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.

In the "right/wrong" game, for instance, a lose/lose result occurs no matter the victor. It can operate between warring parties or in the sanctity of one's private ruminations. The math is always the same: a). "if you're right and I'm wrong," I lose; b). if "I'm right and your wrong," I lose also. No one wins. The proof: going out to dinner in the aftermath of a fight you've won, and the one you're dining with feels colder, more skewered-into, and viciously sliced-up than the sushi on your plate.

Naturally, the practice of forgiveness begins with ourselves. It's definitely a process, (at times, aided by a compassionate and skilled professional), and a choice of interpretation. It requires being with uncomfortable thoughts and feelings that have erupted, disengaging from the passion and judgments, and gradually, mindfully, returning to the quietness where no remainders are exist. You know it when your motor is "running clean" again. You're back to square one.


Art Rosengarten, Ph.D.

Why forgive?
Forgiveness is a gift that can free us from suffering when we find ourselves holding onto anger and resentment, obsessively reliving the injustice we experienced, engaging in revenge fantasies, and justifying our need to be right about how we were wronged. Holding a grudge and wanting the other person to suffer keeps us in the prison of our own negative energy. It is absolutely human to do all of the above when we have experienced an injustice or been hurt by the person we love. Moving from the prison of negativity to freedom through forgiveness is a choice that takes compassion and empathy for oneself as well as for the other. As it turns out, it is a good choice to consider as the benefits to our emotional, physical and relationship health can be enormous.

As Everett L Worthington Jr. PhD., Campaign Executive Director of A Campaign for Forgiveness Research states: "Forgiveness is both a decision and a real change in emotional experience. That change in emotion is related to better mental and physical health." Dr. Douglas Kelley of Arizona State University has found that a key to long-term marriage may be in how well a couple communicates forgiveness. 4 Love Lessons From Gandhi

Because of religious beliefs and misunderstanding of forgiveness, it can be a loaded term that might make you cringe. It is important to know that forgiveness is never required; it is a gift in which the person giving receives the most. Forgiveness does not mean condoning or forgetting. You can forgive and still hold a person accountable for their behavior. Forgiveness does not mean you automatically trust the person again; trust takes time to restore when it has been broken. Forgiveness is letting go of the negative emotion and the story we make up about why the person wronged us. Forgiveness is empowering for the person doing the forgiving as it requires nothing from the person being forgiven. Forgiveness is a process that takes time and must come from a genuine desire in order to be successful.

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