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[thrive_text_block color=”light” headline=”Chapter Summary”]This chapter is all about the importance of forgiveness. You’ll learn what forgiveness does for a marriage, what real forgiveness looks like, and how to put you and your wife on the road towards a forgiving marriage.[/thrive_text_block]
Forgiveness is like an onion…
On the surface it seems simple, but as you try to understand it, you’ll find there are many more layers than you first thought.
Today we’re going to peel the onion.
If you’ve read the 10 Steps to Gain Husbandly Leadership, you’ve already learned a little bit about forgiveness. One part of this chapter (Don’t Play the Blame Game) will sound particularly familiar.
However, today we’re going deeper than I did in the e-course. You’re going to learn what forgiveness really does for a relationship and what steps you need to take before your marriage can recover.
How Forgiveness Makes Marriage Possible
Every lifelong marriage is built on forgiveness. I’m willing to bet that most couples who’ve been married for 50+ years would tell you that forgiveness is one of the most important, if not THE single most important part of a happy marriage.
Most of us know that forgiveness is important – after all, it’s a bit of a cliché.
But have you ever asked yourself why?
What exactly does forgiveness do for a marriage?
I’ll tell you:
Forgiveness is the linchpin of unconditional love. As we said all the way back in Chapter 2, unconditional love means loving your wife no matter what. How are you supposed to have unconditional love unless you can forgive the “no matter what” part?
Short answer: you can’t.
Unconditional love doesn’t rely on the perfection of your spouse; it relies on an awareness that both you and your spouse will get more joy out of forgiveness than blame.
Forgiveness is how conflicts are resolved. One of the dirty secrets marriage counselors never tell you is that not all marriage problems can be solved. Sometimes, there are innate differences between two people that will always cause friction.
It doesn’t mean these two people can’t be happily married, it just means they need to both strive for a forgiving heart.
Forgiveness is what lets two polar opposites enjoy a lifelong marriage together.
Forgiveness is why love feels like freedom. When your wife sees that you’ve truly forgiven her from the bottom of your heart, her trust in you will grow. In that moment, you’ve enabled more freedom in the marriage. You’ve removed a barrier. You’ve proven your acceptance of her and allowed her to feel safe.
When two people completely trust in one another’s ability to forgive, their love for each other can grow without a ceiling. Nothing can stand in the way.
With forgiveness in your marriage, both you and your spouse are 100% free to be yourself.
Forgiveness is how marriage makes you grow. The challenges and lessons you’ll learn from practicing forgiveness in marriage will extend outward into the rest of your life and make you a better man. Forgiveness teaches you what really matters in life. Forgiveness teaches you to accept yourself, failures and all, and it allows you to love everyone, from your children to your parents to your neighbor, in a new kind of way.
What Does Forgiveness Really Mean?
Before we can have a real conversation about forgiveness, we need to make sure we’re on the same page. In general, there are two ways that couples forgive one another, each with two very different results.
Full Forgiveness vs. Feel-Good Forgiveness
Most couples practice the easy version of forgiveness, aka. feel-good forgiveness.
See, forgiveness can be twisted… It can be used to validate your feelings of superiority. It can be used as ammunition to prove that you’re the one “trying” in the relationship.
You can use forgiveness to say, “I forgive you, now you should forgive me. How can you not love me now that I’ve forgiven you?”
Feel-good forgiveness is selfish; it’s something you do exclusively for your own benefit. Because of that, it only works up to a point… Until you hit ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’ as they say. And the truth is, feel-good forgiveness doesn’t work for either person involved – it won’t give you or your wife ANY of the benefits of real forgiveness.
You can’t get your wife back with feel-good forgiveness; she’ll see through it every time.
So, let’s compare that to full forgiveness…
Full forgiveness is selfless; it comes at a cost to the forgiver. It is the opposite of selfish… It’s pure mercy that comes from a humble heart with no ulterior motives.
Full forgiveness says, “I know I don’t have to forgive you, I know that forgiving you will be hard for me, and I know that my forgiveness won’t change you, but I will still forgive you because I love you.”
Full forgiveness is hard, but it lasts. Here are a few defining traits of full forgiveness:
[thrive_text_block color=”light” headline=”Full Forgiveness…”]
Moves On – When a problem is resolved, it stays resolved. When you say, “It’s okay,” it really is okay. No drudging up the past. No salting the wounds. Full forgiveness moves on because it’s really all about love.
Accepts Flaws – Some people treat forgiveness like an exchange. For them, the way it works is “I forgive you, as long as you make up for it.”
Full forgiveness works differently. Because it is rooted in unconditional love, it doesn’t put the other person in debt. Full forgiveness accepts flaws and doesn’t have a requirement of change tagged along with it.
