The ABC’s of How to Forgive a Spouse And Linkup

Forgive Spouse

One of the gusty winds people often feel in marriage has to do with a heart growing cold out of a need to forgive a mate. I was there in that frigid place many years ago and still find myself tempted to return to that icy and unforgiving place whenever my husband hurts me.

Forgive Spouse

Because I know how desolate and painful that place can be, I’ve learned it is never a place I want to return to. So I guard against that tendency whenever I am offended.

And let me just say . . .

[bctt tweet=”My marriage is less messy these days, but my hubby and I still hurt one another. #humanshurt” username=”BethSteffaniak”]

So . . .

[bctt tweet=”We desperately need to practice the ABC’s of Forgiveness. #BacktoSchool #Marriage” username=”BethSteffaniak”]

Back to SchoolWhat are the ABC’s of forgiveness?

“A” stands for “Acknowledge the Hurt and Loss.”

You might think that the Bible teaches to “overlook an offense” and it DOES in Proverbs 19:11. But that’s only a piece of the process, since the Bible also teaches how very much truth is necessary to release ourselves from the impact of other’s sins committed against us.

For example, in Luke 17:3 it says,

“So watch yourselves. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.”

And in Matthew 18:15 it says,

“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.”

In both cases, the Bible encourages a truth-filled conversation with an offender.

Does this mean you must tell every person who offends you the truth of what he/she did against you?

Not necessarily, since many offenses can be acknowledged to the Lord and forgiven in the confines of our hearts.

However, in marriage there is a greater and continual need to be transparent with one another. Otherwise, our closeness and intimacy suffers—resulting in the formation of walls and distance in marriage.

Part of moving forward in forgiveness is being able to admit to ourselves, and the Lord, what we feel about the hurt and loss. Jesus longs to be our Comforter in those painful moments.

Practical Step – Write out a prayer telling Jesus about the pain you feel. Ask for His comfort and perspective in this hurtful moment of your marriage.

“B” stands for “Be Brokenhearted.”

This might seem like a no-brainer. If someone has hurt us, it typically breaks our hearts in many ways. But there is more than meets the eye to being “broken” here.

I’m talking about recognizing our own individual brokenness as sinners who offend and break other people’s hearts and, most importantly, break the Lord’s heart.

There’s a story in Mt. 18:32-35 that tells of a king who pardoned a servant who owed him an “impossible-to-pay-back” sum. Then that same servant went away and had another person, who owed him a minuscule amount, hauled away to jail to get back every dime he was owed.

That story tells us (Christ-followers, in particular) that we can NEVER withhold forgiveness from others, since the Lord (our King) died in order to forgive a lifetime of the sins we’ve committed against Him.

We, as humans, are all guilty and therefore cannot withhold mercy from anyone else. #James3:2

Practical Step – Ask the Lord to reveal any sins you’ve committed that are similar to the ones your offender has committed against you. Also, remember the excruciating death that Jesus suffered to offer you forgiveness and mercy. This realization will most certainly shift your perspective. On to the next step . . .

“C” stands for “Cancel the Debt.”

When your spouse (or other offender) hurt you, there was a loss. No doubt about it!

So you have a choice to either be a victim of this person’s hateful actions—letting them determine your attitude, choices and circumstances moving forward . . .


You can surrender to the Lord the offense—cancelling that debt on the spot. It is then that Christ can bring comfort, peace and healing to your wounds. #exchangepainforpeace

Practical step – Prayerfully surrender to the Lord your offender (spouse or someone else) and the loss you experienced at their hands. Then receive His comfort and healing—remembering Psalm 34:18, as you do.

One final word: This one area in marriage when left unresolved is the single greatest reason a marriage grows cold. So pay close attention to any areas of resentment you are harboring and deal with it quickly and responsibly!

Next week I’ve got a special guest and sweet friend—Ngina Otiende—sharing about her new book, The Wedding Night, with a giveaway and some other special offers available! Yay! So I know you’ll want to come on back for that!

Click on the link to go to other posts in this Back to School Series—7 Lessons on Learning to Love Well When the Winds of Marriage Grow Colder.”


