Well of course one would say it all depends or the situation. And that may be true. Pain comes with different intensities and levels. Some pain is bearable while other types of pain are not. But my question to you- “Is it possible to forgive without holding on to the pain?”
I will ask you to consider the following:
Was their behavior intentional or unintentional?
Was it a direct or indirect impact on your marriage?
Was it retalization or coincidental?
How long has the behavior gone on?
How did you contribute to it?
I think these are important questions you should think about when determining if it’s time to let go. Here are a few of my thoughts-
Was it intentional?
It may be that they intentionally meant to hurt you. Here, consider your options-
Retaliate (definitely wouldn’t advise it if you want your marriage to work)
Forgive and stay
Forgive and let them go.
Conversely, it could have been unintentional. Maybe they simply made a mistake. Or maybe out of their own hurt and pain, they made a decision that negatively affected you.
Did it directly or indirectly affect you?
Direct effects are usually the most painful. The impact is head on and it is damaging (like a tornado hitting your house- it’s devastating and wipes out what has been built). Indirect behaviors like them hurting a family member or friend can still be painful, just less damaging (like a hail storm or high winds, but not a tornado hitting full force).
Was it a response to something you did to hurt them?
I’m not saying retaliation is right, but I am saying it happens A LOT in couples I’ve worked with. They are hurting and they have continuously asked their spouse to stop what they are doing that hurts them.
Now there is a wide range to this. It could be as serious as alcohol/drugs, physical abuse, or cheating. Or it could be something that YOU think is trivial- not cleaning the house after they have told you over and over it makes them feel supported. Or maybe you are always negative toward them or accusatory. Could be that you don’t help with the kids and they feel overloaded. Or maybe you are never there (for whatever reason) and they don’t feel they are first priority in your life.
In response to their hurt- they leave you, cheat on you, or stop doing something that they used to do for you. Regardless of how or why, you have the decision to give up on or hold on to someone who caused you a significant amount of pain. I always tell my client’s “Pain is pain is PAIN.” Doesn’t matter where it comes from- it just hurts. But how you handle it is most important.
When your partner hurts you, do you Retaliate, Retreat or Reevaluate? I would say that REEVALUATE is the best answer. Consider the facts, consider the feelings, consider the future.
Original question: Is it possible to forgive without holding on to the pain?
Is it possible? Yes. The real question is- Do you really want to?
Forgiveness is not saying “It’s okay what you did to me” or “Let’s act like it never happened.” Guess what- IT HAPPENED and IT HURT!
So let’s not pretend. Forgiveness is saying:
“I choose not to hold on to what you did. I choose not to harbor the pain because it will hurt me more in the end. I choose to let go of the disappointment because it’s not worth my sanity. Furthermore, it’s not my responsibility to change you- only you can do that! I am greater, I am stronger, and I am wiser. Now I let it go…”
There are many things that are out of our control. Someone else’s action is definitely one of them. But you can forgive and stay OR you can also forgive and go. IT’S YOUR CHOICE whether you want to live with what they have done that hurt you.
If they are sincere in their apologies, if they are honest enough to say I messed up, if they are open enough to say why they did it (and you actually listen to what they say even though you probably don’t want to hear it), if they are willing to give 110% to get it right- it could be worth staying. But even if they are willing to do all the above- if you don’t want to live with their mistake- you don’t have to.
And if you know you can’t forgive, then why stay in a marriage where you are constantly holding it over their head? Accusing, blaming, making them feel guilty? Or worse, you are constantly ruminating over what happened. You always have flashbacks and you can’t get it out of your head? That’s NOT a healthy marriage. And neither of you will be truly happy.
I’m not a big supporter of divorce (but I do believe there are reasons that warrant it). Furthermore, I am NOT for two miserable people staying together just because someone else dictated they should. NO ONE should be miserable in their marriage. If you are unhappy, put 100% into counseling. I always tell my clients- It’s OK to take the risk. The worst that could happen is it doesn’t work and you gave your best- NO REGRETS. The best that could happen is you make it through the storm and it builds a stronger foundation, a deeper appreciation, and a greater love. Either way- it works out in your favor! And your happiness is very important.
Forgiveness begins the process of healing. And healing is necessary for the relationship to move forward. If you have a wound, and you keep picking at it- it can’t heal- so stop digging into painful places in your relationship. Clean up the wound and allow time to take its course.
Sometimes, the healing process needs a little help along the way- that’s where counseling or marriage education comes in handy. It’s OK to say- “I don’t know if I can do this on my own.” Regardless, a healing marriage can become a healthy marriage again. It has to be given time to rebuild and restore. IT IS POSSIBLE if you BOTH want it and BOTH work for it.
You may have a battle scar, but you won’t have the intense pain of the initial blow. Scars are just signs that you went to battle and survived!
You can create the marriage you want TOGETHER even after pain.