When can infidelity in a marriage be forgiven?

Infidelity can truly tear a marriage apart. Emotions run high on both sides of the marriage when one partner commits adultery and there are a thousand questions that the faithful spouse wants to have answered. Feelings are hurt and it often feels as though the marriage can never be restored.

Forgiveness is Essential

Even as a Christian, I believe that divorce following an episode of adultery is fair due to the fact that the bond between husband and wife has been irreparably broken. I, myself, am divorced following my ex-husband's affair. I am not going to preach to you that all couples should remain married following an affair.

But I will tell you straight up that forgiveness is essential. I am not speaking here as a Christian, but as someone who understands the effect of "holding on" to the bad things that have happened to you. If you are going to be able to move ahead in a healthy manner, you need to forgive your spouse.

Understand that forgiveness doesn't mean that you're going to remain in the marriage. It doesn't mean that you aren't going to experience pain or that you aren't permitted to experience pain. It only means that you are going to let go of the anger and bitterness and the questions that you have, and move forward with your life.

Your spouse might not deserve your forgiveness, but you do.

But Should I Stay?

This is something that needs to be very carefully evaluated by both spouses. Does your partner wish to continue their affair? Are they in love with their lover? Are they in love with you? Is there a way to restore the love into your relationship? Are you willing to do a lot of work to make things work between you and your spouse? Are you prepared for the feelings of uneasiness every time your spouse is out of your site?

You need to decide for yourself whether or not it is worth it for you to remain in your marriage. For me, I felt that it was worth forgiving and continuing to make an effort. But if you are going to do better in your marriage, you are going to need to look to yourself as well.

Forgiveness must be complete and even the "wronged" spouse should make some effort to change their attitude and behavior toward their husband or wife.

I Had the Affair and Now He Won't Forgive Me!

If you are the spouse who was unfaithful to your partner, be prepared for questions. You need to be prepared for their anger and their lack of forgiveness. Patience is important on your end. If your husband or wife wishes to try to work things out in your marriage, you should do everything in your power to reassure them of your love or respect for them and to move forward with a new promise to one another. Remember that you broke an oath to your partner. He is going to feel betrayed and let down by your behavior. She might not trust you for a long time after the affair. Your spouse might never fully trust you again.

Marriage takes work. You don't deserve your partner's forgiveness if you have had an affair: but it is my most sincere hope that he will give it to you for his own good. Work on forgiving yourself, and don't place blame on your spouse for your behavior. Accept responsibility, and ensure that your partner knows that you have done.

Counseling is recommended.

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Comments 37 comments

sheenarobins profile image

sheenarobins 7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

When it happen to me, I chose to forgive the ex and the woman. It was a choice I made not for them but for myself. I cannot allow them to hurt me anymore than they already did. It was necessary, it was a choice.

Staying together is another issue. The damage was beyond repair, the insult was terrible and so on. Like I said, I cannot allow them to hurt me anymore than they already did...many times. I can no longer trust him for making a fool out of me...many a times.


Everyday Miracles profile image

Everyday Miracles 7 years ago from Indiana, USA Author

I have known people who get very up in arms about divorce in the case of infidelity. I am very, very much against divorce -- EXCEPT in this case. I no longer wonder what I did wrong in my marriage to make him cheat because I have forgiven both of them (she was my best friend) but I believe that if we were together I would always be watching my behavior to make sure I was "perfect."

Adultery hurts. My husband and I have both been through it and I believe I can trust him because he wouldn't want to hurt me the way he's been hurt.


peace_maker profile image

peace_maker 7 years ago from Quebec Canada

I had used every since of the way to use for givness on the one who was the first wife I had 3kids by. I am not with she had done it 3 times during my marriage of 16 yrs,I had worked 12 hours a day at times of and on swing shifts. I was tired did not feel much doing it after I worked those times of 12hrs. she was fixed. still she did what she did to have an open marriage and more affairs. so living in a bad atmosphere and to many pets in a trailer kinda made it bad for the kids. and she had a plan to have the state come in and find very little food after I got mad at the help. that was there so it was just that occur d she found some one else while we were moving to a better place for the kids to live in, when she split from me. but could of made changes she did not so I lost and had to give her a divorce.so the story goes on not seeing the kids but still paying from my pension

but I did have a lot to do with her in bed I did try during the times when I was not working. I feel after we got help w/ councilor's it didn't work she still I feel was needy for some reason. she just now has my youngest child back from the state and my daughter that lives with her mom and my other son that the state trying to return him back..

so I am married with my second wife where I live in another country. I believe sex has a lot to do in a marriage. it helps couples to be close together I think having a little love makes a bond. and a purpose of stying together in some affects.


