Chapman goes on with forgiveness, saying, "It's a choice. You either choose to forgive, or hold it against them. If you choose to hold it against them, the relationship doesn't go forward. If you choose to forgive, it opens the door to possibility that the marriage can continue to grow. The decision to forgive can be made in an instant, even if the emotions might take a while."
What struck me most about the topic of learning to apologize and forgive well in marriage was both the self-awareness and selflessness required. Saying more than "I'm sorry" conveys genuine care for and understanding of the other person's perspective. It takes a great deal of personal reflection and humility to admit when one is wrong, but almost always, it creates space for vulnerability and healing to take place. It does, however, require a heartfelt willingness to understand and resolve the conflict by both people in the relationship—not just one.
Forgiveness, on the other hand, is a solo act.
Terri Schenzel, along with her husband of 27 years Ty Schenzel, co-created Hope Filled Marriage workshops. When it comes to forgiveness, Terri notes, "If we had hurts in our past, chances are there may be people we've never fully forgiven—including ourselves. Forgiveness is a lifestyle, not a feeling." Forgiveness isn't always fair, either. "If someone really hurt you, you don't want to let them off your hook if you have a high sense of justice. But, forgiveness is ultimately for you."
5. If you want a great committed relationship, start with the commitments you make to yourself.
One personal lesson I learned while listening to and observing the couples we interviewed was this: marital commitment is a promise you make not only to your spouse, but to yourself. Choosing to commit strengthens your personal integrity, and how you think and behave reflects the promises you’ve made, and the values and beliefs you say you have.
Keeping your personal commitments, big and small, better prepares you for the biggest commitment of all: the one you make to your spouse. Whether you're married or single, practice with keeping small commitments—like going for a morning run when it's on your calendar, to attending an event you said you would go to even if you're tired. Then, move on to bigger ones, like starting a dream project or running a marathon.
As you strengthen your commitment muscle, the benefit grows beyond your relationships—it deepens your personal integrity and resolve. This, in turn, signifies to the people you build relationships with that you are trustworthy, and the promises you make have value and meaning.
Whether you're preparing for marriage in the future, or looking to strengthen the one you are currently in, put these five lessons to the test. By studying what has worked for other happily married couples, we have the opportunity to learn from and create our own.