When your spouse hurts you, it stings worse than any offense by anyone else.
It only makes sense.
Here, you have laid bare your whole life to this person, and now you feel like a doormat to be walked over. What good is making yourself vulnerable to the other person, if you are left feeling betrayed?
It is inevitable that two, fallen human beings, living under the same roof, will eventually offend each other.
Why does this happen, and more importantly, what good can come out of it? Let us explore this topic, with a few references to Saint Thomas Aquinas.
She burns supper, so he makes a hurtful comment. In turn, she gives him the cold shoulder; so he doesn’t repair fix the washing machine, as he had promised. Thus, she doesn’t iron his shirts. Embarrassed at his board meeting by wearing a wrinkled shirt, he comes home yelling at her.
On and on it goes. The examples are endless. But as this illustrates, tit for tat in a marriage snowballs into ruin. I wish it were otherwise, but I imagine there are quite a few people reading this who have tried to even the score with their spouse.
THE GRACE OF FORGETFULNESS
There is a way out.
One way to begin is to pray to God for the grace of forgetfulness. You must ask for it!
This grace will helps you in two ways. First, it will allow you to NOT recall the event that wounded you. Secondly, it will add awareness to that particular area, to remind you what harm lurk around that corner, so you can avoid them.
THE GRACE OF GOD
Without God’s grace, you would commit more sins, even worse sins than those committed against you.
Thus, when your spouse, or anyone, hurts you, you would do well to remember that person is deficient in grace in that area, and so now you have a prayer intention to make. Remember, you have hurt your spouse, and others too. You’re not the only person who has ever been offended!
You must also remember that just as you do not intend to hurt your spouse, neither do they intend to hurt you. In other words, don’t take things so personally.
Forgiveness is not a feeling. Forgiveness is an act of the will.
When you choose to forgive, you are releasing someone the debt you feel they owe you for the offense committed against you.
This can take the form of not taking revenge for the offense just suffered. An act of charity is required in order to wish for your spouse to NOT be required to do an act to make up for their offense against you.
Over time, this can grow into a habit of wanting to see the best in your spouse and to let their good qualities eclipse their bad ones. This is vital to practice forgiveness.
OFFERING IT UP
Vicarious suffering. While you can gain merit by enduring an injustice patiently, you can also gain merit for the one who slighted you. Each breach becomes an opportunity to pray for your spouse.
The ultimate example of this, of course, is Christ. He did not deserve His punishment, but He bore it in great love. He won for us an endless supply of merit that overflows to us, if we let it.
Thus, when you offer up your suffering for your offender’s benefit, you will see the time spent after the offense in a good light. You will stop the negative thoughts and feelings toward your spouse, hastening the healing process.
SUFFERING AN OFFENSE SERVES AS OPPORTUNITIES TO GROW IN VIRTUE
The only reason God allows you suffer is so that you will grow in some virtue.
If you are annoyed by your spouse, then that gives you a chance to practice patience. If the person you wedded does not value your opinion, then God wants you to work on your humility. And so on.
Your spouse is supposed to be helping you get to Heaven. Who knew they were giving you an opportunity to move one step closer, each time they hurt you?
Ever hit the weight room after a long hiatus? Or ever go for a long run after taking some time off? Doesn’t that first workout hurt a lot worse than the tenth consecutive time you do it?
The same goes for your exercise of the virtues. Virtues are nothing more than good habits. To grow in a virtue means you need to practice it, and build it up like a muscle.
Just as running over and over will lead to you desiring to do it, the same goes for practicing virtues. Over time, you will desire to grow in virtue, and so you will look for opportunities to do so. Thus, when your husband or wife does something that would normally hurt you, you take it as a means to grow instead.
Spouses who are willing to suffer for the other person are the ones who will have the happiest, most grace-filled marriages.
Sure, you may be willing to take a bullet for your wife, or be stricken with an illness in place of your husband. That is great but those are physical sufferings. Does that change if God asks you to withstand emotional pain, even from your spouse?
St Thomas says, when we do something in accord with our will, then we gain pleasure from it. Thus if you desire to endure suffering from the one you wed, then it will make it much more tolerable.
Again, God allows you to suffer in order to give you opportunities to grow in virtue. If you have developed a virtue and you get to exercise it according to your will, you will delight in it. If you do not yet have that virtue, it will be difficult at first to use that gift.
Being willing to endure suffering grows your virtue of mortification. While you’re busy doing that, you’re starving your desires.
This, in turn, helps you beat back any inordinate self-love, which, as I have blogged about, can stand in the way of a healthy, happy marriage.
Thus, your most serious wounds become your greatest allies. They serve as battle scars and proof of God’s abundant grace.
Where the devil used to pull open that scab time and again, he will learn to leave it alone; lest he watch you grow in the virtue that healed that injury.
By maintaining this attitude, you will see every single event in your life as a gift from God.
Each consolation is a means to thank Him and be happy. Every suffering becomes an occasion to grow in holiness, by practicing a virtue, which too leads to happiness.
Thus, by letting go of control over your spouse’s behavior and all other circumstances in your life, you can then embrace God’s will for your marriage and for your life. Come what may, you will see each occasion as a gift from God.
You must stop keeping score.
Reject the idea of exacting revenge on your spouse.
Be willing to suffer. Do so to not only make yourself happy, but for the holiness of your spouse. For, that is true love.
“[Love] does not brood over injury… It bears all things [and] endures all things. Love never fails,” Scripture tells us (1 Cor 13:5,7-8).
I am not claiming to have mastered all this. But God has recently given me the grace of seeing the beauty of forgiveness and I am seeing the fruits of this bear out in my life.
I pray you too will experience the wonderful gift of forgiveness in your marriage as well.
Special thanks to an excellent sermon on this topic.
So, can you relate to this one?
Do you have some forgiveness to do?
Or, did you learn this lesson already and care to share your experience?
Please sound off below!