Your spouse has broken your trust, and now you feel angry and resentful. It’s understandable. The one you love the most has done something that hurt you. You feel entitled to harbor harsh feelings about what your spouse has done to you.
In time, you realize feeling that way makes you feel even worse. Why? Because you haven’t yet forgiven your spouse. Many times we really do want to forgive and believe it will help repair the damage that has been done, but we lack the knowledge as to how to go about it.
If we let the resentment foster, it will drive a wedge between our partner and that is a recipe for disaster. We must learn to forgive. Here are some steps to getting there:
Acknowledge that you are hurt
You need to say you’re hurt out loud to your spouse. Sometimes, we harbor ill feelings for so long because we keep them hidden. It’s like we are embarrassed to even have those feelings, or we think if we brush them aside, they’ll just go away. But they don’t. The act of actually putting those feelings into words helps us to physically let them go. The manner in which you say you're hurt to your spouse is very important; explain calmly and honestly, without jabbing them. Explain nicely so your spouse understands how you feel.
Allow your spouse to apologize
For some reason, we can convince ourselves that nothing our spouse will say can help us to forgive them. But how does that help anyone? How can either of you move on if you have that attitude? Allowing your spouse to apologize is a gift to yourself as much as your spouse. In essence, you are helping them take the first step to change. In the process, you are opening your heart, which helps you to then start the repair process. If your spouse isn’t good with words, they may try to show they are sorry by doing nice things for you. If that works for you, then go with it. But if you need to hear the words, “I’m sorry” from your spouse, let your spouse know. Then be patient. This is hard for both of you.
Accept things you can’t change
It’s so hard to forgive because we can’t reach back into the past and remove the hurt. We have to live with it. So at this point, it’s important to work on accepting the things you can’t change. You can’t change anything that has happened in the past. But you can change the present and the future. Why hold on to hurt when it clearly is robbing you of your relationship with your spouse today and tomorrow?
Talk about what will happen next
You have been hurt, and it will help if you know what your spouse will do in order to never do that hurtful behavior again. Make sure this is a discussion, not either of you telling the other what to do. You two must act like you are a team, even though you might not feel like it at the moment. Speak calmly and reassure each other. Mostly, take the time to make a plan. Offer ways to help each other reach your goals. Check in with each other often and encourage each other. Rebuild the trust between you.
Tell your spouse out loud, “I forgive you.”
Your spouse needs to hear the words, and you need to feel the words come out of your mouth as well. First, it marks a moment in time when you have forgiven your spouse, though the feeling may not come all at once. Next, it communicates very clearly how you feel, which validates you and helps your spouse know that you will be okay despite what has happened.
Give it time
Forgiveness takes time, so be patient with yourself. Even if most of the time you are okay, there may be times where doubt or resentment crops up again. This is when it’s important to remember that forgiveness is a choice. Though your feelings may be yelling at you on the inside, you can choose to act in a forgiving manner. As a result, your spouse will be able to change, you can move on from your hurt, and together you can grow closer.
Remember, practicing forgiveness can really improve the quality of your marriage.