Everyday Miracles profile image

Everyday Miracles 7 years ago from Indiana, USA Author

I believe that one person can save a marriage. But infidelity really messes it up, peace_maker. I'm sorry you had such a terrible experience!


Marisa Wright profile image

Marisa Wright 7 years ago from Sydney

Personally, I don't think a marriage can ever recover from infidelity. As I posted elsewhere, trust is essential in a marriage, and once your partner has betrayed you, you can never be sure it won't happen again. That eventually poisons both your lives.


Everyday Miracles profile image

Everyday Miracles 7 years ago from Indiana, USA Author

Marisa,

I think that a *marriage* may be able to recover but there is always going to be damage in the individuals concerned (both of them). Infidelity often damages the cheater as much as it does the one who was cheated *on*.

I know that in a bit way (sorry to keep referencing your comment on a totally different hub) that it affects the person who was the victim for a long time. My husband is one of those, I'm convinced. He knows I won't be unfaithful (just not me) but I think he's reserved a bit.


RGraf profile image

RGraf 7 years ago from Wisconsin

Great piece. I think that most people are confused as to what forgiveness is. many think that it is pretending that all is as it was before, but as you stated above once an affair has happened, the bond can never be the same. Trust has to be re-earned and in a marriage that can be hard. I think that Jesus knew that and that is why he said that divorce was allowable for those reasons. The damage is too severe.


trooper22 profile image

trooper22 7 years ago from Chicago

I have to agree with Marisa on this one. Once the cystal of trust is broken, it can never be repaired.


jessemaude 7 years ago

There is a reason it is called the labor of love. Marriages take work. I believe you can forgive but you may find that there are different levels of forgiveness. I agree that it does not mean erasing the infidelity as if it never happened. You are changed forever but maybe there has been positive growth in your marriage and in you. However, the level of harm may be so great that the best you can do is making peace with what happened and letting go of the need for revenge. For me, I was able to forgive when I saw that my husband truly understood the pain and horror he created in our marriage, my life and the lives of our children. He was able to accept responsibility for his actions and made the effort to change his behaviors and repair our marriage. When I saw his level of commitment I felt safe enough to forgive. We ARE recovering from repeated affairs and sexual addiction. We work on healing every day. We share our stress and temptations. Talking with each other openly helps prevents the keeping of secrets. Some define infidelity as the keeping of secrets. I was greatly helped by reading How Can I Forgive You? The Courage to Forgive, The Freedom Not To by Janis Abrahms Spring. For those healing from infidelity I wish you all peace. I need to start a hub.


danielthorne profile image

danielthorne 6 years ago

Do me wrong once...shame on you...Do me wrong twice...shame on me...


Mireya 6 years ago

my god if i could just tell u wat a hell ive put my husband and family through. i confessed my husband of seven years abt my affair. the after math was very terrible,but i think i made it worse when i was trying to win him back. i gave him some time after my confession, but then i just chased him down. I think he still resents me and has a lot of hate, still after helping him in every way... I trully love him and would love for him to realize that we deserve a chance... I have also asked myself wat is true forgiveness? a friend told me just like god forgives us. i aske her how does he... she told me its when u really regret waat u did and dont do it again, he would forget abt it. forgive just like u would want someone to forgive u if it was u made the mistake.


Everyday Miracles profile image

Everyday Miracles 6 years ago from Indiana, USA Author

Mireya, God's forgiveness is total because His love is absolutely complete. I don't know that we, as humans, are capable of that kind of all-encompassing love for another being, including God Himself. I'm sorry to say it, but that's the experience that I have had.

We aren't perfect, and I think that our key to being able to forgive one another is in realizing that we are not, ourselves, perfect.

