“In marriage, each partner is to be an encourager rather than a critic, a forgiver rather than a collector of hurts, an enabler rather than a reformer.” – H. Norman Wright and Gary J. Oliver
Once upon a time someone decided that the love between two individuals was of such a sacred nature that it needed to be converted in a formal institution. This institution was called “marriage” and because a unique set of responsibilities and obligations emerged from it, it became one of the most important institutions for the growth and preservation of any society and culture. Those responsibilities and obligations are not only to be fulfilled between the married couple and the society or community to which they belong to but also between the two individuals within the marriage. At the beginning everything might look and feel like “peaches and cream”. When everything is “thick” the adrenaline of the moment makes us blind as to the potential problems that could also emerge in the future. But nothing last forever and nothing is perfect in this world and in this life. It is not until we get to experience the “thin” moments that we really get to experience the true “magic” of marriage. Not every moment will be full of happiness and lovely words. Not every time you will have all that you want or all that you expected. There will be times that you will get disappointed and you will ask yourself “why”. But that is marriage; to be strong, to have patience and to be wise as to the decisions that should be made. If we are going to treat our marriage relationship in the same way we treat the courtship relationship, what is the point of getting married then. Marriage is not only about love, passion, trust and respect; it is also about forgiveness. But, what does forgiveness really means? And, how to give or receive something that it cannot be well understood?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines forgiveness as to grant free pardon and to give up all claim on account of an offense or debt. For centuries “forgiveness” had been a matter of faith dealt within religions. As a result of that, the term now has a range of multiple definitions making the term to be from too under-inclusive to too over-inclusive, to too broad to too vague to be applied or considered in matters of everyday life. Still, one thing most groups and people agreed about forgiveness is that is neither a onetime event nor an instant verb that can be accomplished as it is said, but instead, that it is an ongoing process that takes not only time but that it also requires different steps to be taken; those steps will depend on the parties and the experiences of those parties. In order to be able to forgive your spouse it is imperative to remember that to be married is a commitment that should be of a lifetime and that therefore should be strong and able to go through “the thick and the thin” and survive.
In May 2011, Julette Millien wrote an article titled “How do I forgive… and heal the world?”. What is interesting about this article in that the author revised top 5 forgiveness myths that she identified and itemized in a previous article of her about her life experiences and her own forgiveness process. These 5 myths are that: (1) By forgiving someone you give them permission to hurt you again; (2) Forgiving someone means it didn’t hurt that much; (3) Forgiving means reconciliation, we must be friends again; (4) Forgiving is something you do for someone else NOT for yourself; (5) By not forgiving I’m telling my abuser how much I hate him and how wrong what he did was: that somehow I needed to withhold forgiveness because otherwise he would think I loved him. As Millien explains in her articles, the forgiveness process is not something you do for anyone but yourself and is not a green light for the abuser or others to hurt you but a way to immunize yourself from those types of attacks and make you stronger for other types that might arise in the path of becoming an independent individual capable of creating and establishing all types of personal relationships.
The International Forgiveness Institute (IFI) is an international organization that is dedicated to helping people gain knowledge about forgiveness and to use that knowledge for personal, group, and societal renewal. The IFI had done ongoing research on forgiveness at the University of Wisconsin for over thirteen years and the psychiatrist, Richard Fitzgibbons, MD had described the research “as important to the treatment of emotional and mental disorders as the discovery of sulfa drugs and penicillin were to the treatment of infectious diseases.” The IFI developed a process model of interpersonal forgiving. The process is not meant to be a rigid sequence and it is warned that individuals may experience all or only some of the steps of it. The same consists of a series of 20 steps which are organized into four distinct phases; (1) Uncovering Phase; (2) Decision Phase; (3) Work Phase; and (4) Outcome or Deepening Phase. It is expected, as an outcome of this process, that the forgiving individual could be able to realized that is gaining emotional relief from the process of forgiving, in order to be able to find meaning in the suffering that had faced. An effective outcome may also lead to an increase in the compassion for the self and the others that may help the individual to discover a new purpose in life therefore discovering what they called the paradox of forgiveness; “as we give to others the gifts of mercy, generosity, and moral love, we ourselves are healed”.
ILoveULove.com is a website dedicated to information about Unconditional Love; what it is, how to give it, get it, and what it will mean in your life. They explore forgiveness, relationships, spirituality, psychology, and other topics to design three sets of maps and tools to guide readers to find the combination of advices that better fits their own individual forgiveness process quest, which they identified as the self-forgiveness process and the forgiveness of others process. They labeled these three sets of maps and tools as: (1) Common Elements (between both processes within the forgiveness process); (2) Self-Forgiveness Process; and (3) Forgiveness of Others Process. They explained that the application of the forgiveness processes and the development of the capacity for unconditional love and joy depend absolutely upon the acknowledgement of, acceptance of, and identification with, the essential spiritual nature of one’s self. The forgiveness processes, they explained, are based upon meeting higher needs and upon valuing unconditional love more than its opposites, fear and laziness and using those processes could help a person to be able to contact this higher part of its nature. And, as they also explained, the importance of acknowledging the Higher Self is that it can be seen as the answer to the question of “why did my particular characteristics come together at this particular time and place in this particular way?”
Marriage is not an easy path. Been able to forgive the errors committed within the marriage is sometimes the hardest part of it. We must remember that even when forgiveness is not an easy term to neither describe or to define it is indeed a process that it is experienced by every conscious human being at any given moment of its live. When it is well understood and effectively internalized it helps individuals to become better persons, more compassionate and able to identify their selves with the “other” and feel its suffering. In the path of becoming capable to put ourselves in the other’s shoes we became capable to unconditionally love the other regardless of its condition which might be different from that of the “I” or the “we” or even unknown. Once the forgiveness processes are accomplished the affection process begins again. It is within the affection process that individuals, after developing a sense of what is a positive sentiment and how to use it, become capable of putting their barriers away. Marriage should be an institution without barriers; and if it is not without barriers that should be the main goal in order to make it work. No marriage should be compared to any other. There is no such a thing as a “perfect marriage”. There is no specific way of how to be a married person or of how to conduct your marriage in a specific way. There are no role models, no instructions, no how-to-do, nor a “Marriage for Dummies” book that can tell you how to have a successful marriage. Each married couple should be able to make their own goals and their own rules to be able to accomplish those goals together. It is true that when you get married you become “one” with that other person that decided to get committed to you, but that should not mean that any of you should stop being who you really are. Remember that it was of “you” to whom that other person fall in love with. When married people change too much or don’t care about the other they can easily become strangers to each other. The power to have a successful marriage is only within yourself and in your hands. Don’t be a stranger to your spouse; be its everything.