Many people going through a divorce and even those already divorced for years ask, “How do I forgive?” In this week’s Love Essentially column, published yesterday in the Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press, I offer suggestions on forgiveness and how it truly benefits you.
How Easily Do You Forgive? by Jackie Pilossoph
I’m a little embarrassed to confess that I love the HBO series “Girls,” given that the highly provocative comedy about four 20-something girlfriends living, working and dating in New York City offers jaw dropping sex scenes, infuriatingly flawed characters and storylines that are similar to watching a car crash.
That said, the recent season finale caused me to think about something that is truly significant in romantic relationships: forgiveness.
Forgiveness came up when main character, Hannah (played by Lena Dunham, who is also the show’s creator and one of its writers and producers) decides that after a few weeks of shock, devastation, anger and misery, she is going to forgive her old boyfriend, Adam and her best friend, Jessa, for falling in love with each other.
To show her acceptance and support of the new relationship, Hanna delivers a fruit basket to Adam’s door with a note that reads, “Good luck. I mean that sincerely.”
The gesture showed maturity and grace not often seen in Hannah, or for that matter in so many others who have been wronged in a romantic relationship.
So, how does one get to a place of forgiveness? To answer that question, I talked with Elissa Geier, Psy.D, a Northbrook-based therapist who specializes in high-conflict couples.
“Forgiveness requires a person to make a conscious decision that he or she wants to and is going to forgive,” said Geier, who holds a doctorate in clinical psychology. “The reason they are choosing to forgive can’t just be for their partner, but has to be for their own personal growth and happiness.”
Geier said forgiveness is part of a process of healing, letting go of negatives from the past, giving up anger and bitterness from what occurred, and having the desire to move forward.
“It should be done because the person wants to live a healthier, cleaner life that includes acceptance and peace,” she said.
Geier, who has been in practice for 20 years, said that although forgiveness is important, she has seen many couples in conflict work things out without it.
“Sometimes forgiveness isn’t even on the table,” Geier said. “One of the partners will say something like, ‘I won’t forgive you for what you did, but I want to learn to trust you again.’ The key to working things out is repairing the breach in the relationship.”
Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting, and the pain your partner caused you (or vice versa) might never go away. Furthermore, no one can tell someone he or she must forgive their partner. That is a personal decision and everyone’s journey of forgiveness is unique.
I agree with Geier, that if two people want to stay together, they must both make an effort to put the negative aspects of the past behind them and focus on now and tomorrow, whether that includes forgiveness or not.
Last weekend, I was at my son’s basketball tournament and I saw a touching display of forgiveness. A woman was sitting in the bleachers, and her husband came up from behind her, put his arms around her waist and kissed her cheek.
The relationship columnist in me couldn’t resist walking up to them and saying, “That was unbelievably sweet. How long have you two been married?”
“Twenty-two years,” replied the husband.
“This isn’t what it looks like,” said his wife. “I was mad at him and he was apologizing.” She then added with a big smile: “He really is a good man and I love him a lot.”
This warmed my heart. I didn’t ask for details, but clearly his apology was a beautiful gesture and it appeared she happily accepted it.
I have a friend who has been divorced for several years, and still despises her ex-husband for cheating on her and ending the marriage.
“I don’t want to be bitter, I’m tired of hating and I don’t like who I am,” she said recently. “But, I don’t know how to forgive him.”
I plan to tell her…(click here to read the rest of the article, published yesterday in the Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press.)
Like this article? Check out: “My Husband Cheated: Forgive or Divorce?”