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How to Forgive Your Husband for Cheating While He Was Alive

After her husband died, Kate found out her husband was having an affair. How do you cope with your husband’s death — and forgive him for cheating on you while he was alive?

Here’s my reader’s comment:

“Nobody has addressed being married to husband who died, then finding out he cheated with a coworker for the entire marriage, or most of it,” says Kate on Help and Hope When You’re Living Alone After He Dies. “You’re left to grieve your husband’s death and the ‘loss of your life.’ You also have to recover from being cheated on, but not finding out until after he died. This is even more unbearable than the death itself. How do you cope with that?”

Finding out a terrible secret after a loved one’s death is difficult. Rebuilding trust after your husband’s secret affair is painful. And the combination of those two losses is devastating,

How do you forgive your dead husband for cheating while he was alive?

By weaving forgiveness and acceptance into your grieving process. Forgiving and accepting your husband’s affair with his coworker won’t be easy, and you’ll never “get over it.” You’ll always carry a shadow of sorrow in your heart, for both your husband’s death and his secret affair while he was alive.

My tips won’t miraculously heal your wound, but they will help you move forward.

5 Ways to Cope With Your Husband’s Affair After He Dies

My “She Blossoms” articles are broken up into five different categories, for a holistic approach to life and relationships — whether I’m writing about forgiving your dead husband’s affair or falling in love for the first time. I write about the whole woman: Spirit, Heart, Soul, Body, and Brain. The separate Blossom Tips help you identify which works best for you.

1. Spirit Blossoms – Decide you will forgive your husband

You don’t need to forgive your husband for cheating while he was alive for his sake. You need to forgive him for your sake. It won’t be easy, but the healthiest way to cope with your husband’s secret affair is to choose to let it go. You must decide to move forward, even though your heart has been broken by his betrayal.

Forgiving a husband who didn’t ask for forgiveness — or is too dead to confess and repent — isn’t like rebuilding a marriage with a real live man. Rather, it’s about reconstructing your current understanding of your relationship. It’s very similar to starting over after a sudden abandonment or unexplained rejection. I learned how to do this when my sister suddenly cut me out of her life over 10 years ago, and it wasn’t easy. But I learned how to forgive someone who can’t or won’t be part of the process of starting over.

And if I can do it, so can you.

2. Heart Blossoms – Renew your relationship with your husband

Even though your husband is dead, you still have a relationship with him. You were married for years, and a marriage doesn’t just disappear. Death changes a relationship; it doesn’t erase it. When your husband dies your marriage isn’t completely over; it’s just one-sided. Sometimes, in fact, some widows feel their husbands’ presence and life even after he dies.

My ideas for forgiving your husband for cheating while he was alive are based on that thought: renewing and rebuilding your relationship with him. If you can reformulate how you thought about your marriage, you will be able to move on — even after discovering your husband had an affair before he died.

3. Soul Blossoms – Find supportive, trustworthy companions

Don’t rely on the internet for personal support. It might be helpful to search for tips on forgiving someone who broke your heart and healing your heart without relationship closure. The internet is a great place for finding information and tips, but it’s not good for getting personal advice or learning how you can forgive your husband for cheating while he was alive.

An online grief group can show you that you’re not alone. For example, a widow in a group shared this:

“After my husband died, I realized how little I actually knew about him,” said S. “I found out he’d had multiple affairs while he was alive, and one of his girlfriends actually stayed with us for a week when her basement flooded. After six years I finally forgave my husband for cheating on me while he was alive. The bitterness I felt was eating me up. We have to let go of the past or it will kill us. Sometimes rituals help with letting go. Write your feelings down and then burn the paper, or tear it up and toss it in the air, then vacuum up the pieces and throw them away. There is no changing the past.”

Online support is good, but don’t rely on it. Talk to someone you trust in person. Express your grief and shock, and explore different ways to heal the pain.

4. Body Blossoms – Take good care of yourself physically

How to Forgive Your Husband for Cheating While He Was Alive

5 Ways to Cope With Your Husband’s Affair After He Dies

Grieve the passing of your marriage as you knew it. Your husband died, and so did your understanding of him and your marriage. This grief and sorrow — of losing what you thought was true — needs to be woven into your grieving process as a widow. Grief often involves feelings of shock, anger, disbelief and numbness.

The grieving process also involves physical responses, such as exhaustion and illness. Your body is telling you the truth: you’re shocked and devastated. Instead of pushing yourself to learn how to forgive your husband for cheating while he was alive, give your body time to adjust. You’ve experienced two horrible shocks: your husband’s death, and the secret affair he had while he was alive. Give yourself time to recover.

5. Brainy Blossoms – Learn when you’re ready

In Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back, I share 50 “Blossom Tips” to help women walk through loss and move into a new season of life. The biggest thing that helped me forgive my sister’s sudden rejection and let go was changing how I saw myself. I couldn’t forgive her — or myself — when my self-identity was based on who I was as a sister. It was only until I founded my identity on God’s love and Jesus’ sacrifice that I could freely forgive and joyfully move forward.

