We certainly don't have all the answers, but there's one skill we're convinced is absolutely critical to building and creating your dream marriage. Perhaps it's even the most important skill to learn in your marriage — at least when it comes to conflict resolution.
It is the ability to say "I'm sorry," and then to forgive in return
Unfortunately, those "happily ever after" endings we read about and see in the movies don't just happen on their own. Happily ever after takes time, effort, patience and a whole lot of love — the gentle, kind, patient, forgiving kind of love.
There will be times when your spouse drives you crazy and makes you want to scream (rest assured, they feel the same way about you from time to time). You may, on occasion, say things that you don't really mean and wish you could take back. Perhaps your spouse has hurt your feelings — unintentionally or not.
Sometimes there are bumps along the road — and that's OK! It's part of the journey. We all experience this from time to time, and it's not a sign that your marriage is doomed to fail. The key is to let these bumps propel you forward, rather than knock you down.
What do you do when this happens to you? The answer is simple: Swallow your pride, say "I'm sorry," and forgive in return.
You might be thinking, "Sure, that's easy for you to say. But do you have any idea how hard that is to actually do in the heat of the moment!?" Oh yes. Yes, we do.
It takes a truly strong individual to be the first to say "I'm sorry." It also takes a strong individual to say "I forgive you," and to move on. But that's what love does. It makes us strong, together. It enables us to face our challenges and differences and to grow closer together, rather than letting them tear us apart.
No one is perfect, and no one knows your imperfections better than your spouse. On the flip side, you're also keenly aware of your spouse's imperfections. You see each other's best ... and worst. Because of this, you are both very vulnerable. You've placed an incredible amount of trust in each other and it's crucial that you both honor that trust and protect each other's feelings and vulnerabilities.
Part of this requires you to extend to your spouse the same "benefit of the doubt" that you would want them to extend to you. Rather than taking offense, holding a grudge and building wedges between the two of you, choose to set aside your pride, sincerely apologize and forgive. There's no need to keep score — you're on the same team. And together you can win!
Because you're bound to experience moments of frustration and conflict with your spouse from time to time, learning to say "I'm sorry" and to forgive and forget is absolutely critical. It's one of the most important skills you can learn. It will enable you to grow together through conflict, and emerge stronger and more unified than ever. Truly, it will help you nurture your marriage!
Aaron & April are the founders of Nurturing Marriage, a website dedicated to strengthening marriages. They enjoy playing football with their two little boys, watching sports, eating cereal late at night, and going out for frozen yogurt.