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The first and most imperative question, is of course, whether they’re worth forgiving. And once you’ve decided to do so, here are some things to consider:
#1 You won’t be able to forget, but…
To “forgive and forget” may be a well-worn cliche, but to be honest, how many of us can actually forget about what’s happened, especially if the wound was deep? Likely none, we’ll bet.
It happened, period. Simply forgetting it is tantamount to saying that the way your life has been adversely impacted doesn’t matter. Acknowledging the wrong committed is essential in encouraging both of you to grow as a couple, as an individual, and to take the steps to move past it, rather than have an amnesiac episode.
#2 It’ll be a process
There’s no definitive timeline to healing. Rather, it involves plenty of effort from both parties. And this is especially so if trust has been broken (See also: Trust in your marriage – 7 things to keep in mind). Have patience with yourself, with your partner (if you’ve bungled up). One key to starting the process of forgiving is acceptance of what has happened.
#3 It doesn’t mean condoning
Forgiving without confronting the negative behaviour allows the offender to misbehave again, thinking that there won’t be consequences, and ultimately sabotaging the relationship. There has to be accountability and a clear commitment from the perpetrator to prevent future offenses before forgiveness can be beneficial and meaningful. Plus, why pardon someone who’s not sorry, or apologising just to avoid conflict and not taking action to right the wrong?
An apology should also be backed by a concrete plan to prevent history from repeating itself.
#4 Give each other space
If you need to take time out to reflect, think and be away from your partner, convey it to him or her. If you’re the one who messed up, understand that while you might be eager to make up for it and move forward, the one who’s been hurt will need time to process the hurt or feelings of betrayal, and to heal. But let him or her know that you are willing to talk at any time.
#5 Put yourself in their shoes
Yep, that’s what we’re saying, even though the other party might have screwed up. And while there are no excuses for say, infidelity, it helps to facilitate forgiveness if you understand the underlying cause of the behaviour. This will take a lot of effort and humility on your side, especially with your shock and hurt feelings.
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#6 Vent, then let it go
Bottling up your feelings and letting it fester can be a one way ticket to an explosion later on. Let it out, but keep to healthy means to alleviate your frustration and tension. This can include talking to a trusted friend, family member or a professional counsellor, or writing it out. Be cautious when selecting your confidante – choose someone whom you can trust to be level-headed and detached while you’re still reeling from the experience, and who genuinely cares about you.
#7 Don’t use it as a weapon
If you’re bringing it up every time you have a fight (especially if it’s an argument on a completely irrelevant subject), then you haven’t completely forgiven your partner. In repeatedly harping on it, you also create a hostile environment and breed resentment.