Facing my husband’s affair, other inappropriate relationships and the pain they caused I got to the point where I realized I was holding on to forgiving him. Why? Well for a few reasons, but two carried the most weight and influence.
The first was -fear. Simple as that. I was afraid if I said I forgave him he would think that meant the pain and consequences disappeared with that offering. I was afraid that if I offered him forgiveness I would lose the right to still hold him accountable for how this changed everything. I was afraid if I said “I forgive you” it would remove the devastation all his selfish choices had done to my heart. What if saying “I forgive you” gave him the impression that I wasn’t still facing this horrid gut wrenching pain. The pain that months later still caused nightmares and feeling like I may throw up when a trigger hits or a flashback is too hard to ignore.
The second- pride. If I didn’t offer him forgiveness than I could still hold it over him. I’ll admit it. I wanted the wait and the wonder of his heart to be difficult. Would I ever say it to him? Would I be able to forgive him? I wanted him to struggle with wanting the forgiveness knowing I hadn’t given it to him yet. It was a way to make him be in pain too. Just maybe it caused him stress or grief or fear that I hadn’t said it.
But as I prayed, sought counsel, worked on my own stuff to continued to try (and still try) to move forward I came to a realization, NEITHER of those explanations were healthy or even slightly good reasons to keep yourself from forgiving someone. Forgiveness is something I have come to understand is not about the other person as much as it is about you, the state of your own heart and your own faith. As I struggled to get to the point of saying “I forgive you” I had to face why I was still so fearful. Getting to the point of forgiving him became more about MY journey and MY faith through this all.
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Colossians 3:13 NIV
It’s about letting yourself heal and let go.
If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.
2 Corinthians 2:5-8
To offer my husband forgiveness doesn’t absolve him of the consequences of his actions. Offering him the gift of forgiveness based on my faith and the words of my God allows me to maintain who I am through all this. There has been plenty taken from me through all this but my faith, my trust in God and my claim to God’s promises will NEVER be something anyone or anything can take from me. Offering the words, “I forgive you”, don’t stop me from claiming the pain. Offering him forgiveness does not magically make this whole thing go away but it was a step toward rebuilding. As his spouse I have the roll of accountability partner but not his judge and jury. That part is up to God. If I was going to be ok with myself and with this marriage moving forward I had to let go of the fear and the pride. I was betrayed, devastatingly so,yes. I was hurt, unbelievably hurt, yes. Both of those are real, and they are raw consequences of his choices. I refused to put my God in a box and not believe He could see us through this and give me the gift of forgiveness for my husband. So on a fall day several months (lets be honest I had to get to this point) after facing the tornado or truth, I stood before my husband in a place that held significant meaning to us both. I chose a place where we both had felt and seen our God profoundly move. While standing in that significant holy place to each of us, I looked him in the eye, held his hands and like vows on my wedding day I said “I forgive you”.
Did that wipe his slate clean? Heck no!! Did that remove any of the aftermath, emotions, or consequences of his choices and actions, no. But it did take a burden from my heart. It freed my soul and mind from a straining responsibility I didn’t even know I was carrying until I said it to him. Offering up those words gave him the gift of Godly love and friendship. It allowed me to stay true to my faith and what I know my God would want done.
“Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thine will be done. On earth as it is in heaven.”
How often had I said that prayer. By offering the words, and the forgiveness only my God was able to provide I lived it out aloud. And I gained more respect for myself. It was a step in making this part of our history not the demon of our future.
We had a family photo taken later that day, all of us in this place of sacred memories. And while it hadn’t been the first family snap shot since my husband and I began facing and rebuilding there was a change in my husband’s smile and presence in the photo. I look at that photo and I see the husband I know, there is a peace and a sincere look of love and contentment. I gave him what I hope and pray is a glimpse of what I know God is wanting to give him in forgiveness.
Since that moment we shared, things have not been perfect. There have been bumps in the road, tough conversations, consequences and changes in our daily lives that’s the reality of an affair. My choice to say “I forgive you” however has changed my burden and my fears. I am not holding onto trying to fix him or make him seek forgiveness. I have felt a change and tangibly seen it in his presence in our marriage and relationship. He seems more relaxed and even at times willing to talk more openly about things. I gave him tangible proof I am in this and working on my side and my stuff through this as well. He was given the respect I would hope to receive when I screw up, and I gave it to him not just as his wife but as his Christian partner in this world.
Behind my choice to say “I forgive you” God gave me the gift to take another step in making this journey part of our history and throw the demons of this reality further away from taking anymore from my marriage.