Should You Forgive Your Spouse?
“He wasn’t there for me!!!”
"She had an affair!!!"
"I was scared in our argument!!!"
"I told them in confidence and they repeated it!!!"
When you got married, I would bet that no one warned you that you would have to forgive your partner so frequently to make the relationship work. There should be a disclaimer in the Marriage Manual. (No Marriage Manual? That should be a thing!) It would say,
DISCLAIMER: “Be prepared to forgive this person every day. They will not always be the best version of themselves. To save yourself repeated pain, you may need to revise your expectations to fit who they really are.”
Part of the joy of being in a relationship is that someone else knows you at a deep level. You are able to share who you really are. They have the privilege of seeing the parts of you that you hide from the rest of the world. There is great connection in being seen, heard, accepted, and loved. Few other relationships allow this.
The trouble is that being close to someone else also makes you vulnerable. They can hurt you. And they probably will. Not because they don’t love or care about you. Usually that is a side issue.
Why does one partner hurt another?
- They are distracted.
- They are frustrated with something else.
- They are caught up in their own problem or experience.
- They are not thinking of you at the time.
- They think they have nothing to lose.
- They feel justified due to something that you did.
None of these is a good defense for hurting you. We seek to understand the “why” of what happened, but sometimes it can make it harder to forgive them.
Once your feelings are hurt or you feel let down or betrayed, you have to decide what to do about the situation. You have choices in how to respond. There is not predetermined path, so don’t dismiss any of your options. Each one has repercussions for the future. Your choice should be made intentionally and thoughtfully.
- Forgive and forget.
- Forgive but keep a tally.
- Put it into a vat of resentment to fester and come up later.
- Get revenge.
- Change some relationship agreements.
- Leave the relationship altogether.
A lot of people have a lot of opinions about what you should do in any given situation. Some will tell you to forgive your spouse, even for the most hurtful acts. Others will tell you what you should or should not put up with. You get to decide which choice to make. Don’t choose one option because others expect you to do it. When you follow a path set out by someone else, you will have a harder time following through.
Not every hurtful act should be forgiven. How do you know when something should not be forgiven? Here are some guidelines to help you:
- Are they sorry for the way they hurt you? Have they acknowledged how they hurt you and tried to make up for it in some way?
- Have they made changes to the way they act or think that will prevent them from hurting you again the same way?
- Do they place the blame for their behavior on you? Have they made you responsible for whether it happens again?
- Is this injury too big for you to recover from, no matter what they do?
- Is this the final straw?
You will need to answer these questions when you are calm. You are likely to make an impulsive decision when you are in the heat of an argument or the middle of a new disclosure. You need time to think clearly about the situation. Give yourself time to think about what you want and need.
Only you can decide what is the right choice for you. There are often many other factors involved. You can take time to deliberate and weigh the many factors. Just because the answer to one of the above questions is negative, it doesn’t mean that you can’t forgive. Ultimately that choice is yours.
There is a time for forgiveness. There are also times when forgiveness won’t be enough.