Q: How can I get my wife to forgive me for the ways I’ve hurt her over the past couple of years? She’s withdrawn from me emotionally, and I’m not sure how to convince her I’ve changed.
Jim: Speaking from experience, pride can often be the biggest hurdle in these situations — so humbling yourself and acknowledging your failure is a huge step in the right direction. If you’ve confessed your faults to your wife and she is still having a hard time forgiving you, here are some things to bear in mind.
First, recognize that forgiveness is a process that is an emotion as well as a choice. It’s possible your wife has made a rational decision to forgive you, but it may take some time for her heart to catch up with her head. This is especially true in cases of deep and serious hurt. You can’t force this to happen, and if you’re impatient it will only cause more pain.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t take some proactive measures to help things along. Begin by demonstrating your trustworthiness, an understanding of how your actions have hurt her and a willingness to accept the consequences. Show how you’re taking steps to prevent the mistake from occurring again.
Finally, pray for your spouse. Ask God to reveal to her your broken heart and to heal her own. Throughout this process, make a special effort to be honest with yourself. It’s easy to blame your spouse for failing to forgive when you’re confident that your heart is genuinely remorseful. But there’s a need for constant self-examination and correction.
If necessary, ask a professional counselor to help you and your wife through the process. Please don’t hesitate to contact us at 855-771-HELP (4357) if we can be of help.
Q: Lately, it seems my husband and I are always bickering. If it’s not one thing, it’s another: money, sex, work, children, housework — you name it. Neither of us wants to argue — but we can’t seem to help ourselves. What’s going on?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: There’s a popular phrase that says, “The issue isn’t the issue.” What it means in this context is that regardless of what you and your husband are arguing about, it is likely rooted in one of the five underlying issues:
- Power and control. This struggle often reveals itself in arguments over finances, plans or preferences. Disharmony and conflict are inevitable when both spouses are vying for control in some area or when one is trying to prevent the other from taking control.
- Lack of respect. This occurs when there’s a disregard for key differences in gender, personality or individuality, or when the feelings, decisions or rights of one spouse are ignored. Attempts to manipulate also fall in this category.
- Distance. When spouses are unavailable physically or emotionally, disharmony is likely. Sometimes spouses will put up emotional walls in attempts to protect themselves from hurt, creating feelings of rejection and abandonment for their mate.
- Distrust. Conflict thrives here. If a relationship doesn’t feel safe, distrust and suspicion can build and spouses may no longer feel comfortable expressing their feelings or needs.
- Unmet Needs. An unmet need may revolve around time, money, attention, empathy, communication or love, and can occur intentionally or inadvertently. When needs are overlooked or minimized in a marriage, resentment and hurt can lead to conflict.
What underlying issues are at the heart of your conflicts? If you and your husband can begin to indentify and discuss these, you’ll stand a much better chance of resolving them when they arise in your marriage.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.