Ten Ways Learning To Forgive Can Save Your Marriage

Relationships are messy, but so worth it. Don't throw in the towel until you give it your all.
learning to forgive your partner

Contemplating divorce is a crappy place to be. How do you know if you're being overreactive, overly emotional, or doing the right thing? Of course, if there is physical or mental abuse, finding safety is a crucial first step. But what if it is more subtle- disagreements about money, career choices, or even where to live? 

Throwing around the "D" word should always be the last resort. I used to use it as a kind of end-run around the more difficult work of facing the problem head-on and talking it out because who wants to do all that adulting stuff? It's my way or the highway isn't a winning strategy anymore.

Here are 10 ways learning to forgive can save your marriage.

1. Forgiveness is a decision, not a feeling

forgiving your partner
image source: marriage

Deciding to forgive is a good place to start. It does not mean you condone the behavior, but you are willing to forgive it. Life is chaotic, and marriages are hard work. Stop reliving the pain and hurt.

Accept that it happened, and don't bury the negative emotion. Airing it out with a therapist or friend gets it out of your head and creates room for options.

Feelings aren’t facts. You can’t feel your way into forgiveness. My best friend says I am allowed to wallow in the emotion for one day, then I have to step into the solution. (I allow myself a few days if truth be told.)

The time spent mulling over the hurt keeps you out of the present and stuck in victim mode. Worry and angst never got me anywhere in life, and while I occasionally visit, it is not where I want to live.

2. Couple’s therapy is transformative and healing

couples therapy is healing

Couples therapy helped at the beginning of our marriage when we discovered I am a saver and he is a spender. Money plays a big part in marital discord, and it was a blessing to have a neutral party present during such a heated topic. 

This is a hard step to take, but you won't regret it. There are usually three differing points of view: yours, his, and the objective reality. The therapist’s office offers neutral territory and an unbiased referee.

We would also take turns seeing the therapist individually, which was a good way to talk about the problem without the other spouse being present.

3. Accepting your part

Accept your mistakes

Okay, this is not a popular subject, but the question must be asked. Do I have a part in this? Did I do or say something in the past that would make them feel the need to retaliate in kind?

You may have no part in the behavior, but if you do, it takes a lot of heat out of your anger- and you have taken a giant leap toward emotional maturity!

"Expectations are resentments under construction." - Anne Lamott

Your spouse is not a mind reader. "But if he really loved me", you say, "he would just know what to do." Nope. It’s hard to ask for what you need, but if you are going to share your life with someone, you need to ask for what you want, not hope they are going to divine the information and give it to you.

The frustration of unmet expectations can take a heavy toll, and the irony is that you are the one suffering. If you want the marriage to survive, you need to communicate your wants and needs in a loving way that leaves space for his.

4. Try to understand your partner's point of view

Listening and understanding your partners point of view

Don't you hate it when people try and change you? Yet more often than not, we expect our partner to change for us. "But if only he'd be more like Jane's husband," my friend remarked. 

It's easy to look on from the outside and think other people have it better, but that is a losing game when you compare your insides to other people's outsides.

Develop empathy to accept your partner in all their goofy glory. We all have differing takes on situations, so try to see things from his perspective once in a while. Sometimes, they may have a valid point that can bring you both into a constructive conversation.

5. Go toward conflict, stop being so nice

conflict between couples

I am a people pleaser and an exploding doormat, so I tend to ignore anything hurtful until one day: KABOOM.

This is one of my more unflattering characteristics since resolving conflict isn't something that my parents were able to teach me. It WAS their way or the highway, so learning to keep my mouth shut was a good survival tool then, but it doesn’t serve me as an adult.

As much as I hate conflict, the trick of it seems to be to schedule a time to talk about something when you are both calm and can come at the problem rationally with the hope of finding a solution.

Prefacing sentences with “I feel” instead of “You are” also keeps the focus on your feelings instead of angry accusations.  

6. Don't forget to take care of yourself

taking care of yourself
image source: livemorezone

Make being happy with yourself a priority- your partner is not responsible for your self-esteem. It took me a while to figure out how to take care of myself without spending money.

Sure, that might be part of it, but you don’t need money for self-care. A bubble bath with candles and a glass of wine, a walk-in nature, and meditation are a few examples. 

I used to feel selfish when I put my needs first, but you can’t pour from an empty cup. I would take care of everyone else, and then be exhausted and resentful. It's much better to come from a place of love with your family than bitterness.

7. Accept apologies, however imperfect

accepting an apology
image source: inc

Don't turn away from clumsy apologies, or indirect overtures of repentance. Your husband is not Dr. Phil. Sometimes we are so focused on ourselves, we forget to tune in to our partner's psyche.

Never hold out because you want the upper hand, that is a sure way to escalate an already tense situation. No one is perfect, learn to focus on the good traits in your partner, not the negative. 

Be gracious and thank them for their apology, but let them know how what they did affect you. Now is not the time to be passive-aggressive or critical and blow off their attempts to make it right.

It takes a lot of courage to apologize, and even if you find you aren't able to forgive right away, let them know you appreciate their overture. If you need more time to process before you move on, this is the time to speak up.

8. This is the hard work of loving someone

praying for your partners happiness
image source: tribuneindia

Pray for their happiness. On your knees every morning, pray for specific things that you want your partner to have to be happy.

This is a great tool to get rid of any anger you have toward someone. Your spouse hurts, too, and maybe carries around his own set of unspoken resentments. 

The stresses of everyday life pull us away from the bonds of love and commitment that we vowed to cherish. Real love does not hold on to the sins of the past, it moves forward knowing that there is peace on the other side of the storm. 

9. One day you will need forgiveness

Someday the tables will be turned, and your partner will need to forgive you. Treat them the way you would like to be treated (with grace and forbearance). The way you treat him is giving him a roadmap as to how to deal with you when the shoe is on the other foot. 

“Be kind. Everyone you meet is carrying a heavy burden.” - Ian MacLaren                                                                                

Bring compassion to yourself and your partner. There is probably a lot going on in his head that you don't know about; problems that he carries alone in silence. 

10. Forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself

forgiveness is a gift

Let go of the negativity and grief, the only person you are hurting is you. Remind yourself why you fell in love. Your partner might never acknowledge that they hurt you, but you don’t need their permission to forgive.

Forgiveness is an ongoing process, a kind of wrestling match that goes on between your head and your heart. You will most likely have to forgive more than once.

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned. - Buddha

Sometimes your partner is not able to show up in the way you would like. He is not perfect, and neither am I. When I was able to give up the way I thought things should be and accepted the way that they were, I can let forgiveness into my heart.

Sheila is an LA-based writer and actress working in the Television industry.

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