Forgiveness is a gift to yourself. It’s about letting go of resentment and pain. Contrary to popular misconception, forgiveness doesn’t condone bad behavior. It simply allows you to change your internal response. So, learning how to forgive your spouse for past mistakes will give you peace.
If you’re like almost every married person in the world, you probably wonder how to forgive your spouse for past mistakes. In marriage, mistakes are inevitable, some bigger, some smaller. And it is also inevitable to feel as if you were wronged.
Because marriage is made of two humans, humans are far from flawless. But, once in the position of the maltreated spouse, you might notice this past transgression linger forever in your heart and mind. So, how do you forgive your spouse for their past mistakes?
Why is it so hard to forgive?
Any betrayal from the person you were supposed to be able to trust with your life is a blow many just cannot overcome. Whether it is lies, infidelity, addiction, or betrayal, brace yourself for a bumpy road ahead because it won’t be easy to forgive your spouse. However, it is essential to do so. Both for the sake of your relationship and your wellbeing.
When we learn about betrayal, we will first go through a whirlpool of emotions, ranging from pure rage to complete numbness. We won’t know what hit us. But, with time, we will get through this initial shock.
Unfortunately, it is here where the real problems with letting go start. We are no longer in complete surprise and disbelief here, but we become painfully aware of the agony ahead.
And at this point, our minds begin to play tricks on us. Our brains are trying to protect us from getting hurt again by rearranging how we see reality.
We will begin to doubt every step our spouse makes. We will become hyper-vigilant of any possible sign of it happening again (lying, cheating, gambling, or similar).
And it is the same process that makes you unwilling to forgive your spouse. You come to believe that if you forgive, you are allowing your spouse to do the same thing again.
However, this is not the case. By forgiving, you are merely moving on, and we are not saying it was alright to go through that. So, because it is so essential to forgive, here are three steps to achieve this goal.
Step 1. Understand what happened
This probably won’t come hard to you because most of us have the burning desire to get to the roots of how the betrayal happened. If you’re lucky, your spouse will be willing to help you understand it all.
Ideally, you will get to ask all the questions and receive all the answers.
But, whether you have this kind of support or you don’t, this step also contains another important task you can do on your own.
Understand your feelings, every single one of them. Determine which aspect of the betrayal hurt you the most. And, make an attempt to understand your spouse as well. Their reasons, their feelings.
Step 2. Take care of yourself
Forgiving your spouse will likely be a long process. One that can drain all your energy out of your body. You might feel unable to move on at some point. The constant reliving of the trauma can ruin your everyday life, confidence, and zest, which is why you should take good care of yourself first.
Pamper yourself. Be assertive. Try not to be aggressive and attack your spouse when in pain. Rather, indulge yourself. Spend time with your friends and family. If you need some time alone, take it.
This will only result in a clearer mind and a better chance of resolving the resentment. But most importantly, remember that you need to heal before you can forgive your spouse.
Hopefully, after you’ve taken the previous steps, you will be much healthier. You managed to find peace within yourself, regardless of what happens on the outside. You understand how the betrayal happened, and you also understand yourself and your needs a bit better.
Once this happens, you are strong enough for a change of perspective. Regardless of what happened in your marriage, there is always a way to see it from many different perspectives.
Be it your spouse’s viewpoint or a completely neutral one, and you can look at it differently and not hold a grudge. In that way, you are about to start a new and freer life!
The challenges of forgiveness
Mistakes come with a range of impacts. At one end of the scale, your spouse forgot to pick up the kids because of work. Then, at the more extreme end of the scale, you have the betrayal of some form.
Whether it is lies, infidelity, addiction, or any treachery, you’ll face a whirlwind of emotions. Knowing how to forgive your spouse for past mistakes isn’t easy, as you face everything from rage to numbness.
As the initial shock subsides, you go into hypervigilance. Once the trust has gone, you start doubting everything your spouse does. You’ll start seeing lying, cheating, gambling, and other sordid clues everywhere, whether they really exist or not.
