Should You Forgive? The Power of Letting Go.

Long-term relationships come with a myriad of challenges. From learning to accept quirks that grate your nerves to reconciling after a full-blown argument. Every relationship has highs and lows; it helps us grow together and understand and respect each other’s boundaries. We discover what we are willing to change within reason and what is a core part of us that is set in stone. 

What happens when we hold onto resentment, nursing something from our past that caused deep hurt, and from this, an argument keeps recurring? An argument that, during times of stress, rears its ugly head and worms its way into every fight. Are you able to, or should you, forgive this hurt and learn tolerance for the differences you share?

Forgiveness is a complicated decision that must be made individually and privately. If you want to learn how to forgive but are unsure how here are two strategies to help you:

Forgiveness Strategy #1 – You Can Forgive, but Should You Forget?

Forgiveness allows you to heal, move on, and build a happy relationship while learning from the past; forgetting the event is another. You must remember the past, as this serves as a means of protection for us in the future. Holding onto past hurt can be equally damaging as trying to ignore it. Forgiveness is the key. Forgiveness is remembering without the pain. 

Let’s look at one example:

After ten years of marriage, Cassie and Richard fell into a well-worn routine. Cassie stayed home to care for their young children, and Richard worked long hours at the office. Routine soon turned to boredom for Cassie as she began spending time on social media. She soon struck up a friendship with a man who held very similar interests to hers, and in a tale as old as time, the friendship turned more serious. 

Richard, becoming suspicious of his wife’s increased secrecy, snooped and soon discovered his wife was having an emotional affair with a man from the other side of the world.

Richard was devastated; he had never strayed despite opportunities, and he was deeply hurt that his wife would break the trust he had carefully given her. Cassie took an offensive stance and, instead of apologizing, defended her actions by saying she never actually cheated. She reasoned how she could cheat on a man who was thousands of miles away.

The affair ended, and the couple chose to remain together; however, Richard, who forgave Cassie, could never forget the event. Cassie was incensed that her husband would not simply forget the betrayal that took place. 

I explained to Cassie that the human mind does not work that way; one can’t forget, but you can choose to forgive. Forgiving allows Richard to remember the event but let go of the pain and anger he once held.

Allow yourself to forgive while learning from the past

Forgiveness Strategy #2 – Forgiving does not mean you condone the behavior.

Ego and pride are powerful emotions, and many times, they can prevent us from forgiving, even if, deep down, we genuinely want to. Sometimes, family members or friends reinforce a grudge, enabling us to nurse our ill feelings. 

Other times people take a ‘get even’ approach, believing ‘tit for tat’ will somewhat even the score. This is destructive and immature and often leads to the collapse of a once-strong relationship.

For example:

Whenever Michelle and Damien fought, they became trapped in a battle of the wills. Nothing irritated Michelle more than when her husband left his dirty dishes on the counter, so whenever a fight ensued, the dishes began appearing on the counter.

Michelle knew her husband’s games and refused to clean up his mess. Dishes began to pile up, and the resentment grew until Michelle eventually ran out of crockery, gave in, and washed his dirty dishes. When I asked Damien why he did this, he replied, ‘Show her how angry I am.’

I explained to Damien during one of our sessions how counterproductive his behavior was and that just because Michelle gave in and washed the dishes did not mean he ‘won’ the fight or that she in any way condoned his behavior.

Damian stopped using the dishes to punish his wife. Over time, they learned to communicate their feelings, de-escalating disagreements by taking time apart to cool down and then coming together and talking when thinking logically and not with the reactive side of their brain. (link to that article).

When you practice forgiveness and acceptance by developing the skill of tolerance towards differences in opinions, values, and diverse lifestyles, you discover a new way to navigate life’s difficulties.

To learn more about recognizing destructive patterns of blaming and avoiding responsibility, download our mini-course, “Why Couples Fight: A Psychologist’s Guide to Understanding Relationship Conflict.”

In this mini-course, we emphasize the importance of centering your mind and body, creating a state of mental and physical calm. We teach you the value of being mindful of your emotions and the importance of acting objectively rather than subjectively. Additionally, we explore concepts such as “dropping the bone,” mastering the art of taking the high road in an argument, and how to deflect sarcasm. While these skills are crucial to every relationship, they are often overlooked. Here, we guide you and help you develop these essential skills so that you can rely on them when stress and conflict inevitably arise.

Our entire course is also available on our website, as well as books, our blog, and other classes., follow the link and start your journey to a harmonious relationship. 

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