For many years in the field of couples therapy, forgiveness was not considered to be a viable tool for resolving issues and helping couples to grow in relationship with one another. It belonged to the religious or church arena and had no place in the world of educated, sophisticated professionals. It was frequently looked down upon as being old-fashioned, passe’ and childish. Couples therapy focused on better communication and understanding, quid pro quo behaviors, and coming to agreements and contracts. Still….many couples were stuck in a quagmire of bitterness and blame over past injuries. They couldn’t get over what “he did”or what “she said”. Often, even after months in therapy, couples ended up in divorce having never really resolved the initial wounds that brought them in to see a counselor.
But things have changed. In recent times you can pick up numerous psychological publications – books or magazine articles – and find out about this “new” way of resolving couples infidelity, emotional abuse, and other seemingly unfair and unloving past behaviors. For couples who are trying to resolve the recent experience or past memory of a time when their partner turned into their enemy, there remains the point of forgiveness on the road of the journey back.
One could say that when you’ve tried everything else….try forgiveness. Or, it’s worth a try – what have you got to lose? But a better approach, it seems, would be to plan for it. Plan that you will benefit from forgiveness at some point in the recovery of your relationship and of your self. That’s right. It is your own self that needs the benefit of forgiveness. We forgive because it heals us as individuals, as well as couples; not because the offender deserves it or because we have a better understanding or because it’s the right thing to do. We forgive because we need it. And whether you think you are the perpetrator or not, more often than not, both people need to grant and receive forgiveness.
We admit: forgiveness is not enjoyable or easy. C.S Lewis said, “Everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.” In a future article we will talk about how one can forgive – and when. But for now it is enough just to know that it’s for you!