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7 Steps to Thrive Through Forgiveness in Marriage

When marriage is hard and we do the difficult work of digging deep to find the root issues, forgiveness is often at the heart.  Forgiveness in marriage is one of the single most important – foundational habits – we must cultivate to move from surviving to thriving in a Christian Marriage!

How important is forgiveness in a marriage?

It’s no secret that marriage is hard work.  One of the biggest hurdles I face – day in and day out – is the temptation to not forgive.  There are days I fall flat on my face about forgiving my husband. 

One of my favorite forgiveness in marriage quotes is this:

“Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.” — C. S. Lewis

Forgiveness is much the same.  You have to let go of the pain of the hurt to move forward.  

The Importance of Forgiveness in Marriage

When I get this right and forgive – every offense – our marriage thrives.  Oh, how I wish I got it right every time!

Often, I fail and hold onto the offense something awful happens.  This wall goes up between my heart and his.  No only is there a wall stopping intimacy between me and my husband, but there is a wall that goes up between me and God!

The biggest reason to forgive your spouse is to keep an open line of communication between you and God!  

God has a lot to say about forgiveness…  

What is forgiveness in marriage?  There are three things to know about forgiveness. Forgiveness is a choice Forgiveness is a process Refusing forgiveness leads to consequences Share on X

Forgiveness in Marriage Bible Verses

There are nearly 200 Bible verses about forgiveness and all of them could be applied to marriage!  We will look at just a few here and go more in-depth on this subject in another post!

“But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6:15 NASB)

“‘Thus you shall say to Joseph, “Please forgive, I beg you, the transgression of your brothers and their sin, for they did you wrong.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” And Joseph wept when they spoke to him.” (Genesis 50:17 NASB)

“Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus *said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21-22 NASB)

Related Post: The Significance and Importance of Forgiveness in a Marriage

Benefits of forgiveness

What did we see from those forgiving your spouse’s Bible verses? There are several benefits of forgiveness – especially forgiveness in marriage!  

Forgiveness frees you from the burden of resentment and bitterness.  

Freely giving forgiveness keeps an open line of communication between you and God.

Forgiveness allows your heart to remain soft, encouraging open communication, love, and respect in your relationship.  

Related Post: Marriage Resources Christian Wives Approve and Use

What is Forgiveness in Marriage?

You may be asking then, “What is forgiveness in marriage anyway?”  There are three things to know about forgiveness.

  1. Forgiveness is a choice
  2. Forgiveness is a process
  3. Refusing forgiveness leads to consequences

Forgiveness is a Choice

Forgiveness, much like we learned about love, is a choice*. 

Each time we saw forgiveness in the Bible we saw someone make a choice.  They could remain angry and bitter about the hurt, or they could release the hurt to God and move forward.  

Forgiveness is a Process

It is rare that I can simply say, “I forgive you” and that is the end of the process.  It may be the beginning of reconciliation with that person, but the hurt is still there.  The hurt doesn’t go away with a word.  

To truly forgive I have to go through a detailed process.  I take it in 7 steps and will go over them in a moment.  The point is that you need to give yourself time and grace through the process.  Some hurts will move in moments, others take years to work through.  Just stay in the process.

Not Forgiving in Marriage has Consequences

It feels better, at first, to refuse to forgive.  I get it.  For years I had two big reasons to not forgive in marriage – read about them here.  

The truth is, that refusing forgiveness feels better but hurts more in the long run.  When I refuse to forgive my husband for a hurt – big or small hurt – resentment follows.  

Y’all, resentment slips in unaware, stays longer than you like, and steals more from you than you gave permission!

Overcoming Resentment in Marriage

To overcome resentment in marriage you have to work through the process of forgiveness more diligently.  

You have to acknowledge the resentment and her friend, bitterness that comes along if left unchecked for a long time.  Not just acknowledge it to yourself, but to God and if He prompts you to, to your spouse.  

Bitterness and resentment when paired with un-forgiveness look like:

  • A wall going up between you and your spouse
  • The cold shoulder
  • Ignoring his pain
  • A critical spirit when he tries to connect
  • Criticism of his best efforts to thaw the cold shoulder
  • Negative thoughts about him continually
  • Angry outburst for seemingly no reason
  • Withdrawal
  • Depression
  • Separation
  • Divorce…

I speak to myself first here ladies.  These are some big red flags I see in myself when I’ve left an issue for too long – refusing to forgive my spouse.  

Related: How to Create Prayers for Marriages in Trouble: War Room Prayer Strategy

This is one of the marriage forgiveness quotes that God gave me years ago.

The enemy will draw your eye to all your husband’s flaws.  God will draw your eye to Jesus standing righteously in front of your husband.  See him the way God sees Him and your marriage will thrive!

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How do You Forgive a Spouse Who Has Hurt You?

Now to the nuts and bolts you have been waiting for.  How do you forgive a spouse who has hurt you?  I honestly use a similar process for most hurts but let’s be real – not all hurts are created equally!  

Some specific topics I hear from my readers are these:

  • Tell me how to forgive my husband for betrayal.
  • Can there be forgiveness in marriage adultery?
  • We need forgiveness activities for married couples

Forgiveness is challenging when the offense is big but remember forgiveness is for you first and foremost. 

