What do you do if you’re having trouble getting over the way your spouse has hurt you?
I posed this question in the last post, but I didn’t answer it. Instead, I looked at the various ways spouses hurt one another.
I encourage you to go back and read that post, but here’s a very short summary…
- Sometimes spouses will hurt one another.
- Sometimes that hurt is unintentional.
- Sometimes that hurt is intentional.
- Sometimes the hurt sticks with you and is hard to get past.
So now I need to address the original question. What can you do when your spouse has hurt you and you can’t seem to get over it?
I suppose you could do a mic drop and leave your spouse, but because there is hurt in every relationship, you will constantly be moving from relationship to relationship. Not a good idea.
There’s another alternative…
If you can’t get over how they’ve hurt you…it’s time to forgive.
If you’ve been hurt badly or repeatedly, you may recoil and push back at the mention of forgiveness. Or, if you’re a person of faith, you may feel you’ve already forgiven them, but their offense continues to bother you…like a rock in your shoe.
Both of these responses are usually due to a misunderstanding of forgiveness. In order to explain what I mean by forgiveness, let’s start with some of the myths about forgiveness.
There are a lot of misconceptions about forgiveness that can actually make the idea of forgiveness unpalatable and unattainable. Here are a few:
Forgiveness should be quick.
Sometimes we want to forgive quickly because we don’t like feeling resentful. Other times we want to forgive quickly because we believe that’s what our religious tradition teaches. But think of it this way…You can quickly forgive someone who accidentally bumps into you and spills your drink. But you’re not as quick to forgive your spouse who has been unfaithful and slept with someone else. The greater the offense, the longer and harder the process of forgiveness will be.
Forgiveness will come naturally with time.
Despite the old adage, time doesn’t heal all wounds. Healing takes both time and work. It may take some time for you to forgive your spouse, but it will also take work to get through the hurt.
Forgiveness is a one-time decision.
Yes, forgiveness starts with a decision to forgive, but then it is a process of continuing to forgive. Forgiveness involves re-forgiving your spouse every time you feel the hurt resurface.
Forgiveness means you forget the offense.
Our brains are not created to forget when we’ve been hurt. We need to remember the hurt…not to keep blaming our spouse, but to take the steps we need to take to protect ourselves from further hurt.
Forgiveness takes away your pain.
Forgiveness doesn’t take away your feelings. At least not quickly. Forgiveness merely asserts control over those feelings, denying them the right to drive you.
Forgiveness implies the offense doesn’t matter.
If the offense didn’t matter, there would be no need for forgiveness. The offense does matter! You’ve been wronged and hurt, and that needs to be recognized and dealt with.
Forgiveness means there’s no need for justice.
If your child is killed by a drunk driver, you can eventually forgive that drunk driver. But that doesn’t mean the driver should not suffer the consequences of their actions. Your forgiveness simply means that you relinquish the right to “make them pay.”
Forgiveness is the same as excusing the offender.
Forgiveness does not excuse your spouse for the offense. Nor does forgiveness release them of the personal responsibility for what they’ve done.
Forgiveness requires the offender to repent.
Forgiveness is something you do, independently of your spouse’s attitude and actions. Even if they see no reason for forgiveness, you can still forgive them. Forgiveness sets you free, despite their response.
Forgiveness means you have to trust your offender.
Forgiveness does not promote an environment for repeating the offense. If you borrow my car and it gets a door ding, I will probably trust you with my car again. But if you borrow my car and carelessly total it because you were driving too fast and drinking, I probably won’t trust you with my car again…even though I forgive you.
So, after looking at the myths associated with forgiveness, now let’s look at what forgiveness really is…
Forgiveness is simply the decision and corresponding act of giving up your claim to retaliation or payment for an offense. You’re not denying the offense or the hurt it’s caused you. You’re simply releasing your right for repayment or justice.
This is what you need to do if you can’t get over how your spouse has hurt you. As we mentioned above, you may have to do this slowly and repeatedly depending on the gravity of the offense. And your forgiveness may not change the consequences of their offense. But it’s still a critical factor in your healing.
Forgiveness offers powerful benefits to a person’s physical, mental, emotional, relational, and spiritual health. But one of the biggest benefits of forgiveness is that it keeps you from being stuck in the past. The offense is a part of history, and since you can’t change history, the only way you can keep from getting stuck in the past is to forgive.
I know…it’s easier said than done! But if you can’t get over how they’ve hurt you…it’s probably time for you to forgive.