9 tips to practice forgiveness in a relationship

Discover practical tips to cultivate forgiveness in your relationship and foster healing and growth.

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Forgiveness in a relationship can be challenging, but it’s crucial for moving forward and healing. That’s why we’ve compiled 9 tips to help you practice forgiveness in your relationship.

If you’re looking for more support in dealing with relationship conflicts, be sure to check out our guide on how to handle conflicts and challenges in relationships.

1. Recognize the value of forgiveness

Forgiveness is an integral part of healing after broken trust and is essential in maintaining healthy relationships. 1 By recognizing the power of forgiveness, you open yourself up to the possibility of rebuilding trust and allowing your relationship to move forward.

Forgiveness allows individuals to let go of the pain and resentment that can fester and poison a relationship over time. When you recognize the impact of forgiveness, you begin to understand that holding onto grudges and harboring anger only perpetuate negative emotions and hinder the possibility of genuine reconciliation.

Moreover, forgiveness acknowledges the imperfections and vulnerabilities inherent in any relationship. It recognizes that people make mistakes and that no one is immune to error. Understanding this truth enables you to embrace forgiveness as an essential tool for navigating the challenges and conflicts that inevitably arise in any romantic partnership.

Discover more reasons why forgiveness is essential in relationships!

2. Acknowledge your emotions

It is natural to feel hurt, angry, and resentful after a betrayal of trust or an argument. Allowing yourself time to process these feelings in a constructive way can be beneficial for your own mental health and the health of the relationship.

Mindfulness can be particularly helpful in this regard. Mindfulness invites you to bring awareness to your emotions, both positive and negative, without judgment. When you encounter negative emotions such as anger, resentment, or hurt in the context of a relationship, it’s essential to take a pause and acknowledge them rather than suppress or ignore them. Recognize that your emotions are valid responses to the situation at hand. 2

Just make sure to avoid getting stuck in a cycle of rumination. Dwelling on hurtful moments and painful memories can be detrimental for the relationship. We’ll talk more about how to stop rumination later on.

3. Actively choose to forgive

Practicing forgiveness within a relationship requires an active choice to forgive. It involves consciously letting go of negative feelings, facing past experiences and painful emotions, and cultivating empathy and understanding toward the other person. By actively choosing to forgive, you move closer to releasing anger and resentment, paving the way for healing and relinquishing the desire for revenge or retaliation. 3

To sum up, the process of forgiveness includes:

Choose to let go: Make a deliberate choice to release negative feelings associated with past hurts or conflicts. By choosing to let go, you create space for forgiveness and emotional well-being. 3

Face the past: Willingly confront the past experiences and painful emotions in a comfortable environment. Acknowledge the pain to initiate healing and growth. 3

Cultivate empathy: Develop the ability to see others in terms of their needs, motives, and reasons for behavior. Cultivating empathy reduces anger and resentment, fostering forgiveness. 3

By actively choosing to forgive, you liberate yourself from negative emotions and the desire for revenge. It frees mental and emotional space, allowing you to rebuild trust and foster a healthier relationship dynamic.

4. Set healthy boundaries in your relationship

Setting healthy boundaries in a relationship can help facilitate forgiveness by providing clarity and eliminating confusion. They allow you to communicate your needs, define expectations, and ensure that both partners uphold acceptable behaviors. 4

By setting well-defined boundaries, both partners know what is expected of them, reducing the potential for future conflicts. It also establishes a framework for resolving conflicts when they do arise, creating an environment of mutual respect and understanding that makes forgiveness easier to achieve.

Learn how to set healthy boundaries in your relationship!

5. Let go of the past

Letting go of the past is a crucial step in the forgiveness process within a relationship. It involves releasing the emotional baggage associated with past hurts and embracing a mindset focused on growth, healing, and the future.

Holding onto past grievances and resentment keeps you emotionally bound to negative experiences. By letting go, you free yourself from the heavy burden of anger, pain, and bitterness. It allows you to experience emotional liberation and opens the door to new possibilities for forgiveness and healing.

