Learning How and Why to Forgive

The first step is also the hardest: we must forgive our partner – and ourselves – in order to free ourselves of guilt and blame. Dr. John Gray, author of the Mars and Venus books, offers tips on how to start the forgiveness process.

By John Gray, Ph.D.
Updated: April 23, 2015
Learning How and Why to Forgive: Mars & Venus Advice from John Gray

The trauma we experience during and after a divorce can affect our emotional well being for an extended period of time – perhaps a lifetime – if we don't take the time to heal the pain of this tragic event.

In this process, the first step is also the hardest: we must forgive our partner – and ourselves – in order to free ourselves of guilt and blame, and to put us in the frame of mind to welcome the next chapter in our lives.

Yes, this will be difficult – but it is not impossible. In fact, until we go through this step, we will never be completely free of this pain, or of the fear to commit our hearts again to another.

In reality, forgiveness is power – to change our feelings, and thus change our lives. In fact, forgiveness empowers us to move beyond our hurt – and out of the role of victim.

The hardest thing about forgiveness is the thought of facing your partner again. What many of us don't realize is that forgiveness first takes place in the heart. To begin the forgiveness process, you might first write a series of letters, to yourself, that expresses your feelings for forgiveness of your ex-partner. This forgiveness process has four components, and will encompass three different "letters": a feeling letter, a response letter, and a completion letter. Each letter allows us to express our emotions of the break-up, to ask – and receive – the acknowledgment we deserve, and to initiate closure on this very important chapter of our lives. After all, before we can heal, we must feel again.

These issues are described more fully in my book, Mars and Venus Starting Over.

Here are some tips on how to start the Forgiveness Process:

Forgiveness Process Tip #1: 
Write a "feeling letter" that expresses the four healing emotions. 

These emotions are anger, sadness, fear, and sorrow. You should address each one in a separate paragraph, writing as such "I feel angry because..." "I feel sad when..." "I feel afraid that..." and "I feel sorry that..." By doing so, we put on paper our fears and concerns.

Forgiveness Process Tip #2: 
Now, in the same letter, express your wants, your needs, and your wishes. 

The goal of a forgiveness letter is to move us beyond our current pain. By writing about your hopes and desires, you better visualize what now can be accomplished in your life. You start this paragraph with "I want..." then follow up with: "I hope..."

Forgiveness Process Tip #3: 
Next, in a "Forgiveness Response Letter," express the loving and understanding response you would want to hear in return. 

You will again address this second letter to yourself. Within it, you will write whatever makes you feel heard and nurtured. For example, you could write "Thank you for..." and "I am sorry for" or "Please forgive me for..." and "You deserve..." In this matter, you receive the responses you've been seeking, and have never received.

Forgiveness Process Tip #4: 
Finally, express your forgiveness, understanding, gratitude, and trust in a "completion" letter.
 
The purpose of this third and final letter is to say good-bye with love, and without blame. You begin by thanking your partner for the responses you received in the previous letter, then express your acknowledgement that now is the time to let go. If you have gratitude for past acts or memories, you write this out now. And finally, you write: "I forgive you for..." By doing so, you give yourself permission to say good-bye and move on with your life.

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John Gray, Ph.D. is the #1 bestselling relationship author of all time. He is the author of more than 20 books, including Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. He is an internationally-recognized expert in the fields of communication and relationships; his unique focus is assisting men and women in understanding, respecting and appreciating their differences. www.marsvenus.com

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