How to forgive your partner when you can't forget

Struggling to forgive your partner? Here are 9 helpful tips to let go of hurtful memories and find forgiveness.

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Letting go of hurt and resentment is easier said than done, especially when certain memories linger in our minds. However, research has shown that forgiveness can have profound benefits for individuals, leading to improved psychological well-being and overall life satisfaction. 1 That’s why it’s important to find ways to forgive your partner, even if you can’t forget the actions that caused hurt.

In this article, we’ll explore 9 practical tips on how to forgive your partner when you’re struggling to forget. By implementing these strategies, you can navigate the path of forgiveness and cultivate a stronger, more resilient bond.

Don’t forget to check out our comprehensive guide on dealing with conflicts and challenges in relationships for further support along the way.

1. Acknowledge your feelings

In the process of forgiving your partner, it’s important to start by acknowledging your feelings. It’s natural to experience a range of emotions, such as anger, hurt, betrayal, or sadness. These feelings are valid and shouldn’t be ignored or suppressed. By giving yourself permission to feel and acknowledging these emotions, you begin to create a space for healing and understanding.

While it’s essential to acknowledge your emotions, try to avoid getting consumed by them. Dwelling solely on negative feelings can hinder the forgiveness process. So give yourself the time and space to process your emotions, but also consider ways to shift out of them.

2. Communicate your feelings to your partner

Sharing your feelings about what happened with your partner can help both of you gain clarity on the situation. Find a suitable time and place where you can have an uninterrupted conversation.

Express your emotions in a calm and non-confrontational manner, using “I” statements to convey how you felt and how their actions or words impacted you. For example, “I felt hurt when you said X because it made me feel disrespected.”

Encourage your partner to listen actively without interrupting or becoming defensive. Let them know that your intention is not to blame or criticize but rather to express your emotions and work towards healing together.

Creating a safe and non-judgmental space for open dialogue can pave the way for understanding, empathy, and ultimately forgiveness. Discover effective ways how to improve communication in your relationship!

3. Set clear boundaries in your relationship

Boundaries are like “property lines” within a relationship, protecting your emotional well-being, values, behaviors, and attitudes. They play a vital role in preserving both your physical and emotional safety, ensuring that your relationship is built on mutual respect and understanding. 2

By setting boundaries, you communicate your needs and expectations to your partner, creating a framework that supports the forgiveness process. These boundaries define what is acceptable and what crosses the line for you personally, helping you establish a sense of emotional safety and regain trust.

Consider reflecting on your emotional limits and values in the context of forgiveness. What behaviors or actions do you find difficult to forgive? Where do you need extra support or space to heal? Identifying these boundaries will allow you to communicate them effectively to your partner.

Here you can learn how to set healthy boundaries in your relationship!

4. Remember that forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting

Oftentimes, people mistakenly believe that forgiveness means wiping the slate clean and pretending as if the hurtful event never occurred. However, true forgiveness involves acknowledging the pain while choosing to move forward.

Remembering doesn’t mean holding onto grudges or constantly replaying the past in your mind. Instead, it means acknowledging the lessons learned, the growth you’ve experienced, and the boundaries you’ve set to prevent similar hurt in the future.

By recognizing the impact of the situation and incorporating it into your shared narrative as a couple, you can learn from the past and use it as a catalyst for positive change. It allows you to establish a foundation of trust based on transparency and open communication.

Check out these helpful tips to practice forgiveness in a relationship!

5. Make an active choice to let go of past hurts

Forgiveness is a deliberate process that requires making an active choice to let go of negative feelings associated with past hurts. It involves being willing and ready to confront the past experience and the painful emotions in a supportive and non-threatening environment. 3

Making an active choice to let go does not mean suppressing or ignoring the pain. It means recognizing that holding onto resentment and anger only perpetuates the cycle of hurt. By choosing to release these negative emotions, you free yourself from the burden and create space for healing and renewal.

