All of us do and say things we regret later. If you’ve experienced this in your marriage, both of you may be struggling to reach a point of forgiveness. This is especially true if your actions were deeply hurtful to one another.
Conflicts can flare up so quickly in our closest relationships that we often lash out, making statements that we know we can’t take back – or acting in a way that seems harsh when we think about it later.
Sometimes, even after we’ve apologized, we still feel our relationship will never be the same. Yet we know we must forgive each other in order to move on.
Janae Munday, a therapist working with married and committed couples in the Phoenix, Arizona area, says that recovering from past mistakes is a gradual process. Here are 6 steps to follow that will help you both to move forward.
- NAME WHAT YOU HAVE DONE
Before you can achieve forgiveness, both of you must be clear about what happened. Work individually to write down the details of the events and actions that contributed to the situation.
Try to focus on your own actions without blaming each other for what happened. You may experience feelings of vulnerability when you do this, but stay with it. Engage this vulnerability by compassionately owning the truth rather than suppressing it. This will help you see how your own thoughts and acts led to the situation that feels so troubling.
- ASK FOR FORGIVENESS
This isn’t easy, but your willingness to approach each other means you’re admitting what happened and you feel sorry for your part in it.
Avoid minimizing your responsibility by using phrases like, “I’m sorry if…” or, “I’m sorry but …”, since it may seem like you’re shifting the blame to your partner — or leaving doubt as to whether your actions really were wrong. Simply name the wrong and ask for forgiveness.
- RELEASE ALL NEGAVITE THOUGHTS
Sometimes we struggle to forgive ourselves even when our loved one has already forgiven us.
This proves that self-forgiveness is not a one-time event but a gradual process. Every time self-loathing thoughts surface, take a deep breath and exhale all the negativity you feel. Over time, this practice will help to diminish the pain.
- SHOW UP AND BE SEEN
This concept comes from Dr. Brené Brown, whose research on vulnerability and shame has helped many people gain the courage to live their lives rather than sitting on the sidelines or hiding in dejection.
When facing painful mistakes, Dr. Brown says, we often shut down and disengage. For couples, this can mean avoiding conversation and closeness because we’re still hurting – or we’re terrified of what the other one is thinking. Once we have the courage to break through this pattern, we find our fears may be unfounded.
If you struggle with this step, realize that you’re gaining wisdom that will help your relationship heal.
- BE THANKFUL FOR MISTAKES
It might seem strange to express gratitude for our mistakes, especially the most painful ones. But think back to a time when you exercised poor judgment or did something you later regretted. In retrospect, you may realize the experience has changed you for the better.
If you can learn to see bad times in your marriage as opportunities to grow, then forgiveness comes as a natural result of accepting these lessons.
- LOVE YOURSELVES AND EACH OTHER
Practice celebrating who you are – as individuals and as a committed couple. Your experiences, good and bad, have helped you become what you are today. Our flaws and errors can help us become better lovers, partners and friends. So embrace your past, including the big mistakes, and you’ll grow stronger together.
OPENING THE DOOR TO FORGIVENESS IN YOUR MARRIAGE
These steps are not always easy to follow. There are times when working with a caring couples therapist can help you gain the perspective you need to move forward.
If you are struggling to free yourself from past mistakes in your relationship, Janae Munday can help. With years of successful experience as a marriage and couples therapist, she will work with you to put tough times in context so the healing can begin.
Call Janae now to schedule a convenient time to meet.