We’ve all heard that “to forgive is to forget.” But not only is that old cliche quite false, it’s also a nearly impossible adage to embrace when navigating conflict in your marriage. Whether rooted in a small household squabble or something more momentous, forgiveness is essential to working through the rough patches, healing, and ultimately finding yourself in a happier, more intimate marriage.
But because we’re only human and forgiveness isn’t an intuitive process, I’m here to help guide you toward forgiveness with four Dating with Dignity tips on how to integrate forgiveness into your marriage.
1. Talk It Out
No matter how petty your issue may seem, it’s absolutely essential that you communicate to your spouse when something bothers you. Sometimes those small things are the ones that balloon up when left to fester, only to pop when the inevitable bigger issues arise.
If you struggle with speaking up, set up a system in which you and your spouse regularly sit down to talk through any issues, big or small. After all, how can you forgive someone if they don’t even know you’re upset in the first place?
2. Shift Your Perspective
Even in the most trying of circumstances, such as an extramarital affair, the first step to forgiveness is putting yourself in your spouse’s shoes. This isn’t to say you should feel obligated to defend or agree with your spouse’s actions, but practicing some empathy will set you on the right path to healing. Depending on the instance that brought about the need for forgiveness, this exercise will bring you even closer together and give you a more holistic understanding of your partner, thereby further enriching your union.
3. Accept What You Cannot Change
In many instances, conflicts in marriage are caused in some part by undesirable characteristics in your partner that you thought might fade with time. Perhaps he’s stubborn, or impulsive, or emotionally distant at times. After some time being married to someone and observing that these characteristics are regularly causing conflict, you’ve probably realized that this is part of who he is. In some instances these clashing personality traits are irreparable, but sometimes it’s as simple as learning to surrender control over your spouse’s personality. While not an easy task, this process can ultimately give you both peace of mind.
4. Seal It with Words
Once you feel you’re in a place to forgive your spouse for his infraction, it can often be helpful to talk through some guidelines that will prevent the same issue from recurring. And since the decision to forgive is essentially recommitting to the success of your relationship, it helps to seal the discussion with saying out loud “I forgive you”—and even tacking on an “I love you” so that there’s no doubt you’re on the same page.