Remember that Yeshua said that we are to forgive seven times seventy times.


lakeerieartists profile image

lakeerieartists 6 years ago from Cleveland, OH

To me the issue is all about trust. If you can't trust your husband, then the relationship is no longer a marriage.


aa 6 years ago

forgive


Vina 6 years ago

Try to forgive him for the last time and pray for him to mend his ways.no one is perfect only God is perfect.we have two talented kids.


jess 6 years ago

I recently found out that my husband of six years had a one night stand during a time when his work had us living in separate places. Along with this one night stand came a beautiful baby girl. When I found out I was broken that this would happen and that if I staid we would be bringing this child into our house continually to be a part of our family with our two boys. Life is hard and as you all stated we are all imperfect. I feel like God is a wonderful awe inspiring saving grace and depending on your situation its deferent for everyone who goes through it with the grace of God you can win your marriage back. A friend told me, the enemy only knows what potentiol your family has to be a great work in God. Therefor he tries to damage you the best way he knows how. I really believe that if you give yourself completely to God. He can teach you to fall in love all over again but I think its different depending on if its an affair of many months, or several different partners. Its really something you have to openly communicate with your spouse and God. God will let you know if you should stay or go and He will definitely help you forgive and bring peace to your life. People can tell you there experiences but you have to walk the road for yourself and if you are 100% sold out to Christ He will not let you do. He will put you on the right path, not the easy path, the right path and give you the strength to walk it.


jth 5 years ago

being 66 yrs old now & having had a very unfaithfull wife 35 yrs ago I can say this .

She was caught ( by her own admission ) She filed for divorce , when he hit the road ,she canceled the divorce & all of the sudden wanted to get back to me ( amazing )Less than three weeks later at a party I opened a bedroom door & there she was getting ready to do it again with a shirttail relitive. I at that point realized what an idiot I was not to dump her the first time ( that I know of ) My owm personel opinion is if they cheated get rid of them . If they got caught & were forgiven ( which is what I so stupidly thought may happen )That is the green light to do it again


jth  5 years ago

Mireya , he does deserve a second chance , just not with you


Trent 5 years ago

Right now, Im in the middle of trying to reconcile a marriage where she cheated on me with (a minimum of) four different guys. She expects me to forget her past so quickly, but she continues to hold onto phone numbers, pictures, emails, and chat logs of these guys. Her excuse is "she looks at them differently than I do" OF COURSE SHE DOES !!! SHE SCREWED THEM ALL !!! She refuses to delete these things that have caused so much grief in our marriage. I cant move on with forgiveness and let go of the past, if she cannot let go of her past. Am I somehow wrong here ???


jth 5 years ago

Trent ,suffer only you can determine just how much crap you will put up with


lucia machi 5 years ago

My husband cheated on me and they even went ahead and got a kid. He came and persuaded me to forgive him. Which I did. I have three beautiful kids but hoping this relationship would end, he has now revealed to me that he will not abandon the child only the mother. They work together in the same place.I have been married for 20 years but I feel that I do not trust my husband although I love him so much. Do I go for a divorce and what will my grown up children think and they love their dad.Please advice.


jrk219 5 years ago

Lucia, maybe you can help me...

I am not sure how got here, but I am glad I did. I am glad I am not the only one struggling to find a way through infidelity. 2006: My husband and I had been married for about 8 months when he started his affair with a female. We had been together for 5 years before we married. I was devastated. The sexual relationship he chose to maintain with this other woman was happening for 2 months before I had an inkling that something was off. I then stumbled upon different hair in my hairbrush, cigarette butts in the bin, etc. I confronted my husband, after some discussion he conceded that yes it was true. He felt neglected that I was so busy at my work and at university that he took comfort elsewhere.

Fast-forward 15 years. We have two lovely children. I have never completely trusted him again. Always checking phone bills, credit card bills, surprise calls on his where-a bouts, and loving him at the same time. He asks why I can’t fully trust him when he has said 'sorry'. Phleeese... yet here I am.

Six months ago, I discovered by accident a text message between him and a woman (also someone he works with), which sounded very affectionate and a bit sexy. I freaked, as you can understand. He says they are just friends, he was drunk at the time of his text, and he took their friendship too far and that I am reading too much into this.