Reassures – When my wife forgives me for something I’ve done, or when I forgive her, the first thing we always do is hug. And not a casual hug either; we embrace. We absorb ourselves in each other’s arms. This is what full forgiveness does; it reassures. It comforts.
The Cost of Forgiveness
(aka. Forgiveness Ain’t Free)
One of the most misleading notions people have about forgiveness is that forgiveness should be free. In other words, there should be no cost associated with forgiveness.
This is misleading, because there is ALWAYS a cost to forgiveness. In fact, by definition it’s impossible to forgive someone without paying a price.
“But wait, Jacob, I thought you just said that full forgiveness comes at no cost to the forgiven?”
Yes, you’re absolutely right – the cost of forgiveness can only be paid by the forgiver.
Think about it like this:
[thrive_text_block color=”blue” headline=””]If you were $10,000 in debt to your bank, and your bank decided to forgive the debt, was that forgiveness free?[/thrive_text_block]
No! The $10,000 had to come from somewhere.
If the bank forgives your debt, then they are effectively paying the price of your debt for you. By allowing you to walk away from your debt, they are eating the cost of your $10,000 loan plus whatever interest may have accrued.
What’s this have to do with you and your marriage?
This means that if your wife needs forgiveness, it must be free for her, but it will come at a cost to you.
Does that make sense? Forgiveness is not free. It is extremely costly, but only for the one who is doing the forgiving. To forgive your wife is to make a sacrifice.
When you forgive your wife, you are letting go of her debt to you which was created by her mistakes. Similarly, when your wife forgives you, it comes at the cost of accepting your mistakes.
The Practical Cost of Forgiveness – What Does it Look Like in Real Life?
What does this “cost of forgiveness” look like?
One man Inside the Haven described it perfectly. He said, “The true cost of forgiveness is NOT in the actual act of forgiving her. The true cost of forgiveness is refusing to let old wounds compound on new ones.”
In other words, forgiveness isn’t about feeling good. You can still forgive your wife even if you still feel bad afterwards. That’s okay! In fact, it’s expected. Feeling bad doesn’t mean you haven’t actually forgiven her; it just means that you’re paying the price of forgiveness.
The cost of forgiveness lies in letting go of repayment for the bad feelings that your wife has caused. The cost of forgiveness is not bringing up past mistakes when your wife makes new mistakes in the future. If your forgiveness is genuine, then you won’t let old wounds add onto the new ones that are to come.
Honestly, I’ve spent years trying to understand everything about forgiveness, and it still amazes me. The fact that forgiveness comes at the cost of the forgiver is what makes it such a beautiful and integral part of marriage and husbandly leadership. As the leader, you must be willing to make these sacrifices and to pay the cost of your wife’s mistakes.
Dangers of The Blame Game
What is the blame game?
The blame game is when you spend more time trying to figure out whose fault it is than you do trying to fix the actual problem.
You know you’re playing the blame game when you’d rather say the words, “I told you so,” than “I forgive you.”
You either want your wife back or you don’t.
You either want a happy marriage or you don’t.
It doesn’t matter where you’re at; figure out what you want and stick to it.
In the end, the blame game is pointless because marriage is a two-person relationship. You’re both at fault in one way or another. That’s the bad news.
Here’s the good news:
- Your mistakes don’t have to make you a bad husband.
- Your wife’s mistakes don’t have to make her a bad wife.
Mistakes are just part of life. Disagreements are just part of marriage. Problems exist in every relationship. There’s nothing wrong with any of these things; the real trouble comes in how you handle them.
As the leader, it’s your responsibility to be the rock of the marriage.
You’re the captain; you have to learn how to navigate the storms without wrecking the ship. That’s YOUR job; not hers.
When our nation faces crisis, we expect an answer from our president. Same thing is true in marriage.
You won’t be able to love your wife the way you should until you can let go of the blame you feel in your heart right now and learn how to forgive.
Fortunately, while forgiveness is difficult to put into practice, the process itself is simple to understand. In fact, it can be broken down into two core steps, the order of which doesn’t matter.
Step 1. Forgive Your Wife
Because you’re here reading this, I know that your wife has hurt you.
Maybe she’s still hurting you today. Maybe she’s insulting, or cold, or overly critical. Maybe she’s made bad decisions. Maybe she’s even had/having an affair.
Even if you take responsibility for the state of your marriage right now, you know there are things your wife could’ve done better. You don’t have to deny that your wife made mistakes.
Because in the end, it doesn’t matter how many mistakes your wife has made. In the end, you just need to answer this one question:
Do you love your wife?
