It is estimated that roughly 30 to 60% of all married individuals in the United States will engage in an affair at some point during their marriage That’s a staggering number. But the truth is adultery doesn’t have to mean a death sentence for your marriage. In fact, adultery isn’t even the biggest cause for divorce in the U.S. According to marriage researcher, Dr. John Gottman, only 20% of divorces are caused by an affair.

That means a large number of couples make it through the pain of an affair! But it’s not an easy process. Forgiveness can be costly. Forgiveness means letting your spouse off the hook and giving up your right to hold an offense over his or her head. It’s tough stuff. And many who have forgiven their mate, have a hard time leaving the affair in the past.  But here’s the truth: You may not be able to completely forget that hurt – even after you’ve forgiven your spouse.

In fact, it is a myth that when you forgive someone, you also have to forget what they’ve done. Only God can say, “I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.” (Jeremiah 31:34). You don’t have the power to forget sin as God does, but we believe God doesn’t intend for you to forget. Remembering that pain can help you value the lessons you learned and recognize what God has brought you through. Remembering also helps to keep you from repeating the same mistakes or needlessly placing yourself in a position where hurtful things can happen again.

2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “We take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.” When you plan for the future and take captive the painful thoughts, you are putting a hedge of protection around your mind and focusing on staying with your marriage, not only for the sake of your spouse and your children, but also for the sake of God’s glory.

So then, how can you resolve the pain of hurts that you can’t forget: 

  • You start by admitting to yourself that you don’t have to forget. We are called to remember without condemnation. The apostle Paul wrote, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1). God has forgiven our sin and no longer condemns us. We must forgive our spouses in the same way, even when we cannot forget the offense. As you do, you can ask God to ease your pain. This takes you off the hook of trying to make yourself forget that your spouse wounded you.
  • Your pain will also diminish as you focus on the more positive, joyful aspects of your marriage. God can help you generate fresh memories that will push the bad memories into the background and help you renew your relationship.
  • It is also important for you to grow in your relationship with Jesus, asking him for instruction and comfort in your pain. Ask yourself: What is God teaching me through these difficult times? Am I finding the balance between dealing with my painful memories and seeking positive interaction with my spouse?

If you still haven’t forgiven your spouse for committing adultery because you can’t forget what he or she has done – make the choice today to let your spouse off the hook and move on. Forgiveness is how you bring your relationship into the light. It’s how you set free not only your spouse, who hurt you. But also how you set yourself free and it allows for reconciliation. God says you must forgive because He has forgiven you. After awhile the memory of your spouse’s affair will fade. The hurt may remain, but the healing will lessen the pain.

The benefits found in a renewed relationship are well worth the cost of forgiveness. You are able to cast off a burden only God can bear. That’s the supernatural power of forgiveness. Through it, God allows you both to start over. In fact, forgiving love allows a relationship to grow even deeper and more meaningful than before.  

Portions of this article were adapted from "Healing the Hurt in Your Marriage," Copyright 2002 by Dr. Gary and Barbara Rosberg, all rights reserved.    Published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., www.tyndale.com.  To order this resource or to find our more about Dr. Gary and Barb – Your Marriage Coaches, visit www.drgaryandbarb.com or call 1-888-608-COACH. 

Married over 30 years, the parents of two adult daughters and five grandchildren, Dr. Gary and Barb Rosberg, your marriage coaches, have a unique blend of insight and wisdom that touch people of all ages. Together with Gary's 25,000 hours of counseling experience and Barbara's gift of encouragement and biblical teaching, they are equipping thousands of families across the nation through their interactive daily radio program, conferences, and marriage and family resources.