I feel like I am the definition of contradiction! ‘OK hunn, you’ve said sorry, you’ve shed some tears, you love me etc, etc, etc, I love you too’. Yet, ‘You pig! How could you do this to me, I would never do this to anyone, low, low, low’. ‘You foolish, weak woman staying with this man’. This conversation can go round in my head so fast that I’m not sure what triggered the emotional rollercoaster. I have been seeing a very helpful psychologist, he suggests that I decide to either live by my values or live in pretence and fantasy. I am in the mist of deciding to stay or go. I am thinking of our two beautiful children and if this will completely screw up their futures, I am researching the evidence on divorced kids and their outcomes. My psychologist suggests that sacrificing my self-worth could be more damaging than being a happy divorced woman. Hmm, worth thinking about.

Lucia- I would tell you to leave and move on with your life as a (potentially, in the future, after the hard stuff) happy, independent, self-respecting, (and having the respect of your children) woman not putting up with being treated by a person who can put your relationship so easily (or even with difficulty) in doubt and turmoil.

Perhaps you or someone wise can offer me the same advice, as I am in despair as well... :(


Cindy 5 years ago

I have been married for 21 years to a man I thought was my best friend in the whole world. Last year, when I went back to work because of financial trouble, he started becoming very irritable and lashed out at me and the kids constantly. Not knowing what was wrong and always feeling pursecuted, i turned away from him and didn't talk or have sex with him. He moved out and didn't move back for over a year. He finally came to me and told me he had had a one night incident, not full blown intercourse but a sexual encounter with a female he knew from his twenties. I couldn't and still cannot believe it. I am struggling so bad-it's been 6 months since he told me-and still have not made a decision to stay or go. Help!


amber112483 profile image

amber112483 5 years ago from florida

For those who read this, if you need to update yourself on my situation please read my resend post.

5 Months ago my husband and I have been working on our relationship due to infidelity (on my part). My Husband has forgave me and never brings it up unless we fight or I bring it up because the guilt is killing me. I have been trying to go above and beyond with fixing the situation. I can’t seem to forgive myself or forget what I did. Has anyone else been in this situation and could lend a helping hand. Please don’t be harsh , read my story and see what happened before you judge


Grace 5 years ago

My husband of 2 months cheated on me! She is a doctor...He has beenwith her for a couple of months and even while we registered our marriage...

I am going to leave him...

Once a cheater...always a cheater...


Melissa 4 years ago

I do not know If i have forgiven my husband or not. I dont trust him. I despise him. We still live together but I do not feel that hes even remorseful for what he did to me. He blamed me for him cheating on me. He told me when he cheated we were done... I had a nervous breakdown and was on 5150 and until now that it will almost be a year... I still feel the pain. I will never forgive someone who is not asking for my forgiveness.

Eversince the affair... I stopped believing in God too. There is no God anymore. For me, I am the only one who can make choices and change my life. I am in a limbo right now. I do not know which direction to take. My heart is full of anger, pain and resentment that I do not even know when to end.

I am still with him... but I already divorced him in my heart and soul. Thats all hes going to get from me. People might ask why am i not leaving despite all of this... Easy... I would like to get even first then get ahead.

He says he loves me so much... there you go. Loving someone... you give them the power to hurt you... and I WILL hurt him or for what its worth.


Kate 4 years ago

Hi- I am in a marriage of 40 years.I recently found out my husband was having an emotional affair at work that lasted one year. The woman tired and he was fired for sexual harrassment which is hoe i found out. He of course says she meant nothing to him and that he loves me. It has been months and still his stories constantly change. He has destroyed our family and his only explanation is he doesn't know why he did it. I want my life back but deep inside I know I will never forget the pain.


rita 4 years ago

Hi - I have been married for 23 years. I found out 6 months ago that my Husband, who is 50years old has been having an affair with his colleague at work who is 29 years old. The affair supposedly ended when i found him texting her a sexual message which made me physically throw up. He blames the affair on me not showing him enough affection. Ihave always loved my husband and thought we had a strong marriage. This has devastated me and 6 months on i still have very bad days where all i can think about is what they said and did together. He swears he did not have sex with her and it was only texting and phoning. He was texting her up to 28 times some days and he says it was only a friendship that crossed the line. I love him very much but i dont think i can ever get over what he has done to me. We are together and trying to make a go of things but i have regular mood changes whre i need him so much sexually and passionately and other days i can hardly bring myself to speak to him. Is this normal to be like this after 6 months. Sometimes i feel so desperate.


