Why is it that we lean so easily to hardness an insensitivity in marriage? Rather than being quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry (James 1:19), we’re quick to be defensive, quick to place blame, and slow to understand. Instead of a relationship enslave to self-righteousness and unforgiveness, let’s build a culture of forgiveness in marriage. Here are five ways to help you get started.

1. Forgive from the heart, but set boundaries on behavior.

Forgiveness is a cornerstone to a healthy, happy marriage. It’s also a command (Matt 6:14-15). Forgiving from the heart means that you’re choosing to release our spouse from the debt of offense.

Speak these words out loud, “I choose to forgive and release (insert name) for (insert the offense).” Keep speaking it out loud until the heart feels it.

Note: Though the Bible tells us to forgive, it doesn’t say that we are to subject ourselves to abuse or emotionally immature behaviors. True relational freedom happens when we feel safe in the relationship.

If you are in this type of relationship, seek the help of a professional counselor to help you set boundaries in your marriage.

2. Don’t defend yourself.

A.W. Tozer wrote that one of the five keys to a deeper spiritual life is never to defend ourself. While it may be the first instinct, no matter how the offense began, mounting a line of defense builds emotional guards. Those guards end up making you hard and self-centered. In turn, you end up casting blame in an attempt to protect one person, yourself.

3. Put on a Spirit of Gentleness.

Clothe yourself in gentleness because bitterness is unattractive. Scripture describes Jesus as gentle, meek, and humble in heart (Matt. 11:29). Peter used the same word to describe Jesus when he instructs wives to adorn themselves, not with clothes or make-up, but with a gentle spirit (1 Peter 3:3-4).

When you dress each day, prayerfully put on clothes of gentleness and ask yourself, “How can I gently and safely begin sharing my heart with my husband?”

4. Pray for each other.

The most effective way to rebuild genuine empathy and concern for one another is to pray for each other, especially in the throws of frustration. Don’t allow your husband or wife’s action (or inaction) to plant a root of bitterness and resentfulness.

Ask the Lord to show you a glimpse of who they are in His eyes. Allow Him to help you see the loneliness, exhaustion, pressure, or rejection they might feel.

A prayer to pray: Lord, Illuminate the eyes of my heart to see my spouse through Your eyes. Allow me to see the strengths you gave them, but also where he/she is struggling. Give me the grace to have compassion and mercy toward them.

5. Understand the way you want to be understood.

Instead of the old saying “treat others as you want to be treated” replace ”treat” with “understand.” Your relationship needs to be a safe place to open up. The more your spouse feels understood by you, the more they’ll open up over time.

Build a Culture of Forgiveness in Marriage

Building a culture of forgiveness in marriage helps to foster emotional safety in marriage. The safer you become for your spouse, the more likely they are to want to pursue your heart, fighting for you, not with you.

Do you need help creating a culture of forgiveness in marriage? Eagle Family Ministries helps couples apply Biblical principles to grow or strengthen their relationship. We have fun marriage retreats, design Christian Marriage Conferences in your town, as well as offer relationship coaching. Let us know how we can help you achieve the marriage God intended.