At this point, the very thought of forgiveness seems impossible. After all, how can you accept bad behavior? That’s a common misconception.
Forgiveness isn’t about condoning anything. It’s about your internal healing so that you can find peace and clarity for how to respond and move forwards. Forgiveness also impacts your health.
As this article on the science of forgiveness explains, we lower our stress levels when we practice forgiveness. Moreover, the more you learn how to forgive your spouse for past mistakes, the more you increase your well-being and self-esteem.
The good news is that you can learn techniques for how to get past betrayal in a marriage. It takes time as well as patience with yourself but you can recover. You’ll need to embrace your emotions as you open your mind to different perspectives.
Or as psychologist Viktor Frankl reminds us, “you cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you”. Your personal growth and emotional liberation lie in how you respond.
15 ways to let go of your partner’s mistakes
Discovering how to forgive your spouse for past mistakes means facing your dark emotions so you can let them go. Only then do you find space in your heart for compassion and forgiveness.
If you don’t forgive, you can get lost in negativity, and in the end, you only harm yourself. Wouldn’t you rather find peace and a way to move forwards?
1. Face your fears
It’s easy to see mistakes in isolation and judge a person wholly through the lens of those mistakes. In short, we are programmed to judge mistakes based on our perception of the world, including our fears.
We might feel betrayed or abandoned which triggers a set of fears. Nevertheless, by facing those fears, we can see different perceptions and start understanding why our partner made a mistake.
It doesn’t mean we condone bad behavior but facing our fears means we can let them go. We can then more easily clear our minds of judgment to better see the wisest course of action.
So, how to forgive your partner who has hurt you starts by understanding what you fear most so that you can let it go.
Learning to forgive your spouse is a process. As you face your fears, you need to understand what beliefs fuel those fears.
For example, do you believe that there’s no recovery from infidelity? What expectations do you hold? Do you believe that you, as a spouse, take priority over your spouse’s extended family?
There is no right or wrong to these beliefs, but if you truly want to learn how to forgive your spouse for past mistakes, you need to know how those beliefs impact your perception.
If they keep you stuck in a maelstrom of dark emotions, you will never recover your inner peace and risk your relationship. So, ask yourself what matters to you most.
3. Accept that you can’t change the past
Appreciating that everyone wants to be happy is how to forgive your spouse. No one wants to suffer, but the chances are, your spouse is suffering too. Mistakes happen and they probably wish they could undo them but they can’t.
The past has happened but you now have a choice. Either you lose yourself in anger and the illusion it provides of protection. Alternatively, you can also focus on ending your suffering by facing your pain together.
In summary, talk about it, share your feelings, and focus on what you can both do to support each other.
4. Recognize your projections
As a wife, you can forgive your husband once you move past how your dark side impacts the relationship. This summary on projection explains that we all naturally tend to put onto others our own traits and internal shortcomings.
So, we feel dejected and our fear turns into a need for revenge. Deep down, we want our partner to experience the same dejection.
That tends to aggravate our pain though.
Instead, how to forgive your spouse for past mistakes means recognizing your pain and emotions and taking responsibility for them. Try journal prompts to heal emotions so you can face the pain and let it go.
5. Let go of judgments
Many people don’t realize that forgiveness is a strength. It takes a wise person to go beyond judgments to see the human within the offender. If you don’t, you risk becoming stuck in the “poor me” loop.
So, how do I forgive my husband for past mistakes? Look for the inherent goodness in him. Yes, he made mistakes but what does he do well?
Most of us want to be good people, but we battle with our inner wounds. Look for those in your husband, and appreciate that you have them too. Those mistakes could have been you.
6. Be curious about your emotions
Negative emotions can keep us stuck. Paradoxically though, we become attached to our pain. It becomes our personal suffering, and we don’t want to let it go deep down.
We create a story around it based on self-righteousness. This only accentuates the pain as we go deeper into a victim loop.
