5 Steps To Forgive The One You Love

Posted by Lise Leblanc on

If you asked your partner to honestly complete the following sentence: "I never mentioned it at the time but it really bothered me when you... " Most could complete this sentence without missing a beat and it might be stuff from three years ago. Like a missile it is just sitting there waiting to be launched. But here's the thing... in time, these "unforgivens" take on a life of their own. It's as though they go airborne and circle high above your head like buzzards ready to pick at your bones. It is on the day you have an argument that they begin to land. One after another after another. You almost stand in awe of the powers marshalled against you. These resentments lead to blame, criticism, defensiveness and full blown communication breakdowns. Simply put, the end result is disconnection. And of course, the solution is genuine forgiveness.

There is a lot of confusion about forgiveness, so let me start by defining the term. “Forgiveness is a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group that has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.” – Original source unknown

Unfortunately, many people are walking around with all of their resentments stowed away in a figurative backpack that they carry around everywhere they go. It weighs so much that they’re like a turtle with a shell that’s ten times too big. Eventually they end up stuck on their back with arms and legs helplessly flailing around. Once completely incapacitated and suffering to a point that is no longer manageable, they are forced to do something about it. But by this time they’re already mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted. They feel helpless and hopeless. Others are more like pressure cookers. They continuously stew in old hurts and resentments from the past until an explosion occurs. After the eruption they may feel better for a while, but it never lasts. The cycle starts over and before long the pressure has built up again, just waiting for another opportunity to explode.

Learning to forgive is not an easy task, however it is a skill that will prove to be very empowering and incredibly healing for you (and your partner). So whether you’re like a turtle or a pressure cooker, these 5 steps will help you empty your ‘backpack’ and let go of old hurts from the past.

Step 1: Make the decision to forgive. At some point in your life, you’ve likely told someone that you forgave them and genuinely meant it, but then your resentment returned and the feeling of forgiveness went away. This is normal. But if you want to achieve lasting forgiveness, you must make a solid decision to forgive. And that decision cannot fluctuate. Let me give you an example. Let’s say your spouse cheated on you. This created a breach of trust and deep resentment. He said he was sorry, asked for forgiveness, and genuinely regrets his mistake. You agree to grant him a second chance, and in a moment of reconnection, you decide to forgive him. Things are going well at first, but then doubts start creeping in. Every time he goes out, you question where he is, what he is doing, and who he is with. You feel insecure and constantly need him to remind you that he loves you and won’t do it again. When you have a fight, you bring up the affair. In other words, you have allowed your decision to forgive to fluctuate. As a result, you are no longer enjoying a loving relationship with your spouse in the present moment. Let me be clear, forgiveness does not mean you need to stay in relationships that are not working for you, nor does not mean that you should trust people who are not worthy of your trust. The truth is, you’re not forgiving the other person because they deserve forgiveness, you are doing it because you deserve peace. So if you want to remain in your current relationship and reconnect with your partner, then make the decision to forgive, commit to it, and do not give yourself permission to fluctuate from that decision.

Step 2: Get clear about it. It may be easy enough to say: I forgive you, but from there to actually forgiving someone who has hurt you is a whole other matter. So once you’ve made a solid decision to forgive, it is time to get clear about it. At the top of a sheet of paper, write your partner’s name. Next write what you are forgiving them for – be specific and thorough. Finally, on the back of the sheet, make a list of all of the reasons you want to forgive your partner. Once you’ve made a complete list, write the top three reasons on a post-it note and put it in a place you will see often throughout your daily life. Remember, if you do not know why you want to forgive, you will likely lose your commitment when the going gets tough. I also recommend keeping your full list handy so you can go back to it when you start feeling like a turtle or pressure cooker.

Step 3: Try adopting the other person’s perspective. No matter how confident a person may appear, there is no doubt that they have experienced traumatic events, losses, fears, and challenges at certain points along their journey. Unfortunately, these events often go unhealed and then show up in various forms later on in a person’s life. This can explain, at least in part, why people behave in the ways that they do. Perhaps you cannot see any possible explanations for why your partner acted the way they did. However, if you’re serious about forgiving them, you will need to try to adopt their perspective and consider the factors that may have contributed to their behaviour. In order to access your own feelings of compassion, you may even try visualizing them as a hurt child experiencing their own traumatic events. When you’re ready, imagine yourself holding and helping heal this small child. This exercise can help you to access the feelings of vulnerability they might be feeling.

