Forgiveness takes time and effort, but with these eight steps you can forgive even the biggest transgressions.
Being part of a couple means that at some point or another there will be something – very possibly something big – to forgive in your relationship. But how do you do that? Here are some ideas that have helped me over the years.
Eight Steps to True Forgiveness
Step 1: Anger is okay…for a while
Feeling angry after a big breach of trust (think affair, financial lying, etc.) is a healthy part of healing. But in most relationships, that anger needs to be conveyed constructively. The day your partner tells you he had a one-night stand with a co-worker? Yelling, crying and whatever else you feel is expected and probably won’t surprise your partner. But if you are still doing that a month later, chances are good you are not working in your own best interests. You may still feel enraged and hurt, and your partner needs to know it, but he (or she) will only be able to hear and respond to that hurt if you are expressing it constructively…and even then responding will probably be hard. If you are still having trouble constructively expressing yourself after a reasonably short amount of time consider hiring a counselor to help you through your grief and pain. Actually, this is not a bad idea after any significant relationship shock if you can afford to do so.
Step 2: Allow yourself to grieve
It sucks that your partner breached whatever trust she breached. Grieving the wounds that this caused you is an important part of healing. You may wish to share that grief and pain with your partner. If so, it may help to say something like ‘I’m still feeling really sad about the pain I’ve experienced. It’s going to take me some time to recover. I would like to talk with you about it, to help me heal.’ Try to use as neutral a tone of voice as possible, and choose a time when you think your partner is able to hear you. First thing in the morning and late at night when everyone is tired are typically not great times. Some people find that writing about it is one way to achieve neutrality while also expressing their full feelings – they can carefully craft what they are saying and check their words to make sure they are ‘hearable’ by their partner.
Step 3: Find your humility
Did you know that 50-60% of married men engage in extramarital sex at some point in their marriage, as do 45 – 55% of women?(1) I will never tell you that having an affair is a good decision – there are better options, such as seeking couples counseling to work through your differences. But, having been on both sides of this one, I can tell you that it is often understandable. That doesn’t make it any less devastating. But for some couples, having or finding out about an affair (or any other major breach of trust) provides a chance to strip away all the crap that has built up in your relationship and take a cold, hard look at what you have and what you don’t have…and whether this relationship is worth saving.
Step 3: Understand that you are part of this
Hitting a crisis big enough to warrant forgiveness can be a time to remind yourself that your partner is with you by design - you chose to be with him or her. This person, who is capable of doing things you hate, has been sleeping beside you because you picked him or her. That person is flawed as a partner…but so are you. We all are! How have you contributed to your situation? If your partner was expressing unhappiness, did you listen? Did you act on those expressions?
One of the important steps to being able to forgive your partner is realizing that in many situations (not all!) you, too, have played a role in getting you to this place of dysfunction. Humility can help tame your anger and provide a way to think differently about your situation.
Step 4: Seek to remember the good things
You and your partner may be flawed, but you both have many good traits, too. In a time of crisis and forgiveness, it’s important to overtly seek to remind yourself of these good things. Spending your time recognizing the good, rather than focusing on the bad, will set you in a direction that leads more easily to forgiveness and positive emotions.
Step 5: Get to know your partner better
Partners in crisis often tell me “I just want my best friend back!” Friendship is all about knowing your partner well enough to accept both his positive and his less positive traits. It’s about being genuine together, and not hurtful. You will find the path to forgiveness easier if you start being your partner’s friend again. That may sound hard when you are recovering from a major hurt – and it can be. But the acts needed to rebuild your friendship can exist side-by-side with unease or pain…at least in the short-term. And the results – opening up; getting to know each other better; learning to talk constructively about difficult topics again; having fun together; and remembering why you got together in the first place – are worth the effort.
Step 6: Accept your partner
You cannot change your partner. Period. You may be able to negotiate some different behaviors from him or her, but you will not change who your partner inherently is. With that humility I wrote about above, remember that love is about accepting your own flaws and your partner’s flaws. If your partner has problems that are simply unacceptable (for example, your partner physically abuses you) then it may be time, in the name of self-love, to move on.
