Most often, when you read about “forgiveness,” it’s in relation to something “terrible” that your partner has done – lying, cheating, having an affair. Why? Because it is very challenging to forgive (i.e., let go of your anger) when awful things happen.
What gets ignored is forgiveness of the “not so terrible” things, the little hurts, the small annoyances that happen every day. If unattended, these seemingly inconsequential hurts can create emotional distance, a subtle attitude of resentment, and insidiously eat away at a couple’s intimate connection.
Liz complained that her loving feelings for Andy were adrift; Andy complained that Liz was irritable and sarcastic much of the time. Digging further into their relationship, we found that Liz was rather “compulsive” about keeping the house in order.
Liz: I’ve asked him thousands of times to pick up his clothes from the floor, use the dishwasher not the sink for dirty dishes, and keep the bathroom counter clean. Is that so horrible? Even our kids have learned that.
Andy: You see the sarcasm. I do try, but I mess up a couple times a week and she expects perfection.
Liz acknowledged that Andy did remember about 80% of the time. In session, we discussed reasonable expectations and that each time Andy forgets, Liz needs to forgive him by remembering that most of the time he remembers and that no one is perfect.
Liz realized that it was her lack of day-to-day forgiveness that caused her to hang on to her anger and build a wall of resentment that she passively expressed through sarcasm. Working this through helped Andy become even more conscious about cleaning, and helped Liz forgive him the rest of the time.
Here are some tips for everyday forgiveness:
1. Be aware of your everyday anger and let it out by communicating with your partner.
2. Practice relaxing and letting go of your anger, frustration and annoyance (i.e. forgiving).
3. When your partner genuinely apologizes, always respond with forgiveness. And keep talking about it.
4. Remember forgiveness is not about the other, it is for you.
What are the small things that you need to forgive everyday?
Make forgiving a habit.