When Should I Forgive Him?

So he screwed up and now you are seeking dating advice on just how far you should be willing to go to move past this and move on with him, or without him. He may have even messed up pretty badly. In fact, if you are asking this question he probably did. So what do you do?

There’s an entire stream of consciousness around the whole “forgive and forget” notion. Can you forgive, AND forget? Or, can you even just make it past that first step? Depending on what he did you may never forget it. Ever. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

So before I go into the “When?” answer, let’s first look at what forgiving actually is. Again, there are about a thousand different religions and beliefs on the subject, so I am not going to go *there*, but we will make it simple and turn to our friend Webster, the dictionary guy. Webster’s dictionary definition of “forgive” is this:

“to give up resentment of, or claim to requital for”, and “to cease to feel resentment against (an offendor)”.

How does such a difficult concept provide such a simple definition? It’s that key of stopping the resentment. Getting over it. Letting it go. Not being angry about it anymore.

But the forget part about forgive and forget is that part of you that is hurt. Even if you aren’t angry about it anymore, you can’t stop thinking about that one little thing that was said or done. And that’s okay, you are human.

So when should you forgive him? Well, what do you think is required in order for you to stop feeling resentment? It’s not rocket science, we learned it on the playground. If you have children, you teach them the same principles too.

When you mess up, you go to the person and you acknowledge what you have done, and you apologize. That’s just what we have been taught to do since we were first taught to engage and socialize with people. We were forced to do that when we were kids. Guess what, the rules haven’t changed. And they don’t change or get grey and fuzzy even when you love someone.

In fact, the more you love someone, the more you should be willing to make it right. ESPECIALLY if you are the offendor. When a man realizes he has hurt you, his response should be, “Oh my god! I’m so sorry! What can I do to fix this?” And this has to come from a place that is honest and authentic. Not from a place where he’s just feeling bad for getting caught.

If and when he comes to you from that place then you don’t need me to answer the question when you should forgive him. It is much easier to stop feeling resentment for someone or over something they did if they own up to it, apologize, and make you feel in some way that it will never happen again. And it’s very difficult to forgive them when they don’t feel that remorse over hurting you.

So it’s only logical then that you should forgive him when he reaches that place. And if he doesn’t? Well, that’s a whole other show.

Now, that’s the easy answer. The complicated answer that provides relationship advice for women that need an apology is that, this all depends on the size of the transgression. So, what you don’t want to do is hang on to every little thing and blow up over every little thing that he doesn’t apologize for.

For example, many of you write in that you’ve texted him 30 times that week and haven’t heard back and why is he being such a jerk?

There are some things that just don’t require forgiveness. That might be one of them. Should you forgive him for not texting you back? Yes. Now. Should you forgive him for sleeping with your best friend?

Well if it was me, I wouldn’t, no matter how much either one of them apologized. Because that “forgetting” component would just stick in a way that was bigger than the apology. So maybe you can’t forgive without forgetting, every person is different, and every apology is different and every crime that requires an apology…is also different.

When you are factoring in whether or not he deserves forgiveness you have a lot of variables to account for. The size of the transgression is probably the biggest variable you will have. Only you can answer that question. Discussing it with him and gauging his level of accountability and remorse will then be your next variables on whether or not you can “cease resentment”.

You are human and are allowed to be upset by whatever it is that you are upset about. Are you allowed to hang on to it and remind him over and over again? No, that’s not forgiving. Or forgetting. And it’s not fair to either one of you. But again, it also depends on the size of the crime. If the crime is big enough that you don’t think you will ever forget it, then you may never be able to forgive him. Only you can decide.

So when it comes to the “when” the answer is, if he has done something to try and help you get to the place of “ceasing resentment” through apology, acknowledgement, what have you, then you should at least forgive him. What you do then however is up to you. Maybe you can both move past it, and maybe you can’t. Whatever you decide is whatever you decide and there is no wrong answer.

Remember what I always say, you teach people how to treat you. If he has done something wrong, you are allowed to point it out. You are not allowed to hang on to it and stay in the relationship and let it fester, especially if he has done something about it. And if you haven’t mentioned anything to him about the transgression, then he can’t do anything about it in order to help you forgive him. So teach him how to treat you. If it is less than respectful, and he has done something to show that, you have the right to point it out. If it is something that you feel you just can not let go under any circumstances, then it might be best to move on from this relationship experience. Only you can decide.

Teach him how to treat you, and treat him in this situation with the same gentility and respect that you would appreciate if it was you that committed the sin. Forgiveness should happen organically. And if it doesn’t, then maybe you are with someone that isn’t the best for you. And if it is a situation that keeps requiring forgiveness, then you have some thinking to do and that also is…a whole other show.

It might help you to review my article on Fighting Fair. This can help you navigate some of these variables, and fight fairly in a way that still acknowledges everybody’s concerns, without crossing boundaries to the point of saying something either or both of you will regret. Forgiveness looks and sounds easier than it is to actually perform in person. And when it is in reference to someone that we love and care about, it’s even harder, right?

Actually, no. Forgiveness with people that we love is supposed to be easy. It IS easy, if we love them. But, it’s also easy to apologize to someone that we love when we discover that we’ve hurt them. So, if you are having a tough time forgiving someone for something, that alone might be the most important message of them all. If it’s not easy to forgive, there might be a reason for that. Remember that the word “give” is right in the word. Forgiveness is a gift to both of you, and if someone you love needs forgiveness and you want to keep loving them then, when should you forgive him? The sooner the better.