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“Forgive Him? Never!” – 13 Excuses You’ll Use to Never Forgive Your Husband

Last Updated: December 22, 2015

Sherry Allchin

Sherry Allchin has been in some form of ministry for nearly fifty years, first as the wife of a youth pastor, then as a mother of three and a Christian school teacher. She now lives in Charleston, SC working at the Low Country Biblical Counseling Center. She completed her M.A. in Biblical Counseling and has been counseling individuals and families for over twenty years. Their adult children and seven grandchildren serve the Lord across the country. Sherry is a member of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. Her passion is helping others to grow in their faith and to make life count for eternity!

Scenario: My husband committed adultery (or viewed pornography…again!) and has asked me to forgive him. I don’t think I can forgive him, but I know God has told us to forgive one another. How can I get past my feelings?

Woman Alone and Hurt

First of all, we must realize that forgiveness is not a feeling, but it is an action God commands. We must choose whether we will obey by faith (in spite of our feelings) or disobey His command (because of our feelings). In Ephesians 4:32, God gave us the model when He forgave our sins at great cost to Himself but with grace and mercy to us.

Refusing to forgive binds us, not the person who has sinned against us (Matt. 6:14-15). God’s ways always lead to the abundant life, to freedom and blessings, even when they are hard paths, or feel impossible, from our human perspective. God teaches us how to reach out and love with His love, to forgive with His forgiveness, to return His blessing for their cursing (Rom. 12:9-21). Only genuine heart change allows the Holy Spirit to do such a wonderful work in our hearts that we can love those we would rather hate!

I hear excuses all the time about why someone just can’t forgive. Here are a few:

“How can I forgive him after what he’s done to our marriage?” His intent most likely was not to destroy the marriage. His sin does affect the marriage, but so does your response to his sin! Forgiving may point him to Christ and to godly sorrow that produces the fruit of repentance and change (2 Cor. 7:9-10). Your godly response may actually help to redeem the marriage!

“How can I forgive him again?” How many times has the Lord forgiven you? Matt. 17:3-4 makes it very clear we must repeatedly forgive. But notice the next verse where the disciples are begging for faith to obey. Yet the Lord’s response paraphrased says, “You don’t need more faith, you just need to put your little bit of faith into action and do what is your duty, to obey me!” Wow! That can be hard, but it is the right thing to do when he is truly repentant, and only the Lord knows that! So, we forgive again.

“How can I forgive him? This is way too big!” His sin is big, but so is mine! God doesn’t measure sin by the same yardstick you and I do. He measures it against absolute obedience to Him, and we all fall pitifully short! Yet the Lord warns us strongly against playing god and thinking we hold the yardstick for others to live up to (Matt. 7:1-5).

“How can I forgive him after his total betrayal of me?” Paul understood the principle that to share in the suffering of Christ makes us more like Christ (Phil. 3:10). Our experience of betrayal helps us to identify with his. Peter taught us that suffering when we are doing the right thing reveals God’s glory in us (1 Pet. 4:12-14, 19). The Christian life is not about me, but about honoring my Lord, especially in the deepest trials of life.

“How can I forgive him when he hasn’t repented?” His repentance is between him and God, so we forgive from the heart and trust God to convict and change him from the inside out. That typically doesn’t happen overnight, but God has made a promise to each of His own to complete what He has started in us (Phil. 1:6)! Pray for God to do His work in your husband and He will – in His time and His way.

“How can I forgive him when I don’t feel it?” Forgiveness is a heart issue. Forgive anyone anything (Mark 11:25). It’s an act of obedience. The feelings come when forgiveness is asked for and granted, and then there is a “forgetfulness” modeled after the way God removes our sin and remembers it no more (Jer. 31:34). We must choose not to remember the offences so we don’t use them in destructive ways.

“How can I forgive him when he hasn’t asked?” You can’t! God doesn’t forgive us until we ask. But you can have a heart ready and willing to forgive him the moment he does ask, just as God forgives us the moment we ask. You will have fulfilled your duty toward God and toward your husband when your heart desires repentance more than anything for him. That means you don’t shortcut God’s convicting power over his sin by saying prematurely to him that you have forgiven him, but only saying you are willing to forgive when he repents and asks. The transaction is complete when forgiveness is asked for and granted! God provided for our forgiveness long before we asked!

“How can I forgive him when I keep thinking about it?” When forgiveness has been asked and granted, it is your responsibility to exercise thought control and think of his sin only in the context of God’s grace. You no longer dwell on it or replay the video in your mind, because that keeps bitterness stirred up in you.

