How to Forgive Betrayal in Marriage and Move Forward


Betrayal as defined by Merriam-Webster is a violation of a person’s trust or confidence, neglect of moral standards, and the revelation of a secret. Betrayal can happen between friends and families but the worst kind is when it shatters a marriage.[1]

Unlike friends and families, you can’t simply forgive and forget betrayals that can happen in a marriage. You live day by day being reminded of the pain that has caused you and this can ultimately end even the most founded marriages.

Betrayal in some form or another is destined to come up in any marriage and can cause a lot of hurt between couples. So how do you forgive betrayal in marriage as a couple and move forward?

Moving on from betrayal is a painful and long journey but it doesn’t have to always lead to separation. If you care enough for your spouse, there may still be hope for saving your marriage.

So, How to Forgive Betrayal in Marriage?

This pain, if not addressed and healed will repeatedly tear at the fabric of a relationship leading to constant conflict and possibly ending the marriage.

This article will discuss several mistakes couples make and key remedies needed to forgive betrayal in marriage and move forward together as a renewed and recommitted couple.

As mentioned, betrayal can come in many forms and this can range from simple acts of betrayal to the most grieving acts a spouse can do. If one or both partners decide to act in a way that goes against the “agreements” made in the relationship and continuously make efforts in hiding it, this can be considered a betrayal.

This can impact all facets of a couple’s relationship such as finances, co-parenting, friendships, extended family relationships, physical health, career, intimacy, and sexuality.

Let’s look at the most common causes of heartaches in a marriage.

Most Common Form of Betrayal: Infidelity

Although betrayal can come in many forms within a marriage, the most referenced betrayal is infidelity. In fact, according to research, up to 60% of all spouses will commit adultery or infidelity in one way or another at least once in their marriage.[2]

Adultery is defined differently across cultures, religions, and social norms. Most would see adultery as an act of physical intimacy with someone other than your spouse. But in some religions, a simple gaze of desire is considered adultery.

It has been reported that in the United States, 17% of all divorces can be attributed to infidelity by one or both partners.[3]

Thus, because of this large propensity of betrayal occurring in marriage, many couples struggle with what to do and how to recover when it occurs. This leads them to either stay in a dysfunctional relationship or simply go their separate ways.

Unfortunately, going separate ways is not always the best solution as this in turn affects the children and causes irreparable damage.

Seeking Counsel

Like most people who ask, “how to forgive your partner after betrayal?” you might think of consulting a marriage counselor.

However, marriage counseling has been proven to be less effective than any other counseling therapy out there. This leaves many couples lost as to what to do and ends up acquiring bad habits that can eventually break their marriage.[4]

In fact, due to the lack of appropriate guidance, most couples end up creating a cyclical argument pattern in their relationship centered around the first betrayal. This cyclical pattern of arguing is similar to a pattern dynamic that John Gottman termed, The Pursuer-Distancer Dynamic.[5]

1. The Pursuer

After the betrayal is revealed in a relationship, it inevitably is brought up again afterward. This can happen from time to time when the betrayed partner is reminded of the betrayal.

Like most pain reminders, simple things can bring up the event like the date you were told, the food you ate that day, how you were told, a tv sitcom, or even a glass of juice. As long as there is a simple connection, the betrayal can resurface easily and this makes it harder for both to move on.

This causes the betrayed partner to “pursue” their partner for comfort, explanation, reassurance, or any kind of guarantee that the behavior will not occur again. It is hard to blame the pursuer as the betrayal has already caused trauma.

2. The Distancer

The partner that caused the betrayal will eventually feel attacked, criticized, blamed, and guilt-laden by their partner. They start to “distance” themselves so that they don’t feel the guilt of being reminded of what they’ve done.

This leads to a small separation of both spouses and slowly turns them away from each other. Both spouses will start to find new things outside of their marriage, such as a hobby, a friend, or a career.

Unfortunately, this cycle repeats itself over and over again. According to John Gottman’s research, if the pattern isn’t corrected, the couple has a greater than 80 percent chance of divorcing in the first four or five years of marriage.

How to Forgive Your Spouse’s Betrayal?

Given the grim statistics, a couple can still recover from a betrayal, find forgiveness and move forward in their relationship. However, four things need to be present for a couple to be successful.