  • Forgiving heals your heart
  • Forgiveness restores your relationship with God
  • Un-forgiveness causes you to be stuck and Forgiveness gets you unstuck in your faith!

Learning how to forgive your partner who has hurt you is a must for every godly wife!

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10 NASB)

God’s plan is abundant life. Refusing forgiveness leads to bitterness and resentment stop abundant life. The Holy Spirit can help us forgive and get back on track to an abundant life.

Related: How Can I Forgive My Spouse?

Step 1. Stop Telling Your Story as the Victim

“But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.”(Romans 8:37 NASB)

 Stop replaying the offense in your mind as the victim. Your thoughts dictate your attitude. In order to get a different outcome for the future – one that is healed, whole, and holy – this has to change.

Step 2. Assess the Injury

There was a wrong done to you. Are you hurt or are you seriously injured? Think it through because you will need to forgive specifically.
List each hurt/injury and note which they are. You will need to pray about it specifically so take your time here.

Step 3. Value Your Offender

“For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”(Galatians 3:27 NASB)

““For I will be merciful to their iniquities,
And I will remember their sins no more.”” (Hebrews 8:12 NASB)

They are more than what they did (or are doing). That’s how Jesus treats us. How often do I sin and offend Him as my holy God? Yet He forgives me, and the Bible assures me that when God sees me, He sees me as covered in the righteousness of God. He values me even though I offend Him – daily!

Related: How to Fix Communication Problems in Marriage and Why it Matters!

Step 4 Intercede For Your Offender.

““You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’

But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven;for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48 NASB)

Jesus tells us to pray even for our enemies. It is hard to be mad at someone you are praying for. I know there have been times I have seen my spouse as my enemy so this was very fitting then – though I hope it doesn’t stay that way for you as it did not stay that way for me.

Do you see your spouse as the enemy? Take that to God and ask Him to help you see that man the way He sees him. 

God will often give you a new perspective while you are praying for them. He can allow you to see both sides which helps ease the tension in your home a great deal.

Step 5 Own My Part

“For what I am doing, I do not understand;  I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.

For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.

Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.” (Romans 7:15, 19, 24-25 NASB)

We all sin.

Here’s the time to deal with that honestly. I stay stuck when I can only focus on his part. We have to let God deal with our husband about his part. We have to see our own sin struggles and work through them with God.

Dealing with sin honestly leads to freedom and a softer heart toward forgiving others!

Step 6 Release Their Debt

“…My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:21-35 NASB)

This is the hardest part for me. If I release my spouse from the debt of this hurt, it feels like I let him get away with it. But that is not the case. We serve a just God, and He will deal with things in His way and His time so much better than we can in our humanity. Give it to God. Let God deal with it.

In Matthew 18 Peter asks Jesus how much he should forgive and HE tells him 7 times 70 or every time.

Our forgiveness should know no boundary just like God’s forgiveness.

He ends that chapter by telling a parable of a servant who was forgiven much but went out to demand someone else repay him a much smaller debt. This parable is a striking reminder of how God feels about our un-forgiveness. Let’s not be like that unforgiving servant.

Step 7. How Do You Know You Have Forgiven?

Some hurts are deep and you may never forget them fully, but you can get to a place where you can talk about the situation without feeling the hurt.

This is the test to know if you have forgiven.  Can you talk about it without pain?  Can you pray over that person without anger?  If not, keep repeating the process!

A Note About Abuse/Infidelity/Abandonment:

Abuse is not okay.  If you are the victim of domestic abuse, it is imperative that you seek professional guidance. These steps will not replace that. They will, however, help free you from the bitterness and resentment that come when you do not forgive even the most heinous of abuse. You may never be able to reconcile in these situations, but you can live in freedom as a victor in Christ rather than a victim.

How Can You Begin Showing Forgiveness in Marriage Today?

We’ve talked about the importance of forgiveness in marriage, what forgiveness is in marriage and how to forgive your husband in marriage.  Where are you in the process?  

What is one small step you can take toward change today?  Today is the day to step out in faith and find Jesus waiting with open arms there. 

Will you meet HIM? 

Will you seek HIM? 

He is the one who can help you find healing, hope, and joy in forgiveness.  


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Tiffany Montgomery

Tiffany of Hope Joy in Christ inspires Christian Women to grow in faith, live out Biblical Marriage Principles and raise Godly Children.  Join the Wives Only Facebook Group here or keep up with her through Pinterest.

3 thoughts to “7 Steps to Thrive Through Forgiveness in Marriage”

  1. Hi Tiffany! Such a good post. We can’t be in a relationship with anyone for that long before there will be something to forgive. Love this: “The biggest reason to forgive your spouse is to keep an open line of communication between you and God!” So true, forgiveness benefits us so much. When we are hurt it can be hard to forgive, but somehow we need to work through the hurt. And I love tip 5. Looking at our part in the problem. It seems if a problem develops between two people, two people are always some portion of the problem. Sure it may not be an equal amount, but we can usually find we are at fault in some way.

    1. So true, Theresa. What I love about God is that HE is so faithful to show me where I am not forgiving… but usually not until I notice a problem between He and I :(. Anyway, this week He reminded me to forgive and to share the message that forgiveness is key for us all. Praying you are well!

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