“A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” – Ruth Graham
Forgiveness is crucial to a healthy and thriving marriage.
When you hold on to resentment and bitterness, your overall health takes a hit. It pours over into all areas of your life. It impacts the way you look at other relationships.
The truth is, no one is perfect. We mess up. Sometimes we mess up more often than our spouse. Or maybe they’re the one dropping the ball.
Either way, you need to walk through the steps that are crucial to really forgive with your whole heart.
What is Forgiveness?
Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a specific person or group that has harmed you, whether or not they deserve your forgiveness.
Now that you understand what forgiveness is, you also need to understand what forgiveness isn’t.
Forgiveness isn’t denying the seriousness of what happened. It doesn’t mean you’ll forget the wound that was created.
It means you and your partner are willing to discuss the wound issue, have your hurt acknowledged, and then release the resentment as you forgive.
Resentment & Bitterness
When you’ve been hurt, it’s normal to feel angry. It’s normal to have feelings of rage, and sadness, and for your heart to feel physically broken.
Hard doesn’t even begin to describe it. It’s downright painful. Go to God in prayer, and sometimes you may need to see a professional to help along this journey. They are trained and equipped to provide the tools you need.
When you don’t work through those feelings properly, you can become resentful and bitter. In time, you’ll start shutting down. Sexually and emotionally.
Maybe you’ll start using the silent treatment and questioning everything you thought you had.
The problem with this is that it leads to withdrawal. It leads to a lack of vulnerability. Walls start going up.
But no matter how long you’ve been building walls, they can come down. There is hope!
Easier Said Than Done
Forgiving your spouse for getting snippy at you is one thing, but then there are the tough issues. The ones that are way harder to let go of, let alone discuss.
What about when an emotional or physical affair happens? Or you’ve discovered that your spouse is using/hiding pornography? When you’re completely crushed and don’t feel as if you could ever trust your spouse again…
The answer: take these steps and allow God to guide you. Seek wisdom and advice in your journey to forgiveness so your marriage can move forward and thrive.
It takes work. But if both partners are truly sorry for their actions and want to move forward, it’s worth it. You can heal and the most broken hearts and marriages can be transformed.
Here are the five crucial steps to truly forgive in your marriage:
1. Choose to Forgive
Even if your heart hasn’t caught up to your words. Decide if you’re willing to forgive, and if you are, you can start moving forward into the next steps.
If you’re not ready, that’s ok. Sometimes, we need time to process our feelings.
We encourage you to try this light read — Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti. Funny title, huh? But there’s a lot more to this book than the humorous title. In this book, you’ll discover how to process your thoughts and feelings while keeping your differences in mind.
It’s about finding the ingredients to create a fabulous recipe for working together and winning together.
2. Share Your Hurt Openly
Now it’s time to openly discuss the pain you’re experiencing. Talk about it. Be completely vulnerable with each other. Even if it’s uncomfortable, share your feelings.
Try to resist anything that could damage the healing process, like name-calling, hitting, or being disrespectful.
Instead, fully open your heart even if it’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do. The offender needs to understand the depth of your pain.
Don’t move to the next step until you’re sure you’ve been heard and understood.
3. Create a Plan
This needs to be a plan of change. Now is the time to discuss the actions needed to help heal, rebuild trust, and stop this from happening again.
The goal should be to set guardrails for your marriage. To learn from these mistakes and create a plan on how to protect your marriage.
It’s time to release the hurt.
This doesn’t happen overnight. You have to make the choice to not build up your walls every time you’re triggered. Try your hardest to not do this. It just discourages your partner and makes them feel like you will never forgive them.
On the other side of it, the offender has to do work too. They have to make the choice to build that trust back every single day.
It takes work. It takes time. And that’s ok. Go slow and work at it together.
5. Pray Together
Pray for each other daily, and do it together. Say your prayers out loud. It softens your hearts and helps to nurture the love God created between you.
Take the extra step, and before praying together, ask what your spouse is struggling with today. Ask them, “How can I pray for you?” This simple question can make them feel loved, cared for, treasured, and can guide them into full healing and forgiveness.
Daily Relationship Reading Dialogue
Whether you’re getting through a tough season in your marriage or not, communication is key.
Staying connected takes effort, and the more connected you are, the easier it is to forgive and move on.
Try taking the time to sit down with your spouse daily, hold hands, and go through this daily dialogue.
Compliment each other and express what you like about your spouse. Every day, focus on the positive things you like about each other — give the gift of appreciation or a genuine compliment.
Share with each other. It helps to relieve stress, strengthen your bond, and maintain a healthy “us against the world” mentality. The ability to reveal yourself fully, honestly, and directly to another person is the lifeblood of intimacy.
Keep each other in the loop by sharing things that have come up in your schedule. Learning to share new information easily and naturally helps keep each other informed, showing you’re important to one another.
SOMETHING YOU ENJOYED ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP TODAY
Recapture any fun or special couple moments you enjoyed. Focus on the positive and express this gratitude to each other.
WHAT YOU DIDN’T LIKE & WHAT YOU PREFER
Differences and disagreements are a natural part of relationships. Dealing with concerns in a positive way on behalf of the relationship helps everyone win! State the specific behavior and your preference. Remember, you’re making a request, not a demand. Be willing to compromise.
If your spouse has shared anything with you that has hurt them or offended them today, apologize on the spot. Don’t let those hurts roll into another day. Address them so you can continue to grow together without allowing anything to sit and fester.
WISHES, HOPES, & DREAMS
This may not happen daily, but it’s so wonderful for your relationship to dream together. To share your hopes for the future and make plans to make them come to life.
Ask each other, “How can I pray for you?” Hold hands, and lift each other up in your prayers. Pray blessings over each other, and ask God to bring you closer than ever before. You’ll feel intimacy grow between you immediately.
Forgiveness is strength!
Forgiving your spouse is about giving your spouse, your kids, your future, your hopes, and dreams the chance they deserve.
It’s also important to remember, forgiveness isn’t just for the other person. It’s a gift for yourself as well. You’re freeing your heart and mind!