Forgive and Forget?
By Boaz Nazar, Prevention and Relationship Education Programme (PREP) Master Trainer
Have you been hurt in a relationship? Have you hurt someone? Unless you are perfect, the answer to both questions would probably be “yes”. It’s natural for one or both parties in a relationship to hurt and be hurt, it is part of life. Relationship satisfaction diminishes if these hurts remain. Forgiveness is the valve that releases the pressure of the accumulated hurts and prevents serious damage to the relationship.
We know that forgiveness is important. Why then is it so hard to forgive our spouse? Maybe it is because we do not really understand what forgiveness is or we believe in some of the myths surrounding forgiveness such as “forgive and forget”.
When someone wrongs us, we frequently believe that we have the right to pay them back in order to exact revenge. Whether or not it is expressed out loud, the attitude of non-forgiveness is "you owe me." Giving up our desire to exact revenge is forgiveness. That means we make a choice, a choice to give up our perceived right to get even.
Part of the problem is that we believe certain myths about forgiveness such as “to forgive is to forget”. Most of us can remember the most painful things done to us by others in the past if we think about it. The key point is that we do not remember against (and we have given up the desire to harm the other in return).
Making that choice can be difficult when the offence is a major offence where trust has been lost (e.g. losing a large sum of money in investments that your spouse was not aware) as opposed to a minor one (e.g. eating the last piece of your spouse’s favourite cake). Here are some keys to forgiveness:
For minor offences, it is good to give and receive forgiveness quickly.
Do not let minor offences accumulate and deplete your satisfaction with your relationship. Check in with one another and be ready to apologise and extend forgiveness.
For major offences, forgiveness is a process:
Don’t be quick to forgive.
Say, “I am deciding to work toward forgiving you,” and say “I forgive you” for when the process is completed.
Talk to one another
Explore the hurts and each other’s perspective of the issue. This is the tough part and is often neglected. Talking helps with the healing process. If necessary, seek the help of a counsellor.
Take time to grieve.
The one that has been hurt needs time to grieve and heal.
Apologise and make a commitment towards change.
The wrong-doer asks for forgiveness and makes efforts to change.
Move forward by focusing and building on the positives in your relationship. It is okay to be reminded of the pain and grief from time to time.
Forgiveness may seem complex, but there is a way through it.
You can also watch a video below on how other PREP trainers share their experience as they navigate forgiveness as a couple.