When you’re ready, start incorporating activities that will help you forgive your husband for cheating while he was alive. Learn thoughtful strategies for picking up the pieces of your broken heart. Console yourself with comfort and hope after your husband’s death.

May you find healing and forgiveness. I can’t imagine how you feel, and my heart is broken for the pain you’re feeling. I pray for strength and comfort, and that you find people and places that will help you move from pain to peace and joy in your life.

What do you think? Your comments – big and little – on how to forgive a husband for cheating while he was alive are welcome below. I read every comment, and would love to hear from you. And don’t worry: I won’t give advice or tell you what to do. It’s your turn to talk!

If you need a virtual hug, read When You Miss Him Like Crazy.

Take good care of yourself. You are already walking into the next season of life, and blossoming into who God created you to be.

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14 thoughts on “How to Forgive Your Husband for Cheating While He Was Alive”

  1. My grief and anger is so fresh! My husband just died a month ago. We were living in separate residences at the time of his death. But, this man was a part of my life most of my adult life, for 33 years. He also told me he loved me. 3 weeks before he died suddenly, he brought me a nice car because my car was getting old. I had NO IDEA that he had been carrying on (in adultery) with more than one woman during the course of our marriage. But, there was a one woman that he had been in a serious adulterous affair with. The saddest part for me was for 3 days, I was texting and calling him on two different phone he had, and there was no answer. I finally had the police do a wellness check. Three days after he was dead, the police show up at my door to tell me my husband was dead. I am grieving and immediately my son and I was hysterically crying, this was on a Sun.. Then, the next day, I am going about trying to get answers about his death. It turns out that he was with the girlfriend when he died. She told the cops that my husband had no next of kin. And then, she proceeds to tell them that she is my husband’s only ‘next of kin’… from there she goes about trying to take care of his funeral arrangements!! I quickly stopped all of that. I was and still am, so furious about how the authorities did not even bother to check that my husband and I were married. If they had done a quick search, they would have seen that he was married and that we filed taxes together still, etc.,etc. And then, I am struggling with all the lies my husband fed me for YEARS and the adultery. And I am struggling with hating both of them! I know I am not supposed to hate and I don’t want to, but I am not to the point yet, of forgiveness and letting it all go. Also, I am still having to take care of the financial mess he left behind…, debt, no will, etc I had to hire a lawyer to be able to have my legal matters handled and that my rights would be watched over. This woman also stole things, items from my husband’s house, his cell phone, etc., etc. She then, proceeded to trash my husband’s house, throwing around things, upending mattresses, etc. And she opened two safes and took everything out. The law has not been helpful to me in this process at all.

  2. So I am ‘ the other woman’ although I did not know it.
    I thought my partner was my partner until he died and his partner showed up. The shock nearly killed me.
    I would never have embarked on the relationship had I known there was someone else involved. She did not live with him and I found out they did not have a sexual relationship. So to my mind she is ‘the other woman’. But I know she would not agree. And after his death people deferred to her, so in public at least they were seen as the couple. This was a year ago. I know some of you may find this hard to read. But reading your accounts helps me have compassion for her. And that is healing. So I hope this might ultimately help you too.
    I had conflicting feelings – sometimes understanding, sometimes anger, sometimes an overwhelming sense of betrayal that made grieving so much more complicated. The worst thing is that they cannot answer all your questions…Why? Did you love me more than her? Were you ever planning on telling me? Did you ever imagine the pain this would cause me when it came out? But you know – I am sure his other partner has all those same questions and much the same pain. Why should I hate her?
    Today, 15 months on, I am closer to forgiveness. I see that humans are imperfect, that love is complicated. I feel (mostly) now, that he is dead and that his absence still hurts beyond belief, so why torture myself further? When I can feel forgiveness for him I feel at peace. He was not a bad man. I do believe he loved me. He probably loved her too. We offered different things. I imagine I was intended to be a fling but I know he quickly fell in love with me. He gave me everything I craved and made me very happy while he was alive. I don’t want to destroy that wonderful feeling. Life is hard enough. We do our best. Sometimes our best is a load of rubbish. Sometimes we are selfish. Or cowardly. Life is short. Carpe diem.

  3. My heart goes out to any woman that learns her husband has cheated. I learned to accept that my husband was having an affair that lasted from 1989 & I assumed until time of his death. I am now trying to grieve for his death but all the years he was not vested in our marriage. Double whammy not easy.

    1. No, not easy at all. When my husband became seriously ill, I found him at the hospital with a woman he had been seeing on and off for four years, but of whom I was not aware of. Not knowing how sick he was, I demanded he not come home again, but he did, and I took care of him until his death last summer. He apologized, but beyond that we never had a conversation about the affair. Some days I’m so sad because I miss him, and some days I’m angry at his betrayal. Either way, finding peace and acceptance are triple hard.

  4. Annetta.. so sorry for my awful spelling but was crying when I wrote that. Still having a awful time but did make a appointment to see a therapist. Did help knowing I wasn’t the only one going though this and being able to write it down.

