A few months ago, I accidentally discovered that my wife of almost 3 years (the complete love of my life) was having an affair with another man. The circumstances were just horrific.
I was just stunned and devastated to learn all this. I had no idea of my wife's frustrations, and no idea she was someone that was even capable of doing such a thing.
We have been to regular counseling for months now, and even now my wife is still at a loss to completely explain what happened and how it evolved.
Here is my question...
Now, 3-4 months removed from the affair, I am still occasionally dealing with hurt and pain that I may never fully get over 100%.
Nonetheless, I have forgiven my wife and chosen to stay with her. In spite of what occurred, I do love her tremendously. I do believe she is my beshert/soulmate. I am happiest when I'm with her, and I still see my future with her, and I believe that she feels the same way about me.
Tears beyond tears have been cried by both of us, and my wife has expressed an enormous amount of regret, remorse, and an appropriate amount of self-loathing, all of which I judge to be genuine.
At times, she has even suggested attending Shabbat services at our local synagogue to atone and ask G-d for forgiveness.
For sure, I am not fully over what happened, and I may never be fully over it altogether. Likewise, she may never be able to get over the fact that she committed adultery and betrayed and acted against someone she loves. It is a terrible tragedy in both our lives that can never be undone. But I'm pleased to say that my wife and I are currently in a very good place. We are extremely happy with one another and extremely in love. And ironically, the communication which has resulted since the affair (which should have come prior to the affair) has taken our relationship to an even far better place in so many ways than where I perceived it to be prior to the affair.
In short then, I have forgiven my wife.
I hope that she can eventually forgive herself.
Will G-d do the same?
What does Judaism say about this situation?
First allow me to reflect back your statement in brief: Your wife was having an affair with another man, she indicates this was primarily because of not being orgasmic with you. This occurred while you two were trying to conceive a child. A few months have gone by since you found out, and the affair ended. You have begun to communicate better with each other. You describe yourself as "occasionally" dealing with hurt and pain. Your wife has expressed extensive remorse and initiated Shabbat service attendance to silently atone. You indicate you have both wept deeply and feel your love has been renewed in the process of uncovering and working through this situation. You sound to have taken this as a wake-up call to the importance of listening to a spouse's sexual needs and becoming more adept at responding. You feel you have forgiven her and that she has not forgiven herself. You ask: Will God do the same? What does Judaism say about this situation?"
Answer:Jewish tradition has a phrase that sums up the steps necessary to realign with each other and with God. This is found in the High Holiday liturgy: And Repentance and Prayer and Charity remove the harsh decree." ...U'Teshuvah, U'Tefila U'Tzedakah maavirin et roa ha-gezera," You sound to have undertaken the first point, the major mitzvah of relationship healing, teshuvah - the mitzvah of returning to each other in honest communication, correction of problemmatic traits, and renewed commitment to honorable relationship. Your wife has admitted her infidelity, you have listened and are allowing trust to be rebuilt. Also, you have admitted to the need for listening and responding to her needs and have taken steps to learn how to satisfy her. Teshuvah requires such a plan of action to transform hurt and secure needed change The two of you sound to have forged a healthier foundation that bodes well for your future with each other and for your relationships with God.
Jewish law and tradition places a great emphasis upon satisfying love-making as vital to a satisfying marriage. Creating life is one of the holiest moments in Jewish tradition. In the Talmud we read that three are present during conception: the essence of the mother, the father, and the Source of Life Itself. Under these circumstances what transpires is a mitzvah. It is traditional for the couple to focus completely on pleasuring one another, being careful to release thoughts of any others that might arrive at this time. Lovemaking when angry or intoxicated is considered counterproductive to attracting a healthy soul.*
In addition to praying in synagogue, there are prayers for your home life, e.g., a Jewish prayer known as a kavvanah exists for love-making, look it up "kavannah for Jewish love making," if you wish. You might also consider seeing a professional sex therapist together, as sexuality within a committed relationship can bring great joy, as well as your hoped for child(ren) for both of you, especially as your mutual skills develop beyond the basics. The essential, third step is for the two of you to discuss tzedakah; what charities do you wish to support as a couple? Make a generous donation to one or more together now, to seal your mutual repentance and deepen mutual healing and holy intentions.
In social work training I learned that only 25% of marriages in North America find their marriage ultimately survives infidelity. Although you have laid a solid foundation for healing your relationship wounds, you will likely find that waves of hurt and pain long continue to arise from having been betrayed. Rebuilding trust takes a long time. While may want to forgive and most past this situation quickly, your body retains the painful memories and you will need to respect them with quiet noticing and prayers for healing when they arise. Please be careful not to bring up your wife's past infidelity during difficult points in your years of marriage ahead, that often spells the end. Marriage has hard times, and I have seen it possible to overcome such adversity and thrive by cultivating healthy and kind communication skills. These skills along with refraining from damaging speech undergird yet another mitzvah, that of shalom bayit, co-creating a mitzvah-centered home that yields wholeness and peace. I teach in greater depth on these topics in the book Meaning & Mitzvah: Daily Practices for Reclaiming Judaism through Prayer, God, Torah, Hebrew, Mitzvot and Peoplehood, available through ReclaimingJudaism.org and all major on-line booksellers including the publisher, Jewish Lights. May your path be blessed.
