Wifey’s & Gentlemen,
Since today is the day after Thanksgiving, I’d like to start by wishing everyone a happy holiday season! If you recall from previous blogs, Ms. Renai loves the holidays! It might be a little Love Actually esq, but I always view this time of year as a time to really start over. With New Year’s Eve/Day rapidly approaching, there is a ‘literal’ second chance that hovers in the air. Can you feel it?
For many of us, this is a great opportunity to set new goals, make resolutions, and try new things. However, as we all know, some people experience a great deal of heartache around the holidays and the New Year. Although we know it’s ‘cuffing season’, the holidays do a great job or reminding us of the fights we’re in, the conflicts we’ve left unresolved, and the lovers we’ve lost.
Don’t worry, this post isn’t going to turn into a PSA-style rant about how we all should feel more grateful, more blessed, and more thankful for our modern luxuries and modern families/friends (however grand or small they may be). In truth, these past weeks have had me thinking a lot about concept of thankfulness when we are unhappy with the ones we love; the ways that we find it in ourselves to forgive each other for the times when we cause each other pain.
Forgiveness. Real forgiveness.
I feel like we don’t talk about forgiveness enough, especially when it comes to romantic relationships. Even in this blog, I find myself writing about all types of conflict-related issues: discussing how to resolve problems with lovers, how to overcome break ups, and even how to “fight” fairly, but rarely do we go into detail about the importance of forgiveness.
I imagine, considering the cultural climate we live in, that forgiveness might seem much harder to receive and even harder still to give. Our society encourages individualism. As a result, we are quick to hide our vulnerabilities and slow to admit when we have done something wrong. Sadly, we have become much less collaborative in our relationships as well, oversharing on social media for all the wrong reasons, but never asking for advice from those with wisdom or looking within ourselves for the right answers. Worse than that, we are unwilling to talk openly with our partners about our feelings and what it means for us to forgive an indiscretion (communication, as always, is KEY).
All of this, makes for a “hive-mind” of couples who are unreasonable in their willingness to truly forgive. As a future therapist, I truly believe this is something we all need to work on and come back to.
The fact is, wifeys and gents, that one day, your partner is going to do something to hurt you (if they haven’t already). While this thing might be small in the grand scheme, there will come a time when you might have to question yourself, your relationship, and your personal ability to move forward and find forgiveness. In all relationships, even the really really good ones, partners will challenge us. Someone will say something that cuts you deeply (hopefully unintentionally) or behave in a way that you do not like. Someone will change and grow without warning. New habits will be formed. Someone will have a weak moment and do something that they may later genuinely regret. When these moments come, and you find yourself thinking about how to go forward, please remember to ask yourself if you are genuinely capable of forgiving.
Everyone has a limit and everyone has a line. If your partner has cheated on you multiple times, for example, and you are tired of trying to keep going, then understand your limits, communicate them to your partner, and make the decision that works best for your heart. Sometimes, forgiving someone means having to let them go.
What I think we all need to realize is that forgiveness is not for the other person, forgiveness is for you. When we chose to forgive our significant others, or anyone really, we are mentally and emotionally agreeing to work through the difficulty and begin to let go of the negativity surrounding it. If you aren’t ready to call it quits with a partner, forgiving them means “I love you, I know you’re sorry, and I am willing to work on this with you”. The ways in which you do that are unique to your relationship, but the core concept remains the same.
Whatever this looks like in your relationship, please remember a few things:
- Only forgive when you are TRULY ready to move on. Even if this means leaving your partner, once you chose to forgive, you are agreeing not to punish him/her or hold the act over their heads. You are agreeing not to seek revenge or act in a hurtful manner that will make the situation worse. You are expressing your love for that person (even if you can’t be with them any longer).
- Forgiving does NOT mean forgetting. While you agree not to punish or hurt your partner after forgiving them, you also must make sure they know how they have hurt you, and set the parameters moving forward. If, for example, your partner has said something nasty and way out of line during an argument, you can forgive them and agree to move forward without forgetting to warn them that if the behavior continues, you might not be willing to stick around. You can also ask them to you on better communication and argument skills with you. It is perfectly normal and acceptable to set “rules” for fighting. Some couples find it helps them to stay focused on the problem at hand and avoid overreacting. Communicate with your partner what is/is not acceptable and give them ample time to understand and correct their mistake. Again, not forgetting does NOT mean holding a grudge. It means negotiating the ways in which you’d like to be treated in a relationship, and setting hard limits for the future with your partner.
- Understand that some conflicts may require more work than others. Working through issues like infidelity, lies, betrayal, etc, might require a little more work than issues like missed anniversaries, nasty arguments, and general miscommunication (note that I said MIGHT, as the weight of conflict and degrees of severity are truly unique to the couple. One person’s idea of a serious conflict might seem negligible to another). Forgiveness means a willingness to spend the time resolving the issue. Whether this means re-establishing trust, building intimacy, going to therapy, redefining commitment, working on better argument strategies, etc, you should know going in that it might take a long time before you feel “normal” again.
- You should also know that your partner might not be willing to wait for you to get there. If, in the midst of this process, you find that your partner has become impatient, uncomfortable, or unwilling to change, you might have to face the reality that they aren’t as sorry as you’d thought and renegotiate the relationship on your terms, based on this new information. Also, as hard as it might be, understand that some people do not want to be forgiven. Sometimes, our partners act out because it is their only way to communicate to us that they are done with the relationship. Know yourself and know the signs so you are ready to make the best choices for your future.
I hope this post doesn’t leave you with any sadness! In my humble opinion, hardship is what brings couples closer together. No relationship is perfect, and it is how we handle those imperfect times that make us stronger people and stronger as a unit. Moreover, forgiveness is a truly beautiful thing. It is an emotional release of burdens and levity for a heavy heart. Take this spirit with you into the holiday season. I promise, no one ever regretted forgiving someone, not in the long run (even people who have experienced real tragedy and violence). Remember, the act of forgiveness is about personal healing. Trust the process and keep on loving!
Until Next Time.
Carry on Wifeys.