forgiveness · relationships

Why relationships can’t work without forgiveness

I have had the opportunity to talk to many more experienced people in my life and learn from their failures (or at least hear about them, I tend to learn the “hard way” on my own) and their successes. One friend’s personal advice has really stood out to me recently and I wanted to pass it on:
Relationships cannot work without a spirit of forgiveness that is a daily part of that relationship.
One issue I have with dating couples today is that many of them meet each other, fall “in love”, and then quickly within a year or so get married. While certainly I do not think these couples take marriage lightly and some think through it quite well before making the decision, many are being driven by that hormonally stimulated honeymoon stage of an early relationship.
I have found from my own experience that it is possible to behave almost perfectly toward a girl you really like for about 6-12 months, not matter what challenges get in your way. For some people it may vary, but I’d assume we can all keep from doing anything really stupid in a relationship for at least six months. Now add the excitement of an approaching engagement, marriage, sex for those who’ve waited, and you might be able to double or even triple that time.
But eventually the perfectly behaving couple will no longer be able to keep from really ticking each other off. No matter how easy to get along you are, or how perfect they seem, somewhere underneath there is something that will annoy you, your feelings will be hurt, and you will become displeased with your partner.
Now most people would agree that we should be forgiving. It’s taught by Jesus in the Bible and seems to make common sense; after all eventually if we didn’t forgive we’d kind of hate everyone. But sometimes it seems harder in a serious relationship. Perhaps this is because of that extended period of perfection that started the relationships and led to one of my pet peeves: expectations, which can eventually ruin your relationship.
The first few times forgiveness may ensue quite quickly. But eventually it seems to become a tool. It’s like we want to keep the other person in misery as long as possible to teach them a lesson. Maybe we don’t intentionally think that in our heads but that is how it comes across. I know for me I am miserable when I feel I’ve hurt someone I love. I want to do whatever I can to make it right. But if I feel I’ve done all I can and I’m not receiving any positive response it makes me doubt their ability to love.
For a relationship to be really happy and fruitful and satisfying in the long run, say ten years for starters, a couple needs to have an attitude of forgiveness. You really pissed me off, but you know what I was short with you this morning and maybe that set your day off on a wrong note. You were really thoughtful with you words but I can forgive you because I know my words hurt you as well, and you’ve proven to me that deep inside you don’t ever really mean to hurt me.
We need to keep long term relationships in the right perspective. When you spend that much time with someone (say six out of seven days, for two years), you’ve just given yourself an enormous amount of time to make that person mad. The average good friendship has only a fraction of the time spent that a long term relationship has, especially if you’re living together.
So you may think “my best friend has only made me really angry twice in the seven years I’ve known him”. But just remember you probably spent as much time with your wife in your first year of dating as you have the past seven years with your best friend.

4 thoughts on “Why relationships can’t work without forgiveness

  1. Relationships can’t work without a spirit of forgiveness. This is so true and it is the heart of the gospel. Until we recognize how great a sinner we are and how great a savior Jesus is we will not have a truly humble heart of forgiveness. God told us “do not let the sun go down on your anger” for a reason. We will not have peace unless we deal with unforgiveness. We are commanded to seek and grant forgiveness daily! Jesus has forgiven us our great debt, we should be able to forgive our brother’s small debt. “Should you not also have compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?…So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” Matt. 20:33, 35

  2. Forgiveness is ESSENTIAL in keeping relationships healthy. I totally agree. Your friend’s advice is accurate. In fact, holding onto a grudge from a past relationship affects the way you see your current relationship – it puts things in a negative light by default. I’ve worked hard on this for my own life. I was amazed at how much power there was in letting go of the past – it majorly impacted my relationships and made them much healthier. Now I work with clients to help them with their relationships. I developed a little “heart exercise” that can help you find out if something from your past is holding you back in your current relationship. It’s in my book, Freedom through Forgiveness.

    Thanks for posting this – it is a really important principle for relationships of any kind (dating, family, friends, etc.)
    – Sandy Walker, Freedom Coach

    1. Thanks for the comment. I think you really hit the nail on the head when you said that holding onto past relationships can affect future ones. We don’t realize how much are old jealousy and insecurity can affect a new potentially healthy relationship and cause it to go sour.

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