Step 7: Forgive yourself, too
As you work through this you should seek to be as gentle on yourself as possible. I know that in times of crisis I’ve learned some pretty unflattering things about myself, too. While that can be hard, it’s also really good – both for me, and for my relationship. Knowing oneself helps you shift your own behaviors that you don’t like to be someone you like better.
Step 8: Move on in the positive
Forgiveness is about letting go of anger and pain so you can move forward. Dr. Ned Hallowell calls it “a gift you give yourself.” Don’t just stop at forgiveness. Take a look at what you really want out of life and start living in a way that gets you there. If you wish to get your best friend back, for example, then be a good friend. If you wish to have more fun, then be ‘lighter’ in the relationship and create time and events to help you have fun. If you wish to receive more affection, then give more affection. Don’t fake it…but do remember that waiting for your partner to lead means handing over responsibility for your own happiness to someone else.
How Does ADHD Fit In?
The partner who has ADHD may find it harder to self-reflect and to control behaviors, such as impulsivity, that may hurt the relationship. Seek to optimize ADHD treatment, and look deep into your own hearts for the acceptance and mutual respect needed for a healthy relationship.
For more on forgiving, see my blog post about Busting Forgiveness Myths.
(1) Atwood (2005) as reported in Recovering Intimacy in Love Relationships, p. 184
Ideas adapted from an interview with Fredieric Luskin in Recovering Intimacy in Love Relationships.
- MelissaOrlov's blog
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anger, forgiveness and what next?
Submitted by Alliberri on
I have been taking time to read many of the comments here - have been since November 2014...when things crashed. I knew that my partner had ADD, and I know a lot about managing it. My youngest son has ADD, and I am psychologist. My partner and I have been together for 10 years now, and until this fall have not 'really' lived together. I have stayed in his house while my house was being renovated and I stayed with him from May 2014 (when my house sold) to September 2014 when he sold his house and we prepared to embark on a 9 month traveling trip together.
Yes, I can see heads nodding and smiles all around..bad choice x 10! I knew that he had 'outbursts', and that he was easily distracted, has anxiety, depression and an small flavoring of OCD and ODD, but generally he can be a really sweet caring person. He is genuinely about people. He teaches at a college and is awesome with the students. He is a bit of an otter and likes to play...and really never wants to be an adult...and I know that is all part of the package of the ADD, but that along with addictions, and the rest of the colorfulness of his personality have put me into overload.
The sudden flashes of anger and frustration that lead him to throwing things, bashing things and driving erratically have pushed me away.
A little history. In November of 2014 he got so drunk with a complete stranger in a hot tub that he had alcohol poisoning. I spent the entire night, in a 5th wheel while he lay by the door, on the floor, trying to keep him alive. He was unable to so much as lift his own head to vomit, so I had to get blankets and pillows and prop him up against the counter and steps so that he wouldn't roll over and choke on his own vomit. The next day I spent the entire day in a laundromat on the campground, spending $25+ on laundry cleaning up the mess, while he lay in bed, still sick, and trying to sleep. He broke two ribs and had cuts and bruises all over. He had a cut on his head and a bit bump, neither of us knowing where he got it, and me not even being sure he was okay...hence making sure the next day that he didn't fall into too deep of sleep.
I was so angry and hurt. All through the night I was crying, planning for the 'next time'. He had done this same thing, although not as serious twice in the time that I have known him, and swore that if he got this drunk and sick again, that was it - I was walking out the door. I had had enough. Prior to us leaving on our trip beginning of October, he was a raving, frantic lunatic. I understand that people with anxiety and ADD do not do well with change, and so I was attempting to communicate with him, but it just kept getting weirder and weirder. So I finally told him that I wasn't going on the trip and that I was going to start job hunting. He got all 'nice' and finally got organized a bit and wanted to leave right away, yet for the previous month, did nothing but drink, sleep and go to work. Yes, I agree, I should have just stuck to my guns knowing it just couldn't go well....
And it hasn't. I am tired of the yelling, the anger, the cursing, and the always living on the edge of my seat wondering what will happen next.
