Forgiveness and reconciliation are two related concepts that are equally important to practice in marriage. Merriam-Webster defines reconciliation as "the act of causing two people or groups to become friendly again after an argument or disagreement." "Forgiveness is an internal process where you work through your own hurt and let go, regardless of whether or not the offending party participates," states Ryan Howes, who has a doctorate in psychology, in the Psychology Today article, "Forgiveness vs. Reconciliation."
Many people are afraid to forgive because they think it minimizes the offense or gives permission for it to be repeated in the future. Neither of these are true. The common belief that forgiveness is a one-time event, is also a myth. Forgiveness is a process in which the hurting individual works through any emotions and repercussions of the injurious action alone in order to achieve emotional freedom. In certain relationships, such as marriage, forgiveness may also involve hard work by both parties in order to reconcile and move on.
It Starts With the Seeker
The first steps in forgiveness involve the seeker alone. Trying to remember that offenders have scars of their own may provide some compassion and understanding of why the hurtful event took place, according to the TwoOfUs.org article, "Learning to Forgive... Before You Marry." It is also important for the seeker to take time to process his emotional wounds before confronting the offender. This time and thought will diffuse some of the heated emotions that can get in the way of a healthy conversation about what happened. This may require the help of a professional.
Steps for the Offender
"The forgiver needs to feel a reasonable amount of assurance the act won't recur," states Ryan Howes in the Psychology Today article, "Four Elements of Forgiveness." If the offender can create a reassuring environment, the forgiver may begin to feel safe in the relationship again. The offender also needs to be patient as trust takes time to rebuild. The relationship may never be the same again but ultimately it can be restored.
Forgiveness and Reconciliation Increase Intimacy
"Forgiveness brings so much wonderful emotional closure. We don’t just move away from negative feelings but we can also move toward a place of positive feelings and thoughts about that person,” states Dr. Douglas Kelley, a professor at Arizona State University, cited on the State Press Magazine in the article, "The Science of Forgiveness." Fears of rejection, being misunderstood or damaging a good relationship can all keep people from pursuing forgiveness and reconciliation. However, ignoring your feelings can lead to bitterness and resentment. Working through difficult issues ultimately brings closeness and builds a strong marital partnership.