I am having a very hard time forgiving my husband and now I am beginning to wonder if I am struggling with this because too often my husband’s behavior reminds me of my father’s imperfections toward me. Do you think this is possible, that I am blocked from forgiving my husband because of my past history with my father?
I think this is a very insightful point. It definitely can be the case that people have difficulty forgiving a partner because of similarities between the partner and the forgiver’s parent. I suggest that you first forgive your father for what you are calling his “imperfections” toward you. Once you have walked the pathway of forgiveness with your father, your forgiving your husband then may be deep and therefore more effective. The fact that you see this connection between father and husband is important and I think this will help you.
I don’t get it. So what if a person has the potential to be good. If she is not behaving in a good way, which basically is always, the idea of potential is worthless.
I want you to see that you are defining this person exclusively by behavior, not intangible qualities such as being a unique person. There never was another person exactly like her on the planet. In other words, there is more to her than her current behavior. She has a worth that goes beyond her current behavior with you. Your view of her seems to be too narrow.
Even if my view of the one who walked out on me is too narrow, as you say, it is the truth. Why play games with a fantasy of who she might become?
Seeing her as more than the behaviors of walking out on you is not fantasy. I think it is a higher reality than seeing her only in terms of current behavior. As I said earlier to you, would you want all of your family members to define you exclusively by the times when you had a really bad day, with insensitivity to some family members? Do you think this misbehavior is the exclusive truth about who you are as a person?
I seem to be lost on the forgiveness path. I try and try, but I do not think I have made much progress in forgiving my partner and this has been going on for about a year. Should I just get off the forgiveness path regarding my forgiving him?
Before you give up, I have some questions for you:
1) Have you committed to doing no harm to your partner, even in the context of your having the opportunity to somehow hurt him? If you answered, “Yes, I have committed to doing no harm,” then you are not lost on the forgiveness journey. This is a big step in the process;
2) Have you tried to see his weaknesses, his confusions, his wounds that may have wounded you? If not, perhaps you need to do some of this cognitive work, to see him in a wider perspective than only his injuries toward you;
3) Do you think that your will is strong enough to do the work outlined in #1 and 2 above? If so, that work could lead to your forgiving if you give this time.
So, what do you think? Have you found your way back onto the path of forgiveness?
How do I know, with some degree of confidence, that I am ready to reconcile with the other person?
Reconciliation is different from forgiveness. When we reconcile, this is a process of two or more people coming together again in mutual trust. Reconciliation is conditional on the other person’s willingness to change, if he or she was the one who acted unfairly. Forgiveness, in contrast, can be offered unconditionally to the other as a form of respect, understanding, compassion, and even love, even if there is no reconciliation. So, you can forgive without reconciling.
With all of this as background, here are four questions which might help you decide if you are ready to reconcile (and I am presuming that the other is the one who has hurt you):
1) Has the other shown an inner sorrow about what he or she did? We call this remorse;
2) Has the person verbally expressed this sorrow to you. We call this repentance;
3) Has the person made amends for what happened (and we have to ask if he or she has done so within reason because sometimes we cannot make full amends. For example, if someone stole $1,000 from you but truly cannot repay it all, then you cannot expect that he or she can make amends in any perfect way). We call this recompense;
4) If the person has shown what I call the “three R’s” of remorse, repentance, and recompense, then do you have even a little trust in your heart toward the person? If so, then perhaps you can begin a slow reconciliation, taking small steps in rebuilding the relationship. Your answer to these four questions may help you with your question: How do I know that I now am ready to reconcile?