A Specific Forgiveness Exercise for Couples

Those of you who have the absolute perfect spouse, please raise you hand……anyone?

Now, those of you who are the absolute perfect spouse, please raise your hand…..I see no hands up.

OK, so we have established that we are not perfect and neither is our partner. Yet, we can always improve. Note carefully that I am not suggesting that you read this to improve your partner. I write it to improve you, the reader.

Here is a little exercise that I recommend for any couple. Together, talk out the hurts that you received in your family of origin, where you grew up. CoupleLet the other know of your emotional wounds. This exercise is not meant to cast blame on anyone in your family of origin. Instead, the exercise is meant for each of you to deepen your insight into who your partner is. Knowing his wounds is one more dimension of knowing him as a person. As you each identify the wounds from your past, try to see what you, personally, are bringing into the relationship from that past. Try to see what your partner is bringing from the past to your relationship.

Now, together, work on forgiving those from your family of origin who have wounded you. Support one another in the striving to grow in theThe Forgiving Life-Cover virtue of forgiveness. The goal is to wipe the resentment-slate clean so that you are not bringing those particular wounds to the breakfast table (and lunch table and dinner table) every day.

Then, when you are finished forgiving those family members from the past, work on forgiving your partner for those wounds brought into your relationship, and at the same time, seek forgiveness from him or her for the woundedness you bring to your relationship. Then, see if the relationship improves. All of this is covered in greater depth in my book, The Forgiving Life.

Robert

Couples’ Time for Forgiveness

Busy….busy….busy. No time to just sit and abide in each other’s presence. With all of our labor saving devices it is hard to believe that we have so little time for each other on a deep, meaningful level.

This can be corrected by willing a change.

We at the International Forgiveness Institute suggest a 10 minute (or more if the couples4conversation develops) couples forgiveness retreat once a week. Set the day and time and will to stick with it. In that time, discuss your hurts from the past week. Who hurt you and how were you hurt? What did you do about it? Is forgiveness on your radar now or are you perhaps planning to put it on your radar for discussion and work toward forgiving? Support your partner in his or her struggle to forgive. Be a forgiveness motivator and even a forgiveness inspiration.

It takes a strong will to do this. The rewards may themselves strengthen your will to pursue this little weekly retreat on a regular basis.

Robert

A Specific Exercise for Couples

Those of you who have the absolute perfect spouse, please raise you hand……anyone?

Now, those of you who are the absolute perfect spouse, please raise your hand…..I see no hands up.

OK, so we have established that we are not perfect and neither is our partner. Yet, we can always improve. Note carefully that I am not suggesting that you read this to improve your partner. I write it to improve you, the reader.

Here is a little exercise that I recommend for any couple. Together, talk Couple 2-out the hurts that you received in your family of origin, where you grew up. Let the other know of your emotional wounds. This exercise is not meant to cast blame on anyone in your family of origin. Instead, the exercise is meant for each of you to deepen your insight into who your partner is. Knowing his wounds is one more dimension of knowing him as a person. As you each identify the wounds from your past, try to see what you, personally are bringing into the relationship from that past. Try to see what your partner is bringing in.

Now, together, work on forgiving those from your family of origin who have wounded you. Support one another in the striving to grow in the virtue of forgiveness. The goal is to wipe the resentment-slate clean so that you are not bringing those particular wounds to the breakfast table (and lunch table and dinner table) every day.

Then, when you are finished forgiving those family members from the past, work on forgiving your partner for those wounds brought into your relationship, and at the same time, seek forgiveness from him or her for the woundedness you bring to your relationship. Then, see if the relationship improves. All of this is covered in greater depth in my new book, The Forgiving Life.

Robert

The Superficial Self-Help Advice to the Lovelorn: Don’t Care So Much

I was listening to a self-proclaimed self-help “expert” today.  His goal was to try to help those who have lost in love to remain psychologically whole or to become whole once again.  The gist of his advice was this:  Break the attachment so that you care less than the partner cares.  This diminishes his or her power over you.  When we attach to others, it is then that we are vulnerable to suffering.  Detach and then you automatically will suffer less.

ArgumentBut the big questions for me on this advice are these:

Is suffering so bad that we cannot love others in a deep way?

Why view relationships in terms of power and then possessing the power as a way to heal?

Finally, is a world of detachment meaningful and purposeful compared to the healthy attachment of genuine love and service to the other?

Suffering is not to be avoided at all costs.  If there were no ways out of suffering and if suffering crushed all of us all the time, then this would be different.  Yet, we all can grow through suffering by becoming more patient, more mature in our character, and more sensitive to the suffering in others.  Suffering is not the enemy.  No, suffering should not then be sought, but when it comes, there are solutions and one of them is to practice forgiveness.

Are relationships defined primarily by power?  If so, then both partners Holding Handsare missing out on one of the richest, most beautiful experiences on this earth: to step outside of a predominant self-interest to the kind of love that serves and in the serving gives joy.  All of this likely is missed by too many who view the world from a power lens because power is intent on dominating, not serving.  When was the last time you saw true joy on the face of someone who dominates?

Detachment in the name of avoiding suffering is to play it safe.  It is like taking your $100 and putting it in the ground so that you avoid losing it.  If, instead, you are not detached in this world and take the risk of investing that $100 it could grow where you can help others.  Detachment is passive and ultimately joyless.