“How can I forgive him if his sin is a common topic with my family or friends?” Gossip is a desire to make others judge the offender just as you have judged him. It is talking to people who are not a part of the problem or a part of the solution. Discussion about his sin must cease once the issue has been settled, and that includes bringing it up to him, using it as a weapon to wound him just as he wounded you. That is what it means to remember it no more just as God does for our sin (Jer. 31:34). We will never stand in judgment for our sin because it has been forgiven (Rom. 8:1).

“How can I forgive God for letting him do this to me?” God has never sinned and will never sin, and therefore needs no one’s forgiveness; this is blasphemy to falsely accuse God. God never tempts anyone to sin (James 1:13-16) and cannot be blamed when anyone chooses to sin. God does allow us to make sinful choices. Freedom to choose parallels His love, but sometimes we make foolish choices. Thank God for grace and mercy!

“How can I forgive him when I can’t even forgive myself?” This excuse makes my standard of perfection above God’s. My comparison and expectation for myself and others will always fall short (2 Cor. 10:12). That’s why we desperately need God’s grace and mercy, all of us! We are never commanded to forgive ourselves, but to accept God’s forgiveness.  We then grant the same forgiveness to others, recognizing all sin is first and foremost sin against God, and He forgives anyone who asks.

“How can I forgive him when I still don’t trust him?” Trust takes time to rebuild. It is not the same as forgiveness that comes from your own heart. Rebuilding trust is the responsibility of the offender, as he demonstrates over time his faithfulness, dependability, accountability, and consistency. But you must allow him that time as you invest in the relationship, and he must work toward rebuilding the trust by faithfully honoring God and you to the best of his human ability.

“Maybe I will forgive someday, but not today!” Eph. 4:26-27 tells us to not keep holding onto those things that make us angry because it gives the devil a foothold in our hearts and keeps our bitterness alive (Heb. 12:15). Settling and forgiving offences is God’s way for each of us!

I’ve heard all of these excuses, but the best definition of an excuse I’ve ever heard is A skin of a reason, stuffed with a LIE!” Let’s all examine ourselves to see that we are living by faith in Truth, not with excuses of why we can’t forgive someone!

  • Comments on: “Forgive Him? Never!” – 13 Excuses You’ll Use to Never Forgive Your Husband
    1. Jan on

      What a wise and biblically based guideline to forgiveness. I have one comment. I do believe that forgiveness can and should be granted despite the offender’s unwillingness to seek repentance from us or God. The offender may never seek to be forgiven or it’s not possible for whatever reason. My willingness to give forgiveness and share that with the offender (in a place of humility before God), despite their unrepentance, gives me the same freedom, almost more. I am saying first, this is no longer mine, i’m giving it to God to handle, I will no longer let it own me and I won’t let it continue to come between the relationship. second, it provides the same image of Christ’s forgiveness, maybe a stronger image. When the offender is an unbeliever or someone who has fallen away from their faith, it can be used as a tool by God to convict or remind of his unfailing love, power and the work he can do to change lives. Of course it can only happen if it’s done with a truly genuine heart.

      Reply
    2. th on

      As soon as I seen the words excuses was used I never should read this!!!! They are abuse and manipulations that we take responsibility, and accountability for. It’s not ours to own!! Whom ever used the word excuses hasn’t been in your relationship for years!!!! Don’t believe that. You can uncertain and take time to figure things out, we can only control ourselves and help ourselves like god would want. Become a whole healthy person again, love yourself!!! Don’t own what you thought you we’re doing wrong. That’s not real, we’ve been beet down and manipulated!!! I still don’t no what I am going to do, but I see a much clearer picture of my life and why I excepted responsibility for everything. He works so hard for us, in not attractive enough, the house wasn’t clean enough, dinner isn’t good enough!!! That’s all a lie for there addiction that came far before you!! God bless and love you!!! Figure out if you want to stay or do the scary thing and pray for all the strength you no longer think you have!! You deserve to be happy and healthy mentally,emotionally, and physically. That’s what god wants!!!

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        Thank you for sharing. We do need to have discernment to understand when a spouse is being manipulative and abusive, when it’s appropriate to stay in the relationship and when it’s time to understand the reality that confronts us, and create healthy boundaries for ourselves. Ella recently wrote an article about boundaries that I think is really good. It’s always painful and difficult to allow someone we love to have the consequences of their choices, and to tell the truth about how broken a marriage actually is. That’s a process, and I think many times we are more engaged with saving a marriage than we are with helping the people within that marriage–and that includes the spouse who is hiding his own pain behind all of the acting out. Thanks again for sharing your heart for healing.