I have analyzed my anger, and hurt and it has gotten better. I have forgiven him, and he has up til about two weeks ago really cut down on the alcohol consumption...but he is now going to it again for it's comforting properties.
After he got 'sober', I sat him down and let him know how his alcohol poisoning affected me. That made him sit up and attempt to make some changes. I know that he is trying, but it is as if, as we travel back home that he is reverting back to 'what was'.
I am glad that we are not married, that he has declared that we are not ever going to get married, that he is not going to be in love with anyone ever again - because then somehow, I will find it in my heart to say, 'sorry, we are just not good for each other.' I feel badly about it because everyone deserves a chance. I suppose I just need to know that I have given him the chance that he needs. I know that he has NO idea of how he presents to me and others...at times I am horribly embarrassed by him in public - him trying to sniff me like a dog, or acting silly...or being absolutely rude to people because he is frustrated and/or angry...
it is sad...for both of us...because he can be a really nice, caring, soft kind of guy...
Thoughts any one?
what's next? quite a bit most likely
Submitted by dedelight4 on
Hi Alliberri, wow, you've really had your hands full. I've been married to an ADHD man for 31 years now, and was only diagnosed about 8 years ago. I wish we had known BEFORE we got married about ADHD, because maybe we would have been better prepared, and I would have had more information to go on. But, one thing's for sure......when the person with ADHD is not getting enough help and medication (behavior therapy as well) the ADHD behaviors get much worse after marriage. The "nice" person we all knew beforehand changes and becomes distant and gets too stressed out by even seeing the responsibilities of marriage. You will read A LOT of posts like that on this forum. Most of these guys ARE wonderfully charming and delightful to be around, but the "OTHER" behaviors are bizarre and embarrassing and make us question our sanity. Their minds just "don't work" the same as ours. We have ALL tried to help our spouses "get better", or try to be more understanding of them, or try to get them to communicate with us more, or we try to teach them HOW to communicate, plus we are go-betweens... between them and their other family members or their children, and become their caretakers and/or their mothers, and then become their crutch in life because they seemingly "can't cope". We ...including myself have become enablers because we didn't know what ADHD does to a relationship. The non ADHD person (me) learns to react in negative ways that make the ADHD worse, and then the ADD'er shuts down and won't cooperate anymore with the person who is being so "mean" to them. (they see it as being mean and controlling, even if it's not meant to be that way) You most likely won't be able to SHOW him what he is like. He doesn't want to hear it. (most don't) Maybe you could give him Melissa's book about ADHD. It's on this forum. I do hope you find help. Most of the folks here have said, (and it's something I am still learning) is to be kind to yourself FIRST. I REALLY need to learn that, because all the years of undiagnosed and untreated ADHD took a severe toll on me emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. I'm trying to find myself again, because I know I got lost. But, I DO WISH YOU WELL.
next it is...
Submitted by Alliberri on
We have talked about him getting help, and he has medications, but as you say, he doesn't think he needs them, or he adjusts them to see if I notice any difference. I don't notice any difference anymore because I am tired of the game(s). I am trying to not be critical, but - as everyone has noted - it takes a toll. I woke up this morning wishing we could just cuddle in bed and not have anymore 'talks' or arguments...I wished that we could have a Sunday morning in bed day - watching TV and just chatting, but he can't seem to slow down. If we watch TV he constantly criticizes all the acting and the 'b.s' they put into shows - "do they think we're stupid and don't know that's not how it works?"...
I know what helps him relax - being out on his tractor tilling the soil, but we are currently traveling, and will be until June...We are far away from his family and mine...which is actually good in most ways. I needed to get away from his constant dependence from his children on him and he on his children.
Early December we were camped at a place for a month waiting for parts, and so I took the bikes off the bike rack and starting my 'before traveling' routine of getting up at 6am and exercising - it was nice having the time to myself, but I also thought it would be nice to have company - for he and I to do things together...well, he did start getting up, and we compromised for 7am and started riding together. Exercise helped...but since then, we have been on the move again, and at some places there is NO where to ride...while i need to clear out the living room and do some yoga or ball exercises in the mornings when we are stopped for a few days or there is no way to get the bikes out...I haven't. Exercise helps me cope with him, and it helps him cope. He doesn't know it though...cuz he has never read anything I have ever given him to read on ADD or anything related. Exercise helps with his anxiety and his depression...but again, he doesn't know that it works and of course, if I tell him, he will just mock me.
