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A lot of the confusion around forgiveness and reconciliation in relationships revolves around the definitions of these words and the other words that orbit them. Forgiveness means you don’t hold a grudge and aren’t bitter towards the person who did you wrong. Reconciliation means that you can live civilly with the person who has done you wrong. One distinction between the two is that reconciliation requires that a continued relationship happens and in forgiveness there is no required continued relationship. Why does the distinction matter?
These words commonly come up when dealing with a spouse that has cheated on their lover. If you have been cheated on, you can forgive the person. What’s this look like? It means you harbor no more ill will towards them and there are no negative held feelings within yourself about the situation. That doesn’t require you having to stay in a relationship with them. You don’t have to reconcile. This process also takes a long time and a lot of work on yourself before there is the ability to genuinely forgive the other. We can fall into the trap of Cheap Grace here.
To just reconcile with a partner that has cheated on you means that you’ll stay in the relationship, be civil, but not forgive and just exist in the relationship. A lot of the time this happens when you stay together for the kids or for financial reasons. It’s a decision made through logic without much emotion or care for your inner self. Where would you move to? How could you afford your bills you’d ask yourself? It’s not an emotional decision which encompasses deep levels of progressive emotional work. It’s much like settling.
Back to why this all matters. In a lot of relationships, I’ve seen and worked with, there are the couples who come out of an infidelity or a moderate to severe breach of trust stronger than ever or duller than ever. Those who just reconcile stay together for “reasonable” reasons such as kids and finances. There’s a lot of bitterness in the relationship. Those who forgive without reconciling go out to find a lover that is better suited for them. They had to do a lot of learning to get to the point of forgiveness and can constructively think about if they want or should reconcile with their cheating lover or not. Those who come out of the relationship stronger than ever have done both. Forgiveness has occurred with reconciliation. For this to happen a lot of communication is created, understanding is focused on & trust is redefined and rebuilt.
Reconciliation without forgiveness is an investment in environmental stability. You can stay angry, live in that environment of anger and bitterness, but finances and such are the same.
Forgiveness without reconciliation is an investment in yourself that gives you choices. Getting to the forgiveness means you put a lot of emotional work into yourself and made clear enough decisions on what you need to do with your life. You can see that you need to move on from the relationship and that can be tough because you may have to move out, get a divorce or fight over who gets what. You may also see that you want to reconcile with your lover. This means even more emotional work, now with them.
Forgiveness with reconciliation is an investment in the breached relationship. This is where you and your lover both have to do much solo emotional work and cooperative emotional work. This brings a lot of challenges because you’ll start to really have an understanding of yourself and your lover. Some people say that forgiving and reconciling with a lover that cheated on you is the hardest thing you can do. I don’t know, it’s hard for sure. It may be harder to leave them because you were with them for so long. You figure all that out when you’re learning to forgive yourself so you can forgive the other.
One thing I don’t see in many places if the fact that if you’ve been cheated on, there’s no way to ever move past it without forgiving & reconcile with yourself for the event. You’re not guilty of anything. But, these relationship breaches will bring up wounds from everywhere in your life. And you have to love yourself so you can love others and let others love you. You have to do that to be successful in rebuilding your broken relationship or if you choose to find a new one. Without this step, we’re damned to repeat the same situation with a different face.
Ask yourself and explore if you have or have not reconciled, forgiven or done both in current and past relationships and then explore how those decisions worked out for you.
Thanks for reading this week’s article and I hope it was helpful for you or someone you know. If it was helpful, share and follow me here at AdamAyala.org. I also co-host a relationship podcast with my good friend and Psychoanalyst Dr. Vilk called Fix Your Fate on youtube. Check us out there where you can listen and interact with the two of us while we’re talking and discovering new things about relationships.