Dr. Vance Whippo
Forgiveness in marriage is one of the hardest things you need to do in your relationship with your spouse. It may seem impossible to forgive your partner but even more yourself. You need to do it repeatedly for your marriage to be healthy. It is essential if you want to be free from the past and live in peace with your spouse. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, but just may be the only thing to making your marriage better.
Why Forgiveness in Marriage MattersForgiveness in marriage is unique because you make a lifelong commitment to your spouse. Since every person is sinful by nature, conflict is bound to erupt. Misunderstandings can pile up day to day, week to week, and month to month. In this long-term relationship, if you do not forgive, you can develop deep resentment that is hard to overcome.
Other relationships change situationally more than marriage does. Your children grow up and move out. Your work relationships can change as people come and go, or as you switch jobs. Your circles of influence may fluctuate in your church or civic organizations. But your marriage? Your partner is with you every day, year after year.
That’s why forgiveness matters so much in marriage. You can’t avoid each other the same way you can avoid others in different situations. Forgiveness is the key to staying committed to your spouse while not allowing problems to fester. It can be difficult, yet it is vital for a healthy relationship.
Forgiveness on God’s Terms
Many people mistakenly believe that forgiveness equals forgetting. They also confuse forgiveness with trust. The truth is, God doesn’t require us to forget the hurts committed against us in marriage, nor instantly trust our spouses again. He will help you find the freedom and peace that’s available in true forgiveness and guide you on a path toward reconciliation.
God expects you to forgive your spouse, no matter how serious the sin is against you. By forgiving your spouse, you relinquish your right to take revenge. You surrender your hurt over to God and trust him to act with perfect justice in the situation, according to his wisdom and timing.
Forgiveness also does not mean that you aren’t allowed to set up healthy boundaries against further bad behavior. For serious sins like infidelity, addiction, and abuse, you need boundaries to protect yourself. A caring Christian counselor can give you insight into how boundaries and forgiveness can work together to help your marriage.
God’s Directions for Forgiveness
The Bible teaches us the truth about forgiveness. We can rely on God’s help to forgive our spouses, even when we feel hurt or angry. God will help you have the healthiest perspective as you seek his will. He will show you the freedom that’s possible when you decide to forgive your spouse.
In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus teaches us that we must forgive. We are to pray:
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. – Matthew 6:12
When your spouse sins against you, no matter how small or large the sin may be, he or she essentially incurs a debt toward you. But forgiveness is canceling that debt, expecting your spouse not to pay it back. Instead, you trust God to set all things right.
But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. – Matthew 6:15
This is a sober warning to consider when you are tempted to withhold forgiveness. Treat your spouse the way you want to be treated, and God will bless you for it.
Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. – Luke 23:34
Jesus spoke these words on the cross. He set an example for us there. If he could forgive this most horrible sin against him, surely, we can forgive the lesser sins of our spouses.
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” – Matthew 18:21-22
This passage is especially important for married couples. We need to forgive many times over the long haul of our marriages. Don’t keep track of your spouse’s sins. Instead, try to continue a streak of daily forgiveness toward your spouse.
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. – Romans 12:19
God will set all things right someday, even the hardest parts of your marriage. He will treat your spouse with justice and grace in perfect balance. You must trust God to do this rather than seeking revenge yourself, or you will perpetuate the problems in your marriage.
How to Forgive Your Spouse
Forgiving your spouse is simple to explain, but hard to apply. How do you forgive the 100th time your spouse forgot to take out the trash or pick up their clothes off the floor? How do you forgive the hardest things, like when your spouse cheated or lied?
The truth is, only God can help you release your spouse fully through forgiveness. On our own, we will blame and protect ourselves due to our selfish natures. But with God’s help, we can find the strength and maturity to forgive.
Do you want to be free from resentment and bitterness toward your spouse? Do you want greater self-control in speaking about your spouse with others? Forgiveness is the key to helping you find freedom in these areas. It will help you choose a different path that shows the offense has no more power over you.
Meditating on scriptures about forgiveness, like the ones listed above, can help you choose forgiveness in the heat of the moment. You must forgive right away, and then talk the problem out. Make it your goal to forgive your spouse as soon as you feel hurt or offended. Ask God to help you in prayer and remember one of these verses to help you choose well. With practice, you’ll be able to let go of offenses more easily.
When you step out onto a new path of forgiveness, expect resistance. Your hurt feelings will cloud your judgment. The devil will try to keep you distant from your spouse. Friends and family may not always offer the wisest advice. You’ll face resistance from yourself, the devil, and others. But God will help you make the best choice, which honors him and strengthens your faith.
Memorize this portion of the Lord’s Prayer to help you forgive: “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” This verse reminds you that you are always in need of forgiveness yourself. Out of gratefulness for God’s forgiveness toward you, you can offer forgiveness to your spouse.
Christian Counseling for Forgiveness
Forgiveness can be a challenging task. You may be confused about forgiveness, or not strong enough to do it on your own after a serious marriage problem. A Christian counselor is trained to help you study your situation and heal from your hurts through forgiveness. Through Christian counseling, you’ll get a valuable third-party, objective perspective based on biblical truths.
You will find both compassion and practical help when you speak with a Christian counselor. As we’ve mentioned in this article, some problems affect marriage in more complicated ways than others. If your marriage has been rocked by addiction, infidelity, or abuse, please don’t hesitate to reach out for help from a qualified counselor.
The journey of forgiveness can be the most rewarding one you take this year. It can be the best gift you give to your spouse and yourself, one that strengthens your marriage for years to come. Please give us a call if you need help in forgiving your spouse.
“Fight”, Courtesy of mohamed_hassan, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Crucifixion”, Courtesy of jeffjacobs, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Fervent Prayer”, Courtesy of jclk8888, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Forgiveness”, Courtesy of BenteBoe, Pixabay.com, CC0 License
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