Step 4: Think of times when you acted similarly. It is quite possible that you never did anything as bad to your partner as what was done to you, but you’ve no doubt hurt your partner at some point in the relationship. We’ve all done things we’re not proud of and we’ve all been dishonest in various ways throughout our lives. While it is not healthy to focus on our mistakes and transgressions, it can be good to review them and remind ourselves that we’re not perfect either and that there are times when we wanted and needed forgiveness. Take some time to think of the ways you’ve acted similarly.

Step 5: Forgive yourself. If you’re feeling guilty, ashamed or angry at yourself for things you’ve done in the past, you’re not alone. Many believe that if others knew the "truth" about them - their dark side, disturbing thoughts, all the bad things they've said and done, etc. that they wouldn't be worthy of love and connection. This belief is common and it causes many to create a false self and hide parts of themselves. This however requires a great deal of role-playing and is intensely energy consuming. When we withhold forgiveness from ourselves, it creates a great internal conflict that causes us to reject ourselves. This self-rejection is the worst form of self-violence and it creates a disconnection in all of our relationships. You may think it is your partner who is rejecting you, but first and foremost, it is YOU who is rejecting YOU. In many cases, your partner has not even had a chance to meet the real you! Therefore, complete steps 1 and 2 but with the focus on forgiving yourself - you may find it helpful to use the list that you created in Step 4.

When I encourage people to forgive, I usually hear every “but” in the book. But he did this, but she did that… And all these ‘buts’ may be true, but if you’re serious about freeing yourself up, you need to think and act differently than you ever have before. You need to take immediate and effective action to forgive your partner (and yourself).

About the Author: Lise Leblanc is a Registered Psychotherapist with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a Masters in Educational Leadership, along with several clinical, mediation and leadership courses/certifications. For the past twenty years, she has worked in therapeutic, educational, leadership, and coaching roles. She is the founder and director of Fill-Me-Up Cards and Minimum Stress, companies dedicated to relationship building and stress management. If a relationship recharge is calling to you, then Fill-Me-Up Cards for Couples is a great tool to help you through this process. Fill-Me-Up Cards for Couples is a 21-day relationship challenge consisting of 2 decks of cards (His and Hers) that will give you and your partner a 21-day plan full of creative ideas to help you reconnect romantically, emotionally and sexually (can be purchased at www.fillmeupcards.com)

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21-Days to Getting the Love You Want

Posted by Lise Leblanc on

Does the love of your life seem to be losing interest in you?
Do you feel hurt, frustrated, unappreciated, or misunderstood?
Do you feel needy and unattractive?

 

If you're like most people, you may remember the beginning of your relationship when meeting your partner's needs was at the top of your priority list, and vice versa. But then something changed. Here’s how I’d summarize the general pattern: couples start out strong because at the beginning, both individuals are flooded with happy hormones like oxytocin and dopamine, and everything feels new and fresh. Then, when the novelty wears off and the logistics of living with another person begin to take a more prominent role in the relationship, couples stop nurturing each other. After meeting the demands of the day, couples often feel exhausted and have little time or energy left over for each other.

When we have unmet needs, whether sexual, emotional, or otherwise, we start seeking ways to meet those needs. The problem is we don't always come up with the best solutions. For example, a woman may turn to a shopping addiction because she feels emotionally unfulfilled in a marriage. Because shopping releases dopamine, she finds that “rush” – that fleeting, exaggerated feeling of connectedness and fulfillment that we tend to associate with both “the honeymoon phase” of a relationship, and with buying an exciting new item. Of course, shopping won’t fulfill her deeper desire for emotional fulfillment.

The mind ultimately wants to create solutions to meet our needs, but these "solutions" often only serve as distractions for us, and exacerbate our original feelings of disconnection. This unintentional recipe for disconnection then simply breeds further disconnection, such that we are further away from each other on all levels - mentally, emotionally, romantically, sexually and spiritually.