Don’t care so much?  No thanks.  I’ll take risks and see love as a way to serve.  In that service there may be suffering, but joy is likely eventually to grow.  I will take joy over safety every day of the week.

Robert

Couples’ Time for Forgiveness

Busy….busy….busy. No time to just sit and abide in each other’s presence. With all of our labor saving devices it is hard to believe that we have so little time for each other on a deep, meaningful level.

This can be corrected by willing a change.

We at the International Forgiveness Institute suggest a 10 minute (orCouple more if the conversation develops) couples forgiveness retreat once a week. Set the day and time and will to stick with it. In that time, discuss your hurts from the past week. Who hurt you and how were you hurt? What did you do about it? Is forgiveness on your radar now or are you perhaps planning to put it on your radar for discussion and work toward forgiving? Support your partner in his or her struggle to forgive. Be a forgiveness motivator and even a forgiveness inspiration.

It takes a strong will to do this. The rewards may themselves strengthen your will to pursue this little weekly retreat on a regular basis.

Robert

A Specific Forgiveness Exercise for Couples

Those of you who have the absolute perfect spouse, please raise you hand……anyone?

Now, those of you who are the absolute perfect spouse, please raise your hand…..I see no hands up.

OK, so we have established that we are not perfect and neither is our partner. Yet, we can always improve. Note carefully that I am not suggesting that you read this to improve your partner. I write it to improve you, the reader.

Here is a little exercise that I recommend for any couple. Together,Couple talk out the hurts that you received in your family of origin, where you grew up. Let the other know of your emotional wounds. This exercise is not meant to cast blame on anyone in your family of origin. Instead, the exercise is meant for each of you to deepen your insight into who your partner is. Knowing his wounds is one more dimension of knowing him as a person. As you each identify the wounds from your past, try to see what you, personally are bringing into the relationship from that past. Try to see what your partner is bringing in.

Now, together, work on forgiving those from your family of origin who have wounded you. Support one another in the striving to grow in the virtue of forgiveness. The goal is to wipe the resentment-slate clean so that you are not bringing those particular wounds to the breakfast table (and lunch table and dinner table) every day. Then, when you are finished forgiving those family members from the past, work on forgiving your partner for those wounds brought into your relationship, and at the same time, seek forgiveness from him or her for the woundedness you bring to your relationship. Then, see if the relationship improves. All of this is covered in greater depth in my new book, The Forgiving Life.

Robert

Spring into Forgiving: Differences Between Forgiveness and Reconciliation

Forgiveness-ReconciliationThe snow is melting. The days are becoming longer. Even the birds are starting to chirp. Spring is a wonderful time of new beginnings. New relationships develop and fantasies of improving old relationships may increase. For most people, time spent with friends and family brings happiness. However, for some, relationships with family members and/or friends can be a source of stress related to past conflicts. There are many ways to cope with conflict and feelings of anger and resentment but one approach that we don’t often hear about is the idea of Forgiveness. In an article I read in Runner’s World, the author states, “Butter brings families together, mends old wounds and softens the harsh glare of old resentments, and even makes peas taste good” (Parent, December 2011, p. 50). I don’t know if forgiveness can make “peas taste good” but I do believe that forgiveness can be just as effective as butter, if not more so, in “bringing families together, mending old wounds and softening resentment.”

Many misconceptions and misunderstandings surround what it means to forgive, how to forgive, and when to forgive. Forgiveness involves a willingness to abandon one’s right to resentment, negative judgment, and negative behavior toward one who unjustly injured us, while fostering the undeserved qualities of compassion, generosity, and sometimes even love toward him or her ( Enright, 2001; North, 1987). Notice in the definition that you have a “right” to feel resentment and that the offender does not “deserve” your compassion and generosity based on his or her actions. Forgiveness can also be more simply defined as a decrease in negative thoughts, feelings and behaviors toward the offender and perhaps, over time, a gradual increase in more positive thoughts, feelings, and sometimes behaviors (Enright et al., 1991). Forgiveness does not mean that you deny your offender’s wrongdoing or excuse your offender or the wrongdoing.

One frequent misconception of forgiveness is that it is the same as reconciliation. Although frequently confused with reconciliation, forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation and does not automatically lead to reconciliation. You can forgive and choose not to reconcile. Forgiveness is something you, as the injured, can do on your own and reconciliation requires a change in behavior on the part of the offender; possibly including an apology and the admittance of wrongdoing. Some criticize forgiveness because they think that advocating forgiveness leads to further abuse. However, in the case of a woman married to a partner who continuously cheats on her, she can leave her partner and work on forgiving without staying in the relationship. I would only advise her to consider reconciling if her partner changed his behavior and admitted to his wrongdoing. Forgiveness can also lead to reconciliation. It might be the first step in the process of getting back together with an offender who is sorry for his or her actions.

Forgiveness is a complicated topic and it is definitely not easy, but the benefits are well worth the effort. Future blogs on forgiveness will discuss the role of anger and apology when forgiving, the relation between forgiveness and forgetting, how religion relates to forgiveness, and who benefits when one forgives. Forgiveness is not the only approach to dealing with deep, personal, and unfair hurt. Remember, there’s butter. It is just one response that is not always thought about or tried.

Suzanne Freedman, Professor, University of Northern Iowa