[thrive_text_block color=”green” headline=”If the answer is yes… “]… Then focus on that love. Like we talked about in Chapter 2, let your immense love for your wife fuel your strength, patience and forgiveness. [/thrive_text_block]
[thrive_text_block color=”red” headline=”If the answer is anything other than yes…”]… Then that’s your decision, and you’ll have to deal with that. But, really what this means is that there’s probably somebody else you need to forgive before you can forgive your wife (see Step 2). [/thrive_text_block]
Don’t Expect an Apology
One more thing about forgiving your wife… When you forgive her, don’t expect an apology. Your wife may never apologize for the damage she’s done to your marriage, or for the pain she’s caused you.
This is especially difficult if your wife is having an affair. Even after you forgive her, she may not change what she’s doing. She may not recognize your forgiveness. And she probably won’t apologize anytime soon.
That’s not to say that she will NEVER apologize, but you shouldn’t forgive her with the expectation of getting an apology. That would be an ulterior motive, remember? And the whole point of full forgiveness is that you don’t have any expectation attached. That includes the expectation of an apology, or even a recognition that you have done her a favor in forgiving her.
You don’t forgive your wife because you think it will get her back to the marriage. You forgive her because you unconditionally love her, and because you are a good husband. If she does apologize, and she does recognize your forgiveness, great! But that’s not the goal. The goal is simply to forgive.
Step 2. Forgive Yourself
Forgiving myself is always harder for me than forgiving my wife. And I know that I’m not alone; I get emails every week from men overwhelmed with guilt because of the damage they’ve done to their marriage.
If you’ve read 9 Essential Traits of a Good Husband, I’m willing to bet that there are more than a few things in there that you haven’t been doing.
In order to move forward, you must forgive yourself. You cannot allow yourself to wallow in guilt, because guilt prevents action.
I’m not excusing you from being a good husband, but at the same time everybody makes mistakes.
Stop looking in the past. Stop wallowing in the consequences of your actions that you’re dealing with now. Instead, look to the future. You can and will be a good husband.
You want to become the best husband you can be as fast as possible, right?
Then let go of the guilt. It’s only holding you back.
Forgiving Yourself Requires You to Let Go of Pride
Something I’ve learned over years of dealing with lots of guys in lots of different situations is that pride comes in two forms:
[thrive_text_block color=”light” headline=”Two Forms of Pride”]
The first form of pride is arrogance. This is the standard form of pride that we all think of first; this is the pride that says, “I’m on top, I’m doing well, and it’s because I’m the best. I deserve to be on top and I am… Look at me!” When good things happen to prideful people, they get arrogant because they think they earned it.
The second form of pride is self-pity. This is something most of us would NEVER associate with pride, but it is pride nonetheless. When bad things happen to prideful people, they say, “I deserve to be on top, I deserve to be doing well because I’m the best. Because I’m not doing well, it must mean that the odds are against me. It’s not fair!” When bad things happen to prideful people, the result is self-pity… They can’t bear to think that something happened outside of their control, or that they made a mistake, or that sometimes bad things just happen.
Okay, so what does this have to do with you?
[pullquote align=”right”]Note: As I said earlier, Step 1, forgiving your wife, and Step 2, forgiving yourself, do not have to go in that order. Lots of men find that they have to forgive themselves BEFORE they can forgive their wife. That’s okay! But you have to do both eventually if you want to save your marriage. [/pullquote]
If you’re hung up on forgiving your wife, your problem is not that you can’t forgive your wife. Instead, the problem is that deep down, you’re too prideful to forgive yourself for being stuck on your wife’s past mistakes. Maybe you can’t admit that you’re struggling to forgive her for her affair (or something else she’s done). And now you’ve trapped yourself in this weird prison of self-pity, depression and unforgiveness, and yet you’re holding the key right there in your hand.
Forgiving yourself is what allows you to be patient. It allows you to be grounded and focused. The key to both types of forgiveness – forgiving yourself and forgiving your wife – is to let go of pride and embrace humble, unconditional love.
Anticipate Her Forgiveness Revolt
What is forgiveness revolt?
Basically, this is what happens when your wife tries to reject your forgiveness.
Almost every distant wife will start out skeptical of the changes that you’re making to yourself as a man. As you grow into a leader, your wife won’t believe what she’s seeing. She will think that you’re faking it, or that you’re trying to manipulate her. She genuinely won’t believe that you’re taking on the role of leader.
Here’s an excerpt from a really awesome story from a guy named Kurt. He was trying to save his marriage after his wife had an affair, and yet he found that she was the one that really struggled with forgiveness. Read his testimony below:
After my wife had an affair, it took almost a year to get past the mistrust, hurt and anger… From her end. On my end, I had made the decision to forgive her in one minute flat and never looked back. Strangely, she almost felt condemned by my new behavior.
First she was angry and would try to start fights so I would act like an idiot.