You may think that relationships should be effortless but the reality is that every relationship requires commitment and effort. It can be hard work, especially if your spouse is not on board yet, but it is achievable. You may be thinking: wait a minute, it takes two to tango. My guess is that up until now you’ve been focusing on changing your partner and my next guess is that it hasn’t worked. So for the next 21 days, try taking a new approach and focus on what YOU are bringing to the relationship. The truth is, there is only one part of this relationship that you have any real control over, and that is YOU.

           If you're reading this, I am guessing you know that there could be a more positive way to approach your intimate relationship, and you're looking for ways to re-connect with your partner. As it is with making any significant change, it requires a willingness to instill new practices into your life. I will give you strategies to help you feel more connected to your partner, however you need to think of it as a toolbox; if you merely let tools sit in the box, nothing will be fixed or created. The tools will simply collect dust. Therefore, I urge you to thoroughly complete the following exercises:

  1. Make a decision that for the next 21 days (at least), you are going to do whatever it takes to recharge your relationship. And I mean REALLY give it your all. Write your commitment on three sticky notes and put them in places you will see often throughout your daily life (e.g. on your closet door, on your bedroom light switch, on your computer).
  2. At least 3 times over the next 21 days, take the time to talk to your partner about your hopes and dreams, and to ask about theirs (instead of always talking about problems or logistics, i.e. who is picking the kids up, deadlines at work, what's for dinner, etc.).
  3. Initiate at least 3 positive interactions per day without expectations of getting anything in return - a compliment, a supportive comment, or a show of affection - it doesn't matter as long as it is 100% positive. In other words, do not add a negative to a positive (i.e. I really love you, but wish you'd take out the trash). At least one of these interactions must be physical. For example, give your spouse a hug for a full 30 seconds at least twice per day (without back patting).
  4. Separate a sheet of paper into two columns. In one column, make a list of all of the things you are currently saying/doing that are disconnecting you from your partner; in the other column, make another list of all of the things you are currently saying/doing that are strengthening the connection with your partner. Throughout the day, give some serious consideration to what YOU are bringing to the relationship, and commit to doing more things from your connection list and less from your disconnection list.
  5. In all of your thoughts, words and actions today, ask yourself: Is this serving to create connection or disconnection in my relationship? Remember, it is your choice whether you choose connection or disconnection and that choice will significantly impact how you feel about your partner. Before going to bed, write about at least one instance where you chose to create connection and one instance where you chose disconnection.

 

Fill-Me-Up Cards for Couples is a 21-day relationship challenge aimed at re-establishing connection and re-igniting passion!   You’ll be amazed at how 21 days of focusing your time and energy on meeting your partner’s needs in a sincere and genuine way (and having your needs met) can strengthen your relationships and open the doors of communication and trust. 

 

About the Author

Lise Leblanc is an expert in the field of personal and professional development. She is a Registered Psychotherapist and for the past eighteen years, she has worked in therapeutic, educational, leadership, and coaching roles. Lise has been part of many personal transformations and has helped many get their lives, and their relationships, back on track.

 

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Bring A Happier You to Your Relationship

Posted by Lise Leblanc on

As much as you want to have a healthier, more connected relationship with your partner, you must first understand that you are responsible for your own happiness. The truth is, we all miss out in certain ways when it comes to our emotional development, and instead of going back and reinforcing what we missed out on, most of us end up putting the burden on others to make us happy. As a result, we find ourselves on a perpetual quest for love and attention, and eventually we lose the ability to love ourselves, to self-soothe, and to become happy, healthy adults. Instead we blame our partner for our unhappiness and start looking outside of the relationship to fulfill our needs. The best thing you can do for your relationship (and for yourself) is find happiness from within because bringing a happier healthier YOU to any relationship will make a world of difference for YOU!

