When you say the words “I do” on your wedding day, you’re committing to being by your partner’s side for better or for worse. Marriages, like all aspects of life, have their ebbs and flows. Eventually, there comes a time when you and your spouse may find yourselves with your back against the wall, and the only way to move forward is to forgive.
No one said it would be easy to choose forgiveness in marriage when you’re upset, angry, or frustrated, but the reality is choosing to show your partner grace or not is a choice between building a stronger marriage or falling into the trap of resentment. If you’ve been struggling to forgive your spouse, keep on reading. These 5 tips will help you learn to let go and forgive your partner.
Tip #1: Choose to forgive.
This tip might seem like a no-brainer, but when you feel as though you’ve been wronged, the last thing on your mind is forgiveness. However, moving past a hurdle in your marriage will require you to make a conscious decision to let go. Take the time to process your feelings and the situation, and then when you’re ready, take the first step towards forgiveness.
Mark 11:25- “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
Tip #2: Let go of victim mentality.
It’s okay to be “in your feelings” when your spouse has done something to hurt you, but there is such thing as taking the victimhood too far. Don’t let your hurt feelings harden into indignancy, which can leave you feeling unable to move past a problem. Yes, your partner may have messed up, but you have a responsibility in this situation, too, and being self-righteous won’t give you the peace you’re seeking.
Tip #3: Practice empathy.
I know it’s hard, but try to put yourself in your partner’s shoes for a moment. When you’re angry and upset, it’s easy to get tunnel vision and look at the situation from your perspective only. However, being emphatic can help you see your partner in a different light and help you to recall times when you’ve been the one in need of forgiveness, too.
In therapy, we call this binocular vision where you see your point and your spouse’s point at the same time to get the complete picture. You can also imagine your spouse as a small child in an adult body or imagining that you are modeling behavior for your son or daughter’s spouse. Compare your empathy to feel your partner with how you would like your son/daughter’s spouse to respond and you’ll likely soften your position and change your behavior.
Tip #4: Recognize that forgiveness does not validate poor behavior.
Forgiving your spouse doesn’t mean you’re condoning what they did. Letting go of something is doing what’s best for your marriage, and most importantly, yourself. Give yourself the healing that you need by choosing to release. By release, we mean expressing how you feel versus going mute. Your spouse is not responsible for reading your mind, only listening, and responding to your feelings. So, speak up and say what you need instead of the poor behavior and challenge them to change for the good of your happiness and the marriage. It is a mistake to enable negative behavior when you should call negative behavior to light for the good of your mental health and the betterment of the marriage.
Tip #5: Seek marital counseling.
Deciding to seek guidance and help from a marriage counselor is one of the best things you and your spouse can do if you’re struggling with forgiveness. Sometimes working through a low in your marriage by yourselves isn’t enough, so don’t be afraid to seek the support of a professional to help you two through the process of forgiveness. We have a rule in our household, if we argue about the same thing three times it is time to go to counseling because no one has time for stress, especially when you work together (lol).
If you prefer to do it yourself or want a different approach, try marriage mastercourses and/or enrichment courses. We run a phenomenal masterclass and monthly, marital series that hundreds of couples have already prospered from to have happy marriages. Check it out here.
As you can see, forgiving your spouse is more about you than it is about them. If forgiveness doesn’t come naturally to you, remember that God forgives us all. However, be mindful that forgiveness is not a right, it must be earned too. Don’t just apologize and not change. Care enough about your spouse to put together an action plan for self-development when it comes to communication, anger management, financial responsibility, fidelity, balancing work and family, etc. so that you need less forgiveness over time.
Finally, an age-old trick to getting better at letting go is practicing small acts of forgiveness every day. When times get hard, recall the commitment you made to one another and decide for yourself, “Do I want to move my marriage forward?” Decide whether to speak up, use effective communication strategies but also know when to simply let it go.