Sarah 4 years ago

My husband is cheating with the lady l know and they have two together should l forgive or leave him. I have no kids with him.


kathy 4 years ago

I've been having an affair on and off for three years with a cop. We both have college age kids.

I was cheated on numerous times in my 20 year marriage and never imagined that I'd be a part of an affair.

I never planned on it, never wanted it and fought it until I just couldn't anymore. I wept endlessly, and felt terrible guilt.

I grew to understand that we are all looking for guarantees that we will always be loved by another, whatever life brings our way but like childbirth you do not fully understand the breath and depth of each stage in life. We do not and cannot own another person whatever they may promise in some point of their life. Learning about ourselves is a complicated journey by itself, so how can we realistically expect someone else to predictably meet our needs in every stage in our life. Enjoy and treasure your companion in each step of life's journey and know for a surety that it may not always be the same one. Seek truth every step of they way and have the courage to keep moving forward for life is a gift.


Nataly 4 years ago

SHOULD I FORGIVE HIM? While I was away from my husband for about two weeks in mexico because my mother was very ill. He was in our home drinking with a friend from work where we both worked at. A person that I did not even know that he had a friendship with, they were drinking and she spiked his drink with a pill of ecstasy, once he was really drunk with patron and really drugged with this ecstasy she took off all her close and they ended up having consensual oral sex but did not have penetration because he was too wasted to go any further. I overheard him tell his friend all about this when he did not know I was listening. He also said that he regreted the whole incident that he regreted all that had happened and that he does not know what he was thinking or half what happened that night. When I confronted him about what I heard he acts like he never said this when I heard him with my own ears and acts like am crazy. I also realized that this woman was at our home because she followed him home from work and knocked on our door because she knew that I was in mexico and he let her in. Like I said He denies everything he sayd but I know what happened because I heard him say it. SO have mixed feelings about this situation. Should I forgive him or not?


LostBoy007 4 years ago

Forgiveness is not about them, it's about you. You don't forgive someone to make them feel better. You don't forgive them to validate what they did. You forgive someone to put your anger in the hands of the world and bring peace within yourself. How long it takes to be ready to forgive will depend on how long it takes you to realise that you want to move forward. People ask "How can I forgive someone that doesn't want to be forgiven?", and the answer is that it's not about them it's about you. You forgive them so that YOU can move on. You can put that chapter behind you and harbour no resentment towards the fact that you went through that pain. It's about acknowledging that life is not perfect, we're not perfect and that pain is just one of many ways we learn.

A big part of forgiving someone after an affair is the forgiveness you need to give yourself at the same time. You cannot truly forgive someone if you haven't forgiven yourself for forgiving them. If you held the belief that "I would never forgive him/her if they cheated on me" before the event, then you will struggle to ever forgive yourself if you do decide to forgive him/her. You'll feel like you are compromising your own integrity by doing the one thing your swore you would never do. That is why you need to forgive yourself first before you can forgive them. You need to be ok with making changes to your belief system and ok with the fact that you can never anticipate how you will react in a situation. Saying to yourself that you will never forgive someone is like saying that you'll never get sick, or never be nice to anyone. You can't hold that view and be healthy at the same time. It's not an authentic promise to yourself as it's based on absolutes and based on fantasy. Life is not black and white and there are no absolutes. Of course you need to set boundaries and rules for yourself and your partner, and it might be that you can't stay together after the affair. You can still hold your integrity and leave the relationship, but forgiveness is needed before you can truly grow and move on.

As has been said in this article, forgiving them does not mean that everything must return to the way it was. You may still go your separate ways or the person may not actually want your forgiveness. You don't have to physically tell them that you forgive them either as it's more about achieving inner peace with yourself than it is with making them feel better. Imagine going into your next relationship harbouring negative feelings towards your previous partner. Do you think it's fair on the new partner to be holding on to these feelings? Believe me I've been there and it's not healthy. If you allow yourself to forgive, and you respect yourself for the courage and the ability to do so, then you will go into your next relationship much healthier.


