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In the last section, we discussed four topics relevant to helping couples enhance and protect sensuality and sexuality in their marriages. The four topics are roadblocks to sexuality, lack of interest in sex, communicating desires, and making sensuality a priority.
In this section, we will discuss three key topics concerning the process of forgiveness in couples. These three key topics concerning the process of forgiveness are defining forgiveness, taking responsibility, and regaining trust. We will also discuss a five-step communication strategy for framing a forgiveness discussion.
Greg and Natalie had been married for nine years, and had two daughters, ages 7 and 5. Greg’s job was time-consuming and required him to be out of the house a great deal, but Natalie began to notice that his time away from home had increased dramatically. Natalie stated, "I started becoming suspicious. We hardly had any alone time anymore, and it had been ages since we had talked. I felt like I didn’t know Greg anymore. Then it hit me that he might be having an affair. So one night, I borrowed my friend’s car and followed him when he said he was going to work. He went to some woman’s apartment instead. He kept denying it for two whole days. Finally he admitted he had been sleeping with this woman from work for six months, and asked me to forgive him. I told him to get the hell out!!"
Greg was insistent in expressing his desire to work through the consequences of his infidelity with Natalie. Greg immediately cut off all contact with the woman he had been seeing, and apologized to his wife. Natalie stated, "After a few days, I agreed that he could come back to the house, mostly for the sake of our kids. But I told him I just couldn’t have things be the same, and he agreed to come to counseling with me."
I stated, "Something you may want to consider about forgiveness is that by forgiving Greg, you are not saying that he did not do anything wrong, or that he is not responsible. It also does not mean that you have to forget about the hurt that Greg’s affair has caused you. What forgiveness does mean is that even though you are hurting, you have chosen not to punish Greg, but instead to work on the consequences of his actions together."
Natalie stated, "I’m worried because I still feel a lot of pain. I mean, if I still hurt, doesn’t that mean I can’t really forgive Greg?" I explained to Natalie that it is normal to experience grief, even if you have chosen to forgive someone. Clearly, although Natalie may choose to work through her desire to hurt Greg back, she will be left with a deep wound and a need to grieve. Does your Natalie need to be reminded that he or she can work towards forgiveness and reconciliation, and still allow him or herself to grieve?
♦ Taking Responsibility
Forgive, maybe, but not try to restore our relationship! At first I was worried he would blame me for the affair. I mean, we’ve been so distant lately. I don’t think either one of us put what we should into the marriage. But now, I’m going to take responsibility with Greg for making this work."
♦ Regaining Trust
I stated to Natalie, "You can also help Greg recover trust by showing him that you have decided to forgive him. Although you are hurt and grieving, you can demonstrate that you are not going to hold the affair over his head for the rest of your life together. This may help Greg trust that you really want to move forward together with him."
♦ Five-Step Communication Technique
Step One: is for the couple to set a meeting to discuss issues relating to forgiveness.
Step Three: is for the offender to ask for forgiveness. I encourage couples using this technique to remember that forgiveness is a separate issue from the experience that caused the pain.
Step Four: is for the offended to agree to forgive. Natalie expresses openly her decision to forgive Greg for his affair, and by doing so demonstrated her commitment to move the affair into the past. After setting a meeting, discussing the issue, asking for forgiveness, and agreeing to forgive.
Would this technique for framing a forgiveness discussion help your Greg and Natalie?
In this section, we have discussed three key topics concerning the process of forgiveness in couples recovering from infidelity. These three key topics concerning the process of forgiveness are defining forgiveness, taking responsibility, and regaining trust. We have also discussed a five-step technique for framing a forgiveness discussion.
- Greenberg, L., Warwar, S. Malcolm, W. (Jan 2010). Emotion-Focused Couples Therapy and the Facilitation of Forgiveness. Journal of Marital & Family Therapy, 36(1) 28.
- Markman, H. J., Stanley, S. M., & Blumberg, S. L. (2001). Fighting for Your Marriage. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
The Effectiveness of Emotionally Focused Therapy on Enhancing Marital
- Najafi M., Soleimani, A. A., Ahmadi, K. H., Javidi, N., & Hoseini, K. E. (2015). The Effectiveness of Emotionally Focused Therapy on Enhancing Marital Adjustment and Quality of Life Among Infertile Couples with Marital Conflicts. Int J Fertil Steril, 9(2): 238-246.
- Whisman, M. A. (2016). Discovery of a Partner Affair and Major Depressive Episode in a Probability Sample of Married or Cohabiting Adults. Fam Process, 55(4). 713-723.
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