Why You Can't Have A Happy Relationship Without Forgiveness

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unhappy couple in an argument
YourTango Experts explore forgiveness in relationships and how it makes us happy.

If what we really want from our relationship is love and connection then becoming proficient in the language and practice of forgiveness is crucial to our well-being and the longevity of our love. Holding a grudge, being critical and shaming—no matter how justified we feel—is not going to bring us the warm, loving connection we desire. Three YourTango Experts dive into the concept of forgiveness in relationships: what it looks like, what it's not, why it's important, and how to start doing it. How To Forgive Your Spouse in 8 Steps

What is forgiveness, really?
Forgiveness discourages dust-ups from gathering gale-force winds in the skirmishes of modern relationships. It is invariably the most efficient route, an opportunity to surrender the perception of having been wronged. Its goal is to return to square one, to feel whole and free to be ourselves again. Nothing "added" remains or is necessary.

Given how remarkably sensitive we can be over "personal territory," defending groundless positions, in petty misunderstandings, etc. the beauty of forgiveness is a quick return to workability, without injury. As a choice of interpretation, forgiveness should not be mistaken for weakness or defeat, nor practiced for the dubious reward of appearing saintly. (No one really wants to be romantically attached to a saint.) The honest work of releasing attachment to perceived victimization means growing in real terms from genuine acts of awareness and understanding. When we truly forgive the person (or situation) we believe has harmed us, our former status as "victim" loses credibility.

Acquaintances, oddly enough, may act a little disappointed when they hear how "adult" we've become in our new interpretation. We "should have dumped them!" Gossip mills and other manifestations of secondary gain begin to shut down around us. It's all part of the new efficiency, trading in the old victimization for the new…what exactly? Well, certainly, not some blind acceptance of ongoing deceit and abuses. That would not be forgiveness so much as tales from the co-dependency spectrum, a topic for another article.

What actually becomes possible in forgiveness is a clearing in the space of relatedness, a new freedom and presence existing outside of the argument cycle and its aftermath. A return to square one, to be ok with ourselves, and each other again the way it is. Sometime a change is in store, sometimes a healing.

What's the alternative?
The alternative is typically the "right/wrong game," the hallmark of chronic hostility and "grudge-mode." Actually, all varieties of non-forgiveness are far less efficient, like an engine "running dirty." It's a struggle to remain frozen in the past when you have a life to live.

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