When Forgiveness is Difficult to Come By
by Joyce Dolberg Rowe, LMHC
Can you think of a time when you thought you missed your partner and looked forward to their coming home, only to realize as soon as they walked in the door, that you felt prickly or irritable? You wonder what’s wrong. You figure you’ll just get over it. You try a little harder. …and then your partner speaks to you or simply enters into the room slightly grumpy, and you feel completely annoyed. You may find yourself responding in a condescending way; by ignoring, having a brusque tone, rolling your eyes, or even pouting? What is that?? It becomes a dynamic that takes on a life of its’ own, like an endless cycle. Sometimes we just don’t understand why we feel turned off—way turned off. Is it over? Have you lost the loving feelings forever?
Resentment may be holding you back from being your true self; a loving, happy self. This anger turned inward is often the result of not being able to forgive and let go, which is not the same as, “forgive and forget”. Women don’t forget. The fact is that women have a special place in the back of their brain that is just for emotional memory. Men don’t have it. It is a survival mechanism. In the evolutionary past, women relied heavily on their gut feelings or intuition to protect them and help to make safe choices. Emotionally speaking it is a very important device. Unfortunately, when forgiveness is difficult to come by, these red flags can get in the way of having a healthy relationship. Women may not forget, but must learn to forgive and move forward. Men who get stuck in resentment, must also learn how to forgive.
Do you find it hard to forgive, let go, and move on? Are you a grudge holder? Is your loving relationship filling with bitterness instead of sweetness? Do you find it difficult to trust? It is important to have clear boundaries about what is acceptable or not in a relationship, but sometimes the punishment does not fit the crime. Sometimes resentment lingers even you don’t want it to. This is particularly a challenge for women.
Anger is a normal, healthy emotion. When goes out of control, it has the potential to become destructive. This refers not only aggressive anger, but quiet, insidious rage is also very destructive; self-destructive. If you are expressing your resentment through biting sarcasm, digs and ‘zingers’, or even the silent treatment, you hurt not only those around you, but also your emotional and physical health and self-esteem. You may begin to dislike the person you become. You may blame the relationship or the other person for bringing out the worst in you.
Maybe you think that by staying angry, you are punishing the other guy, and they will remember it and change their behavior. Maybe you think that if you forgive them, they will not take you seriously in the future. The fact is that negative reinforcement does not motivate people to change. Positive reinforcement does! That means that by using advanced communication skills, you can learn to work through your feelings and return to a loving place.
Even when things are not okay, do you pretend that they are? When we hold our feelings in and repress them, we can feel depressed. Depression feels like intense sadness, but it may actually be suppressed anger that is turned inward. It is resentment. It can make you feel tired because it takes so much energy to keep that anger from coming out.