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How to Forgive Your Husband - Why forgiveness is important for a healthy relationship

For if you forgive others their trespasses [their reckless and willful sins], your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others [nurturing your hurt and anger with the result that it interferes with your relationship with God], then your Father will not forgive your trespasses. - Matthew 6:14-15 (AMP)

There has recently been an increase in studies related to the area of forgiveness in a marriage relationship. Psychologists and doctors are (unsurprisingly) finding that forgiveness is one of the most crucial components of a healthy marriage.

As for me, forgiveness is not something that comes easily. When my husband hurts me, (whether he meant to or not) the last thing on my mind is forgiveness. I'd rather hurt him back, call him names, ignore him for several days, or at the very least, nag him for weeks about his treatment towards me. Instead of forgiving, I usually end up holding a huge grudge or resentment instead in order to "guard myself."

The problem is, holding onto anger is not the best way to guard ourselves. We believe that our anger will somehow show the other person how much they hurt us. But the problem is, holding on to resentment or anger does nothing except drive a wedge even further in our marriage.

When we are resentful towards our husbands, they can feel it. They begin to wonder why. They start to feel uncared about or unloved. Then, they become resentful towards us. The cycle continues until both spouses are wondering how their relationship got so bad. They can't even remember the initial issue.

This is how many relationships fail. Over the years, resentment builds until both parties are extremely unhappy. Forgiveness is not often practiced and the relationship crumbles.

This is why Jesus tells us to let that anger and resentment go. He says in Matthew 6 (the famous sermon on the mount):

For if you forgive others their trespasses [their reckless and willful sins], your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others [nurturing your hurt and anger with the result that it interferes with your relationship with God], then your Father will not forgive your trespasses. - Matthew 6:14-15 (AMP)

It is interesting how the AMP words these verses. Notice the part where it says, "Reckless and willful sins." Are we really supposed to forgive willful sins toward us?? Yes! That means that even if my husband acts maliciously, I am supposed to forgive him every single time. It doesn't matter if he asks for forgiveness or not.

Jesus came to earth to save us from our sins. Sin is defined as disobedience to God. Every one of us disobeys God. But even though we disobey God and rebel against Him, He still chose to forgive us by sending Jesus. If we have that kind of forgiveness from our loving God, certainly we can show our spouses forgiveness when they do hurtful things to us.

(Note: This is not to say that we can't set boundaries in relationships, or that we continue to live in abusive relationships. I am not saying that. Physically harmful relationships are not biblical and we have the right to remove ourselves from those situations. But once we do, we are still called to forgive.)

The fact is, if you are married, you will get hurt at some point or another. Our spouses aren't perfect, and neither are we. We are all human. They will hurt us, and let's be honest, we will hurt them too, whether we meant to or not. That's just a part of life because we are all living in a sin-filled world. What we do about it is what matters. We can choose to forgive and take the necessary steps to mend our relationships, or we can choose to let resentment build until our relationships either suck or are completely ruined.

My husband and I

If we choose the former, here are a few steps we can take to begin to forgive our spouse:

Remember to pray about it

Praying is the best way to start forgiving. When we pray, we are asking God to give us strength to forgive. God promises us that He will listen to us when we ask for something from His will. Forgiveness is definitely in His will, so He is ready and willing to help you forgive.

Repeat and memorize forgiveness verses

Start with Matthew 6:14-15, Colossians 3:13, Ephesians 4:32, and 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. These verses are all about love and forgiveness, the two things that are most important in a marriage relationship. Repeat them whenever you are struggling with forgiveness.

Realize that forgiveness is not a weakness

We often think of forgiveness as being a weakness. We think that if we forgive our husbands, we are excusing their bad behavior. That's not the case as all. We are not excusing bad behavior, but rather recognizing our own feelings towards that behavior. If we forgive, we are letting go of our negative feelings and finding peace instead. We are showing love and goodwill towards our spouse. That is not a weakness, it is a huge strength that not many people have.

Recall all the good things about your husband

Why did you fall in love with your husband in the first place? What are some of his best, redeeming qualities? If you have to, write them down. Keep the list somewhere private and bring it out any time you need a reminder of all the good things about your husband.

Remember that you aren't perfect either

We don't have to play the victims in a marriage relationship. Sure, our husbands have done things that hurt us, but we are imperfect too. We also want compassion and love from our husbands when we aren't having the best day. If we expect love and compassion, then we have to also be able to give it.

Remove yourself from negative feelings

Don't even let yourself start feeling resentment. Instead, do something else. Exercise, write, hang out with someone, go on a walk to a park, play a game, go swimming. Do any healthy activity that takes your mind off of those feelings of resentment. Before you know it, you won't even remember why you were so mad in the first place.

Readily give grace

Remember that your husband is a human. He is going to have bad days just like anyone else. He still deserves your love. It is important to forgive and give grace when he's not at his best. It's what Jesus does for us. If we model Jesus, then we will also give grace to our husbands, even if they don't always deserve it.

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