The Journey of Unforgiveness


I’m reading a book by Paul Tripp about marriage. It’s called, “What did you expect?” In one chapter he outlines 7 stages that damage marriages. This is my perspective and elaboration on his wisdom.

{7 Stages of Unforgiveness}

1) Immaturity and Failure

It starts when we forget that both of us are sinners; often there is this expectation of a marriage filled with fluffy rainbows and sparkly butterflies and so when our spouse sins against us, we are surprised and react poorly. I’m sure I don’t need to elaborate on what “poorly” looks like, but for me it has included throwing things, screaming, running away, blaming and other things I am too ashamed to write here. Tripp says this is setting the direction for my marriage in the future.  The thought has changed me and I have resolved to change my behavior, but my changing has come with a new expectation… If I change, he has to as well! Wrong. Does God promise in the Bible that your husband will change if you do? No. It’s hard to come to grips with such a reality and I struggle with it today, but is any obedience to God too hard in light of all that I have been forgiven?

2) Falling into Comfortable Patterns

Trip says “confrontation, confession and forgiveness are all work, it is easier to give way to lower urges (88).” I know what this looks like for me. Without immediate confrontation, confession and forgiveness, I let time pass and begin to compose a long list of negative thoughts. Then I dwell. I once heard someone say that our thought life is like a path. If you walk down a path enough times, it becomes worn and easier to travel on. If I develop a habit of thinking negatively about my husband, it will become easier and easier and will eventually weaken my affection for him. The hard path (Philippians 4:8) is always going to have prickers, mosquitos, logs to stumble over and branches clouding my view. But I heard that if I trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not on what I understand, he will make my paths straight.

3) Establishing Defenses

The Great Wall of China and the Berlin Wall both had one primary function, to keep enemies out. These monstrosities can be built in my heart. A pattern of negative thinking is followed by me building a wall, posting myself in the watch tower, and if he gets close, I start shooting. This isn’t good. God says, “. . . I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19).” We are called to have tender hearts. This isn’t easy, especially when he/she is being nasty and actively seeking to hurt. No matter what it feels like in the moment, I remind myself that he isn’t the enemy, Satan is. God tear down my walls and change my perspective.

4) Nurturing Dislike

“What did I ever see in you?” I’ve thought that. This is the stage where I can’t remember one good thing about my spouse. Negative thinking again. The path is well worn and at this point it’s even paved! In fact, I’ve installed benches every few yards where I can camp out on a particularly nasty thought. My mom taught me something very valuable here: to get yourself out of this, think of one good thing about him. It could be simple like, “I respect him for going to work,” or, “I respect that he makes the bed every morning.” Even this might be hard, but do it. Camp out on that thought every day and look for more good ones. Build the list and tear down that wall.

5) Becoming Overwhelmed

What it looks like: everyday I wake up and before I have a cup of coffee or brush my teeth, I have put on invisible boxing gloves. They are heavy. I anticipate the same hooks, same jabs, same tactics, every day.  It’s exhausting. Take those gloves off. God is always victorious and he doesn’t need anyone in the ring with him.

6) Envy of Other Couples

This is a major fail in 4 ways: 1st, as a wise Pastor once said, “The grass isn’t greener on the other side. It’s green where you water it.” 2nd: who cares if that couple’s marriage is amazing? I must bless them, and pray for my marriage! 3rd, I don’t know what’s going on with other couples. He could be beating her. She might be the biggest nag in the world. I only know what they show. 4th: envying others may cause me to dislike them, not because of anything they have done, but because of my selfishness.

7) Fantasies of Escape

Ladies especially, we go here. Instead of using our wild imaginations to conjure up ideas of how we may be contributing to the issue or if we aren’t the problem, how to help our spouse in their pride, we might instead create a fantasy life where our spouse doesn’t exist and life is as it should be according to us. When I am not careful, I am suddenly driving a beautiful orange Lotus on the way to my Italian villa, not a human in sight. James 1:14-15 says, “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” These fantasies are going to have you either very dissatisfied with life or they are going to lead you to do something foolish.


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