Whoever said “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” was obviously never married. Because being married means having to say you’re sorry all the time, even when you’re not.
OK, especially when you’re not.
Having a successful marriage also means being able to forgive. Constantly. By definition, marriage is the union of two imperfect people. No matter how great they are together, or how much in love, they will inevitably irritate, fail, and hurt each other. That’s as certain in marriage as toilet seat disputes.
If your marriage is going to work, you’re going to have to forgive — even when the other person has not asked for forgiveness, even when he or she is not even aware of having done anything that requires forgiveness. If you wait for your spouse to come to you, acknowledge fault, and ask forgiveness, you’re likely to be waiting a long time. You just have to forgive anyway.
The alternative is keeping a mental list of every perceived slight, which you can reintroduce as evidence of your moral superiority or victim status whenever there’s a new infraction. Very few things are more corrosive to a marriage than that.
Love is not about collecting grievances. It’s about putting them behind us. It requires us to place the relationship above our own sensibilities. It necessitates forgiveness.
And remember, forgiveness isn’t just for your spouse — it’s for you, too. Because nothing is more antithetical to happiness than long-nurtured resentment. As a wise man once said, “Harboring resentment is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
And then there’s the fact that, if you expect your spouse to forgive your imperfections, you have to reciprocate. I’ve always loved the way Jesus Christ put it in the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses AS we forgive those who trespass against us”—the word “as” in that passage meaning “to the extent that.” First forgive, then seek to be forgiven.
That’s true in all walks of life, but nowhere more so than in a marriage, which can only survive if both partners are determined to forgive each other, over and over, whether they deserve it or not, till death do them part.
In closing, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this series on marriage as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it — and that you’ve learned as much as I have in the process. One thing I’ve learned is that I’d like to explore the topic in more depth, perhaps in a new book, for which these five columns might well constitute a brief outline.
Meanwhile, if you’d like to read more about marriage from a humorous perspective, I’ll be signing copies of my most recent book, “Family Man,” at Books for Less near the Mall of Georgia this Saturday, June 14, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. —just in time for Father’s Day. I’d love to see you there.
Rob Jenkins is a local freelance writer and the author of “Family Man: The Art of Surviving Domestic Tranquility,” available at Books for Less and on Amazon. Email Rob at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @FamilyManRob.