Repentance – A Betrayer’s View

It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly a month since I wrote my post about Forgiveness.  I intended to write a followup within a day or two about repentance, which is obviously closely related to forgiveness. I ended up writing about a lot of other things instead, not because repentance doesn’t need to be addressed, but because I found I just couldn’t get into it. (Writer’s Block – why must you be so… so… Gah! – what’s the word I’m looking for?!?) This is part of an overall trend the last few weeks away from talking about the affair and dealing with other issues and just life in general.

Anyway, I’ve determined to sit down and write the post I should have written weeks ago. At some point in the next 1-60 days I might do a follow-up piece on Grace and Mercy. Then again, maybe not. I bet they’d be good, though.

The Three R’s

Repentance and remorse. What are they? What does it mean to feel remorse? Is it the same as repenting? What about regretting? They’re all connected but different.

I can deeply regret having the affair because of the messy outcome but still think the affair was okay. I don’t, but it’s not inconsistent to both regret and excuse the affair. It all depends on why you regret the affair. If you primarily regret it because you were caught or because you spouse got hurt, that’s different than regretting it because you know the affair was wrong.

I can also feel remorse over how I hurt my wife but not hate the sin I committed. This is a bit trickier, but it’s not impossible. Basically it’s acknowledging my responsibility for hurting my wife, but minimizing the wrongness of what I did in an absolute sense. It’s the kind of attitude that leads to a tearful confession after an affair because of the pain it caused, but allows for other affairs in the future.

Mere repentance does not require regret or remorse. Repenting really means changing your mind and rejecting the sin and resolving not to do it again. This sounds good, but if it isn’t accompanied by remorse and regret, it’s not going to lead to a meaningful restoration of the relationship. It’s an empty, incomplete repentance.

Full repentance includes all three aspects – it acknowledges the sin (“I sinned and I hurt you”), it regrets the sin (“I’m sorry I sinned and hurt you”), and it resolves to reject and turn away from the sin (“I was completely wrong and I won’t do it again”). There’s a lot more that goes into restoring a relationship, but that is repentance at its core.

Signs of True Repentance

True repentance does not try to minimize the sin. Saying “It was just sex” kind of misses the point, don’t you think?

True repentance does not make allowances for the sin. This means no contact with the affair partner. God knows it’s hard enough not to fall back into sin as it is, but if you add in little opportunities for you to be tempted it’s a lot harder. The opportunities can be physical, virtual, or mental. This translates into you can’t see her, you can’t text/IM/email/call her, and you can’t nurture the love for her in your heart.

True repentance does not try to blame others for the affair. If you don’t admit that you are 100% responsible for the affair, then you are not acknowledging you were wrong. If you aren’t acknowledging you were wrong, who on earth can you repent from that?

True repentance (like true faith, according to James) is not alone. There are many signs and actions that go along with true repentance but are not repentance themselves. They are outward signs of the inward changes. These things restore relationships.

Restoring a relationship means putting words into action. It means rebuilding trust by being trustworthy*. It means actually not sinning anymore and putting safeguards in place to prevent yourself from sinning again.

To make this personal, as the person who sinned and hurt my spouse, I have a lot of work to do to restore the relationship. One of the ways I show my repentance is by doing the hard work, being selfless and gracious, having the hard conversations, going to counseling, giving up some freedoms to built trust, showing my wife I love her by having a thick skin sometimes and loving her just the same.

What it doesn’t mean

There are different types and depths of affairs, but if like me the affair was emotional as well as physical, then being repentant does not mean that the feelings for the affair partner will suddenly stop. They will fade over time, but unless there’s an aggravating factor, it’s going to take time apart. You probably won’t stop missing the AP immediately either. The key is to be tempted but not to sin.

True repentance doesn’t mean you can’t acknowledge problems in your marriage that existed before the affair. This is actual pretty crucial. If one or the other of you is still vulnerable to an affair because of something you two are doing, then you need to fix it. Saying the loyal spouse bears some responsibility for the vulnerability is NOT the same as saying she is responsible for the affair. Protecting the loyal spouse from all criticism isn’t a requirement for repentance, but it is a cause for resentment.

True repentance does not mean hating the sinner. There’s plenty of room to hate the sin, but hating the affair partner is wrong. I’m no psychologist, but I’d bet this is a kind of transference. It’s blaming the other woman for the affair and then directing your hate at her instead of recognizing that you are both 100% responsible and both in need of forgiveness. (which brings me to Grace, but that’s a topic for another day) Not only are we called to forgive and love our enemies, but it’s probably not very good for your own recovery.