You are correct though - I do certainly need to take care of myself and I do know what that means - being incredibly alone while in a relationship. Not sure what to do.
I do know when we return that he will have to go back to his full time job, and because i quit mine, I will have to find another one. Because neither of us has housing anymore, I will go find work wherever I can while he stays in the little town that we left. I know that there are no jobs in the field that I am in where we used to live. I know that time apart will be a small blessing and then we can decide. He wants to follow me, and I know that he knows that it is not possible, so I guess we'll tip toe through this mine field until things settle where they settle.
Thanks for your comments, it helps to know that I am not alone.
how to deal with dishonesty...
Submitted by happinessheart on
Hi everyone, hi Melissa,
My husband is the ADHD spouse in our situation. Just briefly I'll describe what brought us to where we are. I married this man because I adored his personality.
However, recently I seperated from my husband. When I returned to work after a long disability process, we began to drift apart. I was doing the "waiting for him to initiate time with me" thing, and what he did instead was disappear into his own life, completely. He made his computer, phone, t.v, friends, surfing, hobbies take up every waking moment of his life and avoided me as much as possible. We became like roommates and what once was a very special and loving relationship turned into a very cold, resentful living situation. I ended up leaving. When I I did this I set him up with three months of paid rent and bills as well as the remainder of a settlement he had received from a family member, and I took what was left of my accident settlement that had caused my disability. I explained to him that I was separating from him and why in a very detailed way (I've read Marriage and Adhd and used tips to communicate from this), and that I was taking what was left of the settlement money and why, in detail.
Now I'm back with him as we have both decided to try and work this out in counseling. He's never before been able to address the possibility of his Adhd and now has seemingly found the courage and is currently reading the Marriage and Adhd book as well (which he says is eye opening). I see him trying. I see him willing to look at what he wasn't willing to before. I see this as nothing short of a miracle considering where we were six months ago.
Anyhoo, I am about to go on a trip with him and his family, and I feel a bit resentful. He apparently, by his own admission, told his friends and family that when I left I took everything and left him with nothing. I am currently working a program of CoDa and am unsure if I need to ask him if he's willing to right this lie, or let it go.
I get confused sometimes when it's appropriate for me to say something or not, like is it better for me to address this in a person with Adhd? Is it important for me to address it as a codependent person? Or, is it best to let it go?
Any light shed is much appreciated and I thank you for being here. I've learned so much from these blogs.
Happinessheart, my husband
Submitted by PoisonIvy on
Happinessheart, my husband has never owned up to the role he has played in the breakdown of our marriage. He has told his family that he wants to spend more time with me but is unwelcome in our family home, when actually I've asked him many times to take breaks from his caregiving job (for his elderly parents) and come to our house. This follows on years of him disengaging from his responsibilities as a husband and a father and weeks at a time when he doesn't communicate with me at all. The dishonesty is awful for me, not only because of the topic but also because I never lie.
Submitted by happinessheart on
Yes, the dishonesty and lack of taking responsibility - It's very difficult to deal with, and it does hurt.
When we had our first counseling session, I had a bottom line right at the beginning - I told him that for me to go any further in this relationship I wanted him to address the possibility of his adhd. When we got home he asked what would happen if he decided not to address it. I told him I love him, and I would still love him. I told him that I thought of him as a beautiful personality that is fun and funny and loving and loveable when at it's best, but that I don't believe I'd be able to stay married to him because the message I was receiving when he refuses to look at this is that he's okay with wounding me deeply, and not interested in learning to care for me as his friend. I told him that it was a choice that was his and with either choice I'd be okay. I told him I wanted to be worth it to him, but I understood if he wasn't up to it, but that I probably would choose not to stay. So he began reading Melissa's book. Then he actually sat down with me and shared with me the things he saw in himself. Wow. Seriously a miracle. This is why I'm practicing patience. Because he became willing.
