Forgiveness for Couples

Couples, married partners and families are under significant stress as a result of narcissism (selfishness) and excessive anger in the home and in the culture. Excessive anger is one of the major reasons for marital conflict, marital separations and divorce and for conflicts in parent-child, sibling, and in-law relationships. The regular use of forgiveness and other virtues by spouses can resolve angry feelings, thereby protecting and strengthening marital and family relationships.

You can evaluate your loving and marital relationships using these checklists:

  • The Marital Friendship and the Self-Giving Checklist. Marital friendship and happiness are dependent upon the ability of spouses to give themselves to each other, to their children, to work, to the care of the home, to relatives and friends and, in Christian marriages, to God. The marital self-giving checklist helps couples evaluate the quality of their marital friendship, romantic relationship and betrothed love.
  • Narcissism Checklist. Selfishness is one of the major enemies of married love. This common personality weakness is a major cause of marital anger, conflict and divorce. Unless it is uncovered and resolved by growth in virtues, selfishness will lead spouses to treat loved ones as objects and not as gifted persons.
  • Anger Checklist and Fitzgibbons Anger Inventory. Evaluate yourself and your spouse with this Anger Checklist then rate your anger with the Fitzgibbons Anger Inventory which has been in use for nearly 20 years and is the only measure which has been demonstrated in a research study to be a quantitatively valid measure.

All the checklists above were developed by The Institute for Marital Healing at Comprehensive Counseling Services which has worked with several thousand couples since 1976. Established by Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, the Institute employs a time-tested approach to marital therapy that recognizes the importance of both science and faith in the process of marital healing through a combination of online resources, educational programs and publications.

Dr. Fitzgibbons has worked with Dr. Robert Enright, founder of the International Forgiveness Institute, and the two coauthored a textbook on treating excessive anger in psychiatric disorders Helping Clients Forgive: An Empirical Guide for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope and a recently-released updated version of that guide called Forgiveness Therapy.

More recently, Dr. Enright penned this March 11, 2017 blog post entitled Five Forgiveness Exercises for Couples that ran in Psychology Today. In that article, Dr. Enright suggests that couples complete his "five forgiveness exercises, which can be started today, as a way of addressing both inner conflict, resentment, and misery and relational misery." Dr. Enright is a regular contributor to and you can find links to other Dr. Enright forgiveness posts at the end of the Five Forgiveness Exercises for Couples blog.

Apologies and Forgiveness Could Save Your Marriage

The capacity to seek and grant forgiveness is one of the most significant factors contributing to marital satisfaction and a lifetime of love. Couples who practice forgiveness can rid themselves of the toxic hurt and shame that holds them back from feeling connected to each other. Here are five articles to help you understand the importance of a sincere apology and forgiveness for both you and your partner:

Forgiveness: An Invitation to a Second Chance at Love

According to Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D. in Emotional Fitness, forgiveness is an invitation to a second chance at love.“It can be hard to forgive,” Barton says,” especially if your partner has broken the most solemn of their marriage vows. Surprisingly, infidelity is not necessarily fatal to a relationship. With the appropriate communication, therapy and a willingness to let go, many couples get past it. As strange as it may seem, in some cases, the healing process can actually make a relationship stronger. Read Dr. Barton's article Infidelity and Forgiveness in Psychology Today. An in-depth look at marital infidelity and the four phases of the healing process is provided on Dr. Fitzgibbons website.

If you’re really serious about forgiveness in the couples relationship, we encourage you to follow the path to forgiveness that Dr. Enright outlines in his book Forgiveness is a Choice: A Step-by-Step Process for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope.

Here are some simple tips to keep your love for life: How to Save Your Marriage includes five steps every couple should take before throwing in the towel. One of the most effective tools--especially in emotionally charged, high conflict divorces--is forgiveness. Forgiveness may seem like the last thing you'd want to consider when you are upset with your ex-spouse, but here are Seven Reasons to Forgive Your Ex by attorney-mediator Eileen Barker. For a true example of forgiving the one you love, read this amazing story: After Near-Fatal Shooting, Woman Forgives Husband Who Hired Hitman to Kill Her.

Is Marriage Counseling Right for You?

While you may be considering divorce, you’re also likely to be wondering whether your marriage can be saved. If you find yourself dwelling on that question often—or if you’d simply like to settle your affairs more smoothly—it may be wise to consider marriage counseling first. Richard Varga, M.A., who has been practicing relationship therapy for more than 20 years, has developed a Marriage Assessment Checklist that you can use to help determine if counseling is right for you. The checklist is one of several in his new book How to Stop Your Divorce.
If you decide to pursue counseling, several excellent resources are available to help you choose the right counselor including these:

1) The American Psychological Association (APA) has a helpful fact sheet called How to Choose a Psychologist with sections including "Credentials to look for," "What to consider when making the choice," and "Questions to ask." The APA also maintains a searchable database called Psychologist Locator where you can search by zip code, city, state, and area of specialization.

2) Psychology Today has assembled a directory of therapists that is searchable by state, by major US cities, by Canadian provinces, and by major Canadian cities. The database includes Psychologists, Counselors, Therapists, Psychiatrists, and Social Workers. You can even search based on the type of counseling you need including: divorce, addiction, anger management, domestic abuse, family conflict, infidelity, relationship issues and more. The online directory is called Find a Therapist.

3), the world's largest c-counseling platform, is a valuable website for the growing number of couples who are choosing to work with online counselors and therapists. Read 5 Advantages of Online Therapy then fill out a short BetterHelp Questionnaire to get matched with one or more of the site's 2,200+ licensed therapists (they all possess a minimum of 3 years and 2,000 hours of hands-on experience) or read helpful articles like Benefits of Online Couple Counseling.

Keep in mind that looking for a therapist is a lot like dating. You have to meet a few different ones before you find your perfect match. Here is another helpful list of 13 Therapist-Approved Tips for Finding a Therapist You Can Trust.

Find a Helping Professional

If you want to find a psychologist or other helping professional to work with, check out this informative fact sheet from the American Psychological Association called How to Choose a Psychologist. Keep in mind that looking for a therapist is a lot like dating. You have to meet a few different ones before you find your perfect match.

Here is a helpful article called How Do I Find a Therapist Near Me? And here is a list of 13 Therapist-Approved Tips for Finding a Therapist You Can Trust. As an additional option, read Reasons to Choose an Online Therapist.

For a more comprehensive approach, consider this 5-part feature entitled A Beginner's Guide to Therapy:

With that information in hand, you can then ask your physician or another health professional for a reliable psychologist or counselor. Call your local or state psychological association. Consult a local university or college department of psychology. Ask family and friends. Contact your area community mental health center. Inquire at your church or synagogue. Or, use one of these services to find a counselor in your area: 1) The American Psychological Association’s Psychologist Locator service; 2) the online directory of counselors maintained by Psychology Today called Find a Therapist; or, 3) read 5 Advantages of Online Therapy then fill out a brief questionnaire at to get matched to one of BetterHelp's 2,000+ licensed therapists across the country, all of whom possess a minimum of 3 years and 2,000 hours of hands-on experience.


If you feel you are in a crisis, or if you or any other person may be in danger, please contact one of these Crisis Resources for immediate assistance in the US or around the world.

Additional How-to-Forgive Resources: