By Sarah Geringer
It only took me 20 years to learn this lesson: Saying yes to forgiveness every day in your marriage is a prescription for peace.
How I wish I had started practicing this in year one — no, week one — of our marriage. I would have experienced much less heartache and much more goodwill toward my husband.
Making the bed was just one of the many areas over which we fought, starting at the very beginning of our marriage. I took the logical route: The last one to get up should be the one to make the bed, I told him. But he didn’t see things the same way. That’s when my frustration set in.
The unmade bed became a symbol of our many stuck points. Some days, I’d leave the covers in a pile, childishly refusing to engage with my unwanted responsibility. The unforgiveness inside me began piling up, too.
But I hated the feeling of getting into bed with a mound of wrinkles at my feet. So, I started making the bed every day after he left, fuming and fussing with self-pity.
This pattern continued for years, and resentment soon set in. Not just for our unmade bed, either. After 19 years of marriage, my enormous resentment pile was based on many areas where I felt he both intentionally and unintentionally hurt me.
In year 19, we experienced unprecedented troubles. We were at a make-or-break point. In couples therapy, I was forced to take a hard look at my towering pile of resentment. I didn’t want that pile to destroy me or our marriage any longer.
But I knew I couldn’t tear 19 years of pain and anger down in one fell swoop. It had to be dismantled one day at a time, and I needed a reminder to tackle the work. So, I decided to pair forgiveness with a daily task — making the bed.
Each morning, as I pull up the sheets and blankets, I forgive him for what I call sins of commission — the infractions I perceive to be intentional. I cover them over with the quilt I made him as a wedding present, choosing to remember why I fell in love with him in the first place, before all the hurts existed. I also choose to view him with compassion, based on the insight I’ve gained into his past hurts, which sometimes cause him to act out.
Then, as I set the pillows in place, I forgive him for the sins of omission — the things I wish he would do, things he may not even realize are important to me. I remind myself if I want him to do something, I need to speak up. As I remember times I did speak up but he refused, I grieve my losses once more and step into acceptance.
After practicing this ritual for a whole year, I can honestly say I leave our bedroom with a greater sense of peace every morning. The bed looks nicer, and it is more comfortable to slide into at night. But more importantly, my yes to forgiveness every day in our marriage is a gift to myself. It’s physical proof I’m dismantling the resentment pile inside my heart. It’s also proof that change is possible even after 20 years of marriage. And that change starts with me.