How to Forgive and Forget in a Relationship

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Let’s be real; nobody is perfect. You may have found someone who you consider to be your perfect mate, the one who you are meant to be with, your true and forever love, the one closest to you who can do no harm. And then s/he goes and does something that shatters your untarnished image of them that you’ve so firmly held on to. It’s a biggie. Can you move on? Can you forgive and forget?

First, look deep for any signs within you that insist that you should strive to be perfect. Then ask if you expect that of your partner. Look at yourself, your mate and the relationship you are carving as realistically as you can. Don’t fall victim to the mindset that your love will transcend any appearance of discord. That’s fantasy land. Typically that attitude happens in new relationships and often fades as the relationship progresses. Get ahead of the game: cut your mate some slack.

Are you justified in feeling hurt? Sure. You own your feelings. They may be overblown or unrealistic in your estimation, but they’re your feelings. Do you expect your partner to apologize, “fess up,” atone for his/her “sins?” Can you have a conversation about what just happened and express your feelings to one another?

Every situation is a little different. Maybe they don’t feel they did anything to apologize for. Do you accept that? If not, what then? Another aspect of forgiveness is, do you set up prerequisites to forgiveness? For example, do you always expect them to say “I’m sorry” before you can forgive them?

 

Breaking the Cycle

I’ve assembled some strategies for breaking the cycle some of us get into when we are resistant to forgive. See if any resonate with you:

Let go of the anger toward your “offending” mate. When you look at it closely, being angry at another person – for whatever reason – is actually an attack. You’re lashing out at this person because you feel offended, hurt, or threatened. And this person you are attacking is your beloved.

Don’t sulk or punish. “I’ll fix him/her. I won’t speak to them for the rest of the day. That’ll show him/her not to try that again.” You’re just pushing your mate further away. You’re doing the opposite of trying to resolve a situation.

Be ego mindful. Is your response to their behavior a reflection of how you really WANT to react? Is this you reacting or is it a mind gremlin? You know that voice in your head that second guesses your thoughts and actions? It’s the one that likes to question the intentions of others … that likes to stir things up … seek revenge. Try not to listen to it – or at least try not to act on it.

Be empathetic. Practicing empathy is the opposite of not forgiving. If you can put yourself in your mate’s place for a minute and accept that you could have made the same or similar mistake, you’ll be hard-pressed to not be forgiving.

Drop the tough act. Are you hanging on, not forgiving, because to not do so makes you come off as weak, a pushover? Is there some power-play going on? Are you afraid you’re not standing up for yourself if you forgive too easily? You’re not in a power struggle here. This is your sweetheart, your partner. In a loving relationship, it’s ok to be vulnerable.

Look at the trigger. Reflect on why you’re upset and unforgiving. Could it be because your mate’s infraction “pushed your button?” For example, if your mate lost his/her cool and started yelling at you, did you, on impulse, get overly offended because your father would break out yelling at you like that growing up?

Don’t keep score. Are you letting your mate slide on a certain number of incidents and then when a certain number of “infractions” are reached, decide you can’t, won’t forgive … or at least not for the moment? How about treating each incident as an opportunity to practice love and forgiveness and forget the past?

Forgive yourself. Sometimes the inability to forgive is anger turned inward. That may seem kind of backward, but think about it; has your sweetie done something you are guilty of yourself or were guilty of in a previous relationship? Is your decision not to forgive a way of transferring the anger or guilt onto them? I bet if the answer is yes, you might feel more forgiving.

 

Keep Practicing

To forgive often takes practice. Forgiveness is something you have to work at, be aware of. Not forgiving creeps up sometimes when you’re looking the other way, when you thought you’ve long forgotten the offense. And not forgiving sometimes rears its ugly head when the next transgression occurs; forgiveness can be sneaky that way.

Isn’t your relationship with your mate – who you trust – worth overcoming the occasional “hiccups?” Then work your forgiveness “muscle.” You’ll both be happier now and in the long-run. It’s really, deep down, what you both want, don’t you think?

Staying True to Yourself in a Relationship

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Can you be yourself in a relationship? Do you find yourself biting your tongue, holding back from your mate? Are you afraid to share your attitudes, beliefs, opinions? Are there some topics so near and dear to you, that are so important to you, that when you don’t express them, it feels like the proverbial “elephant in the room?”

