If you want to have a happy, lasting marriage you better learn how to forgive your spouse. Most husbands and wives are going to make some mistakes along the way, the kind of mistakes that will hurt your feelings and the ones deep enough to hurt your heart. How you respond to these hurtful times will determine the future happiness of your marriage.

Not all offenses are deal breakers. Some are hardly worth the effort it takes to be offended. We call these molehills. Others are deeply painful and marriage threatening. These are mountains. Both need to be dealt with. We'll start with a couple of molehills first.

1st molehill-size offense: They forgot your birthday

It happens to the best of us-at least once. If it happens, don't go around with a wounded heart. It's not worth it. If she forgot your birthday let her know by saying, "Hey, it's my birthday. How about we go out and celebrate?" If she apologizes for forgetting, kindly accept the apology and kiss her.

Being kind when a special day is forgotten is the best remedy to keep your love alive. Works for both husband and wife.

What about a wedding anniversary? This is not just "your" special day. It belongs to both of you, so plan ahead and talk about how you're going to celebrate it. No need to wait for someone to forget it and then blame him or her. Marriage is not a "gottcha" game-waiting for your mate to foul up so you can be mad at him or her. Help each other remember the special events of your lives.

2nd molehill-size offense: They spoke sharply to you

Sometimes a response can come across as sharp and unkind. It may not have been intended that way at all. It may simply be the result of being tired and hungry. Still, that's no excuse. We need to always speak kindly to our mates.

However, if it happens, you be the duck and let the comment be the water that rolls off your back. You're wise enough to realize the cause and move on. If it's a continuing problem, then a discussion about it is in order. Simply say, "Honey, that really hurt when you spoke cross to me. Is something wrong?" You may find out he or she had a really bad day. Let each other respectfully vent when needed.

Some offenses may be somewhere between the molehill and the mountain kind. For now we'll skip to a couple of the mountain-size kind.

1st mountain-size offense: They had an affair

There is nothing more painful or destructive to a marriage than when a mate has a sexual relationship with someone else. It's like sticking a dagger into your spouse's heart. It hurts beyond words.

If your mate has done this and recognized what a huge mistake this was and pledges to never do it again, you need to examine the importance of your marriage. If it was important at the beginning, it's important now and worth saving. If he (or she) is willing to change, can you be willing to forgive? When a mate has truly repented and wants to stay with you, now is the time that huge element of forgiveness needs to enter in. It will likely be one of the hardest things you'll ever do in your life, but, for your family's and your sake, do it. It's a very tall mountain and will take time.

A couple, whom we know well, shared their story with us. She, the offended one, said, "I could hardly stand to look at him. It sickened me to think what he had done. How could he?!" He said, "That's exactly what I asked myself. I was devastated by what I had done." He went to his religious leader and confessed it all, asking for help to be forgiven by God. He confessed to his wife and asked for her forgiveness. It wasn't easy for either of them, but with time he gained back her trust. They now have a beautiful, loving marriage and are so grateful they were able to climb this mountain and save their marriage.

2nd mountain-size offense: They secretly spent our family savings

Family funds are sacred. They belong to both, not just one. When one spouse violates that trust and spends without discussing it with his or her mate, this can become a huge problem. If this is done repeatedly, the problem continues to build until it becomes a huge mountain in your marriage. It needs to be resolved, and the sooner the better.

If your spouse has violated this trust then it's time to start climbing this mountain by facing the problem head on. This will take a willingness on the part of each. You may need to turn to a counselor for help. There must be honesty and trust in the use of family money. There needs to be a plan, a budget, and a goal the couple are jointly working toward. Forgiving each other of past misuse of family money is necessary. Forget the past and work together, united toward a more secure financial future.

In order to traverse either a molehill or a mountain size offense, the offender must be willing to change and the offended must be willing to forgive.

There are multitudes of offenses that cause conflict in marriage. The point here it to examine them, learn from your mistakes, and do whatever it takes to keep your marriage strong. Mahatma Gandhi said, "Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong." Be strong. Forgiveness and change is a must if you want a happy, successful marriage.

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