• Forgiveness

Getting Forgiveness Going

May 15, 2015

For many couples in distress, in addition to struggling with communication or trust issues, another major problem is that there is a lack of willingness to forgive. In this case, I am not suggesting that you should forgive the most egregious deeds (e.g. abuse, cheating, etc.). Rather I am suggesting that if you choose to stay with a partner, you must be open to the act of forgiveness for the benefit of yourself in the relationship. When working with couples, we often say that the client is the relationship, not any individual member in it. This does not mean we don’t care about each partner, but it is meant to say that the process is not about choosing sides, and when we intervene, it is on behalf of the relationship.

Forgiveness is a series of acts, which requires us to reconcile our natural need for self-preservation with our human need for companionship. A lack of forgiveness is toxic to any relationship because issues linger and can build up until they are unbearable and they explode and the grudge developed for being wronged stands in the way to further developing the relationship. Slights and other feelings of being treated poorly are not settled, but are just left for another day to bubble up again.

The following are some things to ponder and tips to consider when attempting to forgive and to nurture the relationship:

  • What makes it so hard to forgive?

Generally your partner has hit a deeply sore spot, and the wound is so intense, you feel overwhelmed, vulnerable, angry, and not in a position to respond positively. It is crucial that you think about what the underlying pain is, which makes it difficult to forgive your partner. This may be a concern, which has affected you for years, but has resurfaced with a vengeance in your current relationship.

  • How do you forgive?

Once you have identified the primary issue, it is now time to reconnect with your partner and speak your experience and share your vulnerability. Find a way to communicate the vulnerability to the partner without the blame. Reestablishing the trust, the belief that you can be safe starts with at least one of you taking a leap of faith and the other partner meeting in your leap. True forgiveness let’s go and moves forward in the relationship. Forgiveness is a process. It is not one act. It is a process and a series of acts. Typically, you also must forgive yourself for any part you feel that played in the situation.

  • Forgiveness is a normal part of engagement in your relationship.

Constant arguments, slights and grudge holding can create an ever-expanding rift in your relationship. However, if partners are committed to building a healthy relationship, and there are no other major concerns (e.g. infidelity, abuse, etc.), then you should position forgiveness as something that is protective to the relationship, so you can operate in a safe space and develop the partnership you want.

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