I am forgiving my husband for some really inappropriate behavior.  Even so, I cannot say that I feel any sense of freedom from all of my effort.  Does this mean that I have not forgiven?

We do not necessarily reach complete feelings of freedom upon forgiving because we sometimes have anger left over.  As long as the anger is not controlling you, and as long as you are not displacing that anger back onto your husband, then you very well may be forgiving or at least in the process of moving toward forgiving.  Has he altered the behavior that you say is inappropriate?  Sometimes there is the unfinished business of seeking justice toward a full reconciliation.  You might need to talk with him about the behavior and if he willingly changes, then this may help with your sense of freedom.

Learn more at Forgiveness for Couples.

I have tried to take the perspective of my former partner, but I am finding this very difficult. Every time I step inside of his world, I see that he has lost great opportunities and has done this deliberately.  Can you help me?  Am I missing something when it comes to what you call “taking the other’s perspective”?

I would like to suggest an important addition to your exercises of taking your partner’s perspective.  You seem to consider him primarily at the time of your conflict and his leaving.  Yet, is there more to him than this?  For example, was he abandoned as a child?  Did someone emotionally wound him as a child or adolescent so that he now is so wounded that he cannot endure a healthy relationship?  My point is this: I think there is more to him than his apparent insensitivity to you in the recent past.  Is it possible that he has brought a certain brokenness into your relationship?  If so, how are you viewing him when you realize this, if it is true?

For additional information, see  The Four Phases of Forgiveness. 

My partner forgives me.  I cannot forgive myself.  I now am feeling guilty that I cannot let myself off of that emotional hook after my partner has taken the time and trouble to forgive.  What do I do now?

It is not unusual for a person to not let the self “off of the emotional hook” even after knowing that the other forgives.  Why?  It is because we tend to be harder on ourselves than we are on others.  So, I recommend chapter 7 on self-forgiveness from my book, 8 Keys to Forgiveness.

For additional information, see Self-Forgiveness.

My spouse says that I am an angry person.  She is correct, but I cannot recall anyone in particular who treated me unfairly.  So, what’s up with my anger?

You might have what is called repressed memories in that you are in denial about some injustices from your past.  Sometimes, we so respect our parents, for example, that it is hard to admit unjust treatment from them.  See if this might fit your own case.  At the same time, it can be the case that you are angry because you reason that the world owes you a lot more than is reasonable.  In this case, you might have some narcissistic tendencies (a me-first mind set).  This can be hard to admit because narcissism exalts the self.  It takes the moral virtue of humility to see the narcissism and to willingly change the pattern.

For additional information, see The Four Phases of Forgiveness. 

My roommate forgave her boyfriend. Yet, she keeps talking about how mean he was to her. Why would she keep talking about it if she has forgiven him?

It is possible that your roommate has forgiven her boyfriend only to a point, but not completely. It seems that she still has residual anger that is bothering her. Also, even if she has forgiven him, she now may be struggling with the issue of reconciliation, or whether or not to continue the relationship. If she is talking about this as a call for help from you, then you might ask what her level of trust is with the boyfriend. See if she is struggling with the issue of reconciliation. It could be that she a) has forgiven, but not deeply yet, in which case she needs more time in the forgiveness process, or b) she is struggling with the issue of whether to reconcile or not.

Learn more at Forgiveness for Couples.

Is it possible to live with unforgiveness and still be happy? My husband abandoned me three years ago. It was totally unexpected.

There is a difference between deliberately deciding to “live with unforgiveness” and trying to forgive, but finding it difficult. Also, there is a difference between “living with unforgiveness” for small offenses against you and deeply unjust offenses against you. If you decide to deliberately be unforgiving under your particular circumstance of abandonment, then it is my opinion that your happiness will be compromised and this could continue for the rest of your life. Under circumstances such as yours, forgiving your husband for this deep injustice could set you free to feel a happiness you might not have felt for these past three years. Decisions to forgive or not to forgive, in other words, can have a significant impact on your quality of life. Yet, you do not want to force the process of forgiveness. When you feel ready, you might consider trying to forgive.

To learn more, read a study demonstrating that Forgiveness Therapy holds promise as a post relationship, post crisis therapeutic approach for women who have experienced spousal emotional abuse.

I am working with clients who had alcoholic parents. These clients, now adults, tend to downplay the seriousness of their parents’ addiction. In other words, the clients tend to say this: “My parents simply did the best that they could.” There is an obvious denial of injustice by the parents. Here is the complication: The clients in so denying any wrongdoing by the parents are taking out their anger on their own children. What do you suggest I do to break this hurtful denial in my clients?

Denial can take time, but I find that emotional pain can break through the denial when you ask about that inner pain. So, to start, I suggest that you ask these questions of your clients: How are your children doing? Are they having any adjustment problems? What is the nature of these problems? Do you feel sad or frustrated or scared when you see the challenges in your children?

Give the clients a chance to see the children’s adjustment challenges and to assess their own (the clients’) pain regarding those challenges. Once the clients can see their own pain with regard to their own children’s struggles, now it is time to ask the clients: Are your children possibly inheriting your own discontent, anger, sadness, or other emotional challenges?

It is at this point that you can begin to explore the family-of-origin hurts that the clients had experienced. In summary, start with the clients’ children’s difficulties which likely are present. Then turn to how the clients’ own challenges are affecting their children. This can serve as motivation for the clients to see how they have inherited pain and now are passing this on to their own children. At this point, the clients may be open to forgiving their own parents.

Learn more at Forgiveness for Couples.