The lesson on the other side of marital humiliation

In all of my years of writing about relationships, there’s no story that has resonated with readers like the infamous baby monitor story.

Here’s what happened: Early in our marriage, my wife, Raquel, and I got into a disagreement while visiting a family member’s home. We went to the guest room to hash it out privately but we had no idea how badly we were about to embarrass ourselves.

While in the guest room, our tempers flared. Unfortunately, I became particularly disrespectful until suddenly, my wife’s face dropped and she said, “Oh my gosh — the baby monitor is right next to you.”

This was significant, because the baby monitor’s speaker was sitting in the living room and our hosts were home. I was unfazed.

“Don’t worry,” I said, “I turned it off right before we came in here.”

Without missing a beat, I continued rehashing my grievances until we got tired of arguing and my wife left the room. Then she immediately returned and said, with icy composure, “I just went to the living room. You didn’t turn the baby monitor to the ‘off’ position. You turned it to voice activation.”

We both felt like we were going to die, hoping that by some chance nobody had heard our nasty argument. In fact, we learned, they had. We were humiliated, angry and mutually convinced it was the other person‘s fault.

Fast forward 10 years and my wife and I were brainstorming about how to start Confessions of a Happily Married Man, a book about finding God in the messiness of marriage. We wanted to pick the perfect story. There was no doubt: It had to be the baby monitory story.

There was a time when Raquel and I couldn’t have imagined sharing that story with other people. That time was short lived.

It wasn’t long after it happened that we were re-telling the story and enjoying people’s horrified reactions. We even shared it on a national news website. But it wouldn’t have been possible for us to share that story (and plenty of others) if it weren’t for the power of forgiveness.

Raquel and I have plenty of weaknesses but one of our great strengths is that we have a relatively high capacity for forgiveness. It has shrunk down offenses that seemed so monumental only minutes before. It has also, over time, healed wounds that might have done long-term damage to other marriages.

I wonder if you’re holding any offenses against your spouse. Maybe it’s some of the day-by-day stuff — the selfish demands, the petty slights, the insensitivity. But it might be something more monumental — a betrayal of some kind.

Those offenses can add up like sheets of ice until you wake up one day, look in the mirror and realize that your heart has completely frozen over.

Pause for a moment and ask yourself, “Am I holding an offense against my spouse?” If you can think of something, stop and pray, “God, I know You’ve forgiven me for every offense I’ve committed. Please give me the grace to forgive my spouse unconditionally as well.”

I’m not saying that you should pretend that genuine offenses are no big deal. Your marriage may need serious help. But your marriage will never be in a place to heal if you insist on clinging to feelings of contempt for your spouse.

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis writes, “Everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea until he has something to forgive.”

The question is whether forgiving your spouse is going to be more than a lovely idea. If it’s going to be real, jaw-dropping, unconditional forgiveness, something beautiful is eventually going to happen: You’re going to wake up one day, look in the mirror and stare into the eyes of a person who’s becoming more and more like Jesus.

Check out my new book, “Confessions of a Happily Married Man,” which you can pre-order here. And if you’d like to receive a bi-monthly, spam free email about finding God in the ordinary of your everyday life, you can sign up here