Remember, forgiveness is a personal journey, and the decision to let go of past hurts ultimately lies within you. It may take time and effort, but with self-compassion and determination, you can gradually release the weight of the past and embrace a brighter future.

Check out our comprehensive guide on how to forgive in relationships!

6. Practice empathy

Extensive research on marriage and relationships emphasizes the vital role of empathy in fostering a healthy relationship. 4 Empathy encompasses the ability to understand your partner’s thoughts, imagine yourself in their shoes, and intellectually grasp their situation without directly feeling their emotions.

In the process of forgiveness, it’s necessary to begin to see other people in terms of their needs, motives, and reasons for behavior. 3 However, this doesn’t mean that you are condoning their actions or words. Rather, it is about recognizing and accepting their perspective while respecting your own boundaries.

Discover how empathy and emotional intelligence can help you resolve conflicts in your relationship!

7. Focus on the present

In the process of forgiveness, it is essential to shift your focus from dwelling on the past to embracing the present moment. While acknowledging the past and its impact is important, placing too much emphasis on past hurts can hinder your ability to move forward and find healing.

Redirecting your attention to the present allows you to break free from the grip of the past and create a space where forgiveness can thrive.

8. Engage in self-care

In the journey of forgiveness, taking care of yourself is essential. Engaging in self-care practices not only nurtures your well-being but also contributes to the healing process within your relationship.

Self-care looks different for everyone, as it varies from person to person. However, its essence lies in prioritizing activities and habits that promote physical, mental, and emotional well-being - such as eating healthy, sleeping enough, exercising, and taking some time off to do something you enjoy. 5

Remember, self-care is not a selfish act. It is an essential component of maintaining your own well-being, which in turn allows you to show up as your best self in your relationship. By taking care of yourself, you are better equipped to navigate the forgiveness process with resilience and compassion.

9. Seek professional help if needed

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, navigating forgiveness within a relationship can be challenging. In such cases, seeking professional help can provide valuable guidance and support. Emotional-focused couple therapy (EFT) has proven to be effective in addressing relationship issues and fostering forgiveness. 6

Remember, seeking professional help is not a sign of weakness but a proactive step toward growth and healing. A trained therapist can provide the necessary tools and techniques to facilitate forgiveness, enhance communication, and foster a healthier and more fulfilling relationship.

Do you want to take your relationship to the next level? Discover the key to a healthy relationship with our communication guide for couples!

  1. Pelucchi, S., Paleari, F. G., Regalia, C., & Fincham, F. D. (2013). Self-forgiveness in romantic relationships: It matters to both of us. Journal of Family Psychology, 27(4), 541–549. ↩︎

  2. Cloud, H., & Townsend, J. (2000). Boundaries in Dating: How Healthy Choices Grow Healthy Relationships (1st ed.). Zondervan. ↩︎

  3. Denton, R. T., & Martin, M. W. (1998). Defining forgiveness: An empirical exploration of process and role. American Journal of Family Therapy, 26(4), 281–292. ↩︎ ↩︎

  4. Long, E. C. J., Angera, J. J., Carter, S. J., Nakamoto, M., & Kalso, M. (1999). Understanding the One You Love: A Longitudinal Assessment of an Empathy Training Program for Couples in Romantic Relationships. Family Relations, 48(3), 235. ↩︎

  5. Martínez, N., Connelly, C. D., Pérez, A., & Calero, P. (2021). Self-care: A concept analysis. International journal of nursing sciences, 8(4), 418–425. ↩︎

  6. Greenberg, L., Warwar, S., & Malcolm, W. (2010). Emotion-Focused Couples Therapy and the Facilitation of Forgiveness. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 36(1), 28–42. ↩︎

Author picture of Amy Clark
Relationship Expert

Amy Clark

Amy Clark is a freelance writer who writes about relationships, marriage, and family. She has been happily married for over ten years and loves her husband and three kids. Before …

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