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Wifey Wednesday: How to Forgive Your Husband

It's Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you follow up either by commenting or by writing your own post and then linking up!

Last week I wrote a rather strongly worded post about how the reason that some men may not meet our needs is because we're not really considering theirs, either. And I encouraged you to take a six week trial period where you honestly did these things:

1. Thank your husband once a day for something (try to make it something different each time)
2. Compliment your husband to your mother, your children, your friends, whatever, within earshot of your husband, every chance you get.
3. Do not nag.
4. Do not give the silent treatment.
5. Make love with relative frequency (say at least 2-3 times a week).

I hope some of you took me up on it!

Today I want to address one of the roadblocks to meeting his needs: lack of forgiveness. It's hard to act out in love and to be nice to someone you're ultimately angry at. So what do you do when he's hurt you?

I received this letter recently:

There have been things that have happened in the marriage that have caused me to not trust my husband. He has apologized and admitted he was wrong but I can't let go and forgive. I want to. And I know that once I can release this anger and fully forgive we can be happy. How do I do this?

Do you ever feel that way? In marriage we have a lot to forgive on a daily basis. A while ago I cut my finger quite badly. I paged Keith, who was on his way home, and he said he'd look at it (he's a doctor). But when he got home he checked on our sump pump connection at the side of the house before coming indoors to check on me! I was livid.

I did need stitches. And it was hard letting him off the hook! It's such a little thing, but still. He delayed twenty minutes, and that was twenty more minutes I had to wait to go to the hospital.

But what if it's something bigger than that? What if it's an affair, or gambling, or pornography? Then how do you forgive?

Here's what I told this woman:

First, you have to be sure in your mind that the offense is truly in the past. For instance, if he had an affair, are you sure that this is not going on now? Has he demonstrated that he is committed to not doing it again? If not, then this is the issue that needs to be dealt with first if his infraction was something that could damage the marriage (like affairs, pornography use, or other addictions).

If, however, he has shown that he is sorry and has tried to show you that he won't do it again, the ball is now in your court. So let me say a few things about forgiveness.

Remember that no matter what he did in the past, he can't make up for it now. There is no way for him to erase what happened. If you continue to hold it against him, it is like you are asking him to make up for it. You're asking for the impossible. At some point you have to realize that what is past is past, and you can't change it. You can't ask him to change it. It just is.

If you keep your anger towards him, you end up punishing both of you. It is impossible to function as a unit and to have an intimate relationship if you are harbouring resentment for him.

So what do you want from your marriage? Do you want someone you can love and cherish who cherishes you back? Do you long to feel loved and unconditionally accepted? Then you need to work on achieving that in your marriage, and that means letting this go. You will never get what you want and yearn for if you stay angry.

Of course, it may not be fair that you forgive. Forgiveness never is fair. That's not the point. It is not that forgiveness is fair; it is that it is freeing. It frees both of you. He doesn't have to make up for the past, and you don't have to stay angry. You can both concentrate on the here and now and learn to love one another again.

Finally, if you're finding it hard to forgive, remember that someone has already paid the price. God already paid the price for all the rotten stuff that people do when Jesus died on the cross. If God's already paid for it, then someone has been punished. It wasn't your husband, but someone has paid. So your husband doesn't have to. Jesus also paid for all the stuff you've done. He did it so that you could have a relationship with God without being hindered by all the sin and ugly stuff in our lives.

So if you ask God to help you understand how He has forgiven you, maybe you will also be able to extend that forgiveness to your husband.

I know that takes time. When an affair has taken place, for instance, you can't just rush in and pretend like it didn't happen. You have to rebuild trust, and that can take a while. I have a friend whose husband had an affair, and she moved out for a year. They went to counseling, they went on a retreat, and only then did she feel like she could trust him again. But they did rebuild, and today they're rock solid.

The problem is that just "moving back in" doesn't mean that you've forgiven. It has to be a heart thing. And that means that you have to promise yourself that when you get angry again, you won't think about it. If you've chosen to forgive, and then you get angry, it isn't his problem anymore. It's yours. He's not the one who has done something wrong; it's now you.

