I sometimes hear from wives whose husband is telling them that he isn't ready to come home or commit to the marriage because he fears that he's done something that has hurt her or his marriage too much.

I might hear: “my husband left home about six weeks ago. He admitted to having an affair with one of my close friends. If this isn't bad enough, our children are very good friends with the other woman's children, so this makes things awkward between our kids who don't understand why things have changed. My husband has been trying to break things off with the other woman, but she is resisting. She's been forwarding me emails that my husband sent to her, trying to show me how much he has betrayed me. This hurts me more than I can say, but my marriage is more important to me than this woman. I want him to come home so that we can fix our marriage, but when I tell him this, he says that he can't because he's hurt me too much and therefore he can't look me in the face or live with himself. Isn't this up to me? I mean, if I want him to come back and want to move forward, then shouldn't he respect my wishes even if he's ashamed of what he did?”

These are all very good questions and this is a very common problem. Very often an unfaithful or at-fault spouse will feel so guilty that he doesn't feel as if he has the right to come home or to ask for anything when it comes to their marriage. This can be true even when the other spouse is encouraging him to go ahead and come home regardless. In the following article, I'll offer some tips on how to best handle this situation.

Understand That He Might Be Telling You That He Hurt You Too Much To Come Home For Varying Reasons: There are many reasons that your husband might be telling you that he's reluctant to come home or try to save your marriage because he has “hurt you too much.” He may be trying to feel you out to see if you will reassure him that the damage isn't severe enough to ruin your marriage. In short, he might be looking for your reassurance or to see if he can get you to pursue him.

It's up to you to decide how you want to proceed. There's nothing wrong with admitting that although he DID hurt you very much, you're still committed to your marriage despite this. People and marriages recover from grave and painful circumstances all of the time. This doesn't have to be a valid reason to just throw your marriage away.

Other times, your husband legitimately feels so guilty for what he has done that he feels completely undeserving of you and he feels pain when he looks at or interacts with you because he is reminded of what he has done. This isn't something that can't be overcome, either. Over time, he should see that you are receptive to forgiving him, provided that his actions prove that it is worthy of your forgiveness. (My mind played similar tricks on me during my own separation. I made so many mistakes that as it dragged on and on, I started to convince myself that it was a lost cause. Thankfully, I eventually abandoned this negative thinking. More on that here.)

There are a few men who use the “I've hurt you too much” strategy as an excuse to end their marriage or at least to be on their own for a while. I find that these men are the minority, but this does sometimes happen. You can usually tell the difference through their actions and the way that they look at and treat you when you are having this conversation.

How To React When Your Husband Is Telling You That He's Reluctant To Come Home Because Of How Much He Has Hurt You: I know that it's tempting to downplay your pain just to get him to come home. But this strategy probably isn't the best bet in the long run. You have to work through whatever went wrong in your marriage for him to stray or act out in the first place.

I realize that it's probably very tempting to tell him to just forget the past so that you can start over with a clean slate, but I can tell you that this so rarely works, at least in my opinion. You have to acknowledge what is wrong to fix it and to move past it.

With that said, you can do this with your husband at home. The healing is much easier if you have regular and intimate access to him. So how can you make him believe this? I will use the above wife's scenario as an example, but feel free to insert your own details.

You might say something like: “I know that you think you've hurt me so much that the damage to our marriage is beyond repair. But since I am the wounded party, don't I get to be the one who decides when I am so hurt that I want to walk away from the marriage? If as you're saying the central issue is how much you've hurt me, I'm saying that I am willing to try to move past that hurt because our marriage is more important to me right now than dwelling on the past. To be quite honest, it would be more painful for me to let go of our marriage or to have you continue to not come home than for us to face the issue to try to work past this. Unless there's any other issue that you're not telling me about, I don't see why we can't try to move past this together.”

He may have some reservations about whether you can actually forgive him or believe in him again after the way he has hurt you. But frankly, the only way to move past that and to show him that you are sincere is to give it time and improve your relationship so that he sees it and believes it for himself.

There was a lot of hurt in my own marriage when my husband and I separated. But I always knew that my marriage was more important to me than anything else. It took a lot of hard work and strategy on my part, but I eventually got my husband back and saved my marriage. If it helps, you can read about how I was able to salvage my marriage on my blog at http://isavedmymarriage.com

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