The complexity of romantic relationships, and how they are affected by different life events, is quite extensive. Much more so if we get into the subject of how to forgive when you cannot forget.
A grudge or resentment is something we have all experienced at one time or another, but when the person to whom this burden is being directed is someone close, the consequences will be greater. A father, a mother, a child or sibling, and of course, our romantic partners.
Even so, you have to consider a great truth of life, one that I am going to reveal to you at this moment, and that is that you do not have to forget to forgive. Forgiveness is often just remembering without hurting, getting rid of negative burdens and moving on.
God has taught us over and over again the value of forgiveness, its importance in this world, and how capable we are of doing His will. So, it is up to you to find the best tools for this purpose.
The keys for how to forgive
In my consultations, it is painful to see how some marriages consider that forgiveness a one-time event. Forgiveness is a process. In the same way that a wound takes time to heal, the emotional wound produced by the wrongdoing also takes time to heal. For this reason, after you decide to extend the gift of forgiveness, you will find yourself remembering the painful experience.
If your spouse decides to forgive you today for forgetting the wedding anniversary, it does not mean that tomorrow everything will be solved with a “sorry.” The same thing happens with bigger mistakes, so if you as a couple and as individuals have decided to provide the gift of forgiveness to your spouse, it is important to be patient through this healing process.
Hiding feelings, disguising resentment, and consistently being paranoid is not healthy for anyone. The pain may not go away instantly, but it can be worked through. The process will depend on the seriousness of the offense. If you are committed to forgiving a difficult spouse, a book that I recommend reading is Dr. Gary and Ted Cunningham’s From Anger to Intimacy., which talks more in depth about the digressions that marriages face in relation to forgiveness.
I would also like to give you some tips on how to forgive a difficult spouse in a wise and emotionally healthy way:
Combating the retaliatory attitude
As children, we learn to retaliate against what we don’t like. For example, if your playmate hits you, you hit back. If they said something bad to you, you do the same, or you may have done something worse. This is a behavior that we probably continue to repeat as adults, but in a more disguised way. Why?
Because we believe that by responding in the same way, we will hurt the other person as much as they hurt us. So, it shouldn’t “hurt as much,” right?
When we commit ourselves before God to another person, we form a very intimate bond, one capable of revealing weaknesses never said in public. So therein lies a very sensitive piece of information. The husband knows how to hurt the wife, and vice versa, leading to serious retaliation in marriages.
God has always known this, and that is why He warns that retaliation is forbidden. “Retaliation” will feel good immediately, of course, but at what cost? Our Lord knows the harm of retaliation and how it can destroy human life. Don’t fall for it.
Recognize that you can only change yourself
You are not responsible or capable of changing your spouse’s behavior, so keep this in mind. When hope for fighting for a marriage vanishes on one side, the relationship will decline.
But it is never too late for hope to revive. So when, for example, a spouse speaks discouraging words or is not expressive enough with his or her emotions, you need to talk to him or her. In the first instances, they may not understand, but you must insist until you see the results.
Two people who were married in love do not stop being in love because they got married. It is right to blame the lack of communication or the lack of capacity to cheer up. All of this can be solved. By speaking up, expressing yourself and committing, the road to change is possible.
You can work on yourself with passion and devotion, accepting God’s grace in your heart. It is a task for both of you.
Love your spouse unconditionally
When we marry, we place no conditions or invisible rules on love and commitment. Jesus teaches us that love for a spouse is unconditional, just as God loves us.
Sometimes it is necessary to take the first step. Did Jesus wait for the spectators to repent as He hung on the cross? No, He asked His Father to forgive them because they did not have the capacity to understand what they were doing. You are capable of showing this attitude to those you love.
Responding to God instead of reacting to your spouse
If you are not able to forgive, you should question your relationship with God.
Forgiveness is not an easy thing to give, but if time passes, and you continue to harbor negative feelings, only the Lord can help you lighten your burdens.
Are you really listening to Him?
How to forgive and therapeutic change
What happens when you can’t forgive no matter how hard you try and keep stalling? Signs of this are avoidant, defensive, and depressive behaviors, all of which indicate that forgiveness is missing in the relationship. This is confirmed by the study “The efficacy of the Christian-adapted reach forgiveness intervention with African American Christian women.”
At the therapeutic level, this fear needs to be eliminated, but when the process is not adequate, the neural pathways created by the conditioning will only serve to reduce that fear. That fear will eventually return in the form of negative memories, thoughts, and feelings.
Therefore, in these cases, guidance and therapies customized to the particular experiences will be needed.
To forgive every day is a sign of virtue and overcoming, a sign that God’s grace is in us. That is why I would like you to share your experiences or opinions about this article, so that I may be able to help you.