 

For Instance …

We live in a volatile world with lots of crazy stuff happening on multiple fronts: politics, the economy, world affairs, human rights, and so on.

Let’s say you have strong views about some social issue that you haven’t shared with your mate because he/she has already expressed how they feel about those issues and they are diametrically opposite of yours.

Or, let’s say you have made comments or had discussions with your mate, maybe even ranted about something you heard on the news. You’ve shared your views with him/her and they tell you they would rather not hear any more about it.

What about when you and your mate are in the company of others: friends, family, a chance encounter with an acquaintance in public and a controversial topic comes up? Do you freely discuss it, share your thoughts with the group – despite your mate’s opposing views, despite his/her displeasure or strong distaste for those discussions?

 

Stifling Self-Expression

Are your fears that he/she will find the subject upsetting, lose admiration for you, have doubts about the success of the relationship, take off and run?

Can you speak frankly with one another and in the presence of others? Do you feel you must reconstruct your relationship to avoid those discussions? Are you afraid she/he will see you as being too judgmental, overly dramatic, radical, a nut case?

Do you feel guilty expressing your thoughts because it makes you feel like you’re not taking your mate’s feelings into account?

Are you resentful that you are, for practical purposes, being asked not to express yourself fully?

Do you feel like you’re having to self-censor frequently when certain subjects arise? Do you feel like your mate is in a sense putting a muzzle on you by asking you not to share those topics that are important to you?

Do you feel so directed by your mate’s opposing views that you feel you’re losing touch with your own values, your own sense of self?

 

Balancing Expression and Harmony

A delicate balance exists between being authentic and open, being yourself, and holding back on certain feelings or attitudes so you don’t upset your partner.

We each have core beliefs. The awareness and expression of those core beliefs can be what creates meaning in our lives. What if your mate has very different core beliefs? What if she/he is intolerant of beliefs that don’t coincide with his/hers? Or what if the expression of certain opposing beliefs is so disturbing to him/her that they feel anxious, fearful, agitated, frustrated?

What if your mate is, in general, very open to discussion, even ones where you have opposing views but there are certain ones that are “hot buttons” and those come up a lot and you feel the urge to talk about them?

For the sake of harmony, are you ok with keeping your mouth shut about them? What if you thought you could at first, but as time goes by in the relationship, you find it harder and harder … you realize you have to talk about them or you’ll burst?

Could you hold those discussions for another time, delay them until you can express them freely with others besides your mate when she’s/he’s not around? Can you live with that?

Can you stay silent, follow your own truth, and accept that your mate is following his/hers?

 

The Goal

It’s a process, as the saying goes … like most elements of a relationship. As you work through that process, you want to see what’s up ahead, that you’re heading in a positive direction, right? You have a right to free reign of self-expression. You want to feel like you are being authentic or working toward authenticity, not going in the opposite direction.

Is there a middle ground in all this? Can you find that happy medium where you both agree to disagree and feel comfortable having discussions in those cases– or not? Any successful relationship needs to allow for individual self-expression as well as some compromises. The goal of having a mutually satisfying relationship needs to leave room for your separate identities and keep them intact, so the YOU can shine through. It’s important to review these differences with yourself and your mate and come to some agreements.

Is It the Right Time to Move in Together?

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Is it time to move in together? Are you ready to share a place, occupy the same space, see your mate first thing when you get up and last thing before you go to sleep?  Do you enjoy the idea of having tea or coffee for two in the morning and meals at night and possibly in between?

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? But before you agree to put your shoes side by side under the same bed, think it through – very carefully. This isn’t just a sleepover; it’s a big chunk of your life and your future happiness.

 

Why Move in Together?

What are your reasons for wanting to make the move? To spend more time together? Do you see this as the first step toward a long-term relationship? Marriage? Kids? Because it’s what people who have been dating a while eventually do?

Two can live more cheaply than one; is this your primary reason for cohabitating? Hold on a minute. I hope not. Saving money needs to be separated from matters of the heart or you’re just choosing to be roommates. Are you absolutely sure finances are not the main reason you want to live together as a couple?

On the other hand, if the rationale for both of you is predominantly to save money first, grow a relationship second, all righty, then. Your goals are aligned. Just be sure that’s what you both want and are admitting it to one another up front. And be sure that you can both live with those priorities.

