Although forgiveness is one the most important things that you can do for the sake of your emotional health and marriage, it is often very difficult. This is particularly true when the offense against you was great or is ongoing, as is often the case with emotional abuse. If you have an emotionally abusive husband, it is wise to seek counseling, either as an individual or as a couple. As a part of your therapy, forgiveness is likely to come up. When trying to forgive your husband, the most important thing to remember is that forgiveness is just as much to your benefit as it is his.
Remember that you have no control over his behavior, only your own. You cannot change who he is or what he has done. The choice to abuse you was his alone, and nothing justifies it. However, you have the opportunity to do something amazing and right in the face of great adversity. The desire to forgive your husband is a testament to your strength and character.
Create a list of all the wrongs that he has committed against you. Be as specific as possible, listing exactly what happened and when it happened.
Create another list alongside the first one, writing out your response to his abuse. Perhaps there were times that you responded by wronging him. Although leaving the situation or firmly asking him to stop are correct responses, yelling, slandering, hitting, manipulating or abusing him are wrong responses.
Recognize that your wrong responses toward him were offensive, regardless of the fact that he started it. Before you can forgive someone else, you must first recognize that you have also done things that require forgiveness. However, do not allow this realization to make you feel as though you deserved his abuse. Abuse of any kind is always unwarranted. Instead, take charge of yourself and commit to no longer wronging him in the future.
Grieve for what you have lost. When emotional abuse is introduced in a marriage, trust, security, affection, unity and self-esteem are all compromised. You may feel worthless or regretful about the loss of what you hoped would be a good marriage. It is alright to mourn these things, and doing so will aid, rather than hinder, the forgiveness process.
Understand that forgiving does not mean forgetting. You will always have the memory of what happened and trying to suppress it would be unhealthy.
Realize that forgiveness does not make you vulnerable. You may be holding onto your anger toward your husband because you think it will protect you from future abuse. Anger is a weak sentiment compared to forgiveness. Anger will not protect you, only make you bitter. If this is an impediment to forgiveness, practice appropriate, protective responses that you can use should future abuse occur. Instead of anger and hostility, use a calm tone and a readiness to leave the situation as your defense.
Recognize that forgiveness does not mean that things have go back to the way they were. Although forgiveness requires you to think the best of your husband, you should not need to extend your trust foolishly. You can accept that there are good things about him without giving him power over your heart or mind.
Understand what it means to truly forgive. When you have forgiven someone, you hope the best for them and treat them with respect. You do not filter their future actions through the lens of past wrongs and you accept when they change for the better. There may be times when you feel hurt by the past, but this does not mean that you have not forgiven them. It simply means that you are not done grieving what happened. Forgiveness is initially a conscious decision of the mind, not the heart. However, once you have mentally committed to forgiving you husband, your behavior and heart attitude toward him will slowly follow.
Make a conscious decision to forgive him. Remember that you are not forgiving him because he deserves it, but because you are a person of grace.
Hold all your responses to him against the high standard of forgiveness. Engage only in behavior that demonstrates your forgiveness. If you gossip about him, speak to him in a demeaning tone, wish bad things on him or hold only negative expectations, your forgiveness work is not yet complete.
Monitor the state of your heart during the forgiveness process. Are you bitter? Do you still feel resentment? Or, has your heart begun to soften? Do you feel hopeful? The farther you move along in your forgiveness, the more tender your heart will become.
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- Having a mentor or counselor can be extremely beneficial during the forgiveness process.
- Do not continue the relationship if you feel that seriously threatened either emotionally or physically. Leave the situation immediately and seek help. You can forgive your husband without being in a relationship with him.
- Abusers will often ask forgiveness to draw their partner back into the relationship. Remember that just because you forgive him, it does not mean that you don't have to protect yourself by setting firm boundaries.
- Remember that your husband committed a great wrong against you. Do not let him, yourself or anyone else downplay the seriousness of the emotional abuse.