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.


Evaluate and Improve Your Loving and Marital Relationships by Using These Resources:  

The Angry Partner – Excessive anger and irritability are major threats to psychological, medical and spiritual health. Recent research demonstrates that it is a leading threat to physical health, predisposing adults to heart attacks (Circulation, 2016). The recognition, understanding of the numerous origins and resolution of this powerful and complex emotion are important for the health and happiness of marriages, children, and families.  This article demonstrates how to resolve marital anger through a process of understanding and growing in the virtue of forgiveness.

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The Controlling Partner – This article describes the challenge of dealing with a controlling spouse, child or relative and offers recommendations for serious marital conflict. The healing of a compulsive need to dominate others is very challenging, but it is possible.


The Emotionally Distant Partner – The emotionally distant spouse can be a source of significant unhappiness, stress and conflict in marriages and families.  The pain of loneliness, insecurity, mistrust and anger caused by the emotionally distant spouse can intensify over the years of marriage and can lead to a desire to separate or even divorce.  Unfortunately, in many marriages there is a failure to honestly discuss and address this weakness in self-giving.  The good news is that this serious marital conflict can be uncovered and resolved through the hard work of growing in virtues.  Read more about this healing process that can lead to a strengthening of the romantic aspect of the marriage, marital friendship and betrothed love.


The Anxious, Mistrustful Partner – This article examines the nature of anxiety and its association with excessive anger, its manifestations, causes and healing.  It provides options for the healing of generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and the anxiety associated with divorce trauma.


Marital Infidelity; Origins and Healing – Marital infidelity is one of the most traumatic of all life experiences. However, it does not need to lead necessarily to separation or divorce.  A healing process, which can be very challenging and painful, can occur through uncovering the emotional, character, marital and spiritual conflicts that contributed to the betrayal of one’s spouse and the marital vows.  This article identifies the weaknesses in marital self-giving that can be uncovered and resolved in the majority of marriages wounded by infidelity.


All the resources described above were developed by The Institute for Marital Healing 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 Forgiveness Therapy: An Empirical Guide for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope.


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 cited just above.


Apologies and Forgiveness Could Save Your Marriage

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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:

How Apologizing Can Improve Your Marriage
Making an Effective Apology
How Forgiveness Can Transform Your Marriage
How to Forgive Your Spouse–and Mean It
> If You Want to Stay Married, Do These 10 Things Every Day

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.

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If you decide to pursue counseling, several excellent resources are available to help you choose the right counselor including these:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  •, 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.
  • Therapy Den provides a more comprehensive approach to working with a therapist with its 5-part series A Beginner’s Guide to Therapy that includes:
    Part 1: How to find a therapist;
    Part 2: What to ask in the consult;
    Part 3: What to expect in the first few sessions;
    Part 4: How can you tell if therapy is working?; and,
    Part 5: How to end therapy
  • Read Best Online Therapy Programs of 2023: Reviews and Pricing on the website Everyday Health.

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 14 Therapist-Approved Tips for Finding a Therapist You Can Trust. 

Additional How-to-Forgive Resources: