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Danielle and Adam—Podcast hosts, partners in marriage, and parents to three

I heard someone say that forgiveness is a journey, not a destination. This put so much in perspective for me. When people ask me if I forgive Adam for everything he has put us through, I feel like I should be able to say yes since I am still with him. But the truth is, there are moments when I look at him, and I don’t forgive him; it all comes spilling back and it’s so overwhelming that I almost can’t cope. But there are more moments when I know I’m right where I should be, and I know that we will be ok. 

Danielle and Adam together for over 20 years

We are working hard consistently to keep doing better and heading in the same direction, together. I truly think we are better as a team than apart. But I don’t think in order to be with one another there needs to be this ultimate release of everything that has happened in the past. It’s part of our story, just like the good times.

I need to stop thinking of forgiveness as a finish line that needs to be crossed. I don’t think in order to proceed ahead I need to completely put the past behind me.

It’s the hardships that we’ve been through that keep us both wanting to do better, and make us appreciate the present when it’s better than the past, and will make us hope for a future that looks different and fresh from where we’ve been. I think we’re constantly forgiving one another and ourselves over and over.

There will never, in my opinion, be ultimate forgiveness because we will be human until the day we are no longer here, and that means more mistakes and misturns.

Danielle and Adam

I’ve often felt this guilt for harboring some resentment. What’s the official time period for being allowed to hold on to something that’s happened to you? I know, we shouldn’t be constantly scolded for what we’ve done in the past, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be allowed to think about it, right? 

Sometimes I just want to feel whatever I want without there being a right way, a correct amount, and a psychological or spiritual system attached to it. So, I’m not putting a timer on forgiveness. I’ll keep traveling at my own pace for as long as I need. Along the way, I’ll have setbacks, all while working towards feeling more peace, acceptance and growth. 

*Danielle’s story is shared with permission. I Do Part Two encourages you to check out Danielle and Adam every week on their podcast, Marriage and Martinis.

“I want you to listen, really listen to me.”I want to be heard.

“You shouldn’t feel that way.”I want to be validated.

“You never support me in front of your friends”I want to be protected.

One of the most common messages we receive at I Do Part Two is the desire to feel validated. If you have ever felt this way, you are not alone. Validation is one of the most important tools of communication in marriage. It allows you to support your spouse, even when you disagree. 

A good example of validating your spouse’s feelings would be to put away your device when they’re talking—listen to understand what they are saying from their point-of-view.

A friend was sharing with her husband about a disagreement she had with a co-worker and he replied, “What did you do to set her off?” This would be an example of not validating your partner’s feelings.

Our feelings are like a personal alert system—they aren’t right or wrong. They reflect our thoughts, experiences, and perceptions. They help us to understand how we are feeling about a conversation or an interaction with our partner. The Gottman Institute, a highly regarded licensed counseling group, points out that when our partner ignores or dismisses our feelings, “it is a form of relational trauma which, over time, harms the brain and nervous system.”

Where does this lack of empathy come from? For many of us, it’s just not in our natural wiring. And it may go way back—possible before our earliest tangible memory. As children, we may have also learned to not “talk back” to our elders, not to make too much noise, or not to bother anyone while they’re reading, cooking, or working on a project. 

Maybe you watched as one parent berated the other parent or an older sibling, and the message formed loud and clear in your growing brain, “Don’t speak up, stay small, and by all means—don’t share your feelings.”

How would you know how to show empathy and validate others’ feelings if it was never modeled for you?

Awareness: Simply recognizing that this is an issue for you and acknowledging your willingness to work on it is the first step. Experts recommend individual and couples counseling, reading books on the topic, and working on listening to understand from your partner’s perspective. Also, I would add, let them know you love and care about them, and you do not want them to feel invalidated anymore.

The Gottman Institute recommends three steps toward healing: (but friends, this will take some time.)

  1. Atone: Apologizing and asking for forgiveness is crucial; it is a practice that heals ourselves and others—again and again.
  2. Attune: This means listening, perhaps for the very first time and seeing the situation “through their eyes.” When we are really listening for understanding, we’re able to share someone else’s story from their perspective. 
  3. Attachment: If your partner is there for you and has your back, you will feel secure in your attachment to them. The closeness creates a deeper bond where trust and commitment can flourish. 

The Gottman Institute (and I paraphrase), recommends committing to repeatedly working to Atone, Attune and Attach on an ongoing basis. In other words:

  • Apologize when you are in the wrong
  • Listen to your partner and understand from their point-of-view
  • Validate your partner’s concerns, they will feel more secure.

If this story resonated with you, it’s either because you have felt “unheard” or realize you have some work to do. Friends, it’s never too late to work on your relationship skills and say you are sorry. Learning how to empathize and validate another’s feelings is probably one of the most powerful relationship skills most of us were never taught. By Lisa Reinhart-Speers

*Please note: Where a licensed expert is not credited, I share from my own experience gained from 28 years of marriage, reading loads of marriage articles and books, and working with numerous licensed marriage counselors myself over the years—much of which was sought pro-actively with my husband, so we could learn new skills as we hit road bumps or new phases in life, like empty-nesting. It is a never-ending process but well worth it—By Lisa Reinhart-Speers @I Do Part Two

Jennifer Thompson, writer, with her husband

I will never forget something our pastor said to us when we were going through premarital counseling many years ago.

“A marriage isn’t two people each giving 50%,” he said. “It’s two people each giving 100%.”

This hit me. Hard.

I had always thought of relationships as 50/50 propositions. You each give. And you each take. You try to make it as equal as possible. Right?

Wrong.

It is give. And it is take. That is correct.

But it isn’t giving half of yourself.

It’s giving all of yourself. It’s two people giving everything they can to each other. It’s two people trying their best to love each other well, each and every day.

Will it be perfect?

No way.

Marriage is two imperfect people coming together. There is absolutely no such thing as a perfect marriage.

Does the give and take always look equal? No.

There are some seasons when it is more give. And more take. I may need more from my spouse right now than he does from me. And vice a versa.

But it all balances out. It’s a beautiful dance.

You may hear this 100% giving of yourself and think, that sounds nice in theory, but do you know how exhausted I am? After caring for the kids. And my house. And my job. And all of the things. I am lucky to give 5%.

It may feel that way.

But giving 100% doesn’t mean you are giving perfection. It simply means you are trying your best. Just like we tell our kids when they get a lower grade than they wanted on a test. Did you try your best? Did you give it your all? That’s all we ever ask.

Marriage is two imperfect people loving each other. Supporting each other. Listening to each other. Accepting each other. Giving each other grace. Lots. And lots. And lots of grace.

It’s picking up the slack when the other person needs it most. It’s letting go of past mistakes. And not holding grudges.

It’s living in the moment. And addressing concerns as they arise.

It’s owning your mistakes. And saying I’m sorry.

And forgiving. Just as you long to be forgiven.What I give every day isn’t based on what my husband is giving to me. And that is the most beautiful part of the dance. I give 100% because of the love I have for him. And he gives 100% because of the love he has for me.

And back and forth and back and forth it goes.

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