What To Do When It Feels Like Your Partner Will Never Forgive You

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man and woman sitting opposite of each other

Forgiveness is generally defined as a “conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you."

And if you’re the one looking to be forgiven, it can be really painful if it doesn’t happen. 

You’ve apologized repeatedly but still, you feel like you’re in the doghouse. Part of you wonders if you will ever be forgiven.

Waiting and wondering are starting to influence the way you feel about your partner. 

Which is only making things worse.

So is there anything productive you can do to move things forward?

Actually, there is. But you have to be willing to both be patient and uncomfortable.

RELATED: 18 Experts Reveal How To Regain The Trust Of Someone You've Betrayed

A true apology begins by accepting responsibility

When you are responsible for hurting your partner, you want them to get over it quickly so things can get back to normal.

But it takes time and specific actions for your partner to move through their hurt. Trying to speed up this process will most likely backfire and forgiveness will take even longer.

Rushing your partner also makes them feel like you aren’t really remorseful. No matter what words you’ve actually spoken.

The first thing you have to do if you truly want to be forgiven is to accept full responsibility for your actions.

You need to offer a specific and clear apology. Name your problematic behavior without offering any explanation or justification for why you did it.

You may not have meant harm. You may not even understand why what you did was problematic. Both are irrelevant at this stage of the game.

If you don’t take complete and authentic ownership of your part, your partner can’t even begin to contemplate forgiving you.

Depending on how devastating your actions were, you may need to make the apology many times before it is accepted. And that can feel unfair. And uncomfortable.

But if you want to repair your relationship, you have to be willing to walk that path. 

RELATED: How To Know When It's Okay To Forgive Someone And Move On

Actions speak louder

Another thing you need to do is to understand why you did what you did. Not as a defense but as a means of not repeating it in the future. 

If you apologize but don’t change your behavior, your partner will not be able to trust you. So you have to not just say the words but do the actions.

And keep doing them. Because your partner’s forgiveness depends on that.

This is critically important if it isn’t the first time your partner has been hurt in this way.

If you’ve apologized before and then repeated the hurtful action, your words of remorse carry no meaning. Your actions will be what your partner pays attention to.

If they haven’t changed, your partner will withhold forgiveness.

RELATED: Why I Will Always Choose To Forgive

Here are the three steps to take when your partner won't forgive you

1. Acknowledge your partner’s pain

Use their language. If they were upset and worried because you didn’t let them know you would be late, you can say, “I understand it’s upsetting when I don’t share that I’m running late. I get that it causes you to worry.”

2. Own your culpability 

Do this without explanation, justification, or defense of why it was okay. It doesn’t matter why you were late or didn’t let your partner know in a timely fashion.

Stating, “It was inconsiderate of me not to let you know I was running late. I am sorry that I did not call or send a text,” lets your partner know you understand the specific behavior that created the problem.

3. Change your behavior

If you aren’t clear on how to change, ask your partner what would be a better way of handling the situation in the future.

Your partner is the expert on what bothers them and they are sharing that information with you. Embrace new behavior that supports your partner and your relationship. 

RELATED: The #1 Thing That Can Transform Your Relationship — If You Let It 

What if they still won't forgive you?

If you have done all these things and your partner still isn’t forgiving you, ask what is getting in their way. And mind your reaction.

Continue to make positive amends. Continue to ask about what is still missing. Assess it for what steps you can still take.

Not forgiving is often a form of protection from future hurt. Being patient and proactive are the keys. 

If your partner still isn’t making the “conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance," there is a reason.

Often one of the steps has been missed or is somehow incomplete.

Often it can take an objective third party, usually a professional counselor if not a knowledgeable friend, to guide you through the process successfully.

RELATED: How Meditation Paves The Way For Forgiveness & Letting Go — And 3 Ways To Get Started

Lesli Doares is a marriage and family therapist and marriage coach specializing in guiding men successfully through the unique challenges of marriage.