"All blame is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you find with another, and regardless of how much you blame him, it will not change you. The only thing blame does is to keep the focus off you when you are looking for external reasons to explain your unhappiness or frustration. You may succeed in making another feel guilty about something by blaming him, but you won't succeed in changing whatever it is about you that is making you unhappy."
- Dr. Wayne W. Dyer , best-selling author and motivational speaker.

Mr. Dyer knows what he’s talking about because as you might imagine...

Being able to forgive someone is one of the most essential skills in a long-term happy marriage.

Let’s face it, we’re all human, we all married someone human, and all humans make mistakes. Some of these mistakes are minor and some can be life-altering.  But in order to move forward and feel safe and happy in marriage, all of these mistakes must be forgiven.

So let’s first define Forgiveness.  It is often defined as letting go of resentment, indignation or anger as a result of a perceived offense, difference of opinion or mistake. In other words, it’s about letting go of the feelings that were hurt when we thought the other person “messed up.”  I also believe that forgiveness entails no longer seeking or demanding punishment or restitution for that perceived offense.  In other words, forgiveness has two parts - letting go and moving forward.

Why does forgiveness matter?  Well, there are lots of great comments about this. Bernard Meltzer said, “When you forgive, you in no way change the past - but you sure do change the future.”

Said another way, the past can’t be changed.  It has already happened and there’s nothing either of us can do about it.  What we’re left with, then, is a choice about how we intend to go on.  Yes, I said a choice. Forgiveness is in our control.  It’s ours to give or withhold and we can choose whether we want to be stuck living in the past, holding onto our pain and resentment or living for today and the future, and letting go.  We can only let go if we forgive.

Lewis Smedes said, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”

When we refuse to forgive, we keep the past alive in our thoughts.  These thoughts can be so vivid that we feel as if the pain is reoccurring over and over in the present moment.  But in the end, who does that really hurt?  By repeatedly focusing on the pain from a past experience, you continue to relive it and often expand upon it. Not only do you allow the pain from the past to continue to damage the relationship, you choose to let it repeatedly damage you.  To illustrate that, Maya Angelou said:  “Resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”  To withhold forgiveness damages not only the relationship, but also yourself and, therefore, your future.  

So, instead, as Mr. Dyer so aptly points out, look to your own part in the issue, forgive the other person, move forward and be happy!

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Have you and your spouse been arguing a lot lately? Are you feeling anger and resentment?  Are you having trouble forgiving?  Please comment below.

Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders, StrongMarriageNow.com