1. Genuine Willingness to Change

The only way that a couple can recover from a mistake or hurt is if the person who caused the pain has a genuine willingness to change. Change happens if there is no ultimatum or if the person is not just trying to be compliant.

The person who caused the betrayal must take personal responsibility for the hurt they caused and possess a desire to make amends with their partner and right the wrong things they have done. They must truly show remorse for their actions and understand not only the betrayal they caused their partner but also the betrayal they caused themselves.

2. Transparency

Once the betrayal is out in the open, it is important for transparency to be a key element in the relationship. If anything is kept from the betrayed partner, no matter how small it may seem, it will only serve to feed distrust, suspicion, and an urge to “pursue” the other partner to uncover the truth.

Nothing should be kept in the dark such as bank accounts, passwords, social media accounts, friendships, or who you have lunch with on your break at work. This may seem like a violation of privacy, however the more severe the betrayal, the more there is a need for complete transparency.

The betrayed partner will naturally question whether they are being told the truth and wonder if they will be betrayed again, and it is the other partner’s job not to feed it.

3. Get Ahead of the Pain

The pain of betrayal comes and goes in waves. It can be triggered by places, people, and things you encounter in your environment. It can be brought up by what you watch on TV or what you listen to on the radio.

Just like taking pain medication before you feel the pain after a medical procedure, recovery from a betrayal should be addressed in the same way. It is important for the partner who caused the betrayal to pay attention to environmental triggers and be the first person to mention the trigger to their partner.

This may seem counterintuitive and seem like you may be starting an argument. However, the pain of the memory of the betrayal will inevitably come up anyways. By making mention of the trigger before your partner experiences the pain, you demonstrate to your partner that recovery from the betrayal is important to you.

You should stay ahead of the pain and facilitate healing. Getting ahead of the pain is one way how you can forgive your husband after a betrayal.

4. Approach the Healing Together

In forgiving betrayal, each partner in the relationship must learn to face it together as a team and as an “Us.”

Although it was the actions of one member of the partnership that caused the betrayal, it can only be healed by the couple together. Each member of the partnership must understand why the betrayal occurred in the first place, and why they are facing this challenge in their relationship at this time.

Mistakes are bound to happen in any relationship and if a couple is willing to move forward past any hurt caused in the relationship, they must rise above blame, shame and guilt, and embrace compassion, understanding, and forgiveness.

This can only be done as teammates and not opponents.

How to Deal With Betrayal in Marriage and Move Forward


Infidelity is one of the most common betrayals that can be done in a relationship and one also the most painful things you can do to your spouse.
Seeking counsel and the Pursuer-Distancer Dynamic is a wise choice but without proper guidance, the couple may end up in a downward spiral. This can lead to a Pursuer-Distancer Dynamic.
The Pursuer: When you betray a spouse, he or she can inevitably become insecure and seek assurance. Thus, bringing up the act of betrayal again and again.
The Distancer: The one who betrayed in turn would feel the guilt and may distance him or herself. This slowly separates them and never really reaches a point of healing.
How do you forgive your spouse? Be willing to change, be transparent, get ahead of the pain, and find peace together.

Finding Peace

As mentioned, betrayal can come in many different forms within a marriage with different severity. The pain of betrayal is gut-wrenching and doesn’t go away very quickly.

Those that remain in the pain cycle are destined to experience the pain of betrayal as if it happened yesterday and will unlikely find forgiveness and healing in their marriage.

Depending on the severity of the betrayal, it can persist for the duration of the marriage. Like a physical wound, it can either be reinjured repeatedly, or it can be healed and remain as a scar. Couples who take the time to grow from the betrayal and work together to heal from it. The pain can lessen over time and couples become stronger from it.

So how to forgive betrayal in marriage? Find peace.

It will be a long and hard journey. But as with any other solid foundation, hardships will come to test the relationship. If both are willing, moving past any kind of hardships such as betrayal is just a matter of time.

Featured photo credit: Foto Pettine via


[1] Merriam-Webster: Betrayal
[2] Health Research Funding: 26 Surprising Statistics on Cheating Spouses
[3] Divorce Statistics: Latest Infidelity Statistics of USA
[4] American Psychological Association: The effectiveness of psychotherapy: The Consumer Reports study
[5] The Pursuer-Distancer Dynamic

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