Then she became very depressed. She tried to use guilt, anger, manipulation… Any bad behavior to bring me down, just as you say our women will.
It didn’t work. I love her and knew my happiness was in my hands, and that is the truth.
Slowly, she accepted this was a new and real behavior I was exhibiting. Slowly she began to relax and soften. Soon, this 44 year-old woman was acting like the 24 year-old I loved and married. The woman who began bristling at my leadership was becoming a gentle and submissive lover of the new me.
This is a classic case of forgiveness revolt. See what happened?
First, Kurt made the decision to forgive his wife. He made the decision and stuck with it, and decided to take his happiness into his control. Then, as he began to show husbandly leadership… As he began to truly love his wife and show it to her… She tried to push him away:
[thrive_text_block color=”light” headline=””]
- She felt guilty because he forgave her, no questions asked.
- She tried to get a rise out of him by getting angry, just so she could prove his leadership wasn’t genuine.
- She became depressed because she was actually starting to feel attracted to him, even though she’d already decided she wanted out of the marriage.
That last point is really important. If your wife is on the way out – if she had an affair, or if you’re separated, or if your marriage is otherwise headed towards divorce – then your wife has already decided the marriage is over.
This means that as soon as you start becoming attractive to her… As soon as you start showing leadership and truly loving her… As soon as you extend your hand and offer forgiveness… Her gut instinct is going to be to push you away.
Because she’d rather fight you than question her own decision!
This is where we see the importance of full forgiveness versus feel-good forgiveness. Feel-good forgiveness could never withstand this kind of revolt. If you forgave your wife with an expectation attached and she spat it back in your face, your forgiveness would go out the window.
… But, when you forgive your wife completely free of charge, when you stand by your decision and love her no matter what, it allows the roots of your marriage to start growing again, even though it won’t be pretty at first. Over time, your leadership will take hold, and your wife will learn to LOVE IT!
This also goes back to understanding the enemy like we talked about in Chapter 4. You have to anticipate your wife’s rejection of your forgiveness, and recognize that it’s only temporary, and that her true goal in revolting is to justify herself leaving the marriage. You remove that justification with consistent, loving leadership in both words and actions.
Which brings us to the final point about forgiveness…
Forgiveness Speaks Louder Than Words
I’ll finish with one final piece of advice taken from the 10 Steps to Gain Husbandly Leadership course. That is this:
If you say that you forgive your wife, your actions should prove your forgiveness.
How would you feel if your wife said that she forgives you one day, but then went back to being cold and distant the next day?
You’d know that she didn’t really forgive you, right?
Same goes for you. If you’ve truly forgiven your wife, you shouldn’t have to say it for her to know it’s true. You CAN say it, and there are times when you should, but full forgiveness can always be felt even when it’s not said.
In forgiveness as in all things, actions speak louder than words!
Hopefully this chapter has helped you recognize what forgiveness is supposed to look like in a marriage and how you can start putting it into practice.
Ultimately, the only way to fully understand forgiveness is to go out and practice it yourself. There will be challenges… It probably won’t go smoothly… You may face unexpected pains along the way…
But when you can master full forgiveness, it will serve as the linchpin for the lifelong, loving and joyful marriage that you and your wife both want deep down!
[thrive_text_block color=”note” headline=”Key Takeaways from Chapter 15:”]
- Forgiveness is the linchpin of unconditional love; it’s what makes lifelong marriages possible.
- There are two types of forgiveness:
- Feel-good forgiveness is selfish and has requirements that go along with it. You practice feel-good forgiveness only for your own benefit.
- Full forgiveness is selfless and is fueled by love for the other person. Full forgiveness means to fully let go of the mistakes of your wife and the pain they’ve caused, without expecting anything in return.
- Forgiveness is not free – it has a cost that can only be paid by the forgiver.
- You have to let go of the blame, both for yourself and your wife. Start working on forgiveness, and remember that forgiveness doesn’t always need to be said out loud… It should be felt.
- Start by forgiving your wife. Whatever blame and resentment you’re holding in your heart, let it go.
- You also need to forgive yourself. You’ve made mistakes, yes, but wallowing in guilt will only pull your focus away from the marriage. To pity yourself is just another form of pride. Forgive yourself for your mistakes, resolve to make changes, and move on towards better husbandhood.
Anticipate her forgiveness revolt! This is especially true during an affair or separation… The more genuine your forgiveness, the more she will try to push you away to disprove it.
[thrive_link color=’blue’ link=’https://inside.husbandhelphaven.com/chapter-16-separated-heading-for-divorce/’ target=’_self’ size=’big’ align=’aligncenter’]Go to Chapter 16. What If You’re Already Separated & Heading for Divorce?[/thrive_link]