What’s sure to happen to couples who’ve been together for a long time? Things will have occurred over the years that they didn’t like. Yep, it’s true, even the happiest of twosomes get irked, irritated, upset, angry, frustrated, and just plain annoyed with each other. Ask any honest couple and they’ll confirm this fact.
No big deal, right? If couples “clean up” these relationship disconnections as they go along, they’ll be good to go. If, however, like most people, the couples sweep the poop under the rug, before too long they’ll be separated by a big pile of stinky stuff. So, if you plan to be with your honey for a long, loving lifetime, you must both become experts in forgiveness.
A good marriage is the union of two good forgivers.
~Ruth Bell Graham
What does forgiveness mean?
In Forgiveness: The Greatest Healer of All, Gerald Jampolsky, M.D., wrote that, “From the perspective of Love and Spirit, forgiveness is the willingness to let go of the hurtful past. It is the decision to no longer suffer, to heal your heart and soul. It is the choice to no longer find value in hatred or anger. And it is letting go of the desire to hurt others or ourselves because of something that is already in the past.”
The way to God is through forgiveness here. There is no other way.
~A Course in Miracles
When is forgiveness needed?
Based on my own experience in relationship, forgiveness isn’t just for rare occasions. Though my preference is to never have big issues to forgive in my relationships, there are plenty of everyday “infractions” that keep me from feeling totally connected to the people I love. While it may seem petty, I’ve found that most people harbor grudges over “trivial” matters (whether they realize they’re doing so or not).
Here are few areas to look at in your relationship to see if resentments are building up:
- Money – Has your partner done anything with money that you feel angry about?
- Sex – Has your partner ever been “too tired” when you were in the mood (or vice versa)?
- Habits – Does your partner do anything that you get irritated or annoyed at?
- Decision making — Does your partner always agree with what you want to do?
- Time – Are you ever upset about how your partner wants to spend her/his time?
- Communication – Does your partner ever say things you find irritating, unloving, or mean-spirited?
- Life – Is there anything your partner has said or not said, done or not done that you felt annoyed, irritated, frustrated, or upset by?
In relationships, “resentment” is the real four-letter word.
How can you tell if forgiveness would help?
If you want to have a loving, connected, fulfilling relationship my advice is this: Anytime you don’t feel loving, connected, or fulfilled in your relationship, forgiveness might be your solution. Here are a few clues I’ve seen in myself, and those I work with, that indicate it’s likely time for forgiveness:
- You talk to your partner with a negative tone of voice (whether you sound snotty, snooty, condescending, critical, or bossy).
- You call your partner names (even if you say “I’m just joking”).
- You complain about your partner to friends or family.
- You are gruff or non-responsive with your partner.
- You physically withdraw from your partner.
- You emphasize things your partner does “wrong.”
- You claim (aloud or to yourself) your superiority.
- You avoid spending time with your partner.
- You react quickly and harshly for even “minor” annoyances.
- Your primary communication with your partner is stiff, cold, grumpy, or terse.
- You are sarcastic, argumentative, or defensive.
- You are highly sensitive to anything “bad” your partner does.
Life is an adventure in forgiveness.
How do you forgive?
If you’re new to the practice of forgiveness (based on what I see in our world right now, I dare say that we’ve got a lot of rookies on our forgiveness team), there are some great resources to help you learn.
- Forgiveness The Greatest Healer of All, Gerald G. Jampolsky
- Online tools from the Institute of Radical Forgiveness
- Radical Forgiveness, Colin Tipping
- Center for Attitudinal Healing (locations worldwide)
- More to Life (programs in US, UK, South Africa, New Zealand)
So, there are my thoughts on forgiveness and why it is a skill you must master if you want to have loving, lasting relationships. I welcome additional resources as well as other opinions or questions you have. Please feel free to add your thoughts in by clicking the “comments” area at the bottom of this post.
Forgiveness creates a world where we do not withhold our love from anyone.