David 4 years ago

It can be overcome ONE time.. .it can be healed ONE time. . it can be repaired ONE time. . . if they do it more than once. . .GET OUT ALIVE before they rip your soul into oblivion. . .TRUST me. . TAKE IT TO THE BANK. THEY WILL NOT STOP IF THEY DO IT MORE THAN ONCE AND YOU TAKE THEM BACK. this coming from hard, bitter, agonizing, soul-grinding experience. Get out and save yourself from being destroyed. it WILL destroy you. I guarantee it. You won't even know who you are anymore, you will lose every shred of self-respect and self-worth. And NO human being, no matter how beautiful, handsome, darling, precious, adorable, addictive, is worth LOSING yourself for. YOU are most precious. Y O U.


Ninu 4 years ago

It all boils down to one thing and one thing alone. Do you intend to start or keep respecting yourself and stand up for what you know is morally, ethically, even spiritually right, and what you deserve: honesty, trust, respect, value, integrity, love, consideration, and fidelity? Or will you say by your action of staying with a cheater, that their cheating somehow wasn't as low as your self-respect? You can't change them or what they did, but you can choose to respect yourself. NEVER STAY, even if it takes a while to fully get out (house, kids, etc...)

You will never forgive YOURSELF if you stay with a cheater. No matter how much you try to justify it; cheating was wrong, and you will not be happy with yourself for staying.

Forgiving the cheater and staying with them are two separate issues. I know several women, and men, who did and it's pretty clear: they SETTLED. They know how pathetic the cheater is. They recognize that in fact a cheater has self-esteem issues, but what they don't recognize it that THEY DO TOO. Some like to fool themselves by masking it with graciousness, and grandiose compassion. Everyone but themselves sees through the ruse.

It's scary to leave, even leaving a cheater, don't get me wrong. I am at this stage now. But I made ONE decision: to do everything in a way that respects me, and honors higher values, higher love, and what is right. Staying is the opposite of all those and so, can't be an option.


Dirk 4 years ago

After ten years of marriage and three children, my wife first converted to Catholicism and revealed to me that she dated another man for three weeks when on a job assignment in Seattle for the EPA. No sex, she has claimed and I believe her. Obviously, divorce was out of the question. But the affair creeps up once or twice a year because of my inability to fully forgive my wife.


Judith 4 years ago

Ninu that's pretty damning to say a wife is always a doormat for staying. Why should someone else, either OW or another later woman get the benefit of his remorse if he has that? Why should they get treated better because he finally fixes his inner self? Assuming he does of course.

But for me the question is the past. I can see he's a better man now than when I married him. I trust he won't cheat again. I trust he won't lie to me if OW tries it on. But can I forgive the enormous betrayal for a year? Can I say it's ok it doesn't matter anymore- because that's what forgiveness really is- that's what you're letting go of, the ability to say no it's not ok and I'm done with you. I think I have that ught forever. Sure he does too. So why would I give it up to make him feel better?

And I'm going to get lectured by the "forgiveness is for you" crowd. Bollocks. It is not going to do anything for me except give me another injustice to bear. I have to live through this then forgive it as well? You're joking!

I don't know if I will end up staying. I'm 11 months since I found out. But I know if I do it won't be because it's the easy option.


fullofregret 2 years ago

Judith,

I'm curious what you chose to do. I was married for 1 year and he began a 2 year affair. I chose to to allow him to stay and to "forgive" him - I felt this need to "save" his soul so he wouldn't bust hell wide open. Basically, we should have never married. (That's the very short, abreviated version) I married him against God's will. We should never choose to be unequally yolked. So, anyway, God honored my choice to stay, and he did turn his life over to Christ and has been a radically changed man for the 20 years since. Sadly, I have regretted staying every day since. I have forever loved another and married him in the other's absence. I have "loved" him well and we have 2 amazing children and the seemingly "perfect" marriage to the onlookers, but I am bitterly "emotionally" lonely and have regretted not divorcing him when I had my legitmate "out". Although there are extenuating circumtances to our story, the fact that he had a 2 year long affair is a major player. I could emotionally connect much better, to strive toward a happier existance if that had never happened. I can say, honestly, that I would not make the same choice, of allowing him to stay, again. Which, leads me to my question. Did you decide to stay? And, how has that worked for you?

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