On Forgiveness...

By Amy Berrafato, LMFT, CST

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Forgiveness is an essential component to building a healthy long-term relationship. There’s plenty of research out there on this. In the course of a lifetime together, you’re going to get mad, hurt each other, and feel disappointed sometimes. How do you let go of difficult feelings like anger, hurt, disappointment, and betrayal? How do you keep living and sleeping with your partner after they’ve hurt you? And what does it mean to really forgive someone?

Last week, Rachel Zar, LMFT took you through some examples of healthy apologies, and how to take responsibility for yourself in your relationships. An absolute must! This is a key step toward repairing trust. There is nowhere to go if you or your partner aren’t willing to own how your actions impact one another. “I didn’t realize that meant so much to you. I’m so sorry I hurt you.” Your intentions don’t actually matter here. All that matters is that you saw how it made someone else feel. If you bump into someone on the street by accident, you apologize, don’t you? (Well, at least I hope you do!) You didn’t mean to bump into them, but you did and you saw it. It’s the same with your partner! Give them the kindness you’d give a stranger.

Some food for thought as you reflect on forgiveness in your relationships:

  1. What does forgiveness mean to you? What does/could it look like? Have you ever forgiven someone you love? And continued to be in a relationship with him or her? This is no easy task. It requires selflessness, grace, patience, and trust in the process. We all have different definitions here, so get to know yours well.

  2. How is your anger serving you? What do you need in order to let go? Perhaps acknowledgement, time, space, a conversation? Make that known. It might help you assert your needs in moments of tension. Most of us move at a different pace emotionally, so allow your partner some space to process their feelings authentically.

  3. Is this a forgivable thing for you? You may have to ask yourself some difficult questions about your limits. Did your partner go too far? Is this something that you can overcome? Be honest, and wherever you land is OK. Trusting your limits can help you make authentic decisions, one way or another.

In her book Rising Strong, Brene Brown discusses “rumbling with forgiveness” as she quotes a pastor from her church: “In order for forgiveness to happen, something has to die. If you make a choice to forgive, you have to face into the pain. You simply have to hurt.” Whether you’re spiritual or not, again, trust this process. It’s deep, painful, and a potentially beautiful release.