    3. Kimberly Wax Rund on

      I am 100% for forgiving. Forgiving is NOT the same as being stupid. If your husband or wife has comitted adultery, in any form, especially more the once, GET OUT! God NEVER would ask anyone to stay in a marriage where infidelity was happening. In fact, you have God’s permission to divorce. Stop making excuses for someone who does not value you, your children, or God and start realizing your self worth – how God sees you! You deserve better. Have the courage to trust God with your life and learn that He alone is your protection, your comforter, and your provider. I know. I committed adultry.

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        Hey Kimberly, I agree with you that forgiveness and trust are two different things. We forgive because that frees us from being tied to another person’s sin. But we trust only when the other person is trustworthy. You’re right, infidelity is one ground that Jesus explicity gives for divorce. Women in these situations are often horribly devastated by what’s happened to them. Many of them meet the criteria for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, to say nothing of the risk for sexually transmitted diseases, including HPV which can cause cervical cancer. I agree with you also that many times we put more faith in a marriage relationship than we do in God. Thanks for sharing. Kay

      • Anonymous on

        Kim, your advice is on an extreme. I do not debate that porn use by a spouse is adultery, nor that it causes extreme damage to the relationship, nor that ongoing and unrepentant porn use (in light of a loving approach such as Matthew 18:15-17, where the sinner is confronted by the church) may very well merit divorce, but only by painstaking patience by all involved. Given that God hates divorce, however, and given that our ongoing approach to everything should be love first, you have to be careful to give advice to other women to just “get out” if the spouse commits adultery in any form. I don’t see that as consistent with the mercy and grace that we’re supposed to live out according to the scriptures. Divorce is a very tough subject, and I think it depends more on how much a spouse is willing to forgive and whether or not the offending spouse is able to repent.

    4. Allie on

      This is very dangerous advice. Yes, we are supposed to forgive, but it is a process and will be as you wrestle it out with God. Free pass forgiveness does nothing for either party. it holds no one accountable and leaves the sin undealt with. Bad advice.

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        What makes you think the author is advocating “free pass” forgiveness, and what exactly does that mean?

      • Andy on

        Luke – to me the problem with this article is the way the author uses the term “forgiveness”. The author implies that forgiveness means we have to automatically trust the other person without holding them accountable. Yes, we need to forgive someone who offends us otherwise bitterness will take hold, but that doesn’t mean we pretend that nothing happened and the slate has been wiped clean. Forgiveness does not equal trust and restoration of the relationship. By not stating this in the article it certainly gave me the wrong impression whether that is what she intended or not.

      • Lisa Eldred on

        Andy, you bring up a fair point, and one that Sherri Allchin probably didn’t address because we have addressed it elsewhere on the blog. As Kay Bruner pointed out in her response to Kimberly (above), there is a difference between forgiveness and trust; this article focuses only on the former. In fact, I can’t speak for the author of this post, but I suspect you can forgive your porn-using spouse and still decide that divorce is the correct choice for your marriage.

        If you’re interested in more information about rebuilding trust, I recommend downloading our free e-book, Porn and Your Husband: A Recovery Guide for Wives.

      • Andy on

        Hi LIsa–Yes, that’s true that CE does have a wide range of articles and for someone who reads them all the time they will hopefully see a wider perspective. However, I think each article needs to also be able to stand on it’s own to a certain degree because there are many people who will only read one. Perhaps on articles such as this one you might consider simply including a link to other articles that give a fuller picture?

    5. Nadine on

      Very biblical yes. If someone has stolen something or sinned a few times. I am very forgiving. I am not sure if this had happened to the writer though? The PTSD, the pain and all the behaviours that accompany a husband viewing porn is not something you just forgive and move on. Counselling, therapy, a healing program…many things are needed.

      Reply
    6. Bianca on

      Who can I as a wife of a porn watcher talk to?

      Reply
    7. Gray on

      Bianca,
      I have researched/purchased many books & can recommend only a few. 1) An Affair of the Mind (Laurie Hall) is one of the best. Although its out of print you can find copies on Amazon & maybe your local library. 2) Your Sexually Addicted Spouse (Marsha Means) is very helpful. 3) I don’t want a Divorce & I don’t love you anymore (David Clarke).

      Also if you go to Brad Hambrick’s website you can find a series he did for couples. If you email them they will send you (FREE) the workbook for the wives & the husbands that he uses in his conferences or you can watch the video’s. The series was for married couples going through Infidelity.