True repentance does not mean that you the cheater have to be a door mat for the loyal spouse. The loyal spouse is going to do some bad things out of anger. I think that’s pretty universal. I also think you need to deal with what you’ve brought on yourself, including the bad or sinful reaction from your betrayed spouse. However, this is not a license to be treated like shit the rest of your life. You owe it to yourself, your spouse, and your marriage to show the loyal spouse grace and love, but to also stand up for what’s right, to be strong and confident in your forgiveness. It’s not all one or the other – it’s both together – and there’s a time for each to prevail.


So what’s it all about? Repentance, like forgiveness, is recognizing the true depth of what you’ve done – all the sin, all the pain, and the mistakes. And like forgiveness, repentance means changing ones mind – rejecting and turning away from the things that happened, never to return to them. It’s a process and hopefully the result is a restored relationship.

*I’d argue that part of both true repentance and rebuilding trust is confession and asking for forgiveness. I know there’s some difference of opinion on this point, so I won’t be dogmatic, but at a minimum I think you should confess to God and a pastor or some other trusted counselor. My argument for confessing to the spouse is that you are deceiving and lying so long as you don’t confess. However, I make an allowance here that confession, especially a fully detailed confession, may be more harmful that beneficial. I leave it to the reader to decide what is best. I cannot and will not make that decision for another person.


About Anonyman

Recovering adulterer and husband of an awesome wife who has given me a second chance. Sinner and Christian, saved by grace alone. I cuss a lot
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9 Responses to Repentance – A Betrayer’s View

  1. 15gen says:

    Tough to read this morning, but everything you say is right. We just had a disagreement last night. I asked if he thought we should go back to counseling, saying that I know we have work that still needs to be done & I don’t know where to go from here. He blew, told me he would not go back – it was a waste of time & he doesn’t have issues to work through. I felt attacked (as if he said, “this is your problem, not mine”), shut down & steamed all night & have had a mini meltdown this morning. Then I read this. And my mind spins at warp speed.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I definitely know this is tough hey Isle have you read my Homeschool post? Because the video was so cray cray.. There’s no way I’m at that point to delight in showing M forgiveness, or mercy.. I’m sure that makes me a jackass all the same, but great post Isle. I thought of you and your wife as I listened to this song


  3. I had an affair says:

    Then there are those of us that feel no regret because of what it revealed in us.


  4. Dang it Anonyman I feel like I was digging for you to follow me I wasn’t swear..
    And IHAA I think that is where so many of us stumble in betrayed land because I know I get upset when I see that a wound is starting to close up and I’m like nu-uh bitch. This has definitely revealed so much about M and I that I shouldn’t regret it.. but I do and I want to so bad.. it’s all cray cray..
    Also thanks for the Rocky video that was great 🙂


    • Anonyman says:

      Considering what you’ve gone through, is it any wonder you might be a bit averse to change? The closing of that wound can be a scary thing. I know it was for my wife because as long as that wound was open and demanding attention, it meant there was no chance of going back to “business as usual.”

      Are you saying you shouldn’t regret it but you do and you want to? I think I can see where you might feel that way. God allows really shitty things to happen sometimes but He uses them for good (I think I even read that somewhere). That doesn’t mean that they are good things, especially sin, but God can and does take our mistakes and turn them to good. David’s affair is a great example of this. David had many reasons to praise God before his affair, but he had hardly begun to praise the LORD for his forgiveness and mercy until after the affair.

      You should regret the affair. You should regret that it took that to make you realize who you are and who your husband is. You should regret that it took the affair to start the healing process. But praise God for his mercy! Praise him for his forgiveness! Praise him for using our sins to make us better instead of letting them destroy us utterly and forever! Praise him for being the protector of the brokenhearted and the healer of the sick! Praise him for allowing us to be angry at him when life sucks! Blessed be the name of the LORD!

      You know what I’ve done. You know what my wife and I have been through. So you know I’m not just blowing rainbows here. God is good even when our life has turned to shit. I know that now better than I ever have before. I hate it and I love it. I know it and I forget it. But it’s the truth.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Moxie says:

    great post…maybe this is why I finally filed for divorce. i did not feel my ex had all 3, he felt shame, guilt and sorrow for the pain the affair caused, but refused to give up the OW, he wanted to remain friends with her, yet, would not divorce me. he even went as far as continuing to see her in public like they were a full fledged couple, yet would not file for divorce. i could take the disrespect no longer and filed. those 3 r’s……


  6. Pingback: Grace and Mercy – A Betrayer’s View | Isle of a Man

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