I am concerned about learning through observation. If children see parents arguing frequently, sometimes intensively, will these children, in the future, engage in bullying others in school or even be a contentious partner in adulthood?
This depends on what the child, who now is an adolescent or an adult, has learned from what was observed about the parents. It is possible that the person might gain wisdom from the parents’ fighting and realize that such a pattern is not healthy. Thus, the person may deliberately commit to not following the parents’ behavior. In contrast, if the person does not reflect on the potentially destructive pattern, then, yes, the person may grow up to show bullying behaviors in school and to repeat the pattern of a conflictual relationship with a partner. In other words, insight along with a commitment to not imitate the conflictual behavior might spare the person from repeating the parents’ behavioral pattern.
My daughter recently divorced her husband. She wants nothing to do right now with forgiving him. On the other hand, I am interested in forgiving him for how he treated my daughter. My question for you is this: Can I forgive him or would I be disloyal to my daughter who does not want to forgive?
You are free to choose forgiveness in this case. Even though your daughter’s ex-spouse did not hurt you directly, he did hurt you in a secondary sense in that he hurt your loved one. Forgiving in this context is appropriate. You are not being disloyal to your daughter if you choose to forgive to rid yourself of resentment. You need not, then, go to your daughter and proclaim your forgiveness and then pressure her now to do the same. You can forgive without discussing this with your daughter. If and when she is ready to forgive, then you can share your insights about the forgiveness process with her.
I have not whole-heartedly forgiven my partner, who remains unrepentant. Does this mean that I have not yet forgiven?
Forgiving another need not be whole-hearted. Sometimes people have anger left over and that is not an indication that there is no forgiving that is happening. Do you wish the other well? Have you forgiven to a point? For now, that may be enough. You need not be hard on yourself.
Does forgiving another also include the belief that this person can change for the better?
No, to forgive another person does not mean that you, as the forgiver, believe that this other person can or will change. To forgive is to offer compassion and the acknowledgement of the person’s humanity, regardless of the outcome of this belief. This is one important reason why we have to distinguish forgiving and reconciling. You can offer this compassion and recognition of the other’s humanity without reconciling if the other remains a danger to you.
I am back with my boyfriend after several months of being apart. I am apprehensive, not trusting much, because of his past hurts. Have I reconciled, I mean truly reconciled, if I cannot trust yet?
Being together does not necessarily mean that you are reconciled. Reconciliation includes trust, but trust is earned back inch-by-inch. Does your boyfriend show you signs that he has remorse (sadness for what he did)? Does he show repentance (saying he is sorry)? Does he engage in recompense (behaviorally trying to make up for what he did and behaviorally showing he is trustworthy)? Keep these three issues in mind (remorse, repentance, and recompense) as a way to build your trust so that you can achieve a true reconciliation.