“People who learn to forgive have more successful relationships. Successful couples are able to figure out how to forgive each other for being themselves, and they do this because they know that it is nearly impossible to change other people. Since we are human beings, by definition we are imperfect. I wrote Forgive for Love to be the essential missing link in the literature on successful relationships.” –Dr. Fred Luskin, Forgive for Love
I am a forgiveness teacher. Nobody comes to see me because their partner is too nice, or because they are too giving. No, I only hear about how couples drive each other crazy. Sadly, people in relationships have a lot to complain about, even if nothing blatantly awful has happened.
Whether you are at the beginning of your relationship, the middle, or struggling at the end, you will need to realize that your partner is a flawed human being with difficult traits, and, if you want to be successful in love you need to learn how to forgive those flaws. Practicing forgiveness as early as possible will give you and your partner the best chance to make your relationship a lasting a healthy one.
According to surprising research, couples who do not acknowledge each others’ flaws at the very beginning of their relationship have a hard time staying together. We’ve all met the new couples who constantly gush about how perfect their partner is, and how lucky they are to have found each other. The positive and loving feelings are healthy and good, as long as you are aware and accept that your partner will have traits that can drive you crazy (when the endorphin high starts to wear off, that is). Couples who are able to see each other clearly and realistically from the beginning end up with a stronger love that stands the test of time.
There is one inevitable problem of the endorphin rush we feel from a new love: it will only last one to three years. People who are not aware of forgiveness often become bitter when the rush wears off and they begin to truly see each other without the rose-colored chemicals. When this unhappiness lingers it turns into contempt, and feeling contempt is the beginning of the end.
I suggest creating a “relationship-deal-breakers” list – even before your first date. Deal-breakers are things your new companion does that are not acceptable under any circumstances. They could drink too much for your liking, lie repeatedly, be unwilling to share expenses, or may not be as affectionate as you like. If you are dating someone who has one of your deal-breaker qualities, you should first make sure you are correct, get support from trusted friends and then talk it over with your companion. If the situation does not resolve after such attempts, you should move on. It is important to note that for some, ten annoying qualities equal a deal-breaker and the game is over, while others can be with someone who has ten equally annoying qualities and have a successful relationship.
For qualities and situations that are not on your deal-breaker list, you should practice forgiveness. Successful long term couples practice it, and therefore I suggest that newly dating people should as well. If you accept your partner’s flaws and are able see their good qualities from the beginning, you are better able to decide if they are right for you. Forgiveness does not mean you like everything about your partner – it means you understand they are not perfect, and your job is to love who they are, not who you want them to be.
When you practice forgiveness you will have less anger, be able to appreciate your partner’s good points, accept them as they are, and ultimately have a long-lasting and healthy relationship, annoying qualities and all.