Why this one thing is so vital to your marriage

It's more important than you think.

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  • It's late, and you and your wife aren't talking to each other — again. It all started a few hours ago, when she came home and immediately chewed you out over something totally silly. You knew she was worn out and stressed and just taking it out on you, but you snapped back. You pointed out her faults to defend yourself, and she withdrew in tears.

  • So, here you sit, watching sports and surfing Facebook, but feeling miserable inside. You know you need to change. You know you need to say you are sorry. You know you need to try and make things right again, but you are too stubborn. You felt justified in your comments because you were hurt by your wife's unthoughtful — and unasked for — criticism.

  • Meanwhile, your beautiful wife is upstairs crying. She knows she shouldn't have overreacted. She is feeling regret and discouragement, and wishing she could start over. She just wants things to be right between the two of you again. She decides that your marriage means more to her than the embarrassment of apologizing, so she humbly comes downstairs. She has mascara stains on her cheeks, and she is blowing her nose like there is no tomorrow, but still she comes and stands next to you. She looks at you. You look away. Between sobs, she squeaks out a pretty pathetic, "I'm sorry."

  • You think to yourself, "Don't say it. Show it. Prove it." You also don't know if you really believe her. You are silent. She has done this too often the past few months, and this time she doesn't deserve forgiveness. She needs to learn from her mistakes. She needs to treat you better. So you continue to ignore her. A few more tears slip down her cheeks, but you pretend not to notice.

  • She quietly goes upstairs, alone, and you remain miserable on the recliner. You missed an opportunity to forgive, and to be forgiven. And now you have simply made things worse. You could have had a new beginning together and made the rest of your night positive and fun, but you blew it. So what if your wife wasn't totally sincere? So what if she isn't perfect and may explode again at some future date? You knew when you got married that you signed up for an imperfect marriage made up of two imperfect people, right?

  • Your sweet wife needs your forgiveness, and your love. She needs a hug. She needs help making positive changes, as do you. Plus, you need the happiness, freedom and peace that come from offering forgiveness (not to mention the fact that you have some apologizing to do on your end, too!).

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  • So, how do you forgive? How do you actually let go of the petty things (and the big ones) and move on? What role does forgiveness play in nurturing your happily ever after?

  • Here are a few things to remember, before you get your booty upstairs to apologize to your wife and ask for her forgiveness!

  • 1. Forgiveness is a choice

  • And you can choose forgiveness over and over again, every day — over little things and big things. That choice is yours, and the more you choose forgiveness, the better you will get at forgiving.

  • Religious Leader Jörg Klebingat once encouraged,

  • "Become really, really good at forgiving ... Forgive everyone, everything, all the time, or at least strive to do so, thus allowing forgiveness into your own life. Don't hold grudges, don't be easily offended, forgive and forget quickly."

  • It is a choice to see others as they truly are — imperfect people striving to be better, to overcome bad habits, and to improve their lives in meaningful ways.

  • ​When you choose to give the gift of forgiveness freely, with no thought of what you may receive in return, you will see that forgiveness comes to you more freely as well. Which is a pretty miraculous thing (especially because you need forgiveness just as much, if not more, than that sweet spouse of yours!). ​

  • 2. Forgiveness means letting go of resentment

  • If you choose to go upstairs and forgive your wife (and to ask for her forgiveness), then don't bring it up again if she blows up at you next week. Please don't ever say, "I forgave you once, and I won't forgive you again."

  • Instead, let go. Seek to understand all that your wife has going on, and what is causing her to lose her cool so easily. Perhaps she is struggling with something at work that you know nothing about, or perhaps her hormones are out of whack, and she needs a doctor appointment.

  • Choose not to let resentment foster, and choose instead to care deeply about your spouse and your marriage.

  • Family Life professor Richard Millar once taught,

  • "Resentment is one of the worst poisons in marriage. ... If left untreated, it builds up over a number of years to the point where it destroys love."

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  • Choosing forgiveness over resentment allows for your love to be nurtured. When you are taking time for the little things, dating your spouse and finding meaningful ways to connect and strengthen your friendship, you will find that you have created a powerful protection against the build-up of unwanted resentment. ​

  • 3. F orgiveness changes you more than it changes your spouse

  • Choosing to forgive, even when it doesn't seem right or fair, will change you. It will change how you feel about life, and how you feel about yourself. When you choose not to be the victim of your spouse's choices, but instead to love and forgive, you will invite freedom, happiness and true peace into your life.

  • Forgiveness allows you to be truly happy, no matter what messes you and your spouse are dealing with.

  • Forgiveness will change how you see others, and how you treat them.

  • Forgiveness will change how you see yourself, how you love yourself, and how you treat yourself (because you need your own forgiveness, too).

  • So, you did it. You went upstairs. You hugged your wife for a solid three minutes. She sobbed in your arms. You said, "I'm so sorry for being stubborn, and for what I said. I shouldn't have said those things." (It was hard to say the words, but you did it. And you meant it.) She cried, "No, I'm the one who is sorry! I shouldn't have treated you that way. I feel horrible about it. I'm so worn out, and stressed about this deadline. Plus, I'm finding no time to take care of anything at home, or even make a decent dinner for us! And I never see you anymore."

  • You then realize that your sweet wife is simply overwhelmed, tired and disappointed in herself for not meeting her own high expectations. You kiss her and say, "Of course I forgive you. I will always forgive you." You tell her you don't mind eating PB &J for dinner. She laughs, looks into your eyes and sincerely says, "Thank you. I'm so grateful to know I have you by my side." (And while you can't see it, she is feeling confidence grow in the security of your marriage relationship, because she realizes that if you can forgive each other over little things, that your marriage will always be OK.)

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  • You hug, you kiss, you enjoy make-up sex, and from that moment on you are both more sensitive toward, and tender to, each other in the coming days and weeks. Forgiveness has worked its miracle once again, and you have remembered three very important lessons that are helping you both enjoy the reality of what "happily ever after" really looks like.

  • Editor's note: This article was originally published on Nurturing Marriage. It has been republished here with permission.

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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.

Website: http://www.nurturingmarriage.org

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