Linda Lewis Griffith

How to forgive and move forward

We all experience unpleasant moments in our relationships. A husband may go car shopping with his friends and come home an hour later than planned, forcing an embarrassing change in the couple’s dinner reservations. Or a girlfriend adopts a new puppy even though her boyfriend would prefer no more pets.

The problem isn’t that we have tense moments. Rather, it’s how quickly we recover from these relational upsets and resume a more peaceful status quo.

Some couples are able to mend fences within a few minutes. One member apologizes for a wrongdoing, they discuss a resolution, and they’re back on a pleasant and stable track.

Other couples struggle. They’re unable to resolve the most insignificant issues. Each disagreement unleashes a volley of name-calling and accusations, leaving both parties exhausted and on edge.

Others cling to all hurts like feisty terriers, unwilling to overlook their partners’ foibles. Such damaging behaviors as pouting, holding grudges and bringing up the past prevent issues from being resolved and couples from regaining a sense of closure or intimacy.

The result of psychological stalemates is needless anger and tension between two supposedly loving human beings. They’re unable to reach workable conclusions or heal from emotional bruises. Hence their relationship festers in a state of turmoil, tormenting everyone involved.

Of course, marital earthquakes come in varying magnitudes. Some tremors barely cause a ripple while others create major damage that require months of effort to repair. There’s no set time for recovery because every situation is unique.

It’s also evident that some issues indicate serious, underlying defects in one or both of the partners. A man who routinely gets jealous and threatens to beat up his girlfriend shouldn’t be forgiven. He should be dumped. No one in any relationship should feel endangered by a mate’s behavior. That’s a signal that something is seriously wrong.

Fortunately, most couples’ concerns aren’t so heinous. They may be frustrated or disappointed in their partners’ actions. But they aren’t dealing with serious character flaws. As a rule, if people are good enough to stay with they’re good enough to get along with. Forgiving and moving forward is a key component. The quicker you’re able to do that, the better.

Want to improve your rate of recovery time? Give these techniques a try:

Keep things in perspective. Avoid losing your cool about something that doesn’t matter. It’s a waste of your psychic energy. And it wreaks unnecessary havoc on your love life.

Don’t let things get out of hand. It’s easy for arguments to escalate. But that’s not always a sign of impending doom. Instead, stay calm. Never swear or call your partner names. Express your willingness to make things work. Avoid going ballistic — even if your partner does.

Apologize quickly and sincerely. When you’ve made a mistake admit it. If you don’t think you’re wrong, it’s still wise to say, “I’m sorry this is causing problems. I never want to make things bad between us.” Your words will help soothe ruffled feathers and set the stage for prompt healing.

Solve problems. Learn how to resolve issues as a couple. Identify the problem at hand. Don’t get sidetracked by irrelevant topics. Consider possible solutions. Select one option and implement it. The ultimate selection may not be your first choice. But if it helps keep the peace, it may be worth it.

Stop trying to be right. Relationships require constant compromise. They can’t work if one member insists on winning. Ask yourself, “What’s best for this marriage?” Sometimes you have to let your own opinions take a back seat.

Forgive transgressions quickly. Relationships are fertile grounds for errors. Grant your partner ample permission to be imperfect. Don’t bring up old problems. Let them fade gracefully into the past.

Get over it. Anger is invariably accompanied by internal agitation that interferes with regaining composure. You can quiet that agitation by taking a few deep breaths and relaxing your hands and face. Next, replace scattered thoughts with soothing, constructive messages, such as “This isn’t worth arguing about,” or “She’s basically a good person. Let this go.”

Make quick recovery a priority. Holding grudges doesn’t help your relationship. Being a loving, compatible partner does. Changing your perspective helps conflicts melt away and puts your relationship on the road to quicker recovery.