Elton John famously sang that ‘sorry seems to be the hardest word’. For many of us, accepting someone else’s ‘sorry’ can be even harder. In the twists and turns of life, we are are all called upon both to apologize and forgive. No-one is perfect, and every relationship contains discords and arguments. Life would be a lot easier if we never had anything to forgive, but in the real world forgiveness is a skill we all need to cultivate.
Forgive and forget?
Have you ever been in an argument with your partner and, before you knew it, let loose with a list of everything he or she has ever done wrong? Most of us have been there. If this happens, it’s probably because you tried to ‘move on’ and forget about it, without truly forgiving. This might seem like a good stop-gap solution, but, as we see, it is storing up problems for later. Resentments and grudges can slowly poison a relationship without us realizing it. They bubble away under the surface, ready to break out when things get difficult. Engaging in healthy communication and forgiving before we try to forget is certainly the harder path, but it’s the key to lasting relationship happiness.
Forgiveness is a skill
It’s easy to think that forgiveness is something that just happens. If we wait around long enough, then forgiveness will flow naturally. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. It’s more accurate to conceptualize forgiveness as a skill. Like many skills, the more we practice, the better we get. It’s also something that you can learn. Arguably, the most important part of couples therapy is helping each partner develop their faculty of forgiveness. This is a complex process with many facets. It involves communication, understanding, trust, listening, and love. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it. As John Gottman has explained, successful couples are not the ones that never have any arguments, they are the ones that can use their arguments as an opportunity to grow closer together.
Contact Dr. Franco to learn more about one of the most important skills of all.