So when you're struggling to rebuild, and you feel yourself getting angry, pray instead. Sing instead. Do anything to stop thinking about it! Don't let yourself plot revenge, or brood, or even talk a ton to your friends about how you're feeling. Take it to God and don't entertain it. The more you let yourself think about it, the more you'll stay angry.

Once he has shown he's repentant and he isn't doing it anymore, and once you've decided that you want to rebuild the relationship and move forward, you have to then give up your right to be angry and pull out that infraction everytime he does something wrong in the future. It needs to stay behind you. I'd even recommend you each writing letters to each other: he promises not to do it again, and you promise that you won't bring it up again or harbour resentment about it. Then, if you do start yelling at him about it, he can pull out that letter and confront you. And if he slips back into a negative pattern, you can pull out yours.

Instead of thinking about all the bad things he's done, spend that emotional energy rebuilding your friendship. Do stuff together. Exercise together. Play a game together. Cook together. It's hard to stay angry with someone with whom you're building memories with.

Need to forgive? Take those steps. And then keep working through our six week challenge! You'll find at the end you have a whole different marriage.

Finally, here's a clip of an appearance I did on 100 Huntley Street once talking about the issue of forgiveness:

Now, what advice do you have for us today? Have you ever had to confront your fantasies and throw them aside? How did you do it? Or do you have something else to tell us? Write your own Wifey Wednesday post that links back to here, and then leave the link of THAT POST in the Mcklinky below. Thanks!

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At 7:57 AM , OpenID lettersfromnebby said…

Two of the best things I read on forgiveness are to realize that forgivenss requires the forgiver to give up something and that we must sometimes let our actions lead our feelings. The latter I think I read in a CS Lewis book (maybe both; it's been a while). He talked about knowing he had to forgive someone and acting as if (one might even say pretending) he had forgiven and then one day waking up and realizing that he had let go of the anger and pain. Too often I think we think we need to feel the right way before we can forgive, but often if we act the way we should, the feelings will follow.

The other point was that one must pay a cost when one forgives. If I forgive you a monetary debt, I am out that amount of money. But if someone wrongs me in some other way, I still have to give up something to forgive them, perhaps it is my desire for justice or my pride or something else. I think just realizing this can help make forgiveness easier.


At 9:54 AM , Blogger A Mom After God's Own Heart said…

Thank you for this post. I have had to travel the journey of forgiveness a number of times in the last two years of my marriage. It has been the most difficult two years ever for us, but I am so glad that we have decided to stick together and make things work. To allow God to heal our hearts and our marriage and make it better than ever. And this has only happened because of forgiveness and God. Thanks for the reminder.


At 11:26 AM , Blogger va_grown said…

I think sometimes, as you mentioned, the key to true forgiveness is to force yourself NOT TO THINK ABOUT THE OFFENSE, after you've forgiven. You can say the words, but if you continue to dwell on the offense, then it tends to take on a life of it's own again. You can't keep chewing on it like a bitter cud. I find I have to force myself NOT to go back and think about it, or I get angry and hurt all over again.


At 11:32 AM , Blogger Sheila said…

What great comments!

Nebby, that's so true. We do need to acknowledge that when we forgive, we are losing something. We are paying a cost. I don't mean to "pooh pooh" it or diminish it at all. I know it's hard. So thanks for those illustrations!

A Mom: I'm so glad you're experiencing God's healing. It doesn't mean the road is easy, but at least you're not alone!

And VA: thanks for that. I'm glad you saw the same thing I did in the post. For most things in life, the struggle is really in our heads. We have to change the way we think. That's an awfully hard road, but God can help us--if we take the initiative and decide we don't want to entertain this anymore.


At 3:03 PM , Blogger Nichole said…

I linked up with a previous post called, Repairing the Cracks.
Learning to forgive is one of the most important things we can do for our marriages.
I am so glad to have found your site. I look forward to more Wifey Wednesdays. :)

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Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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