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Q: “I can’t get my husband to stop being angry. We have been married 20 years. Shortly after we were married, I had an affair I never told him about. Recently, I felt compelled to tell him. I knew he would take it hard, but thought he would move on and we would get back to our great relationship. But he’s so angry, and our lives are a mess right now. How do you get a person you love so dearly to forgive you? 

Joyce’s FIX: Unfortunately, once we become adults, no one can really “make” us do anything. But long before we become grown-ups, it is difficult to mold our feelings into something we aren’t truly experiencing.

Infidelity sets into motion a spiral of emotions that can turn on a dime. Unfaithfulness cuts so deeply into the heart that the pain it inflicts can cause people to respond in ways abstract to their very character. He could be angry one hour and the next be crying, even tender. You might feel the course is finally taking a healing direction one month, then suddenly, something begins unraveling again. The sad reality of it is he could decide he’s not going to stay, and if he does, the unpredictability doesn’t go away.

If you want your marriage to last, you will be forced to adopt a new level of patience. Layer that with understanding and a dose of forgiveness of your own. His fickle behavior from moment to moment will call for an increase in your tolerance of backlash, which you could experience for as long as the affair lasted, if not longer.

I have talked with many people who have sustained the turbulent forces of infidelity. It can be done, but I assure you it is not without heartache. I believe it takes a special person to overcome being the victim of betrayal by a spouse. Kudos to those couples who do whatever it takes to work through the egregious error in judgment.

You can’t make your husband forgive you. However, he should…for himself more than for you. Unforgiveness is like a cancer that devours and can cause a person to become bitter, and also predisposes them to distrust every relationship he/she enters into in the future. What you can do is “make” yourself prove to him he has no reason to distrust you now. Make sure there is never a question dodged, misinformation given, no breach of integrity whatsoever going forward. It will be important that he sees the remorse in you, and he might need to see that displayed again and again. Whereas infidelity is a common marital issue, each situation is unique. You know your husband better than anyone else. If he’s willing to work through this, cooperation on your part is imperative. Work. Work some more. Then work as long as it takes to preserve the legacy the two of you created. In the end, the labor could be in vain, but it might not be — and that is worth everything the two of you will strive to achieve. 

Struggling with a relationship issue? Email Joyce Oglesby, Family Life FIX-IT Pro and find a solution for life.

P.S. Get more advice from Joyce.

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