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Forgiveness is Mutual

Let’s be honest. When you find yourself in an argument with your spouse, your initial thought is that you are 100% right, and your spouse is 100% wrong. Your goal is to point out the error in their behavior or thinking and convince them to think like you do. The problem is that they typically think the exact same way, except with the blame shifted back at you.

woman and man sitting on brown wooden bench

Photo by Vera Arsic on

I was part of a reconciliation effort once with a group I was a member of. An outside counselor explained to our group that while there may be clear blame to place, it is never 100% on one side or the other. In extreme cases it might be 90% blame here and only 10% blame there, but in any case there is some fault that can be found on both sides of the conflict.

Before true peace can be realized, both parties must acknowledge and own their own issues. Once that has been done, they need to sincerely seek forgiveness. When this happens, an issue can truly be resolved and a couple can move beyond it. When this doesn’t happen, the proverbial pendulum begins to swing back the other way.  Lets look at an example.

Bill and Sue have been married for seven years and have three young children. Two years after the birth of their third child, Bill feels that all intimacy (sex) has vanished from their relationship. Sue’s total world seems to be focused on the children, and seems to have little time or energy for his needs. From Bill’s perspective, he is still a young man and has legitimate physical needs. He ‘s not looking for an outlet aside from his marriage, but in a moment of weakness one finds him. At first he is racked with guilt, but he begins to justify his actions due to the lack of affection from his wife. In time, Sue discovers the affair and calls him out on it.

Threatened with divorce, Bill snaps back to reality and sees what he stands to lose. In that moment, he knows he was wrong, admits to everything, ends the external relationship and vows to never stray again. At this point he is accepting 100% of the blame. Over the coming months Bill works hard to reconcile and to win Sue back into his life. In time, he is “forgiven” and the daily conflict subsides.

It’s about this time when he realizes that nothing has happened to restore the physical intimacy that he continues to crave. He begins to think back to the feelings he had before his affair and resentment starts to build. In his mind he has bent over backwards to atone for his wrongs, but Sue has done nothing to recognize her role in the situation. Though he fights it, his mind begins to wander once again…

While this is an extreme (but unfortunately not uncommon) example, there’s a point here to learn from. Bill’s behaviors and choices were inexcusable and it will take time and concerted effort to restore relationship between he and Sue. But for ultimate healing to take place, Sue will have to take a hard, hones look at herself to see what role she had in the situation. Even if Bill was 95% to blame, Sue shared a small portion herself. If this is not addressed, the couple runs the risk of Bill returning to his straying lifestyle.

It is important to note that this is not an effort to assign blame, but rather to encourage taking responsibility for each of our actions. When we find ourselves in conflict with our spouse it is important to realize that we are responsible for some portion (albeit a very small one sometimes) of the problem. When we own up to that and seek forgiveness for our issues the relationship can be restored. Sometimes it can be made better than ever!

The next time you find yourself in a situation where you are granting forgiveness to your spouse, ask yourself, “Is there something I need to ask forgiveness for as well?” You’ll be amazed how far that will go toward true reconciliation.


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