What a Loving Spouse Just Can’t Remember

What a loving spouse just can't remember

When it comes to offenses between spouses, a good memory is very bad.

There’s nothing quite like regularly referencing the list of your spouse’s past offenses and failures to close a heart and prevent true intimacy and fellowship.

There is a deep-seated unkindness revealed by the refusal to let someone’s past failures remain in the past. I don’t want to be an unkind spouse, do you? In 1st Corinthians 13, the Bible says, “Love keeps no record of wrongs.”

So, we need to ask ourselves a question: How loving toward my husband/wife am I, really?

Families are often famous for their unkindness, referencing a member’s lesser moments at the most inopportune times, but when it comes to bringing up the failures of your spouse, it’s far worse – you’re going home to bed (more likely the couch!) with that person!

And then there’s the next day, and the day after that.

Bringing up past offenses has real staying power.

The sheer hypocrisy of not letting go of past offenses is another character flaw revealed by a bad “good memory”. When we won’t forgive and forget our spouse’s offenses (when they have been repented of and we’ve said, “I forgive you”) what we’re really saying is that, “My past offenses don’t count anymore, but yours still do.”

God wants us to embrace a different perspective.

In the parable of The Unmerciful Servant, found in Matthew 18, Jesus reveals what every spouse who was tempted to cast up past offenses into the face of his/her spouse should never forget.

The story is about money or, rather, ‘talents’ and ‘denarii’. One denarii was a day’s wage, and it took 6,000 denarii to make one talent (about 16 years at an average day’s pay).

“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him 10,000 talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.

But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him 100 denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

It can be too easy to lightly pass over the vital truth contained in this story Jesus told.

He wants us to understand, God has forgiven every one of us so much more than we could ever pay.

For the truly repentant, He’s wiped the slate clean. The heart of the message here is, how dare we refuse to forgive others (our spouse, for instance) when we’ve been forgiven so very much.

God’s account of His gracious forgiveness of us is a grave warning to every spouse who refuses to let go of past offenses.

The offense against you may feel huge – is huge – in your life and experience but, if your spouse has repented and asked for forgiveness, that’s the end of it. And, the Father desires that you and I reflect on the fact that the offenses committed against us are small compared with what we are guilty of, before God, and the greatness of God’s total, complete forgiveness offered to us.

After we repent of our sins before God, He doesn’t then commit them to memory so they can be thrown in our faces the next time we need to repent.

The Bible says that God forgets our sins. When we repent and ask forgiveness of each other, they should never be referenced again. Remembering and repeating past wrongs will prevent the true fellowship that always follows true forgiveness. Colossians 3:13 (we are called to forgive as God has forgiven)

Do you want intimate fellowship with your spouse? Then let a bad “good” memory go missing from your marriage. It’s the loving thing to do. Isn’t that how you want to be treated? And, you want to honor God by communicating love (not failure) to your spouse, right?

“He who covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates intimate friends.” Proverbs 17:9

~ Matthew

* This post is an excerpt from the free ebook, The 10 Things You Won’t Find in a Godly Marriage, that I’ll be offering to subscribers to my site,  MatthewLJacobson.

100 Ways to Love eBooks TinyCheck out Matthew and Lisa’s books – now available in both print and digital format –  100 Ways To Love Your Wife and 100 Ways to Love Your Husband


  • Mara

    I totale agree with you.

    What we find difficult, is whilst being able to forgive, at the same time getting past the trauma/triggers/anxiety that my H’s affair has caused in me.
    My struggle, pain and need to bring it up again sometimes look like unforgiveness, when it’s actually insecurity and needing comfort and reassurance.


    • ShanonP

      I’m sitting right there with you…and his continued behavior (lying, hiding…) makes it really hard for me to move past. I feel like a doormat.

  • Sandra L

    Forgiveness is a choice. When I find a past offense coming to mind, I have to deliberately remember that I have forgiven that offense and need to choose forgiveness again. Also, when one of my own past offenses comes to mind and I begin to feel guilty over it, I need to remember that I have been forgiven (as long as I have repented of it and sought that forgiveness). Great article and great reminder.

  • Matthew Jacobson

    Mara, I (and I’m sure all who read your comment) hear where you are coming from. It’s totally natural and not to be confused with accusing a repentant spouse. Recently a well known Christian leader was exposed in adultery. We were stunned that, of all men, he would fall. Lisa totally trusts me. Even so, for a couple of weeks, she needed reassurance of my faithfulness. Your feelings are normal. There’s a difference between what you describe and refusing to forgive the repentant spouse.

