How to Forgive & Strengthen Your Relationship
Emotions and Their Meanings
Emotions have an underlying belief or source, here are some to share with you and help you understand why you are feeling the way you do:
Jealousy = Insecurity = I am not good enough
Loneliness = rejection = Nobody wants / appreciates me
Grief = Loss / separation = I need that person / situation to feel whole
Distrust = Fear = I am going to get hurt again
Betrayal = Fear = I am not worthy of commitment
Anger = Fear = Will it ever go my way?
What being hurt teaches you about you
Usually when we feel hurt and betrayed, we turn our attention to what the other person has done to us, as opposed to how we truly feel and how we got there in the first place. Think about a recent event where you have felt hurt, or cheated, or betrayed and think about why you feel that way.
For example, Mary and Joe have a fight because whilst they are out to dinner, Mary feels that Joe is distant and spends his evening looking at all the other women in the restaurant, rather than pay attention to her.
Underneath her anger and hurt, Mary probably feels the following:
- Disrespected - how can he blatantly look at other women whilst I'm sitting here?
- Jealous - Why doesn't he look at me like that?
- Angry - If he isn't going to pay attention to me why waste my time and bring me out to dinner?
- Hurt - Am I not good enough to deserve his undivided attention?
Joe on the other hand, is probably very simply thinking " Why is she so upset, I brought her out to dinner didn't I? All men have a bit of a look around!"
Joe hasn't even realized that his actions have caused Mary such distress and at this point probably feels she is overreacting.
A Little Laughter Goes a Long Way in healing your Relationship
Solving the Puzzle
If Mary were to sit down and think through all of her emotions, she could then start to ask herself
Why does she need Joe to validate her?
Why does she not think she is good enough?
Has she attracted a partner who magnifies her feelings of insecurity? (the answer here is usually yes!)
Though it may be difficult at the time, it does help to try and view the scenario from the other person's point of view and pretending to be them.
I discovered Deepak Chopra's method for doing this to be most useful. It's a 3 step process that allows you to really view the scenario from every angel and disassociate from the pain and teh mire of your own emotions:
Firstly, write down the whole event as it happened in your mind and really feel those emotions. Finish writing it and re-read it.
Secondly, write down the whole event as if you were the other person, from their perspective. It doesn't matter whether you are right or wrong, it only matters that you try and imagine what they were thinking and feeling at the time.
Thirdly, write down the whole event as if you were a neutral bystander or journalist observing the scenario.
By the time you've completed this process, you will find that you feel less deeply than you did at the beginning, the pain has dissolved and you are able to view a little more clearly the other person's motives and behaviour.
An example of this process using Mary and Joe's argument would be as follows:
Mary's View : I was so looking forward to having dinner with Joe this evening. I picked out a dress i knew he would like, did my hair and makeup as best i could to impress him and even wore his favourite perfume. My heart was already beating faster by the time he picked me up. I was so happy to see him and was really looking forward to our night out together. We went to a new restaurant on the other end of town we'd never tried before. Joe seemed a little distracted by the new decor and people everywhere. I was chatting to him about my day but he seemed more interested in what the people at the other table were eating and what the pretty girl sitting across from us was eating. I began to get increasingly frustrated that he wasn't really listening to me or paying attention to me. he barely spoke a word through dinner and I felt like I had to force conversation. halfway through the meal I just gave up and stopped talking altogether. I felt so hurt and rejected, why did he even bother asking me out?
On the way home Joe asked me if I had enjoyed dinner and if everything was okay and I was so angry, i told him he shouldn't even have bothered taking me out if he was just going to stare at other women all night and ignore me. I came inside and didn't even bother to say goodnight.
Joe's View :(written by Mary) I'd been waiting all week to take Mary out to dinner, I booked this place across town we'd been talking about trying for weeks, hoping to impress her. It's a bit more expensive but I wanted to spoil her for a change.
