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How and why to forgive your spouse

Posted at 10:19 AM, Sep 29, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-12 17:24:06-04

Question:

My spouse has done some things that really bother me. He is now committed to making our marriage work, but I just can’t let his past bad behavior go. I’m trying to forgive, but I can’t seen to really get there and there is a definite wedge between us. I have no idea how to fix it? Is there anyway to fully repair our relationship and be happy with him again?

Answer:

It is possible to fix your relationship and even fall back in love again, but it is only possible if you are both willing to forgive past mistakes and see this situation accurately as a lesson in love.

I believe life is a classroom and every experience you get here is a lesson with the primary purpose of teaching you how to love yourself and other people at a deeper level. If that is true, it makes sense that you would get a lot of opportunities to forgive past mistakes, faults, flaws, differences and disagreements. It is in doing this you learn real love.

I believe that your family (children and spouse) are going to be your primary forgiveness classroom because they are the ones who best push your buttons, scare you and hurt you. You must choose to see these family problems accurately — as lessons in love. This will change how you feel about them.

Here are a couple principles of truth that will help you to better understand and practice forgiveness:

Forgiveness is the key to happiness. It is the only way to peace, confidence, security and love. You will never be happy without it because no one is perfect. If you get hung up on their imperfections you will be incapable of love and happiness cannot exist where there is no love.

Your spouse did wrong, it sounds like, and this was an especially painful wrong, but you must remember you aren’t perfect either. Even though you may not have made this same mistake, you have made others, and I guarantee there is a downside to being married to you too (there is for all of us). If you want to be happy and have a healthy relationship, you must let the past go.

You alone are responsible for the pain you are experiencing. You must understand that no situation can cause you pain without your choosing it because your thoughts and your attitude are in your control. No one can take away your pain or give you pain. You alone have that power. If you struggle to understand this principle, read my article about choosing to be upset. You must grasp the truth that you are in control of your thoughts and feelings. If you haven’t let go of this issue it is because there is a part of you that wants to hold onto it. You are probably doing this so you can use it to cast your spouse as the bad guy and yourself as the good guy, which makes your ego feel better. You will let it go of this when you are ready to choose happiness over being right.

Your spouse is guilty of bad behavior, but he is not less of a person than you are because you both have the same infinite and absolute value. You both have the same value no matter how many mistakes either of you makes. This is true because your value cannot change. Life is a classroom and your value isn't on the line. That does not mean you and your spouse aren’t really in need of some more education to improve your behavior, but this lack of knowledge and need for improvement does not affect your value. You must stop casting them as the bad guy and yourself as the good guy or that wedge will never go away.

Forgiveness is really about seeing yourself and others accurately — as innocent, completely forgiven, struggling, scared, messed up, but perfect students in the classroom of life with lots still to learn. Most of us think forgiving is about seeing people as guilty and condemning them for their mistakes, but then trying to pardon them because you know you should. If you try to forgive this way it will never happen. You will still be hung up on the fact that they don’t deserve it. Forgiveness will never work when it’s a gift undeserved. This mindset is too bogged down in judgment. Real forgiveness is about letting go of judgment and understanding that perfect love has already forgiven all the wrongs, pain and hurt on both sides of this. The entire past has been wiped clean of all selfish, fear-based bad behavior. It is gone except for the resentment you are holding onto. It is time to let go and accept forgiveness for both of you. Real forgiveness is about seeing both of you as scared, struggling students in the classroom of life, doing the best you can with what you know but in need of more education. The universe is going to provide this education and eventually you will both figure out what you did wrong and why, and get your act together. In the meantime, you must give each other permission to be a work in progress and not crucify each other for mistakes.

Forgiveness is about giving the gift of innocence to others because you want it for yourself. It is about understanding that you get what you give.

The key to forgiveness lies in one very simple choice that you must make over and over, every moment of your life. What energy do you want to live in — judgement energy or forgiveness energy?

You can live in judgment of others, condemning and crucifying them for past mistakes. But if you choose this, you must understand that you won’t be happy with it. You will also experience low self-esteem. This happens because if you choose a judgment mindset you are giving power to the idea that people aren’t good enough and this will subconsciously feel true about you too. (This is just how it works.) You will never feel good about yourself if you choose judgement.

Your other option is to choose to forgive yourself and others and completely let go of every misconceived, stupid, selfish, fear-based mistake either of you has ever made. You can choose to see these mistakes for what they really were — bad behavior born of confusion, self-doubt, lack of knowledge and fear. You can choose to see everyone as innocent and forgiven by perfect love for all these mistakes, and in doing so, let them and yourself start over with a clean slate every day. If you choose this mindset you will feel safe, loved, whole and good about yourself all the time, no matter what you do.

How do you want to live?

(This obviously does not mean you should put up with abuse though. You should ask for and expect people to honor your value the same way you will honor theirs. If someone refuses to do this, and really is abusive you may choose to love and forgive them from afar and not maintain a relationship with them. Only you are entitled to know what is right for you. Trust your heart.)

If you continue to struggle with forgiveness, I really encourage you to work with a counselor or coach who can help you battle the mindset issues that make forgiveness difficult. I also have some forgiveness worksheets on my website that may help.

You can do this!