*A few traditional sources: Nedarim 20b and Bahya ben Asher on Bereishit 30:39
Adultery is a terrible sin that has significant implications in Judaism. A couple dealing with such a situation that wishes to stay together should meet with a posek (rabbinic legal expert) and a counselor.
It sounds like you have experienced a lot of pain and courageously done a lot of difficult work to rebuild your marriage. This is such holy work.
You ask if G-d will also forgive your wife? I really don’t know, but I believe so.
The Jewish tradition teaches us that we should forgive others because G-d is a forgiving G-d since we should emulate G-d’s ways (halachta b’drachav).
We recite in the selichot liturgy each year around the High Holidays: “Mochail avanot amo, maveer rishon rishon, marbeh mechila, l’chataiim uslicha l’fosheem. Oseh tzadakot im kol basar v’rauch, lo karatam teegmol” – G-d deals righteously with all and does tzedek (justice) pardoning chataiim (careless wrong doers) and forgiving poshiim (intentional wrong doers). Forgiving others here is connected to tzedek - forgiveness of those who have erred is a fulfillment of justice. Part of what it means here to be righteous is to be a forgiver (to emulate G-d). To understand that humans are fallible and to be loving of others who stumble. G-d models humility for us by forgiving us.
Rav Yisrael of Rizhin has a point relevant to your current struggle. He distinguishes between the Solaiach and the salchan. The solaiach is one who forgives because he or she is in the mood (not intrinsic to the self). The salchan on the other hand forgives time after time as it is a core point of the natural identity as a forgiver. To perpetuate opportunities to forgive and to repair relationships is to become a salchan. You have learned that you cannot forgive your wife one time. Rather, you need to forgive her in your heart time and time again. This is helping to cultivate a very deep virtue in you.
There is another step. Just as we are obligated to forgive others, so too we are commanded not to bear a grudge (lo titor). This commandment is in the same Biblical verse as the command to love others like ourselves. Forgiving another is about the past. Removing a grudge is about a present sense of indebtedness. To truly love another, we must move beyond entitlement and release our grudges.
I wish you so much healing in the future. May overcoming this challenge continue to bring you and your wife closer and closer. May you heal and heal again. May you be gentle with yourself and with one another. There is no one worth cherishing more than our life partner.
Adultery and the hurt it engenders is enormous. It is one of the "big ten" - called out specifically in the Ten Commandments. The Talmud expresses great concern about the ability of someone to repair a relationship once damaged in this way. However, you appear to be saying that your relationship has indeed found a healthy and open connection between the two of you. I worry that there remain issues of broken trust for both of you. Its good that you have forgiven her: carrying hurt is painful in the extreme. I urge you to spend some of your own time in prayer and thought, asking for healing from God and direction in your own self.
God's power to forgive is enormous. AJ Heschel in Torah from Heavens writes beautifully about the relationship between teshuvah, our ability to change ourselves in the deepest sense of who we are, and forgiveness, God's ability to forgive even beyond what we deserve. In the High Holidays liturgy we quote Leviticus saying that God will cleanse and then purify us. This means that God has the power to forgive in ways that are transformative and offer the possibility of new beginnings even greater than we deserve. By the same token, Judaism emphaisis our human ability to make choices. That means, says Rambam, that we can remake ourselves such that we are transformed and were we in the same situation again we would no longer give into that which tempted us in the past. In other words, we are capable of reinventing the self. So yes: God can forgive your wife. God's forgivining power is beyond human comprehension. Ultimately, only your wife can experience that forgiveness. For the rest of us, gazing out from the darkness behind our eyes, we can only choose to trust.
While I am sorry to be the last to reply to this query, it does allow me to add just a few nuances to the comments of colleagues.
In no particular order:
* Sometimes sinful behavior, as in the case of adultery, is a symptom of difficulty, at least as much as it may be a cause. Consider that possibility as you go forward with your spouse.
* You have offered forgiveness, and I believe you. But please do not confuse forgiveness and "forgetness." One is a conscious effort; the other is not in your control.
* I have no doubt your wife's sincere teshuvah evokes a divine response. Maimonides offers a provocative notion of when we know if we have, in effect, done true repentance. Namely when confronted with similar circumstance, we do not behave in the same way.
* More than divine forgiveness, a substantial challenge for your connection is if/when your spouse will forgive herself. Sometimes that is the hardest work of all.
*The two of you have a choice, even as it seems you have decided to embrace a particular course. For many, adultery represents a shattering breakdown in a relationship, but it is possible that the sacred dimension (the Holy One's presence) for both of you will be found in the determination and hard work to create a breakthrough in your connetion. May all that is sacred be with you on that journey.
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