“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” – Lewis B Smeed
Every relationship has room and need of forgiveness. We’re imperfect people and we make mistakes. We lose our tempers and lash out, or we say things that are unknowingly hurtful.
Marriage requires, perhaps, more forgiveness than any other relationship. When living with someone that closely, friction occurs regularly. The best marriages consist of couples who have learned how to let go of things that don’t matter.
Know what matters and pick your battles.
In a marriage, it’s more important to care for the relationship than it is to be right or to win. It took me a long time to learn this. I’m a competitive person by nature, but marriage is not a competition. If you win an argument and leave your wife in tears, you have missed the whole point. Is what you’re arguing over really that important, or is it okay to let your wife put up the pink and yellow curtains in the bathroom because they make her really happy?
Many times arguments continue because one party thinks that the other party is out to get them. At one point, you were in love with your wife. You knew she loved you back. If there was love there once, it’s probably still there in some way. Simply allowing this paradigm shift allows you to see that she loves you, she’s just angry or hurt. If she’s yelling at you, but you know she loves you, then perhaps there’s something going on that you don’t know about. How can you help her? Patty Newbold of AssumeLove.com writes extensively about this topic. I highly recommend reading her stuff.
Take a deep breath.
One of the best things about Yoga is that it teaches people to relax with the breath. Holding on to anger and resentment is exhausting. You tense your shoulders, neck, back, and you take shallow breaths. When you’re really upset, take a moment to take a few deep breaths, from the gut. This simple act will unconsciously relax you and you will make better choices.
Build a bridge.
Not a bridge to nowhere, but a bridge to your wife. Reach out to her. It’s pretty difficult to hold a grudge against someone that you are doing service for, talking to, or otherwise helping. Little acts of service can go a long way to soften your heart. Fix something around the house, make a nice meal for her, or buy her a small gift.
Licensed therapists are trained to help people move beyond issues just like this. Deeply emotional issues are difficult to resolve by ourselves, and sometimes we need outside perspective.
Make the choice.
When it comes down to it, forgiveness is a choice. All of these options are just ways to help you get to the point where you can choose to let it go. Anger, resentment, fear, and grudges are heavy weights to carry. They are poisonous cancers to your soul.
Forgiveness is a cleansing balm to your soul. It gives you the opportunity to set down your heavy burden. Holding a grudge does more to harm you than it ever does to the person you are angry with.
For years I harbored ill will towards my step father. He did things that were wrong, no doubt, but I allowed him to continue to have power over my life by harboring that resentment. When he wasn’t around I would spend time thinking about how I could do awful things to him. I obsessed over every little slight and abuse. For many years, it made me a bitter and angry person. It poisoned my relationships by hurting my ability to trust other people and crippling me with guilt about my feelings towards him.
It took many years, some therapy, and a very understanding wife to get past that anger and resentment. I can honestly say that I forgive my stepfather now. He made some bad choices, but they were his choices. Not mine. When I learned to forgive him, which was a long process, it allowed my relationship with my wife to bloom.
If you harbor ill will towards your wife, or towards anyone else, I encourage you to let it go.
How about you? I’d love to hear your stories of forgiveness and how it blessed your life.