      For the husband “Worthy of Her Trust” is one of the best. Jason writes bluntly to men who have committed sexual sin. Also be careful about seminars/conferences that are for the husbands/wives or for both because many are extremely expensive. While therapist/counselors should be compensated some of these programs are very costly. Example one well known program charges $10,000 for the weekend. If you are looking for an intensive Dr. David Clarke charges $160/hr (takes some insurance) and Dr. Rob Jackson is also reasonable. Or you may find a therapist locally that will do an intensive with you & your husband. Just make sure they are trained in working with sex addicts & understand the trauma model , not use the “co-addict” model for the wife.

      Research & ask questions & use discernment. Pray for God’ wisdom & direction. Blessings.

      Reply
    8. Kate on

      I want to comment on this article as it has triggered an anxiety response in me. I struggle with being the “good Christian wife” to forgive my husband. A husband that has lied and deceived me for over 12 years about his sex addiction. I attend a woman’s support group that are very hard to come by and especially, a women’s group that focuses on the trauma model instead of labeling partners of sex addicts ‘codependent/coaddict.’ All of the women in my group, including me, exhibit symptoms of PTSD from extreme betrayal. I know that biblically I am to forgive my husband and I will, with God’s help. It is a process though and I imagine you haven’t experienced this betrayal in your marriage. When you are blindsided in the discovery that your husband has been viewing porn virtually every moment your back is turned, having affairs with women, sometimes prostitutes, sometimes in the workplace, etc and you think you know this man who has promised to be faithful yet he has led a double life, it is truly a pain that is indescribable. So, to title this blog post as “Excuses women make” is another slap in the face just as it is when you receive ill counsel to maybe spice up your sex life with lingerie and make yourself more available. It’s damaging advice. I read all of these blog posts quite often as I find them helpful. However, this one is hurtful towards the women that are living with sex addicts. I’ve read some of your other posts giving advice to women on how to handle their porn addicted husbands and I feel like you’re asking us to be the “good Christian wife” by being supportive and letting him know you’re praying for him and basically ignoring your own needs. This is the time to be taking care of yourself. Seeking counseling, finding “safe” persons to confide in. Society in general doesn’t understand what sex addiction entails and there’s a lot of therapists that don’t know how to treat partners that are married to them. I just ask that you be more aware and maybe seek the advice of a CSAT before you post again. Respect.

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        Thanks, Kate. I’m a counselor and I answer comments here from women who are traumatized by their husband’s sexual addictions, and I completely agree with you.

        I think that the recovery of women is so often overlooked in the service of “saving the marriage” and “forgiveness”–I think it does so much harm that I’ve started calling forgiveness “the Christian F word.” I recently put together a book on forgiveness called Debunking the Myths of Forgive-and-Forget which addresses those ideas.

        If you read advice here that makes you feel put down, that you find hurtful in your healing process, I invite you by all means to speak up! Thank you for doing so here today! I’m sure that many other women would feel exactly as you have described, and your voice is incredibly important in helping other women to discern what is helpful and what is harmful in their recovery processes.

        I always say that forgiveness is free, but trust is earned. And you can only trust a trustworthy person. I can forgive–release the debt that my husband owes me–but I do not trust until that trust is earned by trustworthy behavior. And sometimes, the relationship is too damaged for trust to reasonably be restored. When a husband (or wife!) acts out repeatedly, he breaks the marriage vows. And sometimes that break cannot be repaired. I’ve got a short YouTube animation on that, as well.

        I’m so glad you spoke up. Thank you!

        Kay

      • Monica H. on

        Kate, I read your post and burst into tears! My husband is doing everything you share in this post and it’s lie after lie. He says I’m insecure because I’m suspicious all the time. I’ve gone to a celebrate recovery group but you are correct they have labeled me codependent. My husband and I are Christians, newly married of 10 months and he’s only been able or wanted to make love to me twice. I struggle with forgiveness but I’m desperately wanting to forgive because I know it’s what pleases God. My body is internalizing my anger, frustration, mistrust and all of the rest with skin outbreaks that are painful and unsightly to the degree that I don’t want to go out into public so people don’t see, hiding your neck area with a scarf in 80 degree weather is a challenge, I don’t sleep and I’m always on edge lol just like you share, it does seem kinda like ptsd. I attend a Monday night prayer group but mostly I just cry there. I can’t afford to see a christian therapist and quite frankly scared that if I do I’ll be told to divorce. I’m not sure what or where I could find a CSAT counselor? Can you suggest any group or ministry that can help me? Thank you for your post, it made me feel like I wasn’t the problem for the first time in 10 months. Bless you. MH

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