How to Forgive Your Husband

forgiveFor if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your heavenly Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:14-15, New American Standard Bible).

Forgiveness is imperative in relationship with others. Not only will you need to forgive others, you will also need to ask forgiveness of others. Marriage is the one relationship in your life that has the greatest potential for growth. With this great potential for growth, there is also a possibility for hurt. Therefore, forgiveness is an essential part of the marital relationship, but as we all know, it is easier said than done. So, how does a wife work toward true forgiveness of her husband?

Recall the Hurt

Some of you reading this may ask, “Why do I need to recall the hurt? I already know how he has hurt me.” Recalling the hurt is not simply remembering what happened to cause the pain.  For some of you, there may be many instances where you have been hurt by your husband. With so many hurtful events, it may seem overwhelming to forgive him. Therefore, it is easier to identify specific events where you felt hurt (Worthington, 2003).


For example, on many occasions your husband has not supported your agreed upon parenting styles in front of his mother. While there are many times this has happened, it is important to visualize a specific, or more than one specific, example to this hurt. One specific example might be last Christmas, where your husband gave into your son’s tantrum.  In thinking about this example, you would remember the time you and your husband spent discussing that you would no longer give into your three year old’s temper tantrums. When your son has a tantrum, he is sent to time out. You both agreed upon this. Then, on Christmas morning when your son throws himself on the ground because he has to wait to open presents, your husband allows your son to open his presents because your mother-in-law insists that her grandchild means no harm.


Another aspect of recalling the hurt involves identifying and releasing the emotions you felt during the hurt (Worthington, 2003). You may have felt or still feel helpless, anger, fear, sadness, or betrayal (Worthington, 2003). This is not an exhaustive list, so there may be many more emotions you likely experienced when you were hurt. It is imperative to acknowledge these emotions and have a healthy outlet for releasing them:

  • Writing about them in a private journal
  • Doing crafts
  • Punching a pillow or punching bag
  • Talking with a trusted friend

Empathize

Empathize…you may be thinking, “There is no way I am empathizing with him! He cannot understand my side, so why I should I empathize with him?” To empathize with your husband does not mean you are condoning what he did. The refusal of empathy is a form of revenge and the protection it offers is only an illusion. Empathy does not make us vulnerable; it helps us exercise wisdom. Empathy is about understanding. To understand does not make someone vulnerable. You only become vulnerable when you give up your ability to make your own decisions.

The purpose of this step is to help you understand what he was thinking and to take him out of the “villain” role. The act of putting your husband in the villain role involves removing or discarding evidence that supports why he acted the way he did.  When you see your husband as a villain, he cannot do anything right. When we put someone in a villain role we put ourselves in the victim role (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, & Switzler, 2012).  Genuinely ask yourself, are you truly a victim here? In most situations, the answer is no.

In order to have empathy with your husband, it may be helpful to write an apology letter as if you were your husband (Worthington, 2003). You would write the letter as if it were your husband explaining why he hurt you and asking for an apology.


Let’s go back to the example listed earlier about your husband not supporting you in front of his mother. If you think about the situation from your husband’s perspective, he may not have supported you because he wanted to please his mom. He may have been trying to live up to the standards that his mom has for him. While this does not make his actions right or justify them, it does give understanding, which is the purpose of this exercise.


It is important to note, this is just your opinion of his side of the story. It does not have to be correct; the importance of this step is to understand how the situation looks different compared to your own point of view.

Altruistic Gift of Forgiveness

Can you think of a time when someone forgave you? What about a time when you did not ask for forgiveness or feel you deserved it? When you think of times you have been forgiven, you probably feel grateful and relieved (Worthington, 2003). It can be helpful to think of forgiveness as a gift you give to your husband whether you feel he deserves it or not. Another word we can use is grace. Think about the grace given daily by our heavenly Father. We do not deserve it, but we are so thankful for this grace.

Three parts are important to giving the gift of forgiveness: guilt, gratitude, and gift (Worthington, 2003, pp. 121-122).

  1. Remember the guilt you experienced when you felt you had wronged someone and needed their forgiveness.
  2. When that person gave you forgiveness you did not deserve, can you remember the gratitude you felt (Worthington, 2003)?
  3. It may have felt like an incredible gift of which you did not deserve, also known as grace.