I attend CoDa and it helps me to deal, because it has been giving me tools on how to take care of myself in relationships and how to have less expectations of him. I'm also practicing confidence in my self and my own self care regardless of what his friends or family may have been told. I pray for us and listen to podcasts about adhd now and it really has helped me. As soon as I start taking things personal, I'll listen to a podcast and hear something that speaks to me and helps me understand. I'm in counseling with him and that is helpful because for some reason, a third party is easier to hear a message from than me. I am reading the ADHD and Marriage book and it helps me to communicate to him differently. And he seems to respond better when I practice communicating well.
Sometimes I feel overwhelmed and I cry. And I pray. And I read some of this blog and it actually makes me laugh when I see my story in the lives of others. Super grateful for that.
Submitted by Maria1117 on
Hi. I am new in this page. And i am soooo glad that i saw this. Please guys help me. But please don't judge coz my story is really a bit weird. But your posts really help me alot. I just really wanna help this man who is very special to me.
I am mary, and i have a boyfriend who has ADHD. We are in a LONG distance relationship. I am 21 and he is 17. He admitted when we were still bestfriends that he has ADHD. He said he is hard on focusing. He had anger issues before which he said was now over. And i can see that.
He is very kind. Super very kind. When i ask him to do something he does it. He admitted he is a bit lazy. But when i ask him to do something like "pls clean your room before you go out" and eat proper diet he always do it without buts. Stuff like that. He had a broken family. His mom was married again to a man but sadly broke up so now his mom has another boyfriend living together. And he is with his dad. His dad is also married again but they always argue petty things which really i can feel that it affects him alot. He takes medication once a day everymorning. He tends to forget things but not often. He sees a doctor every month. But i read mostly with you guys that your partners are talkative. But my bf is not. He is likely to keep his problems from himself. And i am lucky that my heart knows when he has a problem. Idk why but i think it's a woman's instinct. He spends his time playing xbox and watching t.v. He always stays at his room for the whole day. Well he goes to the kitchen when dinner time. But mostly he wants to be alone. Coz of fam issues. His doctor gave him strong dosage of med which has side effects of headaches and moodswings. Because he was more focused on video games which i know is not because the fact we always talk alot. Which i am worried if that medicine e is taking now affects him coz he didn't tell his doctor about it.
My problem started after 6months. A week ago he just woke up sad. And soo dry. When i mean so dry like "yeah" oh, yup, okay. Like that. I thought he just had moodswings so i passed it out. Then last 2 days ago. I just felt unloved. Like he doesn't talk to me anymore not like he used to.he always do the first hi's and replies before. Maybe that was the hyperfocus thing.
Then i asked him what's wrong. He said he is confused he doesn't know why. He doesn't know what he is feeling. And i asked him if he still loves me. He said he really loves me. And he will never cheat on me which i felt that it's true. And then i tried searching clues for people with ADHD and seemed connected with what's happening with him
The thing here is, he sees a doctor but he doesn't tell what he really is feeling. Like what he feels with his family issue. Which he only tells me. He doesn't literally open up with his parents. What he feels. He admitted me that he is having a hard time trying to open up. He isn't good at starting conversations.
Last few months ago he had trouble sleeping because he feels so bad for himself for not helping his mom
When his step dad hit his mom. He really felt bad for himself. Which i kept telling him that it's okay. That his mom wouldn't want him to get hurt even more and wouldn't want him to urge into their argument.
Same with his dad's step mom which they always fight because of his dad finance problems just last week. I asked him if it bothers him alot with his family. And he said he thought of it sometimes why he had a family like that
I pity him :'( that's why i wanted to help him. He is very kind and gentleman. He knows his limits. He is not that worst not like others with ADHD which i just read here. Which now i worry because if he doesn't start telling his dad about his feeling right now it might get worst. I wanted to ask him if he wants to see a doctor but i don't want to offend him. And i know he will not tell his dad. Pls anyone who can read this. Tell me what to do. Coz i love him very much. We may break up. But i will still help him as a friend. Coz he is really alone with himself. And i am the only person he is trusting. Thankyou for taking the time to read my story. I never had known a person with ADHD before.