  5. Wow..its almost a year that he passed away..we grew up together..20 yrs..he made it past my guarded walls and became my friend husband everything..i used to thank him for not being an asshole like some of his friends..domestic violence..verbal abuse etc..when you saw me..you saw him

    I went dancing over the weekend with my girls and one of his friends that has grown to be family..an unecessary situation had me irate & his friend walked and talked with me to calm me down..during our extended conversation, he casually metioned about how he had to tell my husband to stop messing around in my absence, while other friends of his encouraged him moreso..i kept quiet in that moment..soaking in what he just said and trying to still listen to what he was continuing to say..when i got home i broke down..how could he? I had ample times to stray and chose not to..how could he? His friend called me later the next day and i had to get more info about his infidelity..his friend said it was convenient and with his last girlfriend..someone he knew so it wasnt supposed to be as awful as finding someone new, and not to let it consume me..whatever..how could he? This led me to think about who else knows? And now i have to confront them for condoning his actions..when they knew how much i loved him..where was the respect and so called love for me? I have done alot of self healing and have great friends and family to help me walk through the grief of his death already..this actually feels worse smh..i took an old pic of my husband out and let him have it..how could you? I ran down all of the feelings i had in that moment..just staring at his younger self and remembering how i loved him and how i wanted to be with him forever..and it hurt..i am in bed now but did not want to cry tonight..i really can’t do anything but feel numb hopeless and guarded again for any possible future relationships after this

    Thank you all for sharing ladies..i definitely feel all of your pain

  6. I too feel your pain along with my own. My fiance of seven years died at “her” house. There are so many days where I can’t breathe. I feel like someone is sitting on my chest. I miss him every day and loved him so. I can’t believe the conflicting feelings I’m having and feel as if this deep sadness will never end. I’ve tried groups and journals and still cannot deal with the pain and humiliation I feel. It seems most people knew he was having this affair. I really didn’t know it’s been overwhelming and have never felt this level of despair. It feels like he took my heart and soul with him when he died. Thank you for sharing your experiences with me and letting me know I’m not alone.

  7. I too found out my husband was cheating after he died. The way I found out was at the hospital I was told that he had collapsed at a friends house. I later went to the friends house and realized she was his co-worker. She said he had been coming over and loved playing with her young son. She said that all he wanted was to be at peace. No apology she acted as if there was nothing wrong with what had been going on. I was still in shock with him having died so I just left. Now all I do is think about how he had been lying to me and I feel angry, hurt, sad but at the same time I love him and miss him. I’m finding it very hard to let go of all these negative feelings. I just want to be at peace.

    1. I too lost my husband unexpectedly October 5th 2028 had found out just 2 weeks before that he had been cheating on me with s so calked friend which they both would be at my house and never noticed anything between them and that he had sexually assaulted my sons gf and been texting another friend if mine with horrible sexual comments and abd sending pictures of his penis to them after being together for 41years was nothing like the man i married the last two years he became someone I didn’t know I’m so hurt and sad but missing him it’s unbearable don’t think I will ever be happy again and would be easier if I was just gone to

    2. When my husband became critically ill in March of 2018, I found him at the hospital with the other woman. When he was discharge, I refused to pick him up, but he came home in an Uber. He never recuperated and passed away in August of 2018. The feelings I have are awful and conflicting. There are days when I just don’t want to think about him or that woman. I’m left with so many questions. One day I miss him, and the next I’m angry.

  8. Its been little over 2 months now I’ve felt betrayed and is heart broken. What I considered a happy marriage for 11 years shattered when my husband died and after grieving so much and asking God why, God allowed his secret affair to be revealed to me one week after death when his sweetheart exposed their affair publicly. Grieving immediately became to an abrupt end. It was very difficult to plan funeral, painful to write the eulogy as I had to write it how I knew him but yet the story of cheating was in the forefront of my mind hindering the process. Wanting to confront him and can’t is the most painful part since he was still loving to me up to his death and didn’t give me a clue for me to start ask questions. My tears at the funeral was complicated (wanted to cry because he is actually gone but crying because how he could deceive me like he did). After such anger on the inside, when will I forgive him and grief the way that I should? While I accept the recommendations, they won’t work for me now. The situation is just too painful, too painful.

  9. This story is me too ☹️ Sadly my husband had relationships with other women for our entire marriage . He broke my heart and I cared for him right up until he died . I am so angry he spent all our money on someone else and had another life .. my family cut me out yrs ago and that was nothing compared to this betrayal. I dedicated my life to him and my kids . I found all this out at the funeral when SHE came . Yeah believe it she did. Lied who she was until I read his phone and email. I guess I’m not alone . Thanks KF

    1. I know it will get better for all of us going through this. God has made us strong and is walking with us. It helps to stay busy physically and mentally . I dont believe we will ever get over the choice that our spouses made but I do believe eventually it won’t feel so raw. Just remember you’re not alone