Commit Publicly To Forgive

You know when you make a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, go to the gym, or start a diet, and within a week you are back to your old ways? Many times, you find that these resolutions are more successful when you tell someone about it who can support you. With forgiveness, it is necessary to tell your husband or write a certificate of forgiveness in order to commit to the forgiveness (Worthington, 2003). Expressing forgiveness in an outward way will help you hold on to your forgiveness, we will talk about this in the next section.

Publically committing to forgive does not mean that you have to forget or ignore the emotions that went along with the hurt. It means you have let that hurtful action go, and you will no longer hold the hurtful action over your husband’s head. It is giving up your desire or right to hurt back. Forgiveness is about you, not him or his response. Forgiveness is not trust.

Hold on to Forgiveness

You may question yourself on how you know if you really have forgiven your husband. Or how do you not allow other hurts to cloud your forgiveness of your husband? It is important to hold on to forgiveness in order not to allow grievances from the past to continue to control your relationship with your husband. The act of holding onto forgiveness is also important in remembering to give your husband grace for his mistakes. Five ways to hold on to forgiveness include (Worthington, 2003, p. 149):

  1. The emotions that you experience from remembering the hurt does not mean you have not forgiven.
  2. Do not let negative emotions control you.
  3. Tell yourself that you have forgiven your husband.
  4. If you spoke to a trusted friend, it may be helpful to ask for support.
  5. Review the journaling or certificate of forgiveness you created.

The five steps above are part of the REACH model of forgiveness developed by Christian psychologist Everett Worthington (Worthington, 2003).

If you or someone you know is struggling with forgiveness, please contact The Relationship Center. We have professional counselors who can help.

References

Patterson, K., Grenny, J., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2012). Master my stories: How to stay in dialogue when you’re angry, scared, or hurt. In Crucial Conversations: Tools for talking when the stakes are high (pp. 103-130). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

Worthington, E. L. (2003). Forgiving and reconciling: Bridges to wholeness and Hope. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

christian marriage therapyLooking for help? Join the 3,000+ families who have found the help they need by trusting the counselors of MyCounselor.Online. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $50-$155 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here for Christian Marriage Counseling
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Women’s Fear of Intimacy in Communication

Communication is one of the most important aspects of marriage. Lack of communication is also thmost common complaint I hear when doing marital therapy. Feeling connected and close, as well as being able to converse with your husband is extremely important.

No Fear of Intimacy

In some situations, women may have difficulty having an intimate conversation with their husband due to fear of intimacy. When I use the word intimacy, I am referring to a close and affectionate relationship with another person.

Defined in this way, intimacy is allowing oneself to be known, cared for and loved, even the areas that you wish you could hide from others. It includes allowing yourself to be vulnerable with people that you trust. Below are some communication characteristics of someone who has a fear of intimacy and how they can be fixed.

Communication Characteristics

Avoidance

Someone who fears intimacy in communication will avoid conversations she believes will lead to serious topics. The person may avoid conversation unless it deals with tasks of daily living. For example, a woman who fears intimacy in communication may avoid discussing when she felt overlooked by her husband at a family gathering because she fears it will bring up unresolved issues from her past. Another example would be when a woman purposely busies herself  in order to avoid talking about difficult topics.

Passes Judgment

Instead of having an attitude of understanding, someone with fear of intimacy in communication may pass judgment on her spouse. Rather than listening to the feelings or information her spouse shares, she is concentrating on her opinions about what he has said. Thinking that your husband is lying when he says an emergency at work made him late for your date night would be an example of passing judgment without trying to understand. This type of judgment can:

  • Produce feelings of anger and being wronged
  • Cause distance between you and your spouse because of these feelings
  • Distance will prevent intimacy

Negativity

Someone who struggles with intimacy in communication may be overly negative in her conversations. Instead of trying to see the positive side of a situation, she sees the negative side and fixates on this. For example, a husband and a wife have a nice picnic planned for a sunny Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately, when they get to the perfect spot, it begins to rain. As they try to find shelter, they slip in the mud and are able to laugh at each other. When they do find shelter, they are able to have a good conversation about their life together. Someone who fears intimacy in communication may see this experience as negative because things did not go as planned and she was not prepared for this type of conversation.

