What do you do when forgiveness is demanded? Your spouse has engaged in emotional abuse, but puts all of the weight of reconciliation on you, saying things like, “you just won’t forgive me!” Sharmen Kimbrough of the Marriage Recovery Center tackles the question of what to do when forgiveness is demanded.
What Should you do When Forgiveness is Demanded?
The Weight of Demanding Forgiveness
In the realm of marriages in crisis, a recurring issue often emerges—a spouse demanding forgiveness from their partner. It’s a scenario that plays out far too frequently, where one partner insists, “Just forgive me, and let’s move on.” While forgiveness is an integral component of reconciliation in a marriage, the problem arises when this request becomes a demand. In this article, we’ll delve into the complexities of forgiveness in relationships and explore the importance of not placing the burden of reconciliation solely on the shoulders of the harmed party.
The Unspoken Consequence: Shifting Responsibility
When a spouse implores the other to “just forgive me,” it unwittingly shifts the responsibility for mending the marriage onto the injured party. It can be seen as a subtle evasion of personal accountability. The underlying message becomes clear: “I don’t need to change because you won’t forgive me.” In reality, however, change is imperative regardless of whether forgiveness is granted. The cornerstone of marital reconciliation lies in the commitment to amend one’s ways.
Forgiveness: An Essential Component, But Not the Sole Solution
While forgiveness undeniably plays a vital role in healing a fractured marriage, it should not be misconstrued as the sole solution. The linchpin of reconciliation is not merely seeking forgiveness, but actively pursuing a transformation in behavior.
The essence of reconciliation lies in the commitment to “go and sin no more.” In this context, “sin” refers to repeating the same hurtful actions that initially damaged the relationship. Thus, the focus should not be solely on whether or not forgiveness is granted, but on whether meaningful, lasting change is taking place.
The True Essence of Recompense and Restitution
Recoupment and restitution are not solely achieved through forgiveness. They stem from a genuine commitment to alter the course of a marriage. To rebuild trust and restore a damaged relationship, one must wholeheartedly engage in the process of changing the trajectory of the union. Reconciliation hinges upon the determination to take a different path, ensuring that the harmful patterns of the past are not perpetuated. Thus, forgiveness alone does not guarantee reconciliation; it is only one piece of the intricate puzzle.
The Misconception of Demanding Forgiveness
The act of demanding forgiveness raises several critical questions. Can genuine forgiveness be compelled? Does it hold any value if it is not freely given? It is essential to understand that forgiveness is a deeply personal and spiritual journey, often occurring at its own pace. Forcing someone to forgive can lead to insincerity or merely a superficial form of forgiveness that does not address the core issues.
The Role of Personal Accountability
One of the most significant missteps in a marriage facing turmoil is the failure to acknowledge personal accountability. Demanding forgiveness can serve as a shield against the necessity of facing one’s own shortcomings. It can prevent the vital self-reflection and introspection needed for meaningful change. Thus, the demand for forgiveness can become an impediment to personal growth and marital healing.
The Spiritual Dimension of Forgiveness
Forgiveness, in its purest form, is a deeply spiritual concept. It involves the act of pardoning, releasing resentment, and moving towards reconciliation. However, it’s a journey that must be undertaken by the person offering forgiveness, and it often involves wrestling with complex emotions and personal healing. This process is inherently intimate and may not be rushed or dictated by external demands.
Fostering an Environment for Forgiveness
Rather than demanding forgiveness, it is more productive to create an environment in which forgiveness can flourish naturally. This entails offering the space and grace for the injured party to work through their feelings and, in their own time, arrive at a place of forgiveness. Demands for forgiveness can inadvertently impede this process and hinder genuine healing.
Reconciliation and the Role of Behavior Change
In the pursuit of reconciliation, the focus should be firmly placed on behavior change. While forgiveness is a step toward healing, it should not be used as an excuse to avoid making necessary changes. Both partners should be committed to taking the right steps forward. This means actively addressing harmful patterns and working together to ensure they are not repeated. True reconciliation is a dynamic process of growth, understanding, and transformation.
A Balanced Approach to Forgiveness and Reconciliation
In the challenging landscape of a struggling marriage, the call for forgiveness should be approached with sensitivity and respect for its profound spiritual and personal significance. Rather than demanding forgiveness, couples must work together to create an atmosphere where forgiveness can genuinely take root and flourish.
Reconciliation requires a dual commitment: the commitment to seek forgiveness and the commitment to enact meaningful change in behavior. Only with this balanced approach can couples embark on the journey towards healing and rebuilding a thriving marriage.
Also read: Are Faith and Psychology at Odds?
About Dr. Hawkins:
The internet is inundated with hyperbole and misinformation about narcissism, leaving many people confused and hopeless. Get the facts on narcissism and emotional abuse from someone who has been researching, writing about and treating narcissism and emotional abuse for over a decade.
Dr. Hawkins is a best-selling author and clinical psychologist with over three decades of experience helping people break unhealthy patterns and build healthier relationships.
He is the founder and director of the Marriage Recovery Center and the Emotional Abuse Institute which offers education, training and counseling for people who want to break free of, and heal from, emotional abuse. Whether the perpetrator of the abuse is your spouse, partner, parent, boss, friend or family member, we offer practical advice for anyone trapped in a toxic, destructive relationship.
In addition to narcissism & emotional abuse, you’ll learn about the lesser known forms of abuse, including covert abuse, reactive abuse, spiritual abuse, secondary abuse, relationship trauma and much more.