You may be surprised at the advice I give when I encounter lack of forgiveness. I’ve seen this method work in countless marriages, and I believe in its effectiveness because it addresses the unresolved anger that often feeds our failure to forgive. Arguments frequently become so toxic and volatile in their language and tone that they drive a deeper wedge of division into the marriage. So this is what I propose for couples who are in a marriage with unresolved anger:
Say or do something every day that expresses value to your spouse. This might be a note, an unexpected phone call, a nonsexual hug or a time of cuddling. Married couples are good at doing big things on birthdays, anniversaries or Valentine’s Day, but they often neglect small, consistent ways of expressing that they value each other.
Pray daily for and with each other. This is a specific time for you to come together—holding hands or holding each other, kneeling beside the bed or sitting on the couch—and pray aloud for your marriage. This is not an opportunity to hash out differences by bringing them before the Lord in prayer. It’s a time to pray that God will bless your spouse and that He will bless the two of you together with His grace and mercy.
Date regularly. By date, I mean doing something fun together every other week, if not more often. It doesn’t count if you’re just grabbing dinner at a restaurant because neither of you feels like cooking. Too many marriages get caught up in drudgery or routine, and spouses lose the joy they once shared.
Set a weekly agreed-upon time when you allow the spouse who holds the unresolved anger to vent. Many married couples rarely give each other the freedom to deal with frustration by speaking. I don’t mean couples don’t yell at each other; they do all the time. But this is a set time—one hour every week—when one spouse is allowed to vent his or her pain without the fear of being shut down. This means that the other spouse agrees not to argue, defend or tune out. Turn off the television and your phone. The other spouse must agree to give his or her undivided attention to the venting spouse. When you agree to listen, the spouse who is venting also agrees not to bring up these issues during the week—unless something is time sensitive. Before long, that one hour may turn into 30 minutes and then 15 minutes. Then it may not be needed at all.
Taken from Kingdom Marriage, a Focus on the Family book published by Tyndale House Publishers. Copyright © 2016 by Tony Evans. Used by permission. All rights reserved.