I have been separated from my husband for 2 years. I left because of his infidelities. We had a combined family of twelve, the real life his, hers, and ours. My family was devastated. His infidelity was open, and blatant… he dated a girl half his age…her kids even called him “Daddy.” Over the past couple of years, I forced myself to accept things for what they were. It was truly painful. Now he wants to reconcile, and doesn’t understand why things can’t be like the way they were. We are both Christians. I talk to him regularly, we have dinner, and he tries to assist me in any way possible. But I can’t help thinking about how he openly flaunted his affair. We have the same friends, some of our family accepted his relationship. Some of our family went so far as to visit their home at the time and seemingly cast my children and I by the wayside. My children were devastated. They didn’t understand how someone who came home every night, and took family trips, etc. could do something like this, and come back around and expect everything to be okay. The eldest is 22 and the youngest is 11. I thought that I was over the pain and the trauma of the situation, but I’m not. We love him, but I don’t want to open my children or myself to feel this kind of pain again. As a Christian, I don’t want my children to be unforgiving… but how do I teach them about forgiveness when I harbor resentment ?

First, I am sorry for the pain that you have. We have to very clearly distinguish between your reconciling with and forgiving your husband. There are important differences. The most immediate issue is reconciliation, which is when two or more people come together again in mutual trust. The basic question is this: Can you trust your husband now and if so, what is the evidence? Trust usually is won after a series of steps to rebuild that trust.

The second issue is forgiveness. You and the children can begin today to forgive your husband/their father. When you forgive, you are working on reducing and even eliminating your resentment toward him and offering mercy, which may or may not include a welcoming back to the marriage.

We have resources in our Store for children and early adolescents who wish to learn to forgive. My book, The Forgiving Life, may be helpful in your forgiveness journey. I recommend that you forgive your husband for each injustice that particularly has wounded you.

Forgiveness is a journey that can take time, so please be gentle with yourself and please allow the children time to be angry and to grieve because for some time now their family has not been intact.

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Categories: Ask Dr. Forgiveness