Forgiving Spouse


My husband and I were both sexually active before we were married. In fact, I have a child from a previous relationship. When we married and became Christians, we realized premarital sex was wrong and we asked God for forgiveness. The problem has been that my husband has not been so forgiving. Although we started our marriage very wrong, we’re trying to live by God’s standard. Our past has brought tremendous stress to our marriage: my husband suffers from anxiety and we both suffer bouts of depression. We just want to get through this and feel God’s blessing on us. We don’t have the money to seek a counselor and our pastor is new so my husband isn’t comfortable discussing this with him. Do you have any advice?


Have you ever used one of those little electronic calculators? One of the things I like about them the most is that if I get my information confused or make a mistake the only thing I have to do is push the “clear” button. Automatically all of the information is eliminated from the calculator. Then I can begin again. I don't have to go back and try to sort out the previous mistake. In fact, there is no record of the previous mistake. It is lost forever.

That's what happens to our sins when God forgives us. Some of the pain and the sorrow may remain. Some of the consequences may remain. But the guilt–the legal condemnation for the offense–is gone! Our Lord is in the cleansing business, not the whitewashing business.

We have never met a Christian who believed that they were capable of a sin greater than God's capacity to forgive. We’ve never heard a Christian say that Christ's work on the cross was only partially effective. Unfortunately, we’ve seen some Christians treat others as if this was true.

In Philippians 3:13b-14 Paul writes: “forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” For some that is easier said than done.

Agree with your husband to start each day by thanking God for what he accomplished for you on the cross and that your sins are forgiven… We encourage you to put the following verses on 3×5 cards with the reference on one side and the text on another: Ps 103: 3-4,12; Is. 1:18, 6:6; Matt 1:21; Romans 8:1-2; I Cor. 10:13; I Jn 1:9, 2:1-2.

Remember that God can forgive and forget.

We can forgive but it is harder for us to forget. Thank Him that as far as He is concerned, your sin is not only forgiven but also forgotten.

In Matthew 11:28, Christ bids us come to him and he will give us rest. While you can’t afford counseling and your husband doesn’t want to talk to your new pastor, we believe that getting outside help is critical. Many churches have lay counseling programs and some counseling centers provide low-cost counseling. Getting counseling now for your marriage may be something you can’t afford not to do.

Finally, have you forgiven yourself? Do you let your husband’s emotions determine yours? Part of being a Christian is being able to function in the power, the strength and the joy of the Lord. You simply may need to communicate to your husband lovingly that you know you are forgiven and that God has released you to enjoy this marriage. Begin now by praying daily that both you and your husband will experience what God has designed for your marriage.

Gary J. Oliver, ThM, PhD
Executive Director at Center for Healthy Relationships | + posts

Dr. Oliver is the Executive Director of The Center for Healthy Relationships, and professor of Psychology and Practical Theology at John Brown University.  He has authored over 20 books and more than 350 professional and popular articles.  Dr. Oliver has over 40 years’ experience as a Clinical Psychologist, Marriage  & Family Therapist and Spiritual Director.  He leads seminars & workshops both nationally and internationally on a variety of counseling-related issues, healthy relationships as well as Emotional & Relational Intelligence (ERI).

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