I picked her up from her home and she looked amazing, smelling of that perfume I love. On the way over to the restaurant Mary was chatting away and obviously very excited about trying out the new place and I was enjoying hearing her voice and her excitement.
We got to the restaurant and it was really amazing inside, very different from the place we usually go with a lot more tables. Mary seemed really happy and was babbling on as she does sometimes, I could barely get a word in edge ways! In the end, i let her prattle on since it seemed to make her happy and I had a good look around the room and at what the other people were eating. There were some rather attractive people in the room too! About halfway through the dinner Mary suddenly stopped chatting and the atmosphere changed entirely. She seemed to tense up and become cold and indifferent. I have no idea why suddenly her mood changed but it went downhill from there. When I took her home she barely said a word and when I asked her if she was okay she suddenly yelled at me about ignoring her and looking at other women! Not the evening I was looking forward to at all and now I don't even know if we'll see each other again.
Journalists point of view: Joe arrived at Mary's house on time and looking forward to an evening out with his lovely girlfriend Mary. Mary looked radiant and had made the extra effort to please Joe, even wearing his favourite perfume. Joe was beaming at the sight of her.
They hopped into Joe's car and the couple were chatting away as they looked forward to an evening in a restaurant they'd been planning on trying out for weeks.
The restaurant was bustling and far bigger than their usual hangouts, with easily double the tables. Joe was fascinated by the people and the decor whilst Mary seemed more focused on Joe, chatting away about her day. Perhaps it was nerves but Mary didn't really take much interest in Joe's day and seemed almost to be talking at him - men can only manage so many words in a day! - and Joe seeming a little bewildered by the verbal downpour, took refuge in looking around the room and some of the attractive women seated at other tables.
Midway through the meal, Mary suddenly became very silent and withdrawn and Joe sensed something was amiss and yet couldn't work out why. he had brought his lady to the loveliest most expensive restaurant in town! Mary had clearly become irritated with Joe's attentions being focused elsewhere and had clammed up.
They finished the rest of their lovely meal in a tense silence and the drive home suddenly became awkward and silent. Mary was fuming at Joe's indifference to her and Joe was utterly bewildered at what could have altered Mary's mood so.
They had a few angry words at the door and Mary went inside feeling hurt and rejected whilst Joe went home feeling angry and confused by her angry outburst at the end of the evening.
By the time Mary has written all this down and reread it, she will perhaps have noticed that she helped set up the mood in the evening by talking at Joe, rather than to him, engaging him in conversation and asking about him. She may also have realised that she didn't ever tell Joe she would've liked him to pay more attention to her, or even thanked him for bringing her out to dinner at an expensive restaurant.
Her excitement had gotten the better of her.
Joe would've noticed that he had been quite casual and indifferent, and would have done better to talk to Mary in a calm voice and engage with her. Focusing on her and making her feel comfortable would have helped her calm down and added an air of romance to the evening which they would then both have enjoyed.
Suddenly it's easier to see the evening clearly and understand the other person's actions and feel empathy for the way the evening went and take responsibility for your own actions...now you are ready to forgive!
Forgiveness - Healing the Past, Present and Future
Once you've arrived at a clearer understanding of everyone's behaviour, you can now forgive the other person for the role they played - for that is what it was. You may not agree with the decision they took or the way in which they responded to you or treated you and you dont need to.
To forgive, you only need to understand these 4 things:
- The other person is human and like you can misinterpret and make mistakes
- Forgiveness doesn't mean that you agree with how the other person behaved, it just means that you can see there is no point in staying angry and that if you had behaved differently yourself, things could possibly have worked out differently
- Forgiving the other person also means forgiving yourself and the role you played in what happened. Set yourself free, accept that you both made mistakes and that with hindsight you can see that things could have gone differently
- Apologize for your own actions, even if you aren't ever going to speak to that person ever again, write it down on a piece of paper, explain what you have now discovered and then burn that piece of paper and let it go! Nobody acts in a vacuum, we all react to each other based on our own beliefs and expectations.