Research shows that the act of forgiving can actually be good for us. “If we can forgive, evidence suggests that this can lead to better mental and physical outcomes, like decreased depression and stress,” says eHarmony scientist Erina Lee. But forgiveness should only be granted in a marriage if it has been earned and establishing whether this is the case can be hard. Here are some guidelines to help you decide where to draw the line.
A second chance may be justified when:
You have reason to continue to trust them. If you have serious doubts about your relationship’s credibility and your partner’s sincerity, then it’s probably time to move on. But if they have previously shown a commitment to you and your relationship time and again, then you may be able to forgive a momentary lapse.
Change is likely. You must be able to genuinely believe that they can change. Do you think they will gain insight from this painful experience and work hard to renew your trust?
Their mistake can be justifiably explained. Be wary of the typical “It wasn’t my fault” excuse. But do analyse the cause of their actions carefully and try to put yourself in their place. Intense pressures, for example, can lead to uncharacteristic behaviour. “Chronic stress may lower people’s ability to communicate well and cause problems in a relationship,” says Erina. Sometimes there really are extenuating circumstances. So consider this possibility.
Your relationship is too rewarding not to work through the problem. All marriages and relationships have their share of problems. You have to decide whether the good outweighs the bad. Remember, you should never stay in a relationship if you’re being repeatedly mistreated.
A second chance is NOT justified when:
You don’t think they will change. Be honest with yourself and don’t be swayed by fear of being alone. If you can’t see that they will mend their ways, move on and be firm in your decision.
This incident isn’t a one-off. “Forgiving is about understanding the people in our lives and not condoning, but letting go of hurtful incidents,” says Erina Lee. But to forgive a repeated incident, however, does sway towards condoning. Remember, second chances are an entirely different matter to third and fourth chances. Don’t allow a pattern to emerge.
Friends and family tell you to walk away. Any decision should be your own but if the people that know you best tell you to get on with your life without this person, then they are probably saying so for good reason. Analyse this carefully.
When the person can’t help them self and won’t get help from others. One of the most agonising predicaments is coming to terms with the fact that the person you love is suffering from an addiction. If your partner is attempting to deal with this positively and seek help, then you may be able to stick by them and offer support. But if they refuse to accept their problem and change it, then it is probably safest for you to walk away. In doing so, you may even force that person to confront their addiction and the hurt they are causing others.
The overriding principle is to take care of yourself. It could be that that means forgiving and working hard to salvage a marriage or relationship. But it may also mean confronting the fact that a relationship must come to end. Making that decision won’t be easy, but your future will be full of all sorts of exciting new possibilities.