I am a forty-six-year-old woman with a twelve-year-old daughter and a ten-year-old son. For the past seven months I have been separated from their father… because I discovered that he was cheating on me for years with a thirty-five-year-old woman….
I feel badly because I listen to a radio station every day on which they constantly talk about family issues and forgiveness. I don’t want to go back to my husband because… I can’t forgive him for putting my children in this situation, leaving them without a home… and in a crisis like that. I always feel like the messages [on that station] are pressuring me [to do something I don’t want to do]…. That’s why I’m considering not listening to them anymore, so I won’t feel like this.
We are very sorry to hear that your husband has chosen to commit adultery and break up his family. And we are especially sorry for how that is affecting you and the children.
You say that you don’t want to go back to your husband because you can’t forgive him. We believe that those two actions are completely separate and independent of one another. You may choose to forgive so that you will not become bitter and resentful, and because Jesus Christ, God’s Son, taught that He wouldn’t forgive us if we don’t forgive others.1 However, that does not mean that you have to ever go back and live with your husband again.
Forgiveness is a choice that is for our own good. Lack of forgiveness often causes physical and emotional illnesses. In addition, the refusal to forgive could cause you to make bad decisions, acting more from spite than out of reason. Unforgiveness is like a poison that kills whatever it touches.
We can understand that your husband’s infidelity has broken your trust and your commitment to one another. The circumstances of your husband’s betrayal may have likewise destroyed all the love that you ever had for him. We believe that Jesus also taught that infidelity is a justifiable reason to never live with the adulterous spouse again.2 Even though, in some circumstances, couples can work things out and continue their marriages (which is usually better for the children), in other cases reconciliation is not possible.
We don’t know anything about the radio programs that you regularly hear, but we recommend that you listen carefully to distinguish between their advice about forgiveness and their advice about reconciliation. There are certainly times when we should forgive and be reconciled with the person that we are forgiving. But there are many other life circumstances in which it is wise to forgive but unwise to reconcile with the perpetrator of the harm done. One example would be the victims of abuse who can forgive without being in a relationship with their abusers.
Ask God to help you forgive, as an act of obedience, even though you still feel hurt and angry. Those feelings will take some time to diminish, but they will only grow while you refuse to forgive. Keep in mind that you are not forgiving because your husband deserves it, but rather because it is what is best for you.
We wish you the best,
1 Mt 6:15
2 Mt 19:9