One bit of marital advice that you tend to hear constantly before the Big Day is “never go to bed angry.” In theory it sounds brilliant. Settle your disagreement before it has time to fester.
One lady told me how she and her husband will give up sleep all night – yes all night y’all – as their couple peace is more important than sleep. Ha! I just laughed out loud typing that. I looked at her in shock – and that was before I was devoid of sleep thanks to nightly feedings, waking toddlers or hormonal trickery causing you to have your greatest surge of energy at 3 AM.
Of course I don’t want to give evil the chance to split this misunderstanding into a chasm from which we’ll never recover. Who does? But for the love of Jiminy Cricket this girl’s got to get some sleep! Some days I think I love sleep more than I love marital peace. OK, a whole lot more. Based upon my constantly blown off quiet times it would appear that I love sleep more than Jesus. So, no. We don’t get our disagreements settled before zzz’s hit. We go to bed ticked off, righteous indignation valiantly justified with the yanking of the sheets from my opponent. Um, husband.
However, the argument not to let the sun settle on your anger is just the tip of the iceberg to me. Getting past the anger and working through a disappointment or disagreement is usually a process that time mends. The longer we are married the faster we get to “I’m sorry we are arguing” upon waking. However the second piece to that advice in my little ol’ opinion is not one you hear much about in marital counseling. Forgetting.
So truth be told is there something you haven’t forgiven in your spouse from days or even years past?
And here’s the kicker:
Is there something you’ve forgiven, but haven’t forgotten?
And I mean totally forgotten. Like Jason Bourne, slat wiped clean memory. Not “I’ll inconveniently bring up that time you utterly dissed me and I said I forgave you but you better believe I still recall every single facial twitch you exhibited during our argument, you big jerk” memory.
Only you know in your heart if there is a topic or a past incident that you will not let go. It rears its ugly head to start yet another argument. Or within a disagreement on another topic it’s your trump card when you are losing the fight. Another indicator is the topic comes out in sarcasm. Or with wine.
Maybe when upset with your spouse about something else it all comes back to this. It has colored how you see your spouse. You feel yourself spewing venom as you easily get worked up time and again on this groundhog day topic.
And what he said or did may be rude or horrible or what the world will say is unforgivable. The world will tell you that you are entitled to your feelings, he had it coming, what was he thinking? Make him pay. Grab the credit card and charge sister! For the big offenses the world will tell you that you’d be better off without him, or that he deserves our silence or “he owes you big time” as though you are right in being judge, jury and warden.
Yet how we feel and what God says are two different things.
Especially when it comes to forgiveness.
2 Corinthians 2:10 “Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ…”
Hanging onto the anger will not magically switch to peace, but in fact will turn to bitterness dis-easing your heart one hateful thought at a time. Unforgiveness never heals brokenness. It doesn’t create peaceful souls. Most times it doesn’t do a darn thing to the one who caused all the turmoil, but just keeps aggravating you like an infected boil. Think the term “scorched earth” here friends.
Forgiveness is for the cleansing of your own heart and peace of your own mind. Forgiveness really isn’t for the accused. It’s a gift you can give to whoever did you wrong, sure. But primarily it’s a gift you give yourself.
Nelson Mandela was wisely speaking to resentment, but I think unforgiveness could be substituted in this quote too:
“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
So if I forgive that’s enough, right?
Sorry friend. There’s another step.
Dangit. I know I know. And I am the queen of the memory bank. My longtime girlfriends ask me for details on their first dates or what we wore back in high school or funny elementary school memories. If there were an Olympic sport in harboring random past details, I’d be the Michael Phelps of memories.
Yet without the forgetting, the forgiving is just empty words. The forgetting is the heart of it all because honestly that’s where it stems from.
And the forgetting is for healing to allow your kids to witness what unconditionally loving your spouse in their presence feels like. Offering grace to another disgraceful human is a beautiful gift to bring peace in your home. An act that is like swallowing nails some days is actually the most Christlike we can be re-enacting. The biggest grace offering was from a perfect soul to us despicable humans who mess up time and again. I have to literally remind myself I have been forgiven so much by God, how can I withhold grace? Ugh. It’s not easy.
Take today or a weekend to think about if there is something that sits on your brain and eats away at your potential marital happiness. And withholding the forgive/forget duo can also be from a lot of little nitpicky things building up over time. Like, seriously, sometimes our spouses just don’t help their cause. I once was sort of miffed with my hubby and in trying to discuss it he busted out with something so insensitive that it became that particular quote to flip me out. And off we took on a whole new argument path. Sidebar: I never said I was mature.
So how do you get to forget? Maybe script how you can speak differently or find a trigger phrase that you will use to stop hurtful words next time. Perhaps actually writing a note to give forgiveness or even a note about the situation that you rip up or burn. Personally I like a burning ceremony for show’s sake. Insert jazz hands here.
And this might be something that requires time and lots of prayer and several re-do’s. One prime indicator is are you praying about the situation more than you talk about it to others? Praying more than you revisit the topic in your mind during the still of the night? Sure, all signs it might take a little longer to get there. But as long as you’re looking forward and you are opening your heart to God first to weed the areas needing healing you are already on the right track.
The desire to show your partner that he is worthy of your whole heart despite himself is powerful for both of you – and for the future when it’s your turn to be in the hot seat needing empathy.
However it might not be that easy to move on. You may need to seek professional help in the way of a counselor or therapist to process and eventually close this chapter. The devil wants nothing more than your marriage to be rocky and unhealthy. Divisive to say the least. Evil is not a guy in a red satin suit with horns and a tail. In I Peter 5:8 the Bible describes the devil as a lion on the prowl looking for its next prey to devour. It’s another day lived with harbored resentment, outright anger, unkindness that even strangers pick up on. The cooling seeps across your friendship, your intimacy and even your memories eventually snuffing out the warmth of a hopeful future.
Being angry or upset are all understandable feelings. Just be aware that you don’t become all of those feelings if they start to define your personality. If you’ve been residing full time in the slop of hurt feelings it will take some awareness and work for betterment. In six months or sixteen years do you want to be this quick to anger bitter person? Do you truly desire to become a woman simmering on the constant burn of resentment?
If that future prospect rocks your core then you know something needs to be done now to bring the marital pieces to marital peace. May forgiving to forget and never forgetting to forgive be your new mantra.