "did you fall?"
Right. I think sometimes the husbands would just rather you come out and ask.
Well I think they would rather you didn't say anything at all. A lot of men - most men I would say - want to just act like this never happened, "OK. I have repented. Let's move on." I understand that. I understand the heart of a man wanting to do that, but a man needs to understand the heart of a woman.
Do men usually understand the need to rebuild trust?
No, often they just want to move on. They want to act like it didn't happen. But men, listen. It doesn't happen like that. It really does take time to build trust and that is the husband's responsibility. There are things that he needs to do to build that trust. But for the wife that's listening - and the husband is not - what you need to do is look at his life. Yes, you're going to struggle with trust, but if you're looking at his life and you're seeing him being faithful to the Lord - he's going to God every day in prayer, you see him trying, he wants to make it - you need to get behind him and support him. Try as best as you can to keep your fears to yourself because there's nothing he can do about that. For a woman to go to her husband and try and get him to placate her fears is the wrong path to go. He's not the one you should be going to.
Instead, she absolutely needs to go the Lord. If your husband tells you a thousand times a day "Honey, I love you. Everything is wonderful. I'm not going to sin," fear is still going to be there because the husband is not the one to deal with it. The Lord is the one to deal with it, and you have to present that to God, "Lord I'm struggling. You've got to help me."
How important is communication between the husband and the wife in rebuilding this trust?
It is so important and this is another area where men tend to not be real big on the communication thing. Husbands need to understand that communication is relationship to a woman. It is the relationship. If I could scream out one thing to men and women that is the most important - I actually don't even need to tell this to women, women already know this - but one thing I would say to men is that communication is the most important thing you can do for your marriage, especially one where the trust has been broken. Communication is so, so important.
Thank you for drawing that distinction between a lack of forgiveness and a lack of trust. I'm sure that'll be a help to a lot of women who have really wondered if they have forgiven their husband. Kathy Gallagher, thanks so much.