Forgiveness is essential in any relationship. It is especially important in marriages that struggle.
We all do things at times that wound our partner. Most of the time they are unintentional (hopefully they are all unintentional – if you are living with a spouse that hurts you with intent you have a problem that demands a deeper solution).
Before we address specific issues, let’s understand the significance of forgiveness.
In This Article
- Why Forgiveness is Important
- Below are six different scenarios’ where forgiveness is needed.
- Wrapping It Up
Why Forgiveness is Important
Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future. – Paul Boose
1. Forgiveness is more about you than them.
When you refuse to forgive you don’t hurt your partner at all; you hurt yourself.
Someone wisely put it this way:
Refusing to forgive (or seeking vengeance) is like drinking poison expecting the other person to get sick.
2. Forgiveness is about releasing them, for your sake.
I like the analogy of chains.
When you fail to forgive someone for hurting you, you remained shackled to them for the rest of your life.
The biblical concept of forgiveness is connected to this idea of release.
We don’t necessarily forgive because someone deserves it. We forgive so we are not chained to them (or the event that hurt us) for the rest of our lives.We don't necessarily forgive because someone deserves it. We forgive so we are not chained to them (or the event that hurt us) for the rest of our lives. Click To Tweet
3. Forgiveness is about letting go of your desire to get even.
The desire to get back at someone is like a toxin in your blood stream. It is deadly. It spoils every decision, every action, every attitude.
I’ve seen people spend their life trying to get even with someone, only to realize they have wasted their life.
4. Forgiveness is about clearing the junk from our heart.
Our heart is like a house. It has many rooms, and sometimes those rooms get cluttered and dirty.
If we fail to clean the rooms of our heart, germs (bad attitudes), filth and disease grow.
Pretty soon our life begins to stink. All because we allowed someone else to spoil our life.
5. Forgiveness is about regaining control of our own emotions.
It’s refusing to allow someone else (or something else) to control how we feel.
When we let go, we find freedom.
Now that we know WHY we should forgive, let’s talk about HOW to forgive.Forgiveness is about regaining control of our own emotions. Click To Tweet
Related Video Recap: 5 Reasons to Forgive Your Spouse
Below are six different scenarios’ where forgiveness is needed.
“To forgive is the highest, most beautiful form of love. In return, you will receive untold peace and happiness.”
1) How to Forgive When Your Spouse Has Been Unfaithful
This is the biggest demand on forgiveness couples will experience; unfaithfulness.
Strong marriages are built on trust. When that is violated, the foundation is weakened.
It can be rebuilt, but it takes determination, commitment and forgiveness.
In this video, Casey and Meygan Caston from Marriage 365 answer a question from a viewer about forgiving his spouse when she was caught texting a co-worker.
Related Article: How to Deal with Infidelity
2) How to Forgive When Your Spouse Doesn’t Meet Your Expectations
Understanding the role of expectations and how to deal with them is important for a successful marriage.
Debbie Chavez gives an explains how unmet expectations effect our relationship and how to deal with them.
There are 5 reasons your spouse may not be meeting your needs:
1. He could be tired or stressed.
Note: this is not a justification for unmet needs and expectations.
2. He may be resentful.
A passive-aggressive spouse may use manipulation to get a point across.
3. He may be unaware.
Your spouse is not a mind reader. LINK
It’s important to express your needs and give your spouse an opportunity to meet them.
4. Discuss your expectations (and theirs) on a regular basis.
This is not the time to argue or point out failures. It’s about connecting to make sure your
5. Work to find common ground when you disagree.
You may not always agree (and probably won’t because men and women think differently), but that’s okay. It makes us work at connecting which creates a richer relationship because of the effort we put in to making it great.You may not always agree (and probably won't because men and women think differently), but that's okay. It makes us work at connecting which creates a richer relationship because of the effort we put in to making it great. Click To Tweet
Related Article: How to Communicate Better With My Spouse
3) How to Forgive When Your You Feel Hurt
Many times when we are hurt, we devalue the person who offended us.
There is a difference in approving of bad behavior and refusing to devalue a them.
We don’t approve of the behavior, but we also must acknowledge their value (in the eyes of God).
This is a tricky issue to work through.
In this video, Jimmy Evans (author of Marriage on the Rock) breaks down how to forgive without approving of bad behavior. And how to keep our spouse value in mind when working through issues of hurt.
Related Article: Does Your Spouse Feel Valued?
4) How to Forgive When Your Spouse Is Selfish
Selfishness can be a character issue (they are generally only interesting in what they want, how they feel, and what they get out of the relationship).
It can also be a temporary issue. Something may be on their mind, or they are preoccupied with something.
We all have moments when we are so absorbed in something that we neglect other things.
When I am on a tight deadline and I’m laser focused I often don’t even hear what’s going on around me. I ‘get in the zone’ and nothing else matters.
Fortunately, this second type of ‘self absorption’ is common and not deadly to a relationship.
It’s the chronic type of character driven selfishness that damages a relationship.
In the next point I’ll discuss dealing with a narcissist. For now, how do you forgive a selfish spouse?
Dr. Alduan Tartt gives these 3 steps (they are listed below the video):
The steps in a nutshell:
1. Unmute Yourself.
Be honest about where you are in the relationship and what is and is not working.
The key is to be firm, yet loving. Do not reject your spouse. Simply state what you need.
