Why is it that the people we love the most are so often the ones we hurt?

Being kind to people we are not intricately involved with doesn’t take much effort. We put on our game face, stay close to the surface and show the best part of ourselves for a short time. And if the “other” is judgmental or hurtful, we can just walk away.

Our love relationships are quite a different story. Deeply sharing our whole selves, and being intimately connected day in and day out for a lifetime, leaves us vulnerable to the thoughts, feelings, judgments and actions of our partner; hence a greater opportunity to be hurt. Inevitably, every loving relationship will endure its share of pain and hurt over years of living and loving together. Pleasure and pain – it’s a package deal.

What’s more, we bring to our love relationship, our “baggage,” our unique history of love and angst experienced in our families of origin. These primary experiences, which occur in our most vulnerable state as children, shape our perceptions of others, our particular sensitivities and painful triggers, along with our ability to cope with hurt.

Our partner unknowingly becomes the image of one who will heal all that, the one who will love us unconditionally, make us secure and protect us from being hurt; and thus, is linked to our deep and unconscious baggage. When he inevitably wounds us, we experience feelings of rejection, betrayal, anger, hurt and sadness – and those feelings are heightened by the unconscious pain from our history. Uncertainty and doubt are cast upon the relationship’s foundation of trust.

What are our choices when we feel emotionally wounded?

* Forget It – Leave or withdraw, physically or emotionally

* Fight It – Battle, get stuck in anger and hostility

* Forgive It – Find ways to heal and let go

From a place of emotional pain, it’s easy to see why choosing to “Forgive It” is the path of courage. The questions we hear in our practice when people are deciding whether to forget it, fight it or forgive it are further evidence of the underlying courage it takes to choose forgiveness:

1) If I forgive, does that mean I am letting them off the hook?

The answer lies in the definition of forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean: condoning, minimizing, justifying, excusing, pardoning or forgetting the actions or words that hurt you.

Forgiveness is the process of letting go of our feelings of anger, hostility and revenge that keep us from feeling centered and at peace. Forgiveness is for you, not for the other. In the last analysis, “forgiveness” is the epitome of enlightened self-interest; it is a wise and pragmatic practice that sets us free.

2) I’m so hurt by their actions, why should I forgive?

Studies consistently show there are psychological and physiological benefits to forgiving. When people forgive they:

* Are happier and have a greater sense of well-being, physically, emotionally and spiritually

* Feel more in control of their lives and feel less like a victim

* Have healthier, happier and more intimate relationships, marriages and friendships

* Physiologically have lower blood pressure and heart rate, lower risk of alcohol and substance abuse, less depression, stress and anxiety and reduced chronic pain

* Are better at managing anger and facing conflict assertively

Conversely, studies also show there is a price to pay for holding onto resentment, anger and bitterness, including:

* Being consumed by feelings of unhappiness and depression

* Having long-term health problems such as substance abuse and chronic pain

* Having difficulty trusting, resolving conflict and getting close in relationships

Not forgiving doesn’t hurt the other person, it hurts you. One of our favorite sayings is, “Holding onto anger is like you swallowing poison and expecting the other person to die.

Or, as a Chinese proverb puts it, “If you are going to pursue revenge, you might as well dig two graves.

3) How do I forgive?

Forgiving someone who has hurt you is not easy. But it can be the key to the peaceful and less emotionally complicated life you have been searching for. It is a process that takes time, hard work and courage, but when you take responsibility for healing your wound, you take back your power. And it can deepen the connection between you and your partner as you embrace the hurt and heal the pain together.

The bottom line: Practicing forgiveness can transform your life.

The Path to Forgiveness

Here are the steps we recommend for practicing forgiveness in your relationship:

1. Feel the Feelings – Allow your genuine feelings of anger, hurt, sadness and fear to come up. Acknowledge them, vent, journal about them and soothe them.

2. Move from Feeling to Thinking – Transition from your emotional state to a more rational state; remember that obsessively focusing on the injury creates more suffering; think about what happened and search for understanding.

3. Talk with Your Partner – Share your genuine feelings and thoughts with your partner and ask the questions you need to move forward.

4. Listen to Your Partner – Look at your partner’s perspective by putting yours aside and trying to see their point of view. Search for the understandable part and have compassion for your partner by seeing their pain, despite the fact that they may have brought this upon themselves.

5. Receive Their Apologies – Allow your partner to express their genuine remorse and receive it. If you fear that accepting an apology will make your partner mistakenly think that healing is complete, discuss this fear.

6. Ask for Restitution – Let your partner know what restitution you need to re-connect.

7. Avoid Labels – Be careful not to label your partner or define them as “their mistake.” Their hurtful act does not portray their whole being. Characterizing them as evil is more about your need for revenge and will block your efforts at forgiveness.

“When you label me, you negate me.” – Soren Kierkegaard

8. Look Inward – Ask yourself what part you played, if any, that contributed to the state of affairs in the relationship. Talk with your partner about this and own your part.

9. Help Yourself – Do what will help you heal – heart, mind, body and soul – e.g., hugs, changing negative thoughts, relaxation techniques, prayer or meditation.

10. Find Meaning – Is there any purpose or meaning you can find from this painful experience? Can you use this to help others or make your life better

11. Be Patient – The process of forgiveness takes time and practice. Be kind and patient with yourself and your partner.

Where the Path to Forgiveness Goes

As you practice forgiveness, you practice love. And not just love for your partner, but self-love and universal love. It’s that big. For forgiveness is the path where everything true, real and meaningful comes together – for couples, for communities, for countries. It is the path to peace.

“Out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” – Rumi

Your relationship deserves the highest level of support. Relationship Experts, Bob and Lori Hollander are committed to helping individuals and couples build connection and deepen bonds in a world that often makes it difficult.

Call them at 410-363-2825 or email them today, info@relationshipswork.com.

Photo credit Aleksandr Davydov on 123rf