The marriage reset button
Entering a new year invites a personal introspection that often teeters on the edge of self-absorption. It’s all about embracing another opportunity at doing life differently, and it’s often about pressing the reset button.
When it comes to marriage, we expect to begin only once. So much so that many young couples plan the wedding for many months, carefully selecting the venue, dresses, ring, and the designer cake. However, as the months and years progress in marriage, many wish that their spousal relationship came with a do-over button, or a hard system reset.
A reset button helps clear the unhealthy memory or experiences in marriage, and causes the relationship to reboot forcibly. Doing it forcibly effectively implies that starting afresh is an unnatural process. It’s an act of your will, rather than emotions. You do it, not because you feel like doing it or even that common logic suggests you do it.
However you do it to detox your relationship of last year’s unpleasant experiences, instead of holding on to hurt, pain, resentment and anger. Without condoning or avoiding the unfair and painful experiences, you press the reset button with the end goal of achieving happiness, personal growth and a kind of peace that helps you move on with life. And that is the basis for the marriage reset button called forgiveness.
Forgiveness is when you, the hurt individual, wilfully lift a heavy burden off yourself by absolving your spouse of the wrongdoing they have committed against you. It’s about you, and the need to release yourself from the shackles of anger, loneliness and bitterness as well as the jail cell you lock yourself into by not forgiving.
When contemplating pressing the reset button of forgiveness, we’d like to offer the following points for your consideration.
Forgiveness is about you
The primary purpose of forgiveness isn’t necessarily to let the person that hurt you off the hook, even though they benefit from the act of forgiveness. However, the primary purpose of forgiveness is to free yourself from the pain so you can live more freely and not under the control of hurt, anger and bitterness. By forgiving, you take back your own life and are in-charge of it. It’s perhaps the most self-loving act you can do for yourself, and it opens your heart and gives you peace of mind.
Forgiveness is not unconditional
One of the most absurd teachings we’ve heard about forgiveness is that it’s unconditional, something not even God does as it makes a mockery of the process of reconciliation and restoration of the relationship. Forgiveness, in order to accomplish its purpose in the person forgiven, has to include a demand for change in conduct. It is not a free pass to behave as you please, or continue doing the same thing. The process of forgiveness ultimately seeks to restore a fractured relationship, and that cannot be accomplished without re-evaluating the offending partner’s behaviour for future sustainability of the relationship. It is freely offered in a compassionate act of grace, but it has to carry a clearly communicated and mutually agreed upon expectation of repentance and behavioural change. Otherwise the process of reconciliation would be impossible.
Forgiveness confronts the pain
Forgiving a wrong committed against you doesn’t mean you tolerate or cover the wrong. You’re in fact facing the wrong, dead in the face; calling it by its name; letting its horrific pain shock you; allowing yourself to be angry at it; and then making the decision to let it go. Forgiveness is no license to avoid and therefore cover the pain and its extent as though nothing happened. That’s actually called denialism. But it is an act of maturity where, after considering all the pain and injustice meted against you, you deliberately choose to surrender your right to retaliate and revenge by letting it all go.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean approval of wrongdoing
Forgiveness doesn’t mean you let your spouse off the hook, but it denies them the opportunity to destroy your heart through the hurtful act they’ve committed. It means you’re letting yourself off the hook. If your spouse has wronged you, they need to walk their own path about what they did. That’s their business. However, your path is your business. You can’t control what happened or other people’s behaviour, but you can control how you meet your own experience. You can also take comfort in the fact that persistent wrongdoing that’s not repented for will eventually get what’s coming to it at some point – whether now or later. This is because forgiveness does not necessarily mean a cancellation of the consequences.
Forgiveness can strengthen your relationship
The power of forgiveness is such that it can turn very bitter and toxic relationship into a restored bliss characterized by commitment, which can even deepen and thrive, not in spite of what happened in the past but because of it. The act of forgiving strengthens your commitment to a healthy relationship. And you become more committed to not allowing divisive and hurtful conflicts to occur in the future.
In marriage, if you’re going to happily live together for any length of time, you have to be willing to live a lifestyle of forgiveness. And given that January is statistically the most famous month for divorce, there is no better time to press the reset button and engage in the process of forgiveness and reconciliation.