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Shape Up Your Heart for Valentine's Day

By Paula Friedrichsen
Guest Columnist What do you think of when I say the words “Valentine's Day?” Hearts, flowers, candy, romance? Maybe when you think of Valentine's Day you groan. Not your favorite holiday… I mean, you’re busy. Chasing after kids, working fulltime, or just keeping the house running smoothly can make the idea of romance seem a little beyond reach. But it’s not!

Consider the next three days as a time to get your heart in shape for Valentine's Day. After all, we get our bodies in shape for summer. We get our homes in shape for the holidays. We get our offices in shape before a big project. Why not get our hearts in shape for romance? 

Over the next three days you’ll be given a series of “shape up strategies” to prepare your heart to be enamored by your spouse once more. This week we’ll be peeling back the layers of busyness, bitterness, and irritations to see and recall the greatness of the person we’re married to. And I just want to warn you—get ready to be wowed!

Okay, today’s get in shape strategy? Deal with the unforgiveness in your life.

Unforgiveness is like smelly trash—it tends to build up: Yesterday a few coffee grounds and an overripe cantaloupe sat rotting in the bottom of the kitchen trash can, and it began to smell. Add to that last night’s chicken bones, leftover pasta salad, and an empty cat food can, and its worse. Smash it down and add today’s orange peels, egg shells, and spoiled salsa. The trash receptacle is overflowing and stinking up the whole house!

Unforgiveness is the trash that can smell up your marriage. Let me give you three signs that the garbage needs to be taken out.  

The first is a hard heart.

He tells you he’s depressed about work, and you think, Whatever… She tells you the doctor say’s her cholesterol is dangerously high, and you think, Whatever… He tells you he thinks he may be having a mental breakdown, and you think, *yawn* Whatever

The inability for a marriage partner to care about what concerns their spouse is a screaming symptom that unforgiveness has caused their heart to grow cold.

But there’s a solution. Although you may be tempted to harden your heart toward your husband or wife because they repeatedly hurt your feelings, make an effort to stay in an attitude of forgiveness. Remind yourself that you love your husband or wife! You may not be feeling deeply loving toward them right now—but choose to make the decision to love your spouse, and care about what concerns them, in spite of a lack of romantic feelings.

Another indicator of unforgiveness is the silent treatment.

(This is also known as the “I’m not punishing him, I’m just not talking to him right now” treatment).

The silent treatment is usually an indicator that a husband or wife has a rap sheet of their spouses past offenses tucked in their hip pocket. In fact, their mate’s behavior has so infuriated them, they have no words left. You could interrogate them for hours under a glaring spotlight in a dingy, smoke-filled room—they're not talking.

The Solution: Talk, communicate, share, open up. In my twenty-three years of marriage my husband and I have seldom had change without conflict. If you’re in the habit of giving the silent treatment, begin this week to open up and communicate freely. 

The last indictor of unforgiveness is expecting the worst.

As another offense is committed, the husband or wife is almost glad because it’s one more that can be added to an already long list. They’ll pull that list out at an advantageous moment to use as proof of their spouses continual disregard for their feelings.

An attitude of unforgiveness will set us up to expect the worst in our husband or wife. And when we expect the worst, it’s often exactly what we get.

Expecting the worst can become like a well-traveled road—it’s familiar, it’s safe, and it protects us from being disappointed…again.

The solution lies in seeking God’s perspective on your mate and “choosing” to search for the good in your husband or wife.  

If you’ve found it difficult to forgive in the past, I have good news for you. Today is a new beginning! Begin to exercise your forgiveness muscle, and your heart will soon be in shape for romance. Don’t wait until you “feel” like forgiving; because frankly, you probably never will. Instead, decide to forgive. Why not start today?

Editor's Note:

This article is the first in a three-part series. Check tomorrow for part two.

More tips and ideas for Valentine's Day

More marriage articles

Paula Friedrichsen is a conference speaker and the author of The Man You Always Wanted is The One You Already Have (Multnomah).  She lives with her husband and daughter in Northern California.

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