Adult ADHD can add a good deal of complexity to your interactions. Often there is strife, anger and poor behavior all the way around. Learning the art of forgiveness can really help you move in a positive direction, but to wield this powerful tool you need to bust some common myths about forgiveness, and understand what a path to forgiveness looks like.
Busting the Myths
There are four common ideas about forgiveness that can get in the way of your being able to forgive your partner:
- Forgiveness means condoning your partner’s behavior. This is not the case. When you forgive your partner you choose to put understanding and love ahead of hard feelings for the purpose of relieving yourself (first) of the pain you are feeling and, second, allowing space for your relationship to grow when appropriate. But that does not mean you agree that what your partner did was all right.
- Forgiveness is giving in. You can have the strength to forgive, as well as the courage to negotiate trying to change future behavior.
- Forgiveness only “works” if your partner knows about it. Actually, lots of times it’s best to not mention that you have forgiven your partner. This is what I call “becoming Teflon” – letting things flow past you rather than stick to you like a burr. When we are struggling on a daily basis, letting things go is a form of forgiveness that benefits you both. And anyway, you don't forgive in order to gain 'points' with your partner!
- Forgiveness means you must stay with your partner. The act of forgiving is a stand alone act. If you are so inclined, forgiveness can be the first step in a repair process that brings you and your partner closer together. Or, forgiveness may open up a door that leads to an exit with fewer hard feelings. What follows forgiving your partner is totally up to you and your partner.
Practicing forgiveness is not being a doormat! It is not the same things as saying ‘sure, go ahead and do this again’ or ‘I don’t care.’ Just the opposite – forgiveness is needed only when something is wrong or hard – and it is a statement of genuine love. Love for yourself, because you deserve to not be held hostage by anger and pain. And (often, but not always) love for your partner – an acknowledgement that we are all human, and all have our own ways of dealing with the roadblocks and hardships life puts in our way.
Forgiveness is not forgetting. You will always remember the intense pain you felt when you discovered her affair, or found out he has just taken a loan against your house without discussing it first. Forgiveness of the really big stuff is about remembering something differently – not to ‘fool’ yourself, but because life is often gray, not black and white. And living peacefully with what has happened in the past is healthier and happier for you.
Forgiveness may come when you begin to realize that there were complicated feelings behind your partner’s actions and you start to feel empathetic. Or it might come simply because you are no longer willing to hold on to your anger. Whatever your motivation, forgiveness is a powerful tool that ADHD-impacted couples can use to great advantage to keep themselves - and their relationship - healthy.
Next post – creating a path to forgiveness.