In spite of myself, because I was not at all interested in any serious relationship, I'd fallen in love with a man who traveled close to 400 miles almost every weekend to visit me. That persistence and commitment knocked me off my feet-enough for me to agree to marry this man when he asked me. What followed was twenty years of having to find it in myself to forgive my husband almost daily in order to keep my promise of loving him till death do us part.
Each time he showed up late for dinner, which was almost nightly, after promising to be on time, I forgave him because he asked me to do so. When his mood turned dark and threatening with him yelling at me for any number of reasons until his voice was strained, I forgave him when he approached me the next day, explaining with an apology that he'd been tired. The time he had a tantrum, throwing luggage at me, telling me to get the hell out for a reason that makes no sense even to this day while our children cowered underneath the kitchen table, I had to forgive him because, according to him, it had been my fault for getting him so riled. I had to forgive him so that our children would not be from a "broken home." I had to forgive him because the god I once worshipped demanded as much. I had to forgive him in order to maintain peace, but it was always a precarious peace.
And then, one night, when he called from all the way across the country where he'd been working for almost three years, coming home only sporadically during that time, he told me he wouldn't be coming back to the East Coast as had been planned for Thanksgiving. He was expecting a fight, but I simply said, "That's fine." And it was, because I finally believed that fight after fight and threat after threat, summoning forgiveness day after day was useless.
The marriage has been over for years now, but the story has a happy ending, one where my peace is now secure. What I've discovered, though, is that forgiveness doesn't mean permitting emotional abuse and disrespect to continue. More importantly, I've learned to forgive myself for letting it go on for so long before coming to that conclusion.