See All Featured Articles


The Power to Forgive and Reconcile

Sooner or later a failure to love or some unfair behavior will cause pain in a marriage. When that happens, activate the power of forgiveness. Partners who have suffered from abuse or have felt victimized by their partner’s unfaithfulness, however, need to seek professional help.

Forgiveness is not something extraordinary reserved for special moments, but a part of daily life. It is unrealistic to expect that partners will always love each other perfectly and will never say or do anything offensive. Unity is a dynamic process that requires constant and mutual self-giving. It goes without saying that sometimes this process is interrupted. Forgiveness is essential to building unity between partners. It allows you to be real, to accept each other completely, and to restore unity whenever it has been broken.

There are many misconceptions about forgiveness. Forgiveness is not condoning, excusing or justifying an injustice. When you forgive you seek to integrate mercy with justice by naming the injustice and asking for a genuine and visible change in your partner.

Forgiveness is not avoiding a conflict with your partner and moving on. The only way to move ahead is by transforming your relationship, not by avoiding the issue or detaching from your partner. Forgiveness is not becoming indifferent or anesthetizing your feelings. It requires that you honor your feelings and restore them by healing the relationship with your partner. Forgiveness is not a sign of personal weakness. It takes a great deal of courage to confront an injustice and to work hard at overcoming evil with good. Forgiveness is not a solitary act but a healing journey that involves your soul, mind, heart, and will.

Forgiveness is a transformation of the way you see your partner, your response to his or her offense, and your relationship. 


Forgive with Your Soul

To forgive is to love as God loves. In God, love and mercy coincide. God loves you always, takes the initiative in showing his love for you, and embraces you as you are.

His mercy restores your dignity as a child of God. The strength and the motivation to forgive your partner come from the fact that God has forgiven you; God expects you to do the same with your partner. When you forgive your partner with your soul you are saying: “Who you are is more important than what you did.” You can fill any absence of love from your partner with an act of pure love. As the great mystic John of the Cross has written, “Wherever there is no love, put love and you will find love.” If the Spirit of God lives in you, you can be compassionate as God is compassionate.


Forgive with Your Mind

Sometimes, your mind might dwell obsessively on an offense and toxic thoughts might feed your anger, anxiety, or sadness. Pay special attention to toxic thoughts such as negative bias, all or nothing, assuming, and emotional reasoning. Focus your mind on what you value about your partner and your marriage and think about the behavioral changes necessary to overcome the injustice that has arisen. Think about some relevant and specific behaviors that your partner could do to heal the relationship.

Whenever your mind goes back to the offense, redirect it to the present and to the new behaviors needed to build a better relationship. You cannot forgive your partner with your heart if you do not forgive him or her first with your mind.


Forgive with Your Heart

Cancel the emotional debt. Forgiveness is always possible. You need not consider whether you can forgive but whether you want to forgive. Forgiving with your heart means removing any lingering resentment through an act of mercy and refusing to use the offense as a weapon against your partner. Expressing anger does not eliminate it; solving the injustice does. At times you might be tempted to wait for your anger to dissipate before you decide to forgive your partner. Time does not solve or heal anything; people do.

Your anger will decrease and even disappear when you restore the dignity of your partner in your soul with an act of pure mercy, identify the new behaviors necessary to promote justice, and freely decide to do your part to reconcile with your partner. If your partner does his or her part and your rapport is renewed and strengthened, your anger will be replaced with joy and peace. No matter how much anger you feel, you can always choose how to treat your partner. You are free to do your part to promote mercy and justice. You can do this if you live in the present moment and if you continue to invest in healthy relationships that can provide you with emotional support when you most need it. Forgiveness will never make you emotionally bankrupt; on the contrary, the more you forgive, the greater the supply of compassionate love in your heart.


Forgive with Your Will

The last stage on the journey of forgiveness consists in making the decision and taking the initiative to reconcile. Invite your partner to make the necessary changes to heal and build a better relationship. Reconciliation is not “fixing” the old relationship with your partner but building a new one. Married life is like building a new house day by day, not buying a “fixer upper” and spending the rest of your life solving one problem after another. Obviously this requires willingness from both of you. Reconciliation is the mature fruit of forgiveness that integrates mercy and justice and allows your love to become stronger.

The commitment to forgive is a decision that can occur even if you are still feeling angry and resentful. You can make that decision if you realize that you do not have to act on your resentment and that you have control over how to respond to your partner’s offense. Once you have made your decision to forgive and reconcile, communicate it to your partner in a respectful and engaging manner. Then articulate your expectations about what he or she needs to do to reach a genuine reconciliation.

When you forgive with your will, you complete a healing journey of forgiveness that matures and purifies your love and renews and strengthens your marriage. If your partner resists or refuses your attempt to reconcile, seek professional help before you decide to end your marriage. The journey from forgiveness to reconciliation can be filled with obstacles that require professional assistance to be overcome.

© John & Claire Yzaguirre, Ph.D., MFT (excerpt from their book: Thriving Marriages)




Back to Featured Articles