How can I get my husband to forgive me for being so harsh with him in the past? I know I've been overly critical of him, and as a result we're now sleeping in separate rooms and living separate lives under the same roof. Can you help us turn this situation around and move forward in our marriage?
There are a number of reasons your husband may be having trouble letting you off the hook for the hurtful things you've said in the past. An anger cycle is set in motion when a perceived need doesn't get met. In this case, your husband feels his need for respect has been violated. Your abusive comments have stirred a strong emotional reaction within him. The Bible tells us that if this kind of anger isn't dealt with promptly (Ephesians 4:26) it can develop into a deep-seated root of bitterness (Hebrews 12:15). Once established, this bitterness builds on itself and only becomes worse.
The good news is that it only takes one person to stop the cycle. In their book From Anger to Intimacy, Gary Smalley and Ted Cunningham argue that real intimacy can be reestablished in cases like yours if both parties are willing to take responsibility for their own feelings and behavior. As the offender, there's a sense in which you're in the best position to make the first move in that direction.
You can initiate a positive dialogue by citing particulars. For example, you can say, "I realize I hurt you when I said _____." Once you've taken that step, be as honest as you can about the negative emotions that are continuing to keep you and your husband apart. You might tell him, "When you sleep in another room, I feel lonely and unloved." Don't lose heart if your husband's first response isn't exactly what you were hoping for. His reaction doesn't necessarily reflect whether or not you communicated appropriately. It's simply an indication of where he's at emotionally. You can move beyond this first step by asking him what he heard you say. Then clarify what you meant and invite him to express his own feelings in greater depth.
Counseling can be an important aid in your efforts to get to the heart of the problem. A professional therapist will be able to assist you as you seek to identify destructive relational patterns and to avoid them in the future. Call our Counseling department for a list of referrals to Christian counselors in your area. We're here to come alongside you in any way we can, and we'd sincerely like to help you put your marriage on a new footing.
Critical Wife Seeks Husband's Forgiveness: Gary Smalley talks about how to restore relationship and regain emotional connection with someone you've offended.
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From Anger to Intimacy: How Forgiveness Can Transform Your Marriage
Hope Restored® marriage intensives
Walking in Forgiveness