About a month ago I found out that my husband was being unfaithful to me…. I had never before been hurt as much as that… As soon as his infidelity was discovered, he separated from the woman and ended the secret relationship…. He has asked me to forgive him because he doesn’t want to lose me.
We have a six-year-old daughter who misses her father a great deal when he is not home. Because of the love that I have for God and for my husband, I have decided to forgive him…. But I would like for you to help me with some counsel, because when such things happen in a marriage, the level of trust is not the same anymore, even though forgiveness has taken place.
Your request shows great wisdom. Forgiveness and trust are very different things.
The greatest example we have of forgiveness is how God decided to make a way to forgive us of all our sins, no matter what we have done. He offers His forgiveness, not because of anything we can do, but because of His love for us.
Forgiveness is a decision, as you point out, but trust is not. So how can your husband regain the trust that he destroyed by committing adultery?
Let’s compare forgiveness and trust to money. Forgiveness is like a gift of money that someone gives you. You didn’t earn it, but because they are generous and want to give it, you can accept it with no obligation.
Trust, on the other hand, is like wages that must be earned. You work for a day, and then you have wages coming. If you don’t work that day, you get no wages. To earn the money, you must get up, get dressed, travel to the workplace, and do the work all day before you can go home. It takes the mental decision and determination that you are going to do the job, plus it takes a lot of effort and action to carry through what you decided. It requires time, consistency, discipline, and effort.
Your husband will have to decide that, if he wants to build trust again, he will have to put in a great deal of effort. It starts by giving you all his passwords for his phone and computer, and telling you to feel free to look through his devices each day. Then, when he gives you his phone to look through, he will have no reason to consider it as a lack of trust on your part, but rather as a way he can build trust.
He can also build trust by letting you know where he will be every minute of every day, and inviting you to check on him. When you call him, he will not see that as a lack of trust either, but rather as another way for him to build trust.
Rebuilding trust that has been trampled will be painful for both of you. Your husband must be willing to relinquish any privacy that he previously had, and to be happy about doing it. If he can’t be positive about it, then his desire to rebuild is not strong enough.
We wish you well,