  • Jody

    This is something I have been struggling with for a long time. There is something my husband has been doing that he promised would stop by our first anniversary. We have now been married 3 years and it’s still happening. We met with our pastor a year ago and he said it wasn’t serious enough to require restitution to restore trust, but it still happens every day. He’s said he’s sorry, but also doesn’t even want to stop. I try to let go but it’s so hard when he doesn’t seem to care. I’ve been praying about it all along. I just don’t know what to do, it’s almost impossible to forget since it’s right there in front of me constantly.

    • Matthew Jacobson


      It makes a difference if he is squeezing the toothpaste tube in the middle or something on the order of viewing porn and other common forms of adultery. From the delicacy of your description, I suspect it’s not about toothpaste. But, you stated that your pastor felt it was no big deal.

      If Lisa was in your shoes, she would find another godly, biblical, mature, older couple to express her feelings to about this situation. Not being involved, and not knowing details (you were wise to withhold them here) I cannot comment on the specifics but getting the godly input of a trusted couple or two will help bring perspective and clarity. Ask God to direct you to these people.

      • Jody

        It’s kind of in between the two. Do I meet with the couple individually, at least at first to explain the situation, or should it all be as a couple? Ben gets upset any time I mention having trouble with it because I’m supposed to have dealt with it already, because our pastor said to forgive and forget.

  • tracy

    What do I do if he isn’t sorry, or never asks for forgiveness…..3yrs of prideful, abuseful talk and actions against me hurt and fighting the resentment and bitterness is exhausting. He is never wrong and its never up for discussion. I try talking but he is defensive and loud. We have been thru a lot of councelling and we both have the tools…..so what do I do? How do I love my spouse right, in God’s eyes?

    • Matthew Jacobson


      God’s way is not easiest but it is best. Clearly, you are not walking with other mature believers who will keep you both accountable. I would encourage you to find other believers who are serious about being disciples of Jesus Christ. There is simply no place for sharp words between Christian spouses, period.

      Read this article: http://matthewljacobson.com/2014/01/27/a-marriage-free-of-strife/

      If your husband is determined to walk in self-righteousness (I’m going with your description, here, even though experience has taught that there are always two involved in an argument) your path forward is two fold:
      1) First, accept that God has called you to be holy in the face of your deepest struggle (I’m assuming you are a serious believer). He will give you His grace for every trial. You must believe this to face what Satan will throw at you through the disobedience of others.
      2) Now, that hard road . . . read this Scripture and take God at His Word. Walk in the Truth of this Scripture and allow the Holy Spirit to do His work.
      1 Peter 3:1 – 6 ” . . . wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word (what God says in the Bible ‘husbands love your wife as Christ loved the Church), they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external – the braiding of the hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear – but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.”

      Let’s face it, Tracy, this Scripture is out of step with the spirit of the age (just like every true disciple) but, I encourage you to take God at His Word and leave the results up to Him.

      • tracy

        Thank you. Your words and scripture and the other article have all been very helpful. I have read it over and over and will continue.

  • Alisha

    Wonderful post! I want to comment to the other women here that I feel are in my head and typing my thoughts:) I have been married to a man for 11years now. In those 11 years, he has physically abused me (although he hasn’t touched me since our first year of marriage), he has verbally abused/abuses, he has used his size to intermediate, call me every name in the book, like worthless like useless and much worse, he is an alcoholic with rages… In those times I’ve learned I have to be very calculated in how I responded. Anyways you can get the picture of our very happy our marriage is…Yeah right!! I’ve been angry, sad and completely broken… He broke me. Anything that once brought me joy was gone, I’ve been in survival mode. I tell you this because I’ve been in survival mode for 5years. And just last October God started showing me a different perspective. I have been trying pray the asshole (excuse my language:) out of him, I’ve been looking at myself as, “well I’m not a sinner like him” and God revealed, it’s not my job to change my husband, sure I can pray for a soft heart and blah blah blah, but in the end my husband is a fallen child of God. God loves him and desires to bring him back closer to Him. I absolutely have no issues with forgiving but forgetting is a lot harder and more intentional… I feel God is using me to help bring my husband closer to God. I stay and pray because I don’t want to miss God’s miracle in my husband. Now that doesn’t mean I haven’t sought out help… Absolutely getting help, I’m working on my confidence issues due to years of character assassinations, and asking God to teach me who I am. My spouse has said he’s sorry, actually he only says sorry after he has an alcoholic rage at me. I’m in no way down playing the seriousness that can come in a broken and fallen individual and the pain it causes but rather I am someone that understands similarly to being bitter and unforgiving. This year that God has been working on me has changed our marriage for the better and I’m happy to report its been one year and two months since his last alcoholic rage, and he has been more loving and kind. So stand strong that Gods got this, I look at it as if he is a lost puppy…seriously if I don’t hold those thoughts captive the battle rages… Yep in my eyes my sad, tortured and angry and mean husband is the lost child Christ died for. “forgive them father, they know not what they do”