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Forgiving injuries

Published 24.02.2022 - Produced by Väestöliitto the Family Federation of Finland in collaboration with the Finnish Association of Couple Therapy , psychologist Lotta Heiskanen , Family Federation of Finland
Every one of us has hurt the people we love at one time or another. No one is perfect and no one can avoid situations like that. The important thing is how such injuries are repaired. The aim of this episode is to help couples to repair situations where one partner has injured the other.

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Healing injuries is important

Sometimes things that may seem insignificant on the surface may injure a partner. Injuries are often situations that damage the safe emotional bond between partners. Injuries damage partner’s feeling of being valued and enough in the relationship.

Not having a partner’s support and presence in a situation where you need them the most may eat at the relationship for a long time. Experiences of being abandoned and betrayed in a relationship can be called relationship traumas or wounds. Time alone will not heal these wounds. An impersonal or defensive apology and forgiveness bestowed as a matter of course, without genuine feeling, will not be enough to restore trust and safety.

Relationship traumas cause people to be on guard. A person will start to step back from their partner to protect themselves from hurt and despair: “I will never let him or her hurt me like this again!” Unhealed injuries will push partners apart. They cause arguments and negative cycles of interaction.

The best way to heal these wounds is to seek a healing emotional connection with your partner. When you know how relationship traumas can be healed, you will be able to create a stronger relationship with lasting love.

The steps to healing injuries

  • The injured partner shares their feelings and injury with their mate.
  • The injuring partner stays emotionally present and listens. He or she acknowledges the wounded partner’s pain.
  • Without blame and without venting their feelings uncontrollably, the injured partner expresses what felt worst of all about the situation that resulted in the injury. What was it about the situation that hurt, frightened, and injured them?
  • The injuring partner listens, understands, and expresses regret and remorse. He or she empathizes with the feelings of the hurt partner; “I feel awful that I hurt you”. He or she takes ownership of how they inflicted this injury without trying to dodge responsibility or explain away their mistakes.
  • The injured partner picks up the courage to trust again and to ask for their needs to be met.
  • The injuring partner can respond to the hurt partner’s request. He or she will be able to act in a trustworthy way and offer comfort and consolation also in the future.

Dealing with injuries that have occurred in your relationship

The purpose of this exercise is to process past events that continue to weigh on each partner’s mind.

Choose a peaceful time and place to carry out this exercise. Perform the exercise by taking turns to take the role of the injured and injuring partner.

Please note: If you can’t yet talk about injuries without arguing or blaming each other, stop the exercise.

1. Describe a situation when you felt your partner injured you in such a way that it became harder than before for you to trust him or her or to feel safe. Big, vague hurts are difficult to address. That’s why you should try to express yourself as precisely as possible. Try to tell your partner about your feelings of being injured as clearly as you can.

2. If you are the injuring partner, try to listen to your partner with sympathy. Try to get a clear picture of how he or she feels. You can ask questions: What did the situation feel like to the injured partner? What would she or he have needed? What would she or he have liked you to understand? Then try to examine your reactions honestly and openly. Try to help your partner understand how your reaction came about in that situation. The purpose here is not to defend or make excuses for your behavior. Be careful to avoid sounding defensive or minimizing your partner’s hurt. Instead, your task is to help your partner understand your behavior in that situation. This will also help him or her to anticipate your behavior in the future.

3. If you can, reassure your partner that you take the pain you have inflicted seriously. Express your regret and apologize as genuinely as feels true to you. Share the feelings the event brings up in you. Most of us are sad and maybe ashamed to hear we have hurt our loved ones. If you find it difficult to apologize, examine why you feel that way and talk about it with your partner.

4. If you are the injured party, try to accept your partner’s apology. Ask your partner to approach the matter in the way you need right now. Tell your mate what might reduce your feeling of having been injured. What would you have wanted from them in the situation when you were injured? What could help you feel that your partner truly wants to fix the situation?

5. If you are the injuring party, try to meet your partner’s request.

If there have been no big injuries in your relationship, consider together ways you could help each other deal with injuries that may occur in your relationship later.

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