The Power of Forgiveness in Marriage

Successful marriages are established and maintained by … FORGIVENESS.

By Celeste

This post is part of a 10-part series celebrating the 20th anniversary of The Family: A Proclamation to the World, specifically the sentence, “”Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.”

Yesterday we talked about what to do when you mess up.  Today we’re talking about what to do when your spouse messes up.  These two components- repentance and forgiveness are CRUCIAL to a successful and happy marriage.

Also, check out the GIVEAWAY at the end of the post!


I knew right away I wanted to tackle the forgiveness topic for this series.  I am ALL about forgiveness these days.

But Celeste, didn’t you just recently talk about forgiveness?  A lot?

Why yes I did, how kind of you to remember this post I wrote for Family, Good Things To Come.  And also this rather lengthy introduction I wrote for it here.

But I am still not done talking about it yet!  I’m not going to offer you a handy list of advice or amusing marital anecdotes in this post (I made those efforts in yesterday’s).  Today I’m just going to sit on my couch and chat with you dear reader about what reading and thinking about forgiveness has done for my marriage the past few months (fair warning, I get pretty chatty when I’m comfortable).

Take a seat.

Ok, so back in June (while researching for that forgiveness article I wrote), I went down a Youtube rabbit hole watching videos of Dr. Fred Luskin’s speeches, a professor at Stanford known as the forgiveness expert.  I was doing the dishes at the time and couldn’t even focus (as captivating as my dishes are).  His words started filling my soul right on up.

Over the next few days I watched more and more.  I LOVED how it made me feel- so full of love and patience and gratitude.  My love tank was filling up without even interacting with my husband. I felt so in love with him and lucky and free from worry just from listening to Dr. Luskin talk about forgiveness.

I knew I wanted more, so I bought “Forgive For Love” – his book on the power of forgiveness in long-term relationships and how to harness it.


Guys. You. Guys. This book.  I put this book on my top three most influential books I’ve read in the past five years (and I read A LOT of self-help books).  It’s for sure the most influential marriage book I’ve read.  And just this year I read two of the most popular marriage books of all time- The Five Love Languages and Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.  Both of which are fabulous, but for some reason Forgive for Love just got to the very heart of all the little things that keep me from loving my husband like I should and taught me how.

And it’s not a well-known book.  I would actually love for someone else to read it and tell me if it did the same for them or if it was just exactly what I needed to read at this time in my life.  I felt like it was the solution to a problem I didn’t even know I had.  It filled a hole I didn’t know was there.

I should probably preface that Rich has never done anything major that warranted forgiveness, which is what most people think of when they think of forgiveness- a major event of wrongdoing.  Dr. Luskin says, “throughout the course of our lives we encounter only a few big problems. What causes most of our stress is the accumulation of little problems and irritations that we do not handle well.”  Yes!  This!

In any case, here’s what learning about forgiveness has taught me to do:

  1. Forgiveness has taught me to truly be able to love unconditionally. I unknowingly put conditions on my love all the time.  I totally love my husband . . . except when he comes home late or gets more sleep than me, or or or . . .  CONDITIONS.  Forgiveness has taught me to love my husband exactly how he is.  I still talk to him about ways to improve our relationship sure, but bitterness, resentment, disappointment- those negative feelings have lessened so much from our day to day interactions.
  2. Forgiveness has freed me from feeling like I need to nag.  I don’t know why but I unconsciously I have this idea that I’m somehow responsible for my spouse’s progression.  This thought causes me to feel angst when I see a task he has left undone or when his spiritual progression ebbs and flows or when he doesn’t jump at every opportunity I think he would be great at.  This angst causes me to nag.  Forgiveness has taught me to let Rich be Rich.  To love him for his good points and let the rest go.  Letting go has been SO SO freeing let me tell you.  A weight has lifted I didn’t realize I was carrying.  And Rich is ever so grateful 🙂
  3. Forgiveness has taught me how to really be grateful for my husband.  I try to say “thank you” as much as I can, but true feelings of gratitude need to go deeper to penetrate the heart.  Dr. Luskin has this great tip to acknowledge each time they use their agency to act positively. When you see something positive your spouse is doing, think of all the other things they COULD be doing.  Such as, “Wow, my husband is CHOOSING to spend his free time reading to the kids.  He could be on the iPad or doing any number of other things.” Or,  “Wow, my husband is choosing to wake up with our kids and help me get them ready for school.  He could have slept in.  He could have gone into work early or just focused on getting himself ready.  Instead, he is choosing to spend his time helping me.”  See?  So helpful.  Forgiveness and gratitude feed off each other.
  4. Forgiveness has taught me I can be at peace when I do not get what I want.  In fact, that is how Dr. Luskin defines forgiveness:

“Forgiveness is the ability to remain at peace when you do not get what you want.”