Which part of this process is or has been hardest for you?


What hesitancies do you have about forgiving your spouse (or other offender)?


Be sure to scroll down below to comment! 


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32 responses to “The ABC’s of How to Forgive a Spouse And Linkup”

  1. Canceling the debt is a huge one. We always need to forgive and forget. I know too many people who never forget. If you don’t do that, it becomes a burden that you carry. I heard this story and thought it was great about canceling the debt:

    “Let me tell you a story about two monks who are on a journey. Some time during their journey they stop at a clearing, and in the clearing is a stream, and they stop at the stream. On the one side of the stream is a fair maiden trying to cross. And the first monk, without any hesitation, crosses that stream, picks up the fair maiden and carries her across and sets her down. The two monks carry on in silence. Sometime later on their journey they stop at another clearing. The second monk says to the first, ‘You picked up that maiden. Do you know it’s against our beliefs and our religion to come in contact and touch a person of the opposite sex?’ The first says, ‘I set her down back there, but you carried her all the way here.’
    Thanks for hosting and have a wonderful week.


    1. Haha! So true! We tend to carry those burdens far too long in our lives–even the ones that others put on our backs in the first place, Patrick. Great story and so true! Thanks for sharing it and for encouraging me here in this space. Have a great day, my friend!


  2. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Great post, Beth, and I love the practical steps to forgiveness. You’re so right; forgiveness is intentionality, and not ‘feeling’.

    I have a pretty good method for forgiveness, but I’d hardly recommend it, because it involves facing the fact, each morning, that seeing the sunset is by no means certain. I’m beating longer and longer odds every day, and to be honest, this has my full attention.

    Is there offense? Sure, and generally it arises from differences in circumstance and perspective. Barb is still part of the world, and her concerns have to be worldly for her to be able to fully play her role, and to be comprehensible to the people around her.

    I, on the other hand, face no such constraints, and, like the legendary tomb of Muhammad, find myself suspended between Earth and Heaven. I hope people will understand the dichotomy of life thus implied, but if they don’t, I need not put up with blank stares and veiled dismissive remarks. I haven’t left the house since November of 2016, and can’t remember the last face-to-face conversation I had with anyone but my wife. It was in 2014. I think.

    Thus, I see her frustration, and how it sometimes spills over into comment, and I can let it go. I don’t HAVE to make her see my point of view and more than I CAN, any longer, see hers.

    And all that said (anyone still awake?) I cause plenty of offense myself, generally with my lighthearted and flippant attitude to pain and death. Recently I told Barb, “I want a modern Viking funeral; use lots of tannerite (a legal binary explosive), and I can fulfill that age-old challenge…You Want A Piece Of Me?”

    That did not go over well, to put it mildly.


    1. Yes, in your situation, Andrew, I can see that having those “face-to-face” conversations wastes needed energy and breath for living. Better to let bygones be bygones and focus on the good in each moment. And that’s exactly what it seems you do each day, my friend. Even when you joke (or are flippantly serious) about a Viking funeral, there’s a joyfulness that is mingled with the morose. I hope that Barbara can see past the morose to the joy. It’s in there! Thank you for always trying to comment, even though I know it is painful. I do appreciate seeing you and will miss you desperately when you sail into the sunset–flaming as you go! 🙂


  3. Not forgiving? Like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies! My best advice? Just forgive – just do it. Talk about it. Let your spouse know how hurt you are (or whatever) and if they do it again? Pray. God will lead you. THERE ARE TIMES a HEALTHY SEPARATION is in order. I never want to say “there is no room for divorce” – because I have learned? THERE IS. xo


    1. Yes, that illustration is so powerful, Susan! I agree with your advice too. It’s good for our souls, no matter whether our offender recognizes their wrongs or not. I also agree with your second words of advice. We need to be open with our spouses, so that we can learn how to live and love well. And I also agree with your words about a healthy separation and sometimes need for divorce. Each situation is unique and needs to be handled as such. Thanks for joining the conversation my south-bound friend! Enjoy your time in Charleston!


