9 Ways to Cultivate Forgiveness in Your Marriage

There are many ways to cultivate forgiveness in your marriage. The first should be to put God at the head of your marriage. That is the most important step, but I also want to share nine other ways you can cultivate forgiveness in your marriage.

Alexander Pope’s phrase, “To err is human, to forgive is divine,” is often used to discuss the importance of forgiving one another as God has forgiven us. This adage still holds up today, whereas the popular playground saying that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” does not.

Friends, words hurt, period. In marriage, it is easy to forget that and unleash a moment of anger on the person who means the most to us in the world. So, how do we cultivate forgiveness in marriage?

Talk Openly About Everything

Ephesians 4:29 (NIV) says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” It is important to talk to your husband about everything, especially the small, insignificant things.

By sweating the small stuff together, we practice communicating openly and honestly, which makes it easier when the big things happen.

Don’t Go to Bed Angry

Ephesians 4:26-27 tells us, “‘In your anger do not sin.’ Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” I remember hearing this often growing up, but it’s true. Go to bed mad, wake up mad.

But if we stay awake until we have talked it all out and go to bed in a better place, the devil cannot get that foot in the door of our marriage. I’d rather go to bed content and wake up that way than feel angry before I’ve even made the coffee.

Admit When You Are Wrong

James 5:16 advises us, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” This goes back to putting God at the head of marriage. If He is there, then admitting when we are wrong and taking the appropriate steps to repair our damage is a natural progression.

Admitting when you are wrong or have made a mistake is the first step in forgiveness. Praying with and for each other provides the necessary healing to cultivate forgiveness further and lends to a deeper intimacy with your partner.

Pray For Your Spouse

Proverbs 4:23 reminds us to “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it,” and Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” These verses remind me of the children’s Bible song lyrics, “Oh Be Careful Little Eyes What You See.”

What we feel in our hearts and think in our minds often speaks truth into existence. With that sentiment in mind, it makes sense to pray for your spouse and the health of your marriage.

Practice the Pause

In James 1:19-20 we read, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”

Let me give an example. My husband cooked dinner and left the pots and pans soaking in the sink. I was angry, and during the argument, I brought up the time he skipped a date with me to hang out with a female friend while we were dating.

It’s a stretch, I know. But I yelled. Then he yelled. And suddenly, we are mad about something that happened roughly twenty-four years ago.

What if I had mentally pressed pause instead? He cooked dinner so I could do something else, and his cleanup approach is different from mine. If I had given myself time to process that, and we had been practicing number one on this list, we could have moved on without ever having fought or needing forgiveness in the first place.

Listen to Understand

“‘Consider what you hear,’ he continued. ‘With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them'” (Mark 4:24-25, NIV). Think about that. Then look at Proverbs 2:2, which says, “Turn your ear to wisdom and apply your heart to understanding.”

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Perception is reality”? It applies here. Even the closest of relationships can’t see the reasoning behind the way we feel as individuals. This is why listening with the intention to understand is so very important in our relationships.

Be Willing to Accept the Consequences of Your Actions

Look at what Proverbs 18:20-21 says: “From the fruit of their mouth a person’s stomach is filled; with the harvest of their lips they are satisfied. The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” What you say does matter.

Then Galatians 6:7-8 cautions us, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” Every word is a seed you’ll harvest someday.

When big things happen, we must remember the part we played and accept the consequences. It is never okay to abuse or harm your spouse. The Bible allows for divorce in those situations.

Taking responsibility for ourselves with the small things and practicing the other ideas in this list can help us avoid making mistakes that are big enough to warrant an end to the relationship.

Avoid Bringing Up the Past

Ever get stuck on a past transgression? Isaiah 43:18-19 reminds us to “‘Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

As I illustrated in the “practicing the pause” example, any time we throw the past out at our partner, we halt the cultivation of forgiveness and instead tread in quicksand.

Boundaries Are Healthy

1 Corinthians 6:12, “‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but I will not be mastered by anything.” This verse is specifically speaking about sexual immorality, but I feel like it can be applied to healthy boundary setting as well.

This is a sit-down conversation a husband and wife can have when the communication lines have been opened. When we respect our partners’ boundaries, we tell them that we understand what those boundaries are and what we are and are not comfortable with. And most importantly, we tell them that we respect them and our marriage enough not to cross boundaries.


No one wants to hurt the person they love the most, so practice apologizing when you’re wrong, and don’t go to bed angry. Listen to Colossians 3:13 and, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

Share this post: