It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! Today we’re going to talk specifically about how to forgive your husband.
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.
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?
How do you forgive your husband and work through that anger?
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 you discover your husband is having an affair, or gambling, or using pornography? Then how do you forgive your husband? Here’s what I told this woman:
1. Be Sure the Offence is in the Past
First, you have to be sure in your mind that the offence 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). These things shouldn’t be treated lightly, and you likely need some help to work through this and make sure it is put to rest. I have a post on how to deal with big things in marriage here. And if your husband has been using pornography, you need assurance that he won’t again. I highly recommend Covenant Eyes in this situation; install it on all your computers, phones, and devices, and then if he is tempted to look at porn again, he’ll think twice because an accountability partner will be emailed if he tries to access those sites! It’s just that layer of assurance for you that he’s committed to change. Check it out here.
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.
2. Remember that He Can’t Change the Past
No matter what he did, 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.
3. Work Towards Forgiveness By Remembering Who Paid the Price
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.
4. Give It Time
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.
5. Give up Your Right to be 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.