‘To err is human, to forgive, divine’…This one quote tells us all we need to know about the act of forgiveness – that it is necessary but also hard to come by. We must all aspire to let go off grudges and negativity as a general way of life because there is scientific evidence linking the ability to forgive with good health and longevity. This virtue is, mainly, non-negotiable when it comes to forgiveness in relationships – well, at least, strong, stable and lasting ones. Statistics link the power of forgiveness in a relationship to happier, more satisfying romantic connections.
The ability to forgive someone who has hurt you emotionally, especially if it is your significant other who has caused the hurt, doesn’t come easy. But there’s nothing that can’t be cultivated with a little persistence and perseverance. Let’s begin embracing this virtue by decoding questions such as what is forgiveness and why is it important, and most importantly, how do you forgive each other in a relationship:
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What Is Forgiveness and Why Is It Important?
To be able to forgive someone who has hurt you emotionally and cultivate the power of forgiveness in a relationship, you first have to understand what the process compromises. People often struggle with the ability to let go of the feeling of having been wronged because they confuse forgiveness with acceptance of the act. In such cases, the ability to absolve the other person of their wrongdoing comes across as a compromise on one’s morals, principles and even self-esteem.
So, understanding what forgiveness is and why is it essential in a relationship can play a vital role in helping you embrace this virtue.
Here’s what it means to forgive someone: Eliminating from your mind all negativity stemming from the hurt another person has caused you and shedding the emotional baggage of an unpleasant incident or times in your life.
What it doesn’t mean:
- It doesn’t mean you condone the behaviour or consider it acceptable.
- It is not a license for the other person to repeat the hurtful behaviour patterns.
- It does not mean you have to erase the memory from your mind (that’s stuff beyond human control)
Why forgiveness in relationships is essential?
Well, for a simple reason that none of us is born perfect. Regardless of what an incredible human being your partner is or how compatible you both are, they (and you) are bound to slip up now and then, and do or say things that will hurt the other person or even scar them emotionally.
Holding on to the hurt, anger or resentment caused by such experiences can cause lasting romantic relationship, which can drive a wedge between partners over time. Forgiveness is, therefore, a cornerstone for building a lasting romantic relationship and keep it going strong for years.
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When should you forgive your partner?
There is no way to address this question with a single response because the dynamics of no two relationships are ever identical to each other. But we can offer you a rule of thumb to go by:
- When should you forgive your partner depends on your tolerance vis-à-vis their actions. Infidelity, for instance, is a deal-breaker for a vast majority of people, so if that’s where you’re at embracing forgiveness in relationships may not work. On the other hand, something like a forgotten birthday or nasty fight can be forgiven.
- Even if the hurt caused by your partner is so compelling that you cannot see yourself reconciling with them again, forgive them anyway. This will free you from being a prisoner to residual anger and resentment, and pave the path for your growth and happiness.
- Understanding your partner’s perspective and inculcating the virtue of forgiveness in your relationship, however, does NOT mean tolerating abuse of any kind. If you are being physically, emotionally or sexually abused, get out of that relationship as quickly and swiftly as you can. However, if you can find it in your heart to forgive such a person, you can break free from years of emotional baggage and trauma in real earnest.
How Do You Forgive Each Other In A Relationship?
Having established that it takes two forgiving hearts to sustain love and intimacy in a relationship, let’s address the all-important question of ‘how do you forgive a partner for hurting you?’ Because forgiving someone who’s hurt you emotionally, is easier said than done. Despite our best intentions, many of us find it had to free ourselves from the clutches of unpleasant memories and the heavyweight of grudges.
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Here are eight actionable tips to help you get started in the right direction:
1. Process the hurt
Depending upon the severity of your partner’s transgression, take the time you need to process all the feelings of anger and hurt that is gripping your mind. Acknowledge and accept that you’ve been hurt, and let yourself feel these emotions in your bones before you find a way out.
2. Assess your partner’s state of mind
For forgiveness in relationships to work, there has to be a sense of regret or remorse at the other end. If your partner isn’t genuinely apologetic about their actions, the whole point of forgiveness becomes redundant. While you can still forgive them, the idea of putting the past behind and strengthening your relationship further cannot come to fruition.
3. Talk about your feeling.
Once you’ve processed all that you’ve been feeling, talk to you partner about it. Don’t hesitate in letting them know that their actions have left you feeling betrayed or hurt or insecure or angry. Allow them room to put forth their side of the story, and assure them that you’re willing to work past the problem.
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4. Ask questions
If you have any lurking doubts or question in your mind, bring them up and have an honest discussion with your partner. Leaving loose ends unresolved can keep gnawing at your mind, interfering with your ability to forgive your partner who has hurt you emotionally.
5. Lean on a support system
If the issue is significant enough that you can’t find a way to forgive and move on, leaning on your support system for strength can make a huge difference. Whether it is a friend or family or even a professional life coach or counsellor, don’t hesitate to turn for help where you need to.
6. Understand their perspective
People slip up, they make a mistake, sometimes despite themselves. Put yourself in your partner’s shoes and try to understand what triggered their actions. You may not agree with their perspective a 100 per cent, but it helps in the process of forgiveness in a relationship. Knowing that there was no malicious intent at play and whatever caused the hurt was just an inadvertent mistake can ease the pain too and make it easy to let go the negative emotions.
7. Acknowledge your role in the situation
This does not mean that you absolve your partner of their wrongdoing and internalise the guilt of whatever went wrong. But as the saying goes – it takes two to tango. Something you did or said may have acted as a trigger for your partner’s actions, and a domino was set into motion. Acknowledge and accept that possibility, then forgive yourself for it. It’ll make it easier for you to forgive someone who has hurt you emotionally.
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8. Let the past bury its dead
Finally, leave whatever mess you’re dealing with in the past, move on to a fresh start and working on rebuilding trust. Raking up past issues in every argument or fight not only defeats the whole purpose of forgiveness in a relationship but also is a sign that you haven’t truly forgiven your partner.
Can a relationship work without forgiveness? Not really. You have to learn not to sweat the small stuff and also take a few major setbacks in your stride.
Besides, you must forgive not just for the sake of your partner or your relationship but also for yourself. As Buddha said, ‘Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.’ It is a kind thing to do.