How to Forgive Your Husband
By Lila Diller of Creating Romance
But when I got married, these reactions hurt my husband—terribly. At first, my flesh reveled in having that much power over him. But it didn’t take long for the Holy Spirit to convict me that no matter what I felt he had done to me—usually unintentionally—bitterness wasn’t helping but hurting our relationship. As I watched a couple get divorced, I realized we could be heading on the same path, and I knew I needed to change.
This post is as much a reminder to myself as it hopefully will help you.
Please try to take these principles and avoid some of the mistakes I made. Humility is the key to wisdom.
Before we get to the steps of forgiveness, here are three principles to keep in mind.
1. Push past feeling sorry for yourself and find something to be thankful for.
Gratitude, though difficult, is key. I know it’s hard, but to make any constructive change, you must first focus on the positive.
This doesn’t mean you can’t feel angry or hurt. That’s natural. Jesus Himself got angry a few times. The classic verse, Ephesians 4:26, says it’s okay to be angry; it also says there’s a specific way to handle that anger:
“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (ESV).
I know it’s hard, but don’t give in to your angry or hurt feelings. Take a deep breath and deliberately choose to find one good quality about your husband to thank God for.
Many times I’ve focused on the little irritants that really don’t matter in the grand scheme of eternity. I’ve come to learn that I can put up with my husband’s clutter because he is a good man, a good father, and the Lord has given him to me as a wonderful gift. It’s hard to remember that when I have to vacuum around his stuff yet again, but I can thank God for his intelligence and humor. Then the clutter loses its importance.
2. Focus on what you can control.
Refuse to blame and complain but focus on what you can do. God never promised us a perfect marriage. God never made us responsible to change anyone else. But we are responsible for our own actions and reactions. Accepting change is essential; the trick is to work on change in ourselves and not our husbands.
This was especially hard for me at the beginning of our marriage. I always had an excuse for why I got upset. “He did that,” or “He didn’t say it nicely enough,” etc. It wasn’t until the Holy Spirit got it through y thick skull that I couldn’t be worried about how my husband did things. Once I started asking myself, “Did I provoke him in some way?” then I realized how much grace I still needed. And it’s become a little easier to give my husband grace where he needs it. It will never be second-nature, but it’s slowly becoming easier.
3. Take small steps, faithfully preserving.
Realize forgiveness is a process, and it won’t happen overnight. This is when grace gets real. Even if your husband repents of his mistake or sin, he’s still imperfect. I know that will come as a shock to you. 😉
You will most likely have to forgive him of this same sin many times, while the Holy Spirit incrementally changes your husband into the image of the Son.
And remember, He’s still working on you, too. Your husband doesn’t live with a perfect wife, either. If you both humbly acknowledge that every once in a while, it will help in the long run. And it will be a long run. We’re in our marriages for the long haul.
We will never arrive (in this life) at the place where we no longer make mistakes. We’re making “imperfect progress,” as Lysa TerKeurstsays.
Now that we’ve got those three principles out of the way, here are some practical steps you can take to start forgiving your husband:
- Step 1: Admit your feelings to the Lord; and ask for help.
- Step 2: Evaluate yourself. See if you gave your husband an understandable reason to do what he did. If so, ask for forgiveness from the Lord first.
- Step 3: Take the first step toward reconciliation. In humility, be the first one to relent from the silent treatment. Go to your husband and ask for either forgiveness or clarification and understanding.
- Step 4: Tackle the issue; solve the problem. Don’t attack the person.
- Step 5: Be calm and sensitive. Don’t expect immediate agreement.
- Step 6: Be patient and persevering. Don’t expect immediate change.
- Step 7: Set in place a tentative plan to change.
- Step 8: Rinse and repeat as needed.
Here is an example. It may or may not be from my own life. 🙂
Background: If your husband hurt you by yelling about the dirty floor as soon as he came in the door, keep your mouth shut first. Or tell him, “I’m angry right now. Let me calm down, and then we’ll talk about it.” Believe me, you do not want to tackle the issue right now.
Step 1: Pray silently, asking the Lord to guard your lips. Tell Him your feelings, that you’re angry and feel you’re being treated unfairly.
Step 2: Evaluate the floor. Is it really dirty? Or is he just blowing up, because he had a hard day? If the floor really is dirty, did you legitimately not have the energy or time to clean it, such as being sick, or an incident with the dog happened just before he walked in the door? Or did you spend too much time on Facebook or on something you wanted to do and forgot to clean it? When you have answered this question, you can either ask forgiveness from God for your laziness, or you can logically tackle the issue.
Step 3: Go to your husband first; don’t wait for him to come to you. If he’s still upset, ask if this is a good time to talk about it, or if he needs to wait longer. Then when you talk, calmly and logically present your reasoning, or humbly ask for forgiveness for your laziness.
Step 4: Ask, “Why did this upset you so much?” Talk out the problem. Many times you’ll find that this issue is a symptom of something different. Maybe he had a bad day. If it’s important to him, make an effort to change what you can. Exchange a block of time in your agenda so that you do the vacuuming before he normally gets home. Offer ideas to solve the problem.
Step 5: Say, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” Or, “I understand how that could be irritating.” “I understand,” is one of the best things to say when they’re upset. Try to see things from their perspective while also gently articulating your perspective.
Step 6: Acknowledge that change is not immediate. Say, “I will try to remember to clean the floors before you get home if you will try to remind me tactfully when I forget.”
Step 7: Make a to-do list, setting a specific time for vacuuming. Or set an alarm on your phone. Do whatever you need to do to change what you can, and help your husband come up with some practical ways he change what he can. Come up with a plan together. Being on the same side as a team is critical to the longevity of closeness and the marriage itself.
Step 8: Do it all over again, hopefully getting better about blowing up over little things or being too sensitive when your husband blows up. We all have bad days. We all make mistakes. We’re all hard to live with sometimes. Give each other grace. But you start.
Conclusion: To avoid holding grudges and becoming bitter, learn to forgive your husband. Remember the three principles: Find something to be thankful for, focus on what you can control, and persevere with small steps.