A rotten evening...
It's late, and you and your beautiful-babe-of-a-wife aren't talking to each other (again). It all started a few hours ago, when she came home and immediately chewed you out over something totally petty and silly. You knew she was worn out and stressed and that she was just taking it out on you, but you snapped back at her and called her immature, among other things. You pointed out her faults to protect yourself, and she withdrew in tears.
So, here you sit, down on the recliner, watching sports and surfing Facebook, but feeling miserable inside. You know you need to change. You know you need to say you are sorry. You know you need to try and make things right again, but you are too stubborn. You felt justified in your comments because you were hurt by your wife's unthoughtful (and unasked for) criticism.
Meanwhile, your pretty wife is upstairs crying. She knows she had no right to get upset, and that she should have bit her tongue and not said anything. She is feeling regret and discouragement, and wishing she could start over. She just wants a new beginning, and she wants things to be right between the two of you again. She decides that your marriage relationship means more to her than the embarrassment of apologizing, and so she humbly comes downstairs. She has mascara stains on her cheeks, and she is blowing her nose like there is no tomorrow, but she still comes and stands next to you. She looks at you. You look away. Between sobs, she squeaks out a pretty pathetic, "I'm sorry."
You think to yourself, "Don't say it. Show it. Prove it." You also don't know if you really believe her, it was a pretty pathetic apology, after all. You are silent. She has done this too often the past few months, and this time she doesn't deserve forgiveness. She needs to suffer a bit and learn from her mistakes. She needs to treat you better. So you continue to ignore her. A few more tears slip down her cheeks, but you pretend not to notice. You are feeling in control of the situation and wouldn't mind seeing your wife bow at your feet and plead for your forgiveness. However, she doesn't.
She quietly goes upstairs, alone, and you remain miserable on the recliner. Poor you. You missed an opportunity to forgive, and to be forgiven. And now you have simply made things worse. You could have had a new beginning together and made the rest of your night positive and fun, but you blew it. So what if your wife wasn't totally sincere? So what if she isn't perfect and may explode again at some future date? You knew when you got married that you signed up for an imperfect marriage made up of two imperfect people, right?
Your sweet wife needs your forgiveness, and your love. She needs a hug. She needs help making positive changes, as do you. Plus, you need the happiness, freedom and peace that come from offering forgiveness (not to mention the fact that you have some apologizing to do on your end, too!).
So, how do you forgive? How do you actually let go of the petty things (and the big things) and move on? What role does forgiveness play in nurturing your happily ever after?
Here are a few things to remember, before you get your booty upstairs to apologize to your wife and ask for her forgiveness!
1. Remember that forgiveness is a choice.
Forgiveness is a choice. And you can choose forgiveness over and over again, day in and day out. Over little things and big things. That choice is yours, and the more you choose forgiveness, the better you will get at forgiving.
A religious leader, Jörg Klebingat, once encouraged,
"Become really, really good at forgiving...Forgive everyone, everything, all the time, or at least strive to do so, thus allowing forgiveness into your own life. Don’t hold grudges, don’t be easily offended, forgive and forget quickly..." (Ensign, November 2014)
Such wise counsel. Forgiveness is a choice. It is a choice to see others as they truly are - imperfect people striving to be better, to overcome bad habits, and to improve their lives in meaningful ways. Forgiveness is a choice to be patient. Forgiveness is a choice to give others the benefit of the doubt.
And while forgiveness is a choice, it is also a gift. When you choose to give that gift freely, with no thought of what you may or may not receive in return, you will see that forgiveness comes to you more freely too. Which is a pretty miraculous thing if you think about it (especially because you need forgiveness just as much, if not more, than that sweet spouse of yours!).
2. Remember that forgiveness means letting go of resentment.
If you choose to go upstairs and forgive your wife (and to ask for her forgiveness), then please don't bring it up again if she blows up at you next week. Please don't say, "I forgave you once, and I won't forgive you again."
Instead, let go. Seek to understand all that your wife has going on, and what is causing her to lose her cool so easily. Perhaps she is struggling with something at work that you know nothing about, or perhaps her hormones are out of whack, and she needs a Dr's appointment.
Choose not to let resentment foster, and instead to care deeply about your spouse and your marriage.
Richard Millar, a professor of Family Life, once taught,
"Resentment is one of the worst poisons in marriage. It doesn’t ruin a marriage overnight. Rather, it is like decay that gradually and silently damages your teeth. Forgetting to brush your teeth once doesn’t ruin your teeth; however, numerous instances of neglect over many years will. Similarly, resentment accumulates gradually, often without us even noticing it. If left untreated, it builds up over a number of years to the point where it destroys love....Forgiveness is the perfect antidote for the poison of resentment. It neutralizes our hurt feelings and makes room in our hearts for love to flourish and grow." (Ensign, September 2011)
If you choose to forgive and to let go of resentment, you will make room for love to be nurtured. Perhaps, then, nurturing love is the key to not letting resentment harbor, and the key to true forgiveness. When you seek to live the six pillars of nurturing marriage, you will find your resentment melting away, and your marriage relationship improving! For, when you are constantly working on the little things, dating your spouse, and finding meaningful ways to connect and strengthen your friendship, then you will find that you have created a powerful protection against the build-up of unwanted resentment.
3. Remember that forgiveness changes you more than it changes your spouse.
Choosing to forgive, even when it doesn't seem right or fair, will change you. It will change how you feel about life, and how you feel about yourself. When you choose not to be the victim of your spouse's choices, but instead to love and forgive, you will invite freedom, happiness and true peace into your life.
Yes, forgiveness allows you to truly be happy, no matter what messes you and your spouse are dealing with.
Yes, forgiveness will change how you see others, and how you treat them.
Yes, forgiveness will change how you see yourself, how you love yourself, and how you treat yourself (because you need your own forgiveness, too, my friend!).
A better evening...
So, you did it. You went upstairs. You hugged your wife for a solid three minutes. She sobbed in your arms. You wanted to retreat so she wouldn't get mascara all over you, but you decided not to care. You said, "I'm so sorry for being stubborn, and for what I said. I shouldn't have said those things." (There, you did it. It was hard to say the words, but you did it. And you meant it.) She cried, "No, I'm the one who is sorry! I shouldn't have treated you that way. I feel horrible about it. Please forgive me! I'm so worn out, and stressed about this deadline. Plus, I'm finding no time to take care of anything at home, or even make a decent dinner for us! And I never see you anymore." You realize that your sweet wife is simply overwhelmed, tired, and disappointed in herself for not meeting her own high expectations. You take her face in yours and kiss her. You say, "Of course I forgive you. I will always forgive you." You tell her it's okay, and that you are here, and that you don't mind eating PB &J for dinner. She laughs, looks into your eyes, and sincerely says, "Thank you. I'm so grateful to know I have you by my side." (And while you can't see it, she is feeling confidence grow in the security of your marriage relationship, because she realizes that if you can forgive each other over little things, that your marriage will always be okay.)
You hug, you kiss, you enjoy make-up sex, and from that moment on you are both more sensitive towards, and tender to, each other in the coming days and weeks. Forgiveness has worked it's little (or big) miracle once again, and you have remembered three very important lessons that are helping you and that gorgeous wife of yours enjoy the reality of what "happily ever after," actually looks like.
You've learned that it really should be called, "Happily ever after continuing and ongoing forgiveness."
Photo Credit: Jason Corey Photography
"You come to love not by finding the perfect person, but by seeing an imperfect person perfectly."
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