Obviously it’s beneficial to work toward forgiveness—it heals relationships and it heals our minds.
But it’s not always a clear-cut thing.
When it comes to forgiveness, what I’ve seen from working with couples is this:
1) Forgiveness As Permission
Forgiveness can be seen as a license to continue damaging the relationship. It can be seen as permission.
The leaders in the betrayal trauma training said expecting a woman to forgive too early can lead to problems, which confirmed my decision to not ask women to forgive before they’re ready—not when the husband expects (or demands it), but when the wife is ready.
2) Forgiveness is Difficult When…
It’s difficult to forgive him when the damage is continuing, and this doesn’t just mean his involvement in porn or his interest in other women.
It also means the other damaging stuff, like his explosive anger, his continued deception… or even just his frequent irritation with real life. All these can lead you to believe the most important person to him is still himself.
But let’s say he begins to apologize. This leads to the following…
3) Surface Apologies = Surface Forgiveness
If he doesn’t really connect with how all this has hurt you, he can only give a surface apology. And if he can only give a surface apology, you can only give surface forgiveness.
You can’t go deeper with him if he refuses to ‘go there’ with you.
But not just that… he needs to ‘stay there’ with you until it gets better.
But let’s say he begins to apologize at a deep level, where he continues to sit in the reality of the pain he’s caused you. This leads to the following…
4) Your “Want To”s
If he sits in the damage he has done to you, and you still find yourself saying, ‘I don’t really want to forgive him,’ then the first step is to change your ‘want to.’
-Do you feel bad about not wanting to forgive him?
-Do you ‘want to want to’ forgive him?
If so then God sees your heart, and He will get you to the place you need to be in order to forgive him.
Because God is so good He can change your ‘want to’s.
5) Still Difficult
If it’s still difficult to forgive, then there may be a deeper level of pain that you feel he needs to understand.
If you’re not at a place of being able to forgive the ‘right’ way, I hope these tips help you see other ways of getting there.
And really, you want to be able to get to the place of forgiving him for your own sake… even if forgiveness doesn’t mean reconciliation.
Why? Because his actions don’t deserve your future joy!
Do you have a history with forgiveness? I forgave too soon, and it led to over a decade of breakdown, because he turned it into a license to continue the damage.
What’s your story?
(God’s best to you all on this extremely difficult journey.)