We consistently receive a lot of questions about a range of relationship and, especially marriage challenges our readers face. One person was concerned that the partner simply won’t acknowledge their wrong in a naked display of pride. And they find it unbearable to contend this behaviour as they find it impossible to forgive since they won’t apologize or even show remorse.
There’s nothing as refreshing as a sincere and heartfelt apology by someone that did you wrong. It makes everything a lot easier, and starts you on your healing journey so much quicker. This will especially be the case when your offender was remorseful and started showing signs of changing their behaviour. But forgiveness is not something we offer another individual based on their apology, level of remorse, or promised behavioural change.
What if you were married to a self-righteous narcissistic douche-bag that just won’t say sorry? Or equally worse, what if there’s such a basket full of wrongs against you that it’ll take a long list of “I’m sorry, will you please forgive me, I was totally wrong” before you can actually engage in the process of forgiveness? Furthermore what if the person that wronged you is unable to hear or understand you; is unavailable to you for some reason or has passed away? What then?
Forgiveness is firstly for your benefit, not necessarily your offender. More often than not, the person you are forgiving may never know you’ve forgiven them. It is a gift you give yourself in the face of the injustice committed against you. The purpose of forgiveness isn’t necessarily to let the person who hurt you off the hook, even though they may eventually be off the hook. But the purpose of forgiveness is about freeing yourself from the hurt so you can live more freely going forward.
It’s a process that opens your heart and gives you peace of mind. If you are stuck in hate and bitterness, you are the one suffering. Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else while you’re the one burning. The letting go that constitutes forgiveness untangles the knot in you so you feel happier, lighter, and more present. You’re no longer living in distressing stories and painful emotions.
You don’t forgive your offender because they deserve it. If that were the test for when to forgive, it would rarely ever happen. Instead you choose to forgive the cause of your hurt because you cannot fully let go of the destructive emotions inside you until you do. It’s an act of your will, not your emotions or feelings.
In the state of unforgiveness, you’re exercising the hurtful incident with your attention so that it stays feeling very real for you. But when you forgive even without an apology, you determine to forgive your partner in your heart on your own whether they deserve it or not. You then confess your forgiveness of your partner even in their absence. Now you’ve opened a way for you to stop thinking about the matter altogether, and replace those thoughts with those of kindness towards your partner. Until you forgive, you are tied to the person that hurt you and that event.
Forgiveness is already a difficult process to engage without an apology, but thankfully it is not impossible. In any case, the apology is not for you. It just helps you to forgive easier, but it’s not meant for you. The primary purpose of the apology is to help the offender to orient their relationship with you, plus the fact that it’s a healthy thing to do. Healthy people apologize.
If you can choose to forgive even without an apology extended to you, then you’d no longer need it even if your partner offers it to you in the future. And if or when that happens, you’d still receive it, but it won’t have the same meaning as it would, had it been initially offered since you’ve moved on from the issue. The one that didn’t offer an apology initially would have missed an opportunity to take responsibility in repairing brokenness.
You need to realize that by forgiving your partner even without an apology you do it for yourself, and release your inner hurt. Success and living well is the best revenge. At a therapeutic level, you may wish to write a letter expressing the details of the anger, pain and suffering it may have caused you. On completion, tear it up and burn it.
Demonstrate kindness towards your partner even if the end result of the hurt is separation. Kindness is not passive aggression. But it shows your true character and integrity while also disarming hurtful actions. Hence, if or, when an opportunity presents itself, show empathy towards them.
Always remember that hurting people, hurt people. Usually the hurtful actions by your partner against you are rarely ever about you. They are about them and their own heart and thoughts. When your partner acts in a hurtful manner towards you, chances are he has some deep inner wounds himself. We always try to look at a hurtful person as injured. That way you become more compassionate towards them yourself.
Forgiving wrongdoing committed against you with no apology doesn’t mean you excuse the wrong, tolerate or cover it. It doesn’t mean you approve of it either. It means you deny your offender the opportunity to control and eventually destroy your heart even in the absence of their apology.