Forgiving in Marriage
By: Kia Stephens

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:32

When we stand at the altar and gaze into the eyes of our future spouse, we can’t imagine ever having a disagreement. In that idyllic moment, it seems that disappointment will never dawn on our doorstep. This was my assumption when I got married.

Which explains why I was not prepared when our first argument happened on our honeymoon. I can’t remember what we were at odds about, but I can remember the feeling of disillusionment. This was not what married life was supposed to be.

My misguided assumption was that marriage was a perpetual state of bliss. You know, boy meets girl, and the two ride off into the sunset on a white horse. I soon learned that disappointment, arguments, and forgiveness were a part of saying “I do”.

This would not be such a problem if we extracted our emotions out of the equation. Unfortunately, our soul is made up of our mind, will, and emotions. Thus, every painful experience is seared into our memory with the larger than life emotions that accompany them.

As a result, each offense may trigger the last time we had to forgive our spouse. Additionally, the brain has no trouble dredging up all of the feelings associated with that offense. Before we know it, we are tempted not to forgive our spouse at all.

After all, why forgive someone who may just go and commit the same offense again? Should we always be the first to say, “I’m sorry?” Sometimes things just don’t seem fair. Sound familiar?

It would be very easy to sit and rehearse these words over and over in our minds but that would not bring about healing or peace to anyone. Thankfully, the apostle Paul offers these words to the church at Ephesus. He says, “Be kind to one another’.

Following, Paul’s simple encouragement would require that we opt not to get even or seek revenge. He instructs us to show unconditional kindness that is not dependent on the actions of our spouse.

Then, as if needing to elaborate, he adds the word tenderhearted. This word is the antithesis of what culture teaches us about the heart. We are taught to be tough and show no sign of weakness, but here in Ephesians Paul admonishes us to be tenderhearted. This word in Greek means compassionate and merciful. We are to show mercy to our spouse even when they seemingly don’t deserve it. Lastly, Paul says we should do these things as we forgive one another in the same way Christ has forgiven us.

When we reflect on the actions of Jesus we have no excuse for withholding forgiveness from our spouse. Christ’s sacrificial death is the ultimate motivation for living a lifestyle of forgiveness. In forgiving our spouse it does not mean we ignore, dismiss, discount or become a doormat. It means we willingly relinquish our right to hold our spouse responsible for the wrong they have done to us. We can offer this type of unconditional forgiveness because it has been modeled on our behalf by our Savior Christ Jesus.

Kia Stephens is a wife and homeschooling mom of two who is passionate about encouraging the hearts of women. For this reason, she created The Father Swap Blog to help women exchange their father-wounds for the love of God the Father. Kia is also the founder of Entrusted Women, which she created to equip Christian women communicators of color. Kia’s writing has been featured on Ann Voskamp’s blog, Christianity Today,, Beloved Women, Crosswalk and Incourage. When she is not writing or serving women, she enjoys spending quality time with her family and friends. You can connect with Kia at

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