 

The Practical Aspects of the Move

So your goals are aligned and all systems go. On the practical side, after the hassle of the move itself, you’ll be minimizing the travel time it takes to see one another. You’ll avoid having to plan to see each other, pack a bag, find a pet sitter, make sure you leave the house without forgetting something … And think of the savings on gas and wear and tear on your vehicle (half kidding on this one).

 

Discussing a Life Together

Have you both discussed what moving in together means to each of you? Do you know why you want it, why your mate wants it? Have you had that discussion? Are your separate reasons and goals in sync? Do you want it more than your mate does or vice versa? Ask each other the hard questions. Better to know now than later after the move.

 

A Trial Run

Have you considered practicing living together for a brief period of time? … A week or two? A month, if it’s doable? … Before you pull the plug on your apartment lease or put your home up for sale? This should give you a better sense and some assurance if it feels right to make it permanent.

How does it feel to be with your mate more or less 24/7? Are you getting to know his habits? Her idiosyncrasies? Quirks? A trial run is a good barometer for how your future will be together.

Another option is to do a quickie-trial run: take a vacation together. Granted, it’s not the same as the day in, day out living together but it will let you see how well you plan and cooperate with one another, and deal with the unexpected.

So the next question is, your place, theirs, or a new place? That can be an obvious decision or one for careful consideration. Work out all the angles, the pros and cons. What’s your gut reaction? What’s his/hers?

 

Don’t Be in a Rush

If you’re putting pressure on yourself, getting pressure from him/her or your family or friends you may not be totally committed to the idea. Pay attention to your comfort level. If a lot of questions are popping up in your mind, if you’re losing sleep, having panic attacks, experiencing depression, stop and reflect. No fast decisions are necessary. No one is holding a gun to your head.

Get to the bottom of your concerns. What are you telling yourself? Are you having second thoughts? Are you confused … some moments you think it will work, other times not?

You don’t have to make snap decisions. Delay the move. Put it off temporarily. Discuss this with your mate. Maybe decide to delay the move for a few months … maybe even a year. Then revisit the idea, reevaluate. You should feel comfortable and eager if and when the time is right.

 

Skeletons in the Closet

When you decide to move in, you can’t keep all your secrets a secret. You’ve got to come clean about your health, your finances, loan debts, legal trouble, bad habits, addictions, family conflicts. This is “fess up” time.

Put it all out in the open. What’s your credit score? What’s his/hers? You’ll find out some of these soon enough when you go apply for an apartment lease, get signed on as an additional renter, or sign a contract for a home loan. But it’s best not to let yourself or your mate be taken by surprise. Spill the beans ahead of time.

 

Relationship Problems Magnify

You and your mate have had spats if you’ve been with each other for any length of time. You know each others’ hot buttons. Do you have reoccurring arguments? Conflicts that haven’t gotten resolved, just accepted or forgotten  – until the next time? If you’re living together, these problems will only get worse if they’re not fixed.

 

What Are You Committing to Besides Each other?

Be aware that you are co-mingling your stuff when you move in together. It might be a rental agreement or a mortgage. In some states, a common law marriage kicks in after a period of time, which means everything is jointly owned by you and your live-in partner. It’s like a marriage without the license and ceremony. There are long-term consequences.

If you have children living with you, your live-in mate would then be a part of their lives too. What role do you want them to play in the raising of their child? If your mate has children, the same concerns and questions apply. How do the kids feel about it? Could there be resistance or friction? Do they accept your mate? Do his kids accept you? If not, time may mend problems – or worsen them. Do you get along with his dog? What about his cat and your allergic reaction? If you both have animals, do they get along with one another?

 

What If It Doesn’t Work Out?

For whatever reason … even though you’ve had discussions, shared your hopes, dreams, concerns, had the best intentions, got the feel-good vibes, love each other … sometimes moving in together doesn’t work out.

For this reason, always plan for this possibility. Plan a way to leave. Don’t box yourself in, become so dependent on your mate either financially or emotionally that you become a prisoner to your decision, your life together. Have an exit strategy and don’t be afraid to use it if in your heart of hearts you can clearly see it’s not working. If everything checks out and all systems go … congratulations! May you have many wonderful years together.