  4. Forgiveness is an area where I have much work to do. I think since both my husband and I came from divorced families, we never really learned how to cancel the debt and move forward. We carried unforgiveness into our marriages, and as we begin our 17th year together this fall, I want us to move forward with a focus on total forgiveness. I love your ABC’s–they are simple yet powerful.


    1. That’s probably true across the board–couples who came from broken homes don’t really know how to forgive. Not everyone is like that, but more times than not, it’s true and a good insight to recognize. I do hope that you are able to wipe the slate clean and feel a renewed energy and love in your marriage for your 17th year, Sarah! Nothing could be better in my view! And thank you for your kind words! You encourage me, girlfriend!


  5. Bev @ Walking Well With God Avatar
    Bev @ Walking Well With God

    Having been through one marriage and divorce that didn’t survive on so many levels, I now have a better grasp of what is worth getting upset over and what isn’t. I am good at speaking the truth…I just need to speak it sooner rather than later and speak it in love rather than in pent up anger. Remembering I am flawed and a sinner too, helps me be more forgiving of wrongs. Perhaps wisdom does come with age?? Great post!
    Bev xx


    1. I bet you do, Bev! Trials and troubles sure do test us–resulting in a beautiful refinement in our lives. And I’m like you. I do speak the truth but also need to do it sooner. Sometimes I have the conversation “in my head” and never realize until I’m veering far too close to an argument that I needed to say something way sooner! ha! Yes, that one–remembering I’m a sinner just like my hubby–really has been a game-changer for me too. Yes, yes it does–wisdom comes with age! I’ll take that one as an old chick any day! 😉


  6. Forgiveness is a matter of simple obedience, but that doesn’t make it easy, does it?
    Smiling as I began reading your post, because I mis-read “gusty” as “gutsy” and realized there’s truth there, too!


    1. Yes, Michele, that’s exactly what it boils down to, doesn’t it?! Obedience! Agreed that realizing that doesn’t make it easier, but it does make it necessary! Yes, gutsy works too! ha! Thanks for joining the conversation, my friend!


  7. Beth, Great steps. I think B is important. It reminds me that I want understanding when I mess us and for others to use a side angle lens on me, not define me by my fault. I need to do the same for them.


    1. Agreed! “B” is so very important to the task and makes “C” possible, in my view. No one wants to be defined by a fault, so I don’t know why it’s so difficult for us to extend that to others. It’s a work in progress in my life too, Debbie. And every time I write about it here, it helps to solidify it just a bit more!


  8. bluecottonmemory Avatar

    # 1 is so very important. Acknowledging to God that we feel hurt opens the door to understand why. I think we need to explain to God why this hurts us – because sometimes why we are hurt is important to healing from that hurt. Maybe it’s that someone was very out of bounds – and sometimes, it’s more an unhealthy sensitivity on our part. I had to work on the latter – and learn to separate was is really offensive – and what is just maybe my pride, fears, old hurts transposing themselves on a different situation, or even my inappropriate response (maybe my offense boundaries don’t allow much wiggle room for others) – and I need to maybe readjust something within myself. I learned to be honest with God and ask, “How much is this my issue – and how much is his.” God usually humbles me, showing me that I don’t allow much wiggle room. When I do take it to God – he works on both our hearts – with good success! I’ve missed coming here Beth! You serve us such hearty food for our souls! Shalom, friend! ~ Maryleigh


    1. Yes, so true, Maryleigh. There is much that we can discover as we grieve and prayer journal about our feelings and hurts to the Lord. I’ve discovered so very much at the altar of lament over an offense. The Lord certainly knows how to bring healing in a variety of ways! I love what you’ve said about recognizing what is a “real offense” from something that has triggered a wound for you. We all need to sort those things out so that we can be free of their entanglement in the future. Here’s to praying you find more and more “wiggle room” in dealing with your hubby. I’ll join you in expanding that space in our lives and marriages!


  9. I love this, Beth! So practical and easy to remember. Thanks. 🙂


    1. Thanks for saying, Kelly! Always great to have you in the linkup and joining the conversation here too!


  10. SUch a great little concept. Your ABCs are memorable and spot on. Thanks for the truth and practical steps!


    1. I appreciate your kind words, Bethany. I hope it is helpful to you and so many others, since forgiveness is one of my passions. It has radically changed the atmosphere in my marriage, for sure!


