Q. We’ve experienced some real hurts in our marriage recently, opening loops of conflict that we just can’t seem to close. Neither of the homes we grew up in modeled healthy conflict resolution and forgiveness. Where do we start?
A. A wise person once said, “When you forgive, you set a prisoner free to learn that you were the prisoner.” Why is it that in our hearts we often buy the false conclusion that we will withhold forgiveness to get back at our spouse when in fact they may be unaware of the conflict, already past it or maybe even allowing a hard heart, pride or fear to inhibit them from experiencing a great marriage?
We believe the #1 secret to a lasting love is forgiving freely. Think back to your last “open loop of conflict” for a moment. Was it a recurring pattern? An isolated offense? A major betrayal?
You have two choices: to ignore the problem, leading to bitterness and resentment, or to purpose to move through with honor and respect and close the loop.
So how do you close the loop? Try connecting vertically with the Lord first by praying and seeking wisdom in the Bible. God forgives you freely. His grace draws you to Him. Ultimately we desire to connect in our marriage in the same way but it is a matter of sequence.
Once you have gained insight vertically then open up in communication with your spouse horizontally sharing your thoughts, feelings and needs. Listen. Offer safety. Try to see each other’s experience with empathy.
Then move to resolving the actual conflict, “What do we do differently next time?” “What did we learn?”
Finally, move to the four parts of forgiveness: “I’m wrong.” I’m sorry.” “I don’t want to hurt you again (repentance).” “Will you forgive me?” The offended party then has the opportunity to grant forgiveness volitionally but still honor the hurt that occurred. It doesn’t mean we forget. But we don’t remember in a toxic way hanging it over our spouse.
As you learn the process of “closing the loop” you will find that more conflicts are resolved sooner than later, and that forgiving freely will mark your marriage helping you to experience the great marriage you dream of.
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