2. Know how to take care of yourself. It seems very logical that if someone else hurt you, then that person should fix it. But it doesn’t always work that way. If someone who loves you has hurt you, he or she either doesn’t understand how you feel, isn’t thinking clearly, or isn’t in control of his or her own actions. This can be true in minor hurts and major ones. If your husband forgets your birthday, or your wife makes an important social date on the day of the big game, there may be several causes. If the error was due to faulty communication or poor memory, you can take care of yourself by placing a calendar in a prominent location in your home and marking all important dates, perhaps with different colored pencils to indicate whose memo it is. Technophiles can put in on their Palm Pilots. If a date is on the calendar, there are no “forgetting” excuses. If the situation is more serious (she burns dinner when she drinks too much, he spends too much money on payday), then you have to take more serious measures. For situations like this, I recommend therapy. Go with or without your partner, and you will learn how to take care of yourself until he or she has better self-control. Until you know how to prevent yourself from being hurt again, forgiveness does not make sense.
3. Let your partner know how you feel. Once you are clear about how you were hurt or disappointed, you can be clear with your partner. Don’t accuse—just speak in terms of your feelings. “My feelings were hurt when I didn’t know where you were at the party.” Or, “I’m disappointed because I wanted you to remember my birthday.”
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4. Tell your partner what you think would fix the problem. When you offer a possible solution, your partner will have a clear idea of what you want. You can say, “When we go to parties, I’d like to you to let me know where you are, and I want you to understand why I feel bad if you don’t.”
5. Listen to your partner’s version of what happened. Often these problems are caused mainly by a difference in perception, so it’s important to understand how your partner saw the situation. This also keeps the discussion on a more even level, with both partners discussing the problem rather than one accusing and the other defending. You may learn that your partner even thought he or she was doing something you wanted. “You kept saying you didn’t want to celebrate this birthday, and I thought you meant it.”
6. Reach a mutual solution to the problem. If someone is very hurt, or very defensive, it may take a few discussions to resolve this problem. Remember that it is worth the time it takes, because it will prevent this from becoming a recurring problem. If you can’t solve it together after a few tries, see a counselor. Forgiveness skills are so important that you really need to learn them if you don’t have them already.
7. Have a forgiving ceremony. This can be as simple as looking into your partner’s eyes and saying “I forgive you.” What’s important is that you communicate that the air is cleared, the hurt forgiven, and the problem is over. You won’t be able to do that honestly if you haven’t done the previous steps.
You don't have to condemn your partner to be wary of their out-of-control or thoughtless behavior. Instead, you can recognize that both of you are fallible human beings, do what is necessary to fix the problems, and then forgive each other. When both of you take responsibility for fixing these mistakes in the relationship, your trust in each other will grow, and where trust grows, so does love. ©2008 Tina B. Tessina
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Adapted from: It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunctio" (New Page) ISBN 1564145484