When your spouse hurt you for the first time or broke your trust, what did you feel? We bet it was sadness, pain, shock, anger, and an oversized truckload of betrayal. But when the dust settled, and cooler heads prevailed, they expressed remorse for their actions, apologized, and asked for your forgiveness. Or maybe even, it didn’t happen quite that way.
Ah, yes — forgiveness. The one thing we know that we should do but somehow remains one of the hardest things to do.
Does that mean we should do the whole “forgive and forget” thing?
By forgiving our spouse, does that really help the pain go away?
Why should we forgive when they were the ones who inflicted pain on us?
And what if their apology was less than deeply remorseful and begged your forgiveness?
Look, we’re not going to lie. Taking steps to forgive is hard, emotional, and difficult. Furthermore, there are many things forgiveness is, and there are many things that forgiveness is not. But reaching a point where we can forgive is critical — not only for having a safe and connected marriage but also in living a life free of resentment and bitterness.
“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” — Mahatma Gandhi
What is forgiveness?
Per Webster’s Dictionary, forgiveness means:
- Give up resentment
- Stop being angry with
- Give up all claim to punish
- Cancel a debt
And generally, there are two stages of forgiveness.
Decisional Forgiveness —
Where a person simply chooses to forgive. Forgiveness involves declaring that we are not going to seek revenge or avoid the other person but will do our best to get along in the future.
Emotional Forgiveness —
This means we move positive emotions toward the offender, such as empathy, sympathy, compassion, love, etc. It involves a change of heart in which we replace negative emotions of resentment, bitterness, hostility, anger, hatred, and fear with more positive emotions toward the person.
But let’s not blur the lines here. Forgiveness is not condoning the wrong or hurtful act. This does not mean we approve, excuse, or justify what happened. It is also not denying it happened or pretending it never happened, nor just forgetting about it. It also does not mean the pain has gone away. We don’t have to pretend we are not hurt or that we are not taking the offense seriously. With that said, if we can find a way to forgive in a healthy way, we can:
Benefits of Forgiveness
- Give our pain, rejection, and hurt a chance to heal
- Choose to do it for ourselves, not necessarily for the other person
- Be freed up to live a fulfilled, unrestricted life
- Avoid destructive emotions such as anger, resentment, bitterness, hatred, fear, and hostility.
- Take control of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
“If we really want to love, we must learn how to forgive.” – Mother Theresa
How do we go about forgiving?
Practical steps to Forgiveness
- Try writing down the person’s name that has hurt you. Then describe the experience, the pain, and the emotions you have gone through or are currently experiencing.
- Sometimes revealing the extent of the hurt and emotional feelings to the person who has offended you and verbalizing aloud that you forgive them can have a healing effect.
- Remove barriers in your thoughts and emotions.
- Deal with your emotions.
- Try to trust again.
- Don’t let shame, guilt, or fear get in the way.
- Don’t deny or minimize pain. Accept it and commit to dealing with it.
- Remember, the goal (usually) is for the restoration of the relationship.
- Try to empathize with the other person.
- Reflect on your own capability to inflict hurt. We all make mistakes and hurt others.
- Recall times when you have been forgiven.
- Take responsibility for your contributions to the problems in the relationship.
All we are saying is that conflict is inevitable in a marriage — no matter how good you think you have it right now. Taking a step back when you go through bad times and offering forgiveness to your spouse is an important piece to moving forward in a healthy way. If you do, you’ll be blessed with the marriage you’ve always wanted.
Our heart is devoted to caring about people and marriages!
Our heart is devoted to caring about people. We want to ensure you have the tools to communicate better in your marriage. The best way we know how to do that is by spreading the word to more people and let them know that we are here.
Did we leave anything out? How have you added forgiveness into your marriage? How did you feel once you did forgive? Please send us a quick email and help us keep this conversation going. mike@MikeandSusanDawson.com.