If something unsavory happens in your relationship — maybe your partner does something wrong, lets you down, or hurts your feelings — it can be toughto forgive them and move past it. But if the relationship is otherwise healthy, and still worth being in, experts say that’s exactly what you need to do.
“Forgiveness is the key to successful relationships,” Amica Graber, a relationship expert from TruthFinder, tells Bustle. “Everyone has their flaws, and no long-term relationship is entirely conflict-free.” You will have arguments, go through rough patches, and make mistakes. And that’s OK.
It can be more difficult to forgive, however, if something happens that seems to cross the line. “If you’re having a tough time knowing what to forgive and what not to forgive — try and take a holistic look at your relationship,” Graber says. “Is this a one-off action, or is it part of an underlying pattern of behavior? […] It’s OK to forgive one mistake, but when the mistakes become a habit,” you may want think about whether the relationship is right for you.
The choice will be up to you whether you want towork on forgiving your partner, which will involve a lot of communication and boundary-setting, maybe even some therapy depending on its severity. But assuming your relationship is otherwise healthy and happy, you may want to forgive the hurtful things listed below, and focus on moving beyond it as a couple.
Telling A White Lie
While it might temporarily shake the trust you have in your partner, a small white lieis something you can choose to forgive them for telling — especially if they fibbed with the best of intentions.
“This could be, for example, if [their] motive [was] to protect you from getting hurt,” Jonathan Bennett, relationship and dating expert at Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle. “It could help to look at your partner’s motives, give [them] the benefit of the doubt, and move on through forgiveness.”
Talking To An Ex
“It can be very damaging if your partner talks to or keeps in contact with an ex,” Bennett says, especially if it was done secretively, or if you find out something’s been going on behind you’re back. That’s definitely not OK, and you’ll want to talk about it ASAP.
But if they simply exchanged a quick and friendly hello, go ahead and forget about it — even if it stings. “As long as you’re sure the conversation was innocent, it’s best just to let it go,” Bennett says. You should, however, discuss as a couple what feels right in terms of communicating with exes, so you can both be on the same page going forward.
Saying Something Hurtful In The Heat Of The Moment
No one’s at their best when embroiled in an argument, so there may come a time when your partner says something rude or hurtful while they’re upset. And to some degree, that’s forgivable.
“When people are emotionally charged, they say things they regret,” Bennett says. “You should express how the comments made you feel, but, after that, you should try to forgive, especially if you don’t want to end the relationship.”
This isn’t necessarily true for emotionally abusive words, though. If your partner has a habit of going down a toxic road during arguments, it may be time to rethink the relationship.
If your partner gets jealous, it can make you question the strength of your relationship. (Do they even trust you? Why are they acting this way?)
But instead of feeling hurt, try to slow down and figure out why they’re so upset. “If someone has been betrayed or hurt in the past, trauma can take the shape of jealousy, especially early in a relationship,” Graber says.
Of course, jealousy isn’t always easy to forgive, especially if it’s coming at you in the form of emotional abuse. “But if your partner acts a little sullen if you start discussing a platonic friend or coworker, this may just be the work of emotional baggage collected from a bad past relationship,” Graber says. “Have an honest discussion with your partner about their jealousy issues. Set boundaries, but also forgive them and help them build trust with you.”
It can hurt if you go to your partner with a problem, and they don’t give you their full attention. “Some personality types are ‘fixers,” Graber says. “They prefer to try to solve your issues, rather than listen to them. If you feel like your partner offers you one solution, and then moves on to the next topic, it can feel dismissive.”
And yet, if they didn’t mean to be hurtful, it’s certainly something you can point out to them. “It’s OK to remind someone that what you want is someone just to listen, and they don’t have to fix the problem at hand,” Graber says. That’ll ensure they don’t brush you off in the future, while also making it easier to forgive.
Making Mistakes In The Past
If you want your relationship to work, it’s important to forgive your partner for whatever they did wrong in the past — and let it go. “People grow and evolve,” Graber says. “It’s important to forgive someone for mistakes they may have made in the past. Although some people repeat their mistakes over-and-over again, most of us learn from our mistakes and change.”
Saying Something Rude
If your partner casually says something rude and it hurts your feelings, “first try to figure out their intent and if they were meaning to be hurtful, or if it’s really miscommunication,” licensed marriage and family therapist, Heidi McBain, MA, tells Bustle.
When the latter is true, it’s much easier to move past, though you should discuss it either way. “Take the time to have a conversation with them about how you’re truly feeling, and about what is and isn’t acceptable,” McBain says. That way, you’ll both know what’s OK to say and what isn’t OK to say going forward.
Rubbing You The Wrong Way
If your partner irritates you, it can leave you wondering if they’re the right person for you. But learning how to get past their everyday eccentricities is part of being in a relationship.
“Very often partners can be trying too hard, trying to please you, or trying to understand what is going on, and while their intentions are good they may frankly start to become irritating,” Joshua Klapow, PhD, clinical psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show, tells Bustle. “Forgiving them for their shortcomings is an act of kindness and love. You can, however, have a conversation about how to make things work better.”
Hurting You While Attempting To Help
There’s a chance your partner might occasionally say the wrong thing in an effort to help. “They may point out your flaws, your mistakes, and your bad behaviors in an attempt to help you correct them,” Dr. Klapow says.
While it can be hurtful in the moment, there’s a good chance “they are coming from a place of caring,” Dr. Klapow says. “You can still find the words hurtful but forgive them because the are trying to help.” Just make sure you let them know, so they can change their approach in the future.
Letting You Down
Maybe they forget an anniversary, show up late to an event, or don’t text when they say they will, and you feel ignored or rejected as a result. While that’s totally understandable, “if they are remorseful and it’s not a pattern, it’s OK to offer them forgiveness,” Dr. Klapow says.
Of course, everyone has a different idea of what a dealbreaker looks like, so if one of these things is too much to handle, you certainly don’t have to forgive your partner. (And on the flip side, it’s even possible to forgive bigger indiscretions, if you so choose.) In general, practicing forgiveness will help make for a healthier relationship.