If I were to ask 100 women what three words their husband longs to hear the most, what do you think they’d say?
What would you say?
- I love you
- I respect you
- I admire you
Those words are good. But are they the most powerful words you can speak to your husband? Especially if there is conflict, betrayal, abuse, or anger in your marriage?
What three words does your husband long to hear?
“I forgive you.”
BUT you can’t say them unless you mean them.
No spouting them quickly in an attempt to diffuse the situation. Saying “I forgive you” with gritted teeth means nothing. Neither does offering the words glibly and then icing him with the cold shoulder treatment.
Sometimes the hardest thing you can do is forgive the one who has wounded you.
Usually, that forgiveness comes a small tidbit at a time. Sometimes God gives you the ability to forgive immediately. Be thankful when that happens. Rejoice and move on with life.
But in those times when it is a moment by moment, conscious decision to move past the wound, anger, disbelief, and betrayal, forgiveness is hard work.
What is forgiveness? And why should you forgive your husband?
- to cease to feel resentment against an offender
- to give up your right to an acquittal of the crime
- to grant relief from the payment of a debt
It’s not merely saying the three words your husband longs to hear.
Forgiveness requires action. Calculated, determined action.
You also can’t extend forgiveness and take it back. (Or it wasn’t forgiveness.)
Picture yourself in a courtroom.
You did it. You know you did. Heaviness drags your soul into your shoes. You didn’t mean to, but you committed a crime. Against who? Someone you love. Can you picture yourself? Your spouse. As the defendant, head bowed, bracing for the worst, you stand before the judge to learn your sentence.
Now picture this: the judge says, “Completely pardoned.” You know you deserve jail time or worse, yet you walk out of the courtroom free — no chance of being tried again for the same crime.
God says He forgives our sins and forgets them.
When we go to Him and admit what we’ve done, He forgives us like our sins never happened. That’s complete forgiveness.
And not something I do easily. What about you?
Isn’t this the forgiveness you and your husband crave?
No chance of getting your offense thrown back in your face.
No chance it’s brought up the next time an argument breaks out.
“I forgive you.”
If your husband betrayed you, God tells us we must forgive. God is a just God. Why do you suppose he wants us to forgive? Could it be the benefits the forgiver receives?
But forgiveness doesn’t equal trust.
You earn trust by your actions. Words alone don’t cut it. So, when your husband asks for forgiveness, grant it. Ensure you both understand, specifically, the offense under discussion. Then, watch his actions to determine his truthfulness about changing his behavior.
Remember when your young kids would want to mutter “I forgive you” to their sibling when scolded for being unkind. You would stop and say, “Tell your sister what you’re sorry for.” If they had no idea what they did wrong, how could you hope they wouldn’t commit the offense again? The same goes for your marriage. Now is the time to get the cards on the table so each of you can call a spade a spade.
On both sides, talk is cheap. If you say you forgive, but bring up the pardoned offense at every opportunity, you have not forgiven. If you say you’re sorry, but continue in your offensive ways, then you don’t want forgiveness. You want what you want when you want it, and we go back to the example of a small child.
Say what you mean and mean what you say.
If your husband admits the error of his ways and promises to change, but within a day or two reverts back to behavior as usual, then his heart has not broken. He simply got caught and wants to get out of the consequences of his actions. In this situation, it’s time to set some new healthy boundaries and seek help. Doing nothing prolongs your pain and his.
True heart change results in altered behavior.
When my husband asked me to forgive his betrayal, his changed behavior from that moment on bolstered my choice to forgive.
Oh, believe me, my antennas were up. After my husband’s betrayal, my emotions wanted to doubt everything he said and question every move he made. I watched carefully, for sure. But I couldn’t deny the changes I saw in him. It made forgiveness easier.
However, my forgiveness of the betrayal wasn’t dependent on his behavior.
I couldn’t control his behavior, only mine through the Holy Spirit’s help. Sometimes you and I want to blame our actions or decisions on someone else. But that’s behaving like a victim instead of a victor. Forgiving another person is your choice alone. Remember, God forgave you and me of our sins before we ever asked. Therefore, whether or not my husband truly changed, his behavior did not affect my forgiveness. I had to forgive.
“I forgive you,” means action for both of you.
You choose to behave lovingly and forthrightly with your husband. Your husband decides to change his behavior not to wound you further.
God honors those efforts.
When true forgiveness gets coupled with true repentance, life change occurs.
Isn’t that what you and I desire above all? It’s what you and I want each time we ask for forgiveness. Now it’s time to offer those three words to your husband.
What do you need to choose today to give your husband the three words he longs to hear?
P.S. I forgave my husband something I could never imagine having to forgive. A pain so deep I thought I’d never recover. It was horrific. But my God was bigger than my pain and wiser than I’ll ever be. He saved our marriage. No, he remade our marriage. And it’s better now than it ever was. Better than ever. Who wouldn’t want that? If you need help, please reach out. I promise to listen without judgment and help you take the next step.