In every type of relationship, whether family, friend, significant other, co-worker or neighbor, conflict arises. Where there's conflict the issue of forgiveness isn't far behind. However, it's best to avoid expecting to be forgiven. Instead, focus on what's in your control and the choices you can make to create a receptive environment towards resolving the conflict.
The Role of Forgiveness in a Relationship
Forgiveness is an integral ingredient in any healthy relationship. However, it is often resisted because it's uncomfortable and at times feels unfair. Forgiveness implies a hurt. “Getting” someone to forgive you is actually the wrong mind set because forgiveness can’t be demanded or earned. Forgiveness isn't for the one who inflicted the hurt. Forgiveness is for the person who's hurting. It's a choice to no longer hold onto the hurt.
Take full responsibility for your choices, actions and behaviors. Anything short of taking responsibility will ensure the relationship dies. Being relationally mature means avoiding any blaming, minimizing or making excuses for your actions. Having the ability to look her in the eyes and say, “I messed up. I did that. I take responsibility and I’m sorry for hurting you,” will often soften a heart towards you. Taking responsibility for your own choices typically diffuses conflict.
Make a Meaningful Gesture
Making a meaningful gesture is best when it follows a heartfelt apology. This gesture needs to convey that you get how and why what you did hurt her and that you are committed to never making that same choice again. Some gestures could be making a card, buying her favorite coffee drink or sending her a song that conveys an apology. Ensure your gesture has no strings attached. She isn't obligated to forgive you.
Commit to Earning Her Trust
You have to know going into this that it'll take time to earn her trust again. The burden is on you to show you are trustworthy. You do this by treating her with respect, heeding her boundaries, allowing her to set the pace and honoring her wishes. Be reliable, dependable and honest. Those are traits that speak louder than words. This step will require patience on your part.
Give Her Space
Smothering her with texts, phone calls and social messaging won't get you what you are hoping for. Continuous contact isn't received well. It's perceived as controlling and as exerting pressure. This isn't going to move her heart towards you. Giving her space to think, breathe and talk with her friends actually creates room for gaining perspective on the relationship. Tolerating a period of silence may be necessary.
Focus on the Choices You Can Make
Remain focused on the choices you can make in the relationship. Use this opportunity to better yourself as a person. Reflect on the mistake you made and why you made that choice. Consider if there was jealousy, insecurity, hurt, selfishness or immaturity involved. If so, make a choice for yourself to work on that flaw. All of your relationships will benefit from the work you put into improving yourself. Perhaps she'll even take notice of the change.
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Josee D'Amore is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in San Diego, where she is the founder/owner of Gems of Hope Counseling. She specializes in relational wellness including friendships, siblings, spouse/significant others, children, parenting, abuse/trauma, grief/loss and care-giver support. She is the author of "The Soul's Fight: Wrestling with Forgiveness".
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