"A happy marriage is the union of two forgivers." Is your marriage a happy one?
We all want others to completely forgive us but when the tables are turned (and we're the one who is asked to forgive), too often we're not as gracious --at least not without our wish for them to "suffer" first for it, somehow.
A small book titled, "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff in Love," written by Richard and Kristine Carlson (Hyperion Publishers), touches on this issue. Prayerfully consider what the Carlson's point out:
"Sadly, many people find it difficult to apologize. Over the years, the two of us have heard a number of very wise people speculate that one of the reasons this might be true because, when we do apologize, it's often accepted in less than a graceful manner.
"When this is the case, it takes some motivation away to continue apologizing, even when appropriate. This is a shame because most happy couples will insist that both offering and receiving apologies are integral parts of a loving and growing relationship.
"I overheard what I thought was an excellent example of this problem while I was sitting at a coffee shop. With tears in her eyes, a woman was sharing with her husband that she was sorry that her work had become consuming. Apparently, she had been traveling a great deal and was spending lots of time away from him and their children. I
gathered that this was taking a toll on the family as well as their relationship.
"Obviously, I don't know all the facts, and they certainly aren't any of my business. However, regardless of the specifics, one thing was perfectly clear. His inability to soften and open his heart in response to her genuine and heartfelt apology was guaranteeing an escalation of any problems they were already having. Rather than hug
her, hold her hand, or even reassure his wife, he gave her a disapproving look that seemed to make her heart sink.
"While I have no way of knowing for sure, it appeared as though he was trying to make her feel even guiltier than she already felt. Like everyone who offers an apology, this woman was opening the door to loving communication, a possible compromise, or perhaps even a solution. In order for an apology to be effective, however, both
parties must do their part.
"In this instance, the woman's husband wasn't willing to do so. Consequently, he was missing an opportunity to strengthen their relationship. He was increasing the likelihood that she would become less apologetic in the future, and that she might even begin to see him as the problem.
"When apologies aren't accepted, bitterness and resentment often creep into the picture. Granted, most of us will probably not be quite as visibly ungraceful in our acceptance of an apology. However, we might push our partner away in other, more subtle ways. We might, for instance, mumble under our breath, sigh, make a condescending comment such as 'it's about time,' or in some other way minimize
or fail to fully accept the apology.
"We've found that, in most instances, an apology is an excellent opportunity to deepen our love and our partnership. It's an ideal time to make a genuine effort to listen deeply and respectfully.
It's a time to experience empathy and gratitude for the fact that our partner is willing to apologize, which is something, not everyone is able to do.
"Further, when we accept an apology, it makes it far more likely that our partner will do the same for us when it's our turn to apologize.
"The next time your spouse (or anyone else) offers an apology, see if you can really take it to heart. Soften your edges and open your heart. You may find that, despite whatever the apology is about, your relationship will be able to enter a new, even more rewarding, phase."
If taken seriously, these thoughts from the Carlson's can bring
healing into our marriages. May we give grace whenever possible to
help us "return to emotional closeness!" Counselor, Pamela Lipe, put
it this way, "When you're in the position of accepting an apology,
give yourself a 'Mental Pause' to decide the best course of action
for you, your spouse, your situation, and the particular wrongdoing.
Keep in mind in the long-term consequences to the relationship. Your
goal is to return to emotional closeness."
We're told in Romans 12:18, "If it is possible, as far as it depends
on you, live at peace with everyone" (which includes your spouse).
In Colossians 3:13, Paul encourages us to "Bear with each other and
forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive
as the Lord forgives you." Also, whenever you can, accept apologies
BUT we can't close this message without touching on the point
that sometimes we don't ACCEPT apologies as we should, but also,
sometimes we don't GIVE apologies that are acceptable. Kevin B.
Bullard makes a great point to consider in the following short
article, titled, "Half Baked Apologies are Offensive" (posted on
"When we offend our spouse by our words, actions, or attitude; it's
common to want to take the easy way out of offering a simple, 'Sorry'
or "I apologize. However, just saying these words without proper
context is just as hurtful as our first offense. It's much more
effective and meaningful if we extend the 'apology' by admitting
our wrong, acknowledging our spouse's hurt, intending not to do
it again, and asking for forgiveness. Doing this becomes easier
when we recognize we hurt our spouse, and suppress our pride to
"Here's the full apology: 'I'm sorry for (the offense). I know it
(the effect it had on your spouse). I was wrong. I intend not to
do it again. Will you forgive me?'
"Example: 'Cetelia, I'm sorry for embarrassing you in front of our
guests. I know it hurt your esteem. I was wrong. I intend not to
do it again. Will you forgive me?
"While these words may be difficult to utter, they can make a
world of difference when offered with a sincere heart."
It's important to consider what G. K. Chesterton wrote, "A stiff
apology is a second insult... The injured party does not want to
be compensated because he has been wronged; he wants to be healed
because he has been hurt."
We encourage you to gracefully give and also accept apologies, as
the Lord would have you. We realize that you can't MAKE your spouse
do what he or she should. But you can put intentionality into
being dispensers of grace and forgiveness "as far as it depends
upon you" --especially in your marriage (a model of Christ's love
for the church). Pray about it and see how GOD leads.
Cindy and Steve Wright