6. Remind yourself why you want your partner in your life

In the process of forgiveness, it’s important to reconnect with the reasons why you want your partner to be a part of your life. This reflection helps you refocus on the positive aspects of your relationship, reignite feelings of love and admiration, and reinforce your commitment to growth and healing together.

Remind yourself of the qualities that initially drew you to your partner - their unique strengths, values, and virtues. Revisiting these positive attributes can shift your perspective away from past hurts and remind you of the reasons you chose them as your partner in the first place.

7. Stop yourself from engaging in unhelpful thoughts

It is crucial to recognize and interrupt unhelpful thought patterns that hinder healing and prevent the growth of forgiveness. A study from 2012 showed that distraction and mindfulness exercises can be effective in reducing rumination. 2

Through the practice of mindfulness, you can disentangle yourself from the grip of rumination—the repetitive and unproductive thinking patterns that often accompany negative emotions. By directing your attention to the present moment, you can break free from the cycle of dwelling on past grievances or worrying about the future. This shift in focus allows you to create mental space for forgiveness to flourish. 2

Here are tips to help you practice mindfulness when negative thoughts arise:

Pause and observe: When you find yourself experiencing strong emotions in a relationship, take a moment to pause and observe them without judgment. Notice the physical sensations, thoughts, and patterns associated with these emotions. By creating a mental distance, you can gain clarity and perspective.

Put your negative thoughts in a box: Imagine yourself holding a box or suitcase. With each negative thought that arises, visualize yourself putting it into the box. Once you have placed all your negative thoughts in the box, visualize yourself closing and locking it. See the box as a symbol of containment, securely holding your negative thoughts away from your current awareness. Take a deep breath and feel a sense of relief and freedom as you mentally detach from those thoughts.

These practices can help you develop present-moment awareness and strengthen your ability to acknowledge and regulate your emotions.

8. Try journaling

Journaling can be a powerful tool for practicing forgiveness in a relationship. By putting your thoughts and emotions onto paper, you create a space for reflection, self-expression, and self-discovery.

In a study conducted in 2002, researchers compared the effects of different types of journaling interventions on individuals asked to write about a stressful or traumatic event for one month. 5

The participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: 5

The first group focused on expressing their emotions related to the event. The second group focused on both their thoughts and emotions. The third group wrote objectively about media events.

The findings revealed that participants in the second group, who focused on both thoughts and emotions, developed a better understanding of the positive aspects of the stressful event compared to the other two groups. This deeper thinking during the writing process seemed to influence their perception of the situation. 5

This study highlights the importance of incorporating both thoughts and emotions in your journaling practice. By doing so, you can gain better insight into the complexity of your emotions related to a particular situation in your relationship. This deepened understanding can help foster forgiveness.

9. Remember that forgiveness is a process

It’s important to remember that forgiveness is a journey and doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process that can take time and patience to fully achieve. Take it one step at a time and don’t put too much pressure on yourself.

Each person’s journey of forgiveness will be unique, influenced by factors such as the nature of the offense, the depth of hurt, and individual coping mechanisms. Acknowledging this reality can help alleviate the pressure of expecting immediate forgiveness and allow space for the healing process to unfold naturally.

Learn how to forgive in your relationship with our comprehensive guide, full of practical tips and insights to help you navigate the process."

These tips can help you cultivate feelings of forgiveness and move toward healing and reconciliation with your partner. But the journey doesn’t end there - for further guidance on how to effectively communicate with your partner, dive into our guide on communication in a relationship!

  1. Fincham, F. D. (2009). Prosocial Motives, Emotions, and Behavior: The Better Angels of our Nature. ↩︎

  2. Hilt, L. M., & Pollak, S. D. (2012). Getting Out of Rumination: Comparison of Three Brief Interventions in a Sample of Youth. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 40(7), 1157–1165. doi.org ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎

  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. doi.org ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎

  4. Tawwab, N. G. (2021). Set Boundaries, Find Peace. A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself. New York: TarcherPerigee, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. ISBN 9780593192108 ↩︎

  5. Ullrich, P. M., & Lutgendorf, S. K. (2002). Journaling about stressful events: Effects of cognitive processing and emotional expression. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 24(3), 244–250. doi.org ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎

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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