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SALT LAKE CITY — Life is a complicated and messy endeavor. Life Coach Kim Giles is here to help you with simple, principle-based solutions to the challenges you face. Coach Kim will empower you to get along with others and become the best you.
The holiday season isn’t very fun at my house because my spouse and I aren’t getting along. It’s hard to enjoy the season when this most important relationship is not right. Do you have any advice for healing the problems between us?
I do have a suggestion — forgive.
You can change this situation right now by taking responsibility for the problem and saying sorry. Though the fault rests on both your shoulders equally, someone must let go of their need to be right and forgive first — and it’s probably going to have to be you.
This is not easy, though, and your ego will not want to do it.
Here are some suggestions that might make forgiveness easier. Forgiveness is easier when you: see yourself and your spouse accurately, see your spouse as the same as you, and choose love over everything else.
1. The first step is to make sure you can see yourself and your spouse accurately. You may not be seeing the situation accurately because your perspective is skewed by your fear you aren’t good enough or loved. This fear encourages you to take things personally and see offenses in everything. As long as you’re afraid you aren’t good enough, you will continue to have problems. Your must recognize the fear you are both experiencing.
Here are four principles of truth about human behavior that might bring some clarity:
- You and your spouse are both scared you aren’t good enough or aren’t loved.
- This fear is driving most of your bad behavior.
- Their bad behavior is about their fears about themselves.
- This means, their bad behavior is really a request for love and validation.
When you see their bad behavior accurately, for what it really is (fear) it makes forgiveness easier. Even when you feel attacked, remember it's not about you. It's a request for love.
2. The second step is to make sure you are seeing your spouse as the same as you. You have a tendency to see your spouse as the bad guy and see yourself as the good guy or the victim. You may have created a story to support this idea and you may be committed to being right about it, even if it’s not true. As long as your ego is stuck here you will never resolve this. You must see your spouse as the same as you.
Here are some principles of truth about your value:
- You and your spouse have the same value and that value is infinite and absolute. Your value isn't on the line here. You are both here, in the classroom of life, to learn and grow. You are both going to make mistakes in that process.
- There are no good guys and bad guys here. There are just two struggling, scared, divine, and amazing human beings, who both make mistakes and hurt each other on occasion.
- You may make different mistakes, but you are both imperfect and neither can cast the first stone. It doesn’t matter who was unkind first — if you were unkind second, you were still unkind. You are still the same.
- If you are accusing your spouse of not caring about you, you are not, in that moment, caring about them either. Your focus is on you.
- You are both human beings in process. This problem between you is here to teach you a lesson and facilitate your growth.
If you are having trouble seeing your spouse as the same as you, there is a worksheet here online which might help you to gain clarity around this.
3. Choose love over everything else. In every moment, in every situation, you have only two choices as far as your mindset and your response.
You can choose fear and pride — focusing on your own needs, protecting and promoting you. If you choose this, you will trigger fear and pride in your spouse and force them to focus on their needs and protecting themselves, too.
Or you can set your needs aside and choose love. To do this, ask yourself these questions:
- “What is my spouse afraid of?”
- "What does he or she really need in this moment?”
- “How can I give my spouse what he or she needs?”
- “If I choose to give and love, what will the results be?”
You will make this choice because there is no issue more important than love and forgiveness.
There are some situations — like with abuse — when you must protect yourself. Though I am not addressing those in this article. This article is for people who have garden-variety hurts and offenses, which are forgivable and fixable with some clarity and love.
Forgiveness means you allow your spouse to be imperfect and learning, because you’re imperfect and learning, too. This does not mean you should allow abusive behavior to go on. You should speak up and ask to be treated with love and respect, but you must do this from a place of love and accuracy, seeing them as the same as you, not from a place of fear, ego and blame.
If you are still having trouble with forgiveness, I strongly recommend you get some professional help. Learning some relationship skills can make a huge difference. I also recommend getting help at the first sign of resentment in your marriage, not waiting for the problems to get bigger.
You can do this.
*Kimberly Giles gives her advice in the "LIFEadvice" series every Monday on ksl.com. She is the president of Claritypoint Life Coaching and a sought-after life coach and popular speaker who specializes in repairing self-esteem. Listen to her Self Esteem CPR Workshop at www.claritypointcoaching.com.**