How to forgive your spouse for past mistakes means asking yourself, “how am I felling my pain? Am I attracted to anger? Have I stopped listening?”
That doesn’t mean we can’t share our story but perhaps try telling the story as if you were your partner. How does that change your emotions and your perspective?
As psychologist Lisa Feldman Barrett explains in her TED talk, emotions are not hardwired in your brain. They don’t just happen to you, and you can control your emotions more than you think:
7. Let go of anger
How to forgive your wife for her past? As you answer this question, consider what’s in your control. Most importantly, the past is gone, and the only thing within your power is your response.
Do you want anger clouding your life forever? Of course, sometimes anger has something to teach us. It can be a trigger for change but don’t hold onto it.
If you can’t seem to let go of anger, perhaps the message is to change something within yourself. If nothing else, you’ll save your health because stress and anger are known contributors to heart disease and other issues.
8. What’s their viewpoint?
We’re not saying that letting go of anger is easy. Nevertheless, how to truly forgive your spouse means searching for the other perspective.
A great exercise detailed in this Forbes article on letting go of anger is to replay the situation in your mind as if you were a third person. By creating some distance, you soften your emotions and give yourself the headspace to see other possibilities.
Then, how to forgive your spouse for past mistakes involves replaying the situation as if you were in your partner’s shoes.
9. Mourn the past
How to forget past mistakes sometimes means grieving something that used to be. While no one has actually died, it’s a therapeutic way to accept and let go of the pain.
Think about what you’ve lost through this mistake. Perhaps you now feel a different person? Furthermore, have you lost a bit more innocence through the experience?
As you mourn, perhaps by lighting a candle, you allow yourself to change and move on. You also connect with your inner resilience, which shows you the path to embracing how to forgive your spouse for past mistakes.
Sometimes the tables are turned, and you’ve made an unspeakable mistake. As you work through the following points, remember that forgiveness takes time and patience.
1. Forgive yourself
How to forgive your past comes back to self-compassion. The fact that you’re regretting your past mistakes is a good sign. Some people never reflect and learn, which is how we grow.
Remind yourself that you’re human, and we can only become better people by making mistakes as long as we take the lessons. So, ask yourself what you’ve learned about yourself and what you can change moving forwards.
As you forgive yourself, you’ll find it easier to know how to forgive your spouse for past mistakes. It’s unusual for only one spouse to ever make mistakes.
As mentioned, our dark emotions often keep us stuck in judgment. Try journaling to process your emotions, including guilt and shame.
On the other hand, you can find a therapist to help you get unstuck.
5. Let go of the need for external forgiveness
We can’t force anyone to forgive us, but you can learn to forgive yourself, and from that place of strength, you’ll find ways to rebuild trust.
With time, you can reconnect with your values and goals as a partnership as you gradually discover how to forgive your spouse for past mistakes.
If you want a more concrete example of how to do that, join the “save my marriage” course. You’ll discover your unhealthy behaviors and gain tips to rebuild trust and, ultimately, your marriage or relationship.
Don’t let past wrongs define your life
How do you forgive someone who’s done the unspeakable? How did Mandela forgive his jailers? It takes resilience and inner strength, which you too can build.
Be curious about your emotions, let go of judgment and reframe your perspective. Heal your wounds and prioritize self-compassion so that you can connect to your inner humanity and, in turn, see your partner’s fragility.
It would help if you had empathy and deep personal growth when learning how to forgive your spouse for past mistakes. Sometimes we need a therapist, but whatever you do, don’t let resentment rule your life.
Or as Nelson Mandela said, “forgiveness liberates the soul; it removes fear.”
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Sylvia Smith loves to share insights on how couples can revitalize their love lives in and out of the bedroom. As a writer at Marriage.com, she is a big believer in living consciously and encourages couples to adopt this principle in their lives too. Sylvia believes that every couple can transform their relationship into a happier, healthier one by taking purposeful and wholehearted action.