In this step you are NOT just offering another complaint about how you feel. You are stating what you need and laying out a solution (game plan of what YOUR actions will be).When we communicate our needs to our spouse, it's NOT just offering another complaint about how you feel. It's stating what you need and laying out a solution (game plan of what YOUR actions will be). Click To Tweet
2. Walk the walk.
You have to mean what you say and say what you mean. Do what you have said you would do.
3. Go toward conflict.
This is a powerful concept. Instead of running from conflict, face it.
Dr. Tartt discusses the issue of presence. If you run from the conflict your decision creates (and it will create conflict), you fail to establish presence. Which means you don’t exist – your needs are not validated because you failed to stand up for them.If you run from conflict you fail to establish presence. Which means you don't exist – your needs are not validated because you failed to stand up for them. Click To Tweet
Related Article: How to Deal with an Angry Husband
5) How to Forgive If Your Spouse is a Narcissist
This point takes selfishness up a level.
What do you do if your spouse is a narcissist?
First, let’s define real narcissism:
According to the Mayo Clinic, a narcissism is:
A mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.
It’s difficult dealing with someone who only thinks of themselves.
One of the most important things is to walk in forgiveness. Not because they deserve it, but because you can’t afford to be chained to their behavior and toxic attitude.One of the most important things is to walk in forgiveness. Not because they deserve it, but because you can't afford to be chained to their behavior and toxic attitude. Click To Tweet
One woman named Amber talked about how she learned to respond to her husband who was not only narcissistic, but angry.
I stopped explaining anything and started living my own life like he didn’t exist. He wasn’t sure what to do with himself when I stopped focusing on him and instead focused on myself. I stopped begging, explaining, sharing feelings, sharing anything. Once your selfish partner stops being at the center of your world, they will want to know what’s going on. You cut off their supply.
I agree with one caveat: Motive matters.
If you are responding out of anger, resentment, or to be vindictive it will backfire.
If, however, you are responding as an act of self-preservation and freedom, this can be a smart move. As she indicated, ‘you cut off their supply.’
A narcissist is only interested in their world. No one else. When you are preoccupied with what’s wrong with them (Are you ok?), or worried about their feelings (I just want you to be happy), it’s like a drug to them. When you cut them off, they will respond in one of three ways:
One, they will find another source. They will seek someone who WILL make them the center of their world.
Two, they fight to get back their supply. Getting their ‘ego fix’ will drive them to do whatever it takes (in a bad way) to get back to center stage.
They will manipulate, blame, scream…whatever it takes to regain what you’ve taken away – the center stage.
Either way – this is important to understand – you could trigger a battle for control.
The third response is what you hope happens. They realize (even if just out of curiosity) that you are withdrawing, and they will want to know why.
To be honest, this is rare if you are dealing with a full fledged narcissist. They are too self absorbed to think this way.
How do you manage a relationship with a narcissist when you can’t just “cut out” that person from your life?
Dr. Ramani Durvasula says there are five ways to manage a narcissist:
I pick up the discussion at the 2:50 minute point. This is an excellent discussion filled with practical (and challenging) concepts.
1. Maintain realistic expectations. [2:48]
2. Radical Acceptance [3:38]
3. Don’t Engage [4:26]
4. Don’t Defend Yourself [5:54]
5. Build Boundaries [7:20]
6. Manage the Recovery from Interaction [8:20]
Related Article: How to Create Emotional Safety in Marriage
6) How to Forgive When You Can’t Forget
One of the big questions I hear most about forgiveness is ‘How can I forgive if I can’t forget?’
Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting. As we’ve discussed earlier, it means you let go.
You let go of vengeance. Bitterness. And anger. You release yourself from bondage to the other person.Forgiveness doesn't mean forgetting. It means you let go of bitterness, anger, and the need for vengeance. It's choosing to walk away so you can be free. Click To Tweet
Marie Forleo talks about how to forgive someone who has betrayed you.
I like that she makes a difference between forgiving and trusting. Trusting is something that takes time to restore (build).
You don’t have to trust to forgive.
At 3:15 mark she mentions two steps:
1. Forgive yourself.
Ask yourself, what can I learn from this? And how can I grow from this?
2. Forgive the person.
A simple willingness is usually all it takes to drop the walls around your heart and help you forgive.
Forgiveness isn’t a weakness. It’s the ultimate sign of courage and strength.
Related Article: How to Save a Marriage with Trust Issues
Wrapping It Up
Forgiveness needs to be a cornerstone of every healthy marriage. It’s not always easy, but it matters.
In this article we talked about what forgiveness is (and isn’t).
Then we looked at five different instances (scenario’s) that require forgiveness.
Here’s a brief overview of what we covered.
- 1. Forgiveness is more about you than them.
- 2. Forgiveness is about releasing them, for your sake.
- 3. Forgiveness is about letting go of your desire to get even.
- 4. Forgiveness is about clearing the junk from our heart.
- 5. Forgiveness is about regaining control of our own emotions.
- 1) How to Forgive When Your Spouse Has Been Unfaithful
- 2) How to Forgive When Your Spouse Doesn’t Meet Your Expectations
- 3) How to Forgive When Your You Feel Hurt
- 4) How to Forgive When Your Spouse Is Selfish
- 5) How to Forgive If Your Spouse is a Narcissist
- 6) How to Forgive When You Can’t Forget
Do you have issues with forgiveness?
How do you practice forgiveness with your spouse?
What’s the biggest issue keeping you from experiencing forgiveness?