Married and CheatingQUESTION: Married and cheating - Can I ever forgive myself?ANSWER:
If you are married and cheating, there is one question you will eventually have to deal with: "Can I ever forgive myself?" Some people struggle with this issue all the way to the grave, while other people are able to resolve it and go on with their lives without the crippling shackles of guilt and shame. What makes the difference? Let's take a look at one woman's story and see what we can learn from it.
"'That would never happen to me.' Although I may never have said those words, that is what I believed. I was not one that other people would expect to be unfaithful in marriage. I believed that divorce was not an option. When my husband and I were out in public, I would hold his hand or walk arm in arm with him. I was faithful in church, even teaching a Sunday school class. In private, our marriage didn't seem all that bad either. There were no fights, and seldom a serious disagreement. I would not have believed that adultery would be an issue I would deal with personally.
"I was committed to being a faithful wife. I studied books about marriage, learned what the 'experts' said was important in making and keeping a good marriage. But my husband seemed to follow more of the 'love is all we need' philosophy. Since we didn't approach things the same way, communicating became difficult. We began to drift farther from each other.
"I felt lonely and neglected. I had resigned early in our marriage that the neglect I felt was what I could expect for the rest of my life. Resignation, however, was not the same as contentment, and I was miserable. Since early attempts to communicate with my husband on marital issues hadn't seemed to improve the situation, I quit trying that avenue. I couldn't control him, only myself. For many years, I continued to try to be the best wife I could be. I know I was nowhere close to perfect, but I tried to do my best.
"Then one year my best friend and her family moved from another state to be near us. I was thrilled. Little did I know the heartache that would come from it. My friend's husband was too perceptive and eager to step in to heal the hurt in my marriage. In the long run, he caused a wound that was much larger and more difficult to heal.
"Although the affair was discovered and ended fairly quickly, I had broken my husband's trust. I had broken my marriage vows and I had broken God's commands. There was no doubt that I was wrong. I made excuses to myself and to God. I tried to blame childhood sexual abuse, my husband, or the other man...but in my heart, I knew I was wrong. No matter what, I had made a choice. No one had forced this situation on me.
"I asked God's forgiveness for my sin (1 John 1:9). I asked my husband to forgive me and we decided to rebuild our marriage. It was a rough road, but he forgave me and trust was eventually restored in our marriage. Everything was good, right? I thought it would be, but I was wrong.
"I couldn't seem to put behind me the fact that I had nearly ruined my marriage, had alienated my best friend, and had gone against principles and truth I had always held very dear to me. Awake or asleep, my thoughts would torment me. I had been forgiven - why was this happening? Why couldn't I just get on with my life as a once-again faithful wife? Why? Sin has a price.
"I had been married and cheating. After being forgiven by God and my husband, I had to ask, 'Can I ever forgive myself?' It was a long road for me, because issues kept coming up again and again in my own mind. I had to accept full responsibility for my sin, and realize that I could never erase its effects.
"However, by God's grace and mercy, I could live by Psalm 103:12: 'As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.' This allowed me to remember my position of forgiveness, even when the memories were so painful. I have forgiven myself now, but the memory of how easily I stepped into sin reminds me to keep my faith and confidence in God, and not to rely on my own righteousness and ability to keep me from sin.
"What have we learned?
- No one is immune from an affair.
- Adultery and sexual sin can be forgiven - by God and by the spouse.
- Each of us is responsible for our actions and reactions, regardless of what others may do.
- Forgiveness does not take away all the pain that can result from sin.
- After we forgive ourselves, it is much easier to live the way God intended us to.
- We can learn from sin and, hopefully, help others avoid the same steps into sin."