Excessive Control

Someone who always wants to be prepared for any type of uncomfortable conversation may try to exert control in any way possible. In trying to exert control, she may excessively control the areas where she feels she has control. This can give the illusion of being in control of situations for which you are fearful, but in reality that’s all it is: simply an illusion. For example, you may feel out of control and unprepared when speaking to your husband, but feel you have complete control over how your house is run. Due to feeling out of control in other areas, you may take this control over your home to extremes through needing to choose everything that goes in your home, needing everything to be spotless, or not allowing other family members to complete tasks because they did not follow your specific instructions.

Disengaging

When topics arise that she does not feel comfortable, someone who fears intimacy in communication may prevent herself from being engaging in the conversation. This may happen through day dreaming, thinking of other things, or physically removing herself from the conversation. If we go back to the previous example of the picnic, someone who disengages may not even have that good conversation with her husband. She may be thinking about her wet clothes, what to do with the food, how to get back to the car, or how she can leave the situation.

Focuses on Self

While focusing on yourself is not a bad thing, it becomes an issue when your thoughts are constantly about fear of intimate conversation with your husband. At an unconscious level, I see this present, often times, as an excessive focus on one’s own feelings, desires, thoughts, point of view, etc. It is a selfish way of thinking which insulates from intimacy. We are to care for ourselves, but not in a way that makes us the center of the world. Often times someone who experiences this fear of intimacy will be constantly thinking or preparing for these deep conversations when she rarely allows them to happen.

Focusing on self may or may not be evident to your spouse. For example, a woman experiencing this fear of intimacy may try to prepare herself mentally for any possible conversation with her husband that may be about a topic she does not feel comfortable discussing. There are limitless possibilities as to what conversations may come up and, therefore she finds herself more often than she would like in thought of protecting herself.

How Can You Fix These Characteristics?

Self-Analysis

It is difficult to make a change when you are unaware that there is a problem. Doing some analysis of yourself and your actions will help you understand changes that need to be made. Self-analysis may require insight from your husband, close friends, or family members. Ask others to make observations about your words, attitudes, and actions. It may also require the help of a professional, such as a counselor.

Commit to Change

It can be easy to say you are going to change, but actually putting those words into action is more difficult. Commit to change by telling your husband or trusted friend of your plans and ask them to keep you accountable. It may also help to write out a commitment statement of what you want to change as well as the steps you would like to take to make these changes.

Work on A Safe Relationship

It is important to work toward an emotionally safe environment in your marital relationship. Many women who experience fear of intimacy may not feel emotionally safe in their marital relationship due to a number of reasons. In order to work on intimate communication with your husband you have to feel safe when you are discussing important topics. The following emotional safety handout provides information about developing an emotionally safe relationship.

Communicate with your Husband

If you want to have intimate conversations with your husband you have to be willing to communicate with him. Your first step should be sharing with your husband your struggles and your commitment to change. This discussion must focus on yourself and not how you think your husband should change. Changing the subject to your husband would be an issue of boundaries in which you reach for something you cannot control. Starting off this change process without including your husband would defeat the purpose.

Give Yourself Grace

During this process, make sure to give yourself grace. It is difficult to realize that you may fear intimacy in communication with the person that you love. Identifying the problem and seeking change are the first steps to improving your communication with your husband.


If you or someone you know is struggling with marital communication, please contact us. The Relationship Center has therapists who specialize in marital therapy. We are here to help and would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

References

Berry, R. A., & Lawrence, E. L. (2013). “Don’t stand so close to me”: An attachment perspective of disengagement and avoidance in marriage. Journal of Family Psychology, 27(3), 484-494.

Harley, W. F. (2003). His Needs Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Fleming H. Revell.

Markman, H. J., Rhodes, G. K., Stanley, S. M., Ragan, E. P., & Whitton, S. W. (2010). The premarital communication roots of marital distress and divorce: The first five years of marriage. Journal of Family Psychology, 24(3), 289-298.

Smalley, G., Smalley, G., Smalley, M., & Paul, R. S. (2004). The DNA of Relationships. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Recommended Reading

Harley, W. F. (2003). His Needs Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Fleming H. Revell.

Smalley, G., Smalley, G., Smalley, M., & Paul, R. S. (2004). The DNA of Relationships. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

christian marriage therapyLooking for help? Join the 3,000+ families who have found the help they need by trusting the counselors of MyCounselor.Online. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $50-$155 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here for Christian Marriage Counseling

 

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