Forgiveness vs Permission

Have you ever heard “forgiveness is easier to get than permission?” I have an ethical problem with taking advantage of this dynamic, but I’ve worked in jobs and churches where permission was almost impossible and forgiveness was easy. At the very least this encourages doing things without asking or informing those who should be involved. Sometimes it’s so bad avoiding “proper channels” is the only way to get things done.

Permission © Kikkerdirk |

Sadly a lot of marriages work the same way. The version of this I want to discuss today is the man who never tells his wife what he’s going to do because he knows she will gripe* about it. If she’s going to gripe about it anyway, it seems easier to just do it and then get the gripping on the backend. Often the backend gripping is less than what would have occurred had he discussed it before doing it. Other men know they’ll get the same amount of backend gripping regardless, so just doing things saves them the upfront hassle.

I’m all for informing our spouses what we are going to do. I’m not suggesting we text each other with what we’re ordering for lunch, but keeping each other in the loop is common courtesy, not to mention loving. Unfortunately, a skewed permission vs forgiveness dynamic can make such sharing feel like a bad idea.

Might this be part of why your hubby is reluctant to share what he’s thinking or tell you what he’s planning to do? Are you unintentionally making it less of a hassle to just do things and deal with the fallout later? 

~ Paul – I’m XY, and I had a blueberry chocolate smoothie for lunch.

* Yes, “gripe” is a nice way of saying what the men are thinking.

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11 Comments on “Forgiveness vs Permission

  1. I agree it’s not the small decisions like what to have for lunch that get us into trouble here. I have struggled when hubby makes major decisions without any discussion with me, as if I won’t be affected and should have no say in the matter. Things like changing jobs, major purchases, carrying a loaded weapon, putting a candidate’s sign in our yard, should be discussed. We don’t have one-flesh marriage without discussing these things. Doing such things without telling one’s spouse in order to avoid discomfort is immature and disrespectful.

    I finally got through to hubby on this issue by putting it in terms he understood: “You know how you felt when I refused sex? That’s how I feel when you don’t share important issues with me.”

    As you point out, there have been times I could have responded in less emotional ways. Most of the time, I was not so frustrated by his actions as by him shutting me out of the process. ‘Tis a sure-fire way to destroy trust and encourage resentment.

  2. I’ve dealt with this with my husband. He battles sexual addiction including affairs. So in his case (and others in the same situation) there needs to be more communication. But he still feels the same way. If he’s going to get “griped” at either way he might as well not tell me. At this point in our marriage I pray he’s not keeping secrets from me and when he tells me where he’s going he’s being honest. I’m trying to encourage him to foster friendships with some men from church. He tells me that I have said in the past that I don’t want him with his friends. There is one friend in particular I did say that about, he spends a lot of time at bars, gets drunk regularly, and has a very foul mouth. That’s not the type of man I want my husband fostering a friendship with. Finding balance in our situation has been a real struggle. I need the comminication to feel safe but he still sees some of it as nagging.

  3. This may seem slightly off topic, but this was the root problem for us as to why getting permission from each other was so hard.

    In my marriage, a lot of the problems that we used to face in this regard were really a lack of organization. He felt as though I was springing things on him at the last minute when I had already told him multiple times. He would tune out the “nagging” but then would get the frustrated calls from me of “We are at the restaurant. Where are you?” This made him angry as he felt as though I had never told him and now had blown his whole schedule for the evening when he may have a work deadline, plus he had let us or others down by failing to appear.

    We do not use the family home calendar that hangs on the wall. He’s at work. He can’t see it from the office.

    We use Google Calendar. Every single appointment that either of us has goes on to the calendar. Piano lessons. Doctor’s appointments. And all the usual, but also where am I and what am I doing. For example, if I plan to take the kids to the park for the afternoon, I will add an appointment to my calendar and invite him. At any point in time, he knows exactly where I am and what I’m doing. He can also set up notifications so that he receives simple reminders of events that he needs to go to. In the subject line of the appointment, I will include whether or not he needs to attend. If his name is not listed there, he is not expected to show up. It’s informational only.

    We are both expected to Accept or Decline the appointments. If I get no response, I will resend it or send a formal email such as “DH – This week has four unaccepted appointments. Would you please review at your convenience and confirm?”

    Often, he will call me or decline with a note immediately to point out some problem with my plan or inform me of something that I did not yet know about that wasn’t on the calendar yet as it was pending or tentative with him that would have caused a conflict. This has avoided much bigger problems.

    For example, the appointment subject reads say “Kids doctor appts – DW and Kids” while another will say “Work day at the Church – ALL” or “Gym Morning – DH”

    If he is going out for an evening, if he has to work late, if a friend has invited him over for dinner, everything that he is doing goes on the calendar too.

    This completely eliminates any possibility that one of us doesn’t know where the other one is or what they are doing without an outright, bold-faced lie which doesn’t happen.

    Moreover, the unspoken implication is accountability. If I want to go somewhere or do something that I don’t want to put on the calendar, I probably shouldn’t be doing it. The same goes for him. It also forces conversations where it may be something that one doesn’t want the other to do, but one of us really wants to. Things don’t hang around and fester or cause resentment because either it’s on the calendar and accepted by both people or it’s not.

    My husband thought that this was rather stupid at first, but there have been a few instances when I forgot to put something on the calendar and called him to ask why he did not show up. Having the calendar before him and being able to say, “Well, you never sent me a meeting invite.” makes it very clear as to who is at fault and gets him off the hook in a way that nagging and constant reminders never did. It is now his favorite piece of communication in our house. But much more importantly, he has not missed a single important or major event in the children’s lives since we have had the calendar. He knows our commitments and is able to work around them. He even was able to do some volunteer work with the kids sports teams which he believed he never had time to do before since he did not have an accurate view in his mind of what his at home obligations were.

    Between his work calendar and home calendar, he has a lot more feeling of control from understanding what is happening. I feel like I have been liberated from asking and constantly informing.

    • @Sarah – We’re big fans of Google Calander. We set up several then give each other access. This allows me to see what I’m doing in one colour, what she’s doing in another, and some of our regular joint activities in a third colour.
      Paul Byerly recently posted…The Why of Things: CorrectionMy Profile

  4. For our dynamic, it’s the other way around. I felt like I was reading about myself. I am constantly being told I don’t communicate, but a lot of times I don’t LIKE to communicate everything because it’s always met with a gripe, a ridicule or a Hmpf.

    I would rather make a decision or choice, go forward with it and answer questions (or defend my stance) later.

  5. “Gripe” – I envision Charlie Brown listening to the teacher on the telephone….wah, wah, wah!

    What about the spouse who uses “my spouse won’t let me” to combat peer pressure to behave in unhealthy ways?

    • @IntimacySeeker – Using one’s spouse as an excuse is a bad plan no matter how it’s done. But looking for an excuse is the way most of us say no, so it might be more about that than trying to make one’s spouse look bad.
      Paul Byerly recently posted…The Why of Things: SexMy Profile

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