When you can’t forgive your spouse, you might feel as if the world has ended. Marriages are a complex matter, with a potential for both tremendous joy and great pain. Which one of these you will experience in your marriage depends on many factors. Some of them are in your hands, some are outside of your control. And when it’s the negative that prevails, you will also find yourself on a crossroad – to forgive, to continue fighting, or to just give up and move on with your life.
The minor and major deal-breakers in marriage
Every marriage is different. One cannot ever tell which problem might be the one the couple just cannot overcome. For some, it could be constant nagging about leaving milk outside of the fridge. For others, it might be emotional distancing or emotional blackmailing. And some will find a way to overcome even the greatest betrayals and learn from the experience.
Whatever might be the case, the point is – there is no universal recipe for what works and what doesn’t. In the end, it is those two people that get to decide what’s too much to handle. In a therapist’s office, there are often surprises, and the couples who appeared to be doomed manage to heal, while those who had only minor issues decide to separate.
But, as research shows, there are also certain areas of discord between spouses that are considered to be major deal-breakers. These are communication problems, and addictions. When it comes to communication, it is a matter that can influence the couple’s prognosis to both directions. If communication is bad, ever the toilet seat left up will erode the relationship. On the other hand, when there is good, open and honest communication, the couple stands a very good chance of making it.
Addictions pose a serious threat to any relationship
If one or both of the spouses are addicted to a substance, or have a behavioral addiction (gambling, sexual addiction), the focus shifts. The priority becomes acquiring the substance or engaging in the addictive behavior, rather than caring for the family and the relationship. As a result of addictions or a chronically bad communication, one of the spouses might find themselves in a position where they cannot forgive anymore.
Forgiveness and why it doesn’t come easy
You’ve probably heard of how poisonous the inability to forgive is. You surely have a direct experience of how toxic resentment, hate, anger, and all the other feelings of being hurt can be. And you’re probably remembering the happy times when you didn’t have to feel that way with pain and nostalgia.
Don’t get fixated on the issue post forgiveness
We usually get stuck on being hurt and offended as a means of controlling the situation. It’s normal to experience all sorts of emotions when you were wronged, and none of them is usually pleasant. But, after some time, we should be able to move on and not get fixated on what had happened to us. Yet, people very often just can’t do it.
This is also normal because we need certain conditions to be able to let go of the control that we believe we have when we hold a grudge. First of all, after the transgression of our spouse, we all hope for a good, sincere, genuine apology. We need this to see that we’re on the same side. We then also need to heal from the injury itself. We need the trauma to transform into growth. Finally, we need the hurtful behavior to stop and never to be repeated. If any of these conditions aren’t met, most of us can’t find it in us to forgive.
What you can do when you can’t forgive your spouse
When you find yourself not being able to forgive, no matter how hard you try, forgive yourself. People tend to feel guilty if they can’t forgive their spouses. Even if you were betrayed and disappointed beyond words, you might feel that you’re the one who needs to forgive and forget. But, you have the right not to do so. So, stop pushing yourself towards forgiving what you can’t forgive your spouse, and let yourself off the hook for now.
Instead, take a moment to get to know yourself a bit better. What made you unable to forgive? What it is that you absolutely need from your spouse? What was missing? How could the situation have transgressed differently? What are the options for you and your marriage now? There are many important lessons you can learn from every situation, including this one.