It helps me to think of things that bother me this way.  I didn’t get invited to some event and all my other friends did?  Well, I didn’t get what I wanted, but I can forgive.  My kids don’t eat their dinner? Ever?  Well, I didn’t get what I wanted, but I can forgive.  Forgiveness is the power to not be bothered by your circumstances, which is basically like a superpower.

How forgiveness taught me to love. 

Anyway, I’m sure not all of you will go out and read this book (I know it surprises me too), but I still want you to benefit from it, so I’m leaving you with some of my favorite quotes/ideas from the book.  Enjoy.

  • “Forgiveness contains the understanding that another person’s action, no matter how awful, does not compel you to be endlessly miserable, angry, or emotionally distraught.”


  • “Forgiveness does not require you to stop asking for what you want. Nor does it suggest that there is something wrong with you for wanting your partner to take out the garbage or turn out the lights….It simply means you can contentedly live with your lover without getting upset every time he or she chooses to ignore your wishes.”


  • “When you combine the two components of forgiveness—staying calm and taking the time to grieve your losses—you are able to return to peace after your lover did not provide you with what you wanted.”


  • “When you feel grateful for your lover, you are able to feel forgiving toward him or her. When we forgive them, we can see them fully enough to lose the need to punish them for their failures.”


  • “By forgiving first and negotiating second, a couple can disagree yet still forgive each other. Connect deeply with your lover’s good intentions so that you can forgive your lover’s failed manifestations of those intentions.”


  • “Instead of being critical, try to talk about your partner’s good points as often as possible. You have more control over the words you speak than anything else in life, and every moment you can make the choice between using positive language or negative language. The best contribution you can make to your marriage is the quality of the words you use.”


  • “Disappointment is inevitable in a relationship, but harping on it is a choice.”

Well friend, this chat on my couch has lasted WAY LONGER than I anticipated.  I’ll leave you with a giveaway for your patience and good behavior.

PS If you are enjoying this series on my blog, be sure to check out the other awesome blogs participating in this series:CranialHiccups and Being LDS

You can also share your love of family by sharing photos online this month under the hashtag #ILovetheFamilyProclamation.

********************* GIVEAWAY*********************

Bring the Spirit into your home with this set of sacred music. Perfect for your family’s Sabbath day worship!

sacred music cds

40 Hymns for Forty Days by Paul Cardall invokes an environment of prayer, meditation, and spiritual awareness. Walk Beside Me is a classical take on LDS children’s favorites by the Classical String Quartet. The Master is a rare collection of hymns performed by the talented youth of the American Heritage Lyceum Philharmonic.


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5 thoughts on “The Power of Forgiveness in Marriage

  1. The whole idea that forgiveness is a choice is one I have liked for a long time. And it is great for the “little things.” As we know, it is always by small and simple things that great things (good and bad) happen. Nice post.

  2. I love this post and the last one about forgiveness and I have been meaning to get my hands on this book.
    As I was reading this post it made me think of my daughter who has been having lots of trouble with tantrums and upsetness that has caused her to have trouble in school. Perhaps I need to be better at teaching her to forgive. I never thought of it that way but now it is clear that’s what she is struggling with. yay, inspiration!
    also I love what you said about letting Rich be Rich. I need to remember that for my husband too. It’s not my job to make sure that he is perfect. Sounds silly but I guess it is a burden we kind of carry without realizing it.

  3. Wow, Celeste, this was perfect for me today. Thanks. I’m definitely going to read that book now. I’m reading Love is a Choice but this one sounds really good. Thanks.

  4. I loved this explanation of Forgiveness. I think it is really powerful, knowing that you can find peace. Because to me, Forgiveness is peace–peace for you and peace for the other person.

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