• Tricia Karp

Forgive me

…at the end of life, the wish to be forgiven is ultimately the chief desire of almost every human being. In refusing to wait; in extending forgiveness to others now, we begin the long journey of becoming the person who will be large enough, able enough and generous enough to receive, at our very end, that necessary absolution ourselves.


~ David Whyte, Consolations



We all get hurt in relationships. Sometimes people hurt us intentionally. More often that not the hurt they cause isn't intentional. Either way we experience pain.


During conflict especially we can feel hurt.


Conflict isn't bad or wrong. It's an opportunity to learn more about our partner. It's also an opportunity to choose love, by honouring one another for who we each are, along with honouring our connection and desire to get things back on track. In a healthy intimate relationship we put our focus and energy into repairing the rupture and reconnecting. Forgiveness can be a necessary part of this process.


Studies show that being able to offer forgiveness and receive it is one of the most significant factors that contributes to a satisfying relationship and its longevity. Couples who practice forgiveness can release the hurt and shame that holds them back from feeling connected with each other, and build a stronger bond. If we don't forgive resentment builds, and we can relive the hurt and pain over and over again in our thoughts, which can impact on our emotions and behaviour too. Resentment also leads to emotional disconnection and distance sexually.


Forgiveness is the antidote to resentment. It's a soothing balm you rub on your wounds by going back to where you were - to the calm contentment you were experiencing - before the hurt happened.


Forgiveness isn't a sign of weakness, and forgiving doesn't mean you accept the behaviour that caused you pain. Ultimately forgiveness is a strength. It shows you're capable of goodwill towards your partner. It's also about choosing to live your life without bitterness, anger and resentment.


As part of the process to repair hurts, sometimes a simple "sorry" is enough. Sometimes it takes more than that. Many couples find it healing to create a forgiveness ritual. This can be a courageous offering of deep care and love in a relationship, an acknowledgement of our humanity in all its glorious messiness, and a willingness not just to keep going, but to start again, to be and do our best because our partner, our relationship, are worth it.


You can create your own forgiveness ritual in whichever way works for you. You can do it with a partner, friend or family member, and adapt it accordingly. Here are a few ideas to get started or consider including:


Answer these questions


Each write down your own answers to these questions:


I’ve been holding on to these thoughts, feelings and memories……


Holding on to all this has hurt our relationship in these ways……


I want to build a better relationship with you, based on these values……



Make a commitment


Write down your commitment to let the painful thoughts and feelings come and go without holding on to them or getting caught up in them. Start with: My commitment is to......



Create the ritual


Choose a special place and time to meet and read to one another what you wrote. You might like to light a candle, create an altar, or go somewhere in nature where it’s peaceful and you’ll be alone.


As one of you reads, the other listens deeply and compassionately. Then swap.


Do something that symbolises starting over. Some people burn the paper their answers were written on. Before the ritual, work out what you’ll do as a symbol of starting over.



Connect lovingly


Do something together to connect in loving ways. This can be physical intimacy, or doing an activity you both enjoy. Discuss this before the ritual to work it out and plan.


For most of us forgiveness doesn't come naturally. It's a choice. It's a loving action. It requires focus on our values too. It means asking ourselves whether staying hurt and resentful is more important to us than our relationship, health, vitality, inner peace... and getting on with our lives.


Let's imagine our relationships - and the world - filled with forgiveness, and be the change we want to experience.



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Photo by Steven Kamenar