  11. I completely agree that a good marriage is the union of two good forgivers! Thank you for the practical and spiritual help in discerning how to move forward when we’ve felt wronged. Good words!!


    1. Great way to sum it up, Bonny! I aim to be practical, that’s for sure. I just hope it can help those who are weighed down by discouragements and bitterness in marriage. I meet way too many people in my day-to-day life that live in that sphere of unhappiness, so it seems like it should resonate. Thank you for stopping in and linking up! Yay! Love having you in the line up, since you are such an incredible blogger!


  12. This is such a practical and helpful step Beth. It is truly the ABC, very easy to understand. Thanks a lot for sharing this beautiful insight that will definitely mend many broken hearts and homes.
    Have a super blessed day!


    1. Thank you, Ugochi. That’s my hope! And yes, very easy to understand but much more difficult to do! ha! Still it’s one of the best things anyone can do for their marriage–laying their broken hearts at the Lord’s feet for Him to heal, as well as resurrecting their marriages! Been there and done that and it is something I will never lose sight of!


  13. I have problems in this area with others, not just my spouse. These steps are so practical and helpful. Thanks for sharing on the #LMMLinkup.


    1. I don’t know many people who don’t have problems with at least one person on their lives, Mary. So learning how to forgive is an essential skill and choice that every person needs to make all throughout their lives. Thank you for stopping in and joining the conversation, my friend!


  14. […] Candy, Joyful Homemaking, Feathering My Empty Nest, Our Three Peas, Soaring with Him, Jaime Wiebel, Messy Marriage, Creative K Kids, A Bountiful […]


  15. As always, I learn so much from you, Beth! I’m wondering, tho, how to go about this when you’re in a situation that could be emotionally abusive. Do you have any thoughts on that?


    1. Thank you, Pat! You’re sweet to say! Well, those are two different spheres in a relationship. Forgiveness involves you and your heart–keeping it free of resentments. In my view, a person doesn’t need to have the cooperation of the other person to forgive. Reconciling is another matter–involving the cooperation of both parties. But dealing with an emotionally abusive person involves using proper boundaries in the relationship and also calls for the help of a counselor to lend support, perspective and guidance in how and when to set boundaries.

      If you’re saying, “How do I forgive a person who continually and severely offends me with emotional abuse?” Then I think it’s still a matter of forgiving and letting it go to God–along with setting right boundaries. Easier said than done, for sure! But we simply can’t hold on to or accumulate resentments because it damages our hearts first, and the relationship second. But I am not saying to put up with abuse in a relationship. I’m saying don’t accumulate resentment by taking these steps and continuing them moment-by-moment if necessary, as well as learning how to set boundaries with an abuser. I also think sometimes the most significant and necessary of boundaries is to separate for a time from the abuser. This too needs the guidance of a counselor, because if there is physical abuse involved you must be careful how you go about leaving. It can enrage the abuser and incite more violence. So in those cases, always seek professional support and help! Thanks for asking this important question, Pat. It’s one that many are facing when it comes to forgiveness. And I hope I was clear. It’s not an easy subject to unpack and delineate.


      1. Of course, Beth, but the thoughts you shared were wonderfully encouraging…and very helpful! Emotional abuse is such a difficult issue because the injuries aren’t visible. But boundaries are important for us all…
        Thanks so much!


  16. A pastor led a congregation i was a part of in the ‘cancelling the debt’ process years ago and it was so freeing. when the tendency to pull up the old hurts and rehearse what was done, he told us to say out loud if necessary, ‘that debt is cancelled. You don’t owe me anymore.” after a while of doing that every time, it’s amazing how the hurt subsides and a joy and freedom emerges. thanks!


  17. Whew, Beth! This one is loaded with good stuff. It will definitely get printed out as there are so many things in there that I need to remember. This is so practical and works well with relationships other than marriage (but goodness, marriage is the best one to use it for!) Thank you so much, Beth, for your transparency and for sharing your experiences and advice.


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