Within a marriage, “little” things often have the greatest impact. And unforgiving attitudes about those little things often sow seeds of greater unhappiness.
The following are a few suggestions of some things for which we might ask forgiveness from our husband or wife:
1. Forgive me for not always being your friend. Remember the times during our courtship when we would talk and laugh for hours? We wanted above all else to spend time with each other. There have been times when we were very good friends; forgive me for the times I wasn’t a friend you could talk to—or relax and laugh with. I’m sorry for those times when I didn’t listen without criticizing or judging you. Forgive me for the times I wasn’t your friend when that was all you needed of me.
2. Forgive me for the times I didn’t place you as my number-one priority. I know there have been times when I’ve allowed children, parents, friends, hobbies, job, sports, or church responsibilities to become more important than your happiness and welfare. I’m sure it must have hurt when you saw me allowing other things to come first in my life.
3. Forgive me for the times I have taken your gifts of time, effort, and concern for granted. I suspect that there were even times when I might have thought some of your acts were merely part of your marital responsibilities. It is true that there are obligations that go with marriage, but it still would have helped if I had expressed my appreciation more often. I apologize for the times you hoped I would notice and were disappointed when I didn’t.
4. Forgive me for not being there when you needed me. I am sorry for waiting until you told me to do something rather than seeing and doing what was needed on my own. Sometimes I even waited until you did it yourself. Sometimes I was preoccupied; other times I guess I just saw you as being strong and not really needing my help. Since none of us can be strong all the time, I would especially like to ask your forgiveness for the times I was not there when you needed comfort, support, and understanding.
5. Forgive me for not accepting a less-than-perfect you. I’m not sure why I sometimes expect you to be perfect, since I am willing to accept imperfection in others, especially myself. Yet at times I have insisted on holding you up against an ideal or fantasy of what a spouse should be. As a consequence, I was more involved with wanting you to be perfect than with helping you seek improvement in your own way. Forgive me for the times I didn’t accept you for who you are.
6. Forgive me for the times I have been selfish. I am sorry for all the times I satisfied my needs in ways that interfered with your ability to satisfy yours. I apologize for the times I insisted on being right. Even more important, forgive me for the times I believed I was more intelligent, more courageous, or more sophisticated than you. I can now more fully understand that we are truly equals in the eyes of God, and that this is how we should see each other.
7. Forgive me for the promises, implied or explicit, that I have broken. I am sure that at the time I made promises to you, I fully believed that I could keep them. When we were first married, I vowed that you would never regret marrying me. Forgive me if I have given you even one momentary regret for having made that decision. I would like to renew that promise; I promise you tomorrows that may be filled with both joy and sadness, but never with regret for having married me.
8. Forgive me for not helping you reach a greater level of spirituality. I apologize for the times I didn’t enhance or encourage greater spirituality in our home. I regret the times my actions detracted from your level of spirituality. Forgive me for anything I have said or done—intentionally or not—that has discouraged your faith or diminished your testimony.
9. Forgive me for not forgiving you. Forgive me for the times I harbored resentments and used those feelings as an excuse to distance myself from you. I’m sorry I sometimes tried to get even. I realize now that forgiveness means letting go of all desire for revenge. I ask for your forgiveness, as I forgive you.
If we are to truly live the teachings of the gospel, we must “let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from [us], with all malice:
“And be … kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven [us].” (Eph. 4:31–32.)
Bernard Poduska, an associate professor at Brigham Young University and a marriage and family therapist, is a high councilor in the Orem Utah East Stake.