My husband does not forgive or forget past hurts. What can I do?
Q: My husband does not forgive/forget past hurts. What can I do? – Estela
A: It hurts when the one you love seems unable to forgive your past mistakes. Unforgiveness can keep your relationship stuck: You can’t go back and change the past, and you can’t move forward without letting it go.
Even if you’ve apologized, it is possible that your husband doesn’t feel completely heard. He may keep re-explaining how hurt he was, because he’s just not sure you get it.
Active Listening is one way to assure him that you really get his point of view. TRY THIS:
1. ASK – Sit facing him. Ask him, “Sweetheart, please tell me again about this incident from your point of view. Tell me exactly what I did, and what you felt and thought.”
Watch him and listen intently. Really work hard to understand how this incident felt and looked from his perspective.
Don’t argue against him in your head. Don’t defend or explain yourself. JUST LISTEN. (It may help to imagine he’s talking about someone else, not you.)
2. REPEAT – When he’s done, repeat back what you understand to be the most important points he made. USE HIS WORDS – Don’t paraphrase.
3. CLARIFY – Ask, “Did I get it?” This step is crucial. For him to feel thoroughly heard, he must trust that you understand everything about this situation that was important to him.
Let him repeat the whole thing again if necessary. This may help him to finally get it off his chest.
4. MORE – Once he agrees that you’ve repeated everything correctly, ask, “Is there anything else you want me to know?” This may help him to check his pain bucket and be sure it’s empty.
5. THANK – Thank him for sharing himself so honestly. Instead of rushing to apologize or explain your side, just receive what he said. Give him at least 24 hours to just savor the experience of being heard.
If you like, you can ask him, after a day or so, if he could repeat the Actively Listen to you while you share your perspective.
One last point: Just like physical wounds, deeper ones take longer to heal. Give him time to heal, but, meanwhile YOU forgive YOURSELF. You can’t make him let it go. But he also can’t make you feel guilty without your permission. At some point, his hurt is more about him than about you.