Money can’t buy happiness” is an age-old cliché. And the funny thing about clichés is that they are often true – even though we are still inclined to dismiss them as being overly simplistic and optimistic. This cliché, for instance, is certainly true, but its potency isn’t about money specifically. The truth is, nothing external can buy, bring, give, or deliver happiness. You are responsible for your own happiness, and you create it, starting with making a commitment to yourself to be honest about your needs and desires, even if that means getting a little uncomfortable.                                                 

In my case, it wasn't until I accomplished my goals and got most of the things I thought would make me happy that I finally understood the wisdom behind this cliché: happiness can not be found in a house, a car, a new computer, or through the intoxicating experiences of sex, drugs, alcohol, making money, a relationship, high status, food, an affair, or whatever. Any of these things might make you feel good for a few hours, a few days, or even a few weeks, but that satisfaction won’t last. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating that you move into a cardboard box with a yoga mat. I have nothing against wanting to get a good job, looking for an amazing relationship, or spending money on good “stuff”. But if it feels like your happiness depends on something happening or not happening, it will always be a fleeting illusion and you will remain stuck in an unproductive and unhealthy cycle of restlessly seeking happiness in external circumstances.                                                                                   

Unfortunately, most people have bought into this illusion. I can’t tell you how many times clients tell me, “If I only had X, Y, or Z , I’d be stress-free and happy.” But without fail, when they get what they want, something else comes up causing them to continue to be unhappy. We all need to understand that chasing happiness creates emotional toxicity that fuels the vicious cycle of insecurity, and reinforces our limiting belief that happiness must exist externally. One of the most common examples of this is winning the lottery: people believe that if they win, they’ll be endlessly happy, but research shows that “lucky” lottery winners are in fact as dissatisfied (if not more so) after hitting the jackpot than they were before. If you don’t believe me, take an honest inventory of the things you thought would bring you happiness over the last ten years and see if they actually did in the ways you expected. You might be unpleasantly surprised, like I was. Believe me, if you don’t break the cycle now, you’ll spend the next ten years (or more) chasing the illusion. And while this may be a disheartening realization, your awareness is fundamentally empowering. With this awareness, you now have options because you understand that your happiness is ultimately your choice. You can keep chasing your tail, remaining trapped in your current state of unhappiness, thinking all of your problems would be solved if only you “won the lottery” (or fixed your partner). Or you can choose to step out of the illusion. If you want to discover happiness from within so that you can start showing up in your relationship as the best version of you possible, then start by consistently applying these principles to your life:

 

  1. Make happiness your #1 priority.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that almost everything in life is a choice, including your happiness. So if you want to be happy, make it your #1 priority. Throughout the day, if/when something happens to disturb your sense of happiness, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Am I choosing this situation?
  • Are my own thoughts contributing to this feeling of unhappiness?
  • Is this worth my health and happiness?
  • How can I restore my sense of internal happiness, regardless of external circumstances?

 

  1. Don’t avoid unhappiness. 

Let me be crystal clear on something: Life is not about being happy ALL of the time. There are good reasons we are equipped with other emotions. For example, when going for a job interview, we feel nervous - that's normal. When confronted by a bear, we feel scared, as it’s an evolutionary response to danger. I’ve had people in counselling sessions telling me they are depressed, only to find out that their best friend recently passed away. I find myself clarifying, “You’re grieving. This is a healthy reaction to what is going on in your life, not a psychiatric condition.” But because we so desperately want to avoid pain, we reach for alcohol, food, or whatever other numbing activity or vice that we can think of. Some of us feel that we need medication to mask our uncomfortable emotions, and would rather take antidepressants uncritically than dig through the mess of our own limiting beliefs, self-judgments and other insecurities. Instead of avoiding pain, lean into it, feel it, ask yourself what you can learn from it, and find the courage to talk to someone who can help you work through it.

 

  1. Set yourself up for happiness.

Start the day out right by developing a morning routine that is conducive to a state of peace and happiness. Many rush out of bed in the morning (after hitting the snooze buttton three times) and get straight to worrying about what the day might bring. While worrying, they pound back a few cups of coffee, check emails and try to figure out how they will meet all of the demands of the day. So instead of pressing the snooze button, take that ten to fifteen minutes and before getting out of bed in the morning, start your day as follows:

    • Thank your higher power for giving you one more day on this planet. Be thankful that you woke up and have an opportunity to experience life again.
    • Ask yourself: How can I be of service to myself and others today? Do not try to answer the question, just sit with it for three to five minutes, trying to keep your mind free of any other thoughts.
  • Breathe. It’s hard to believe that we often forget to breathe, or at least breathe deeply. Take a moment in the morning to take at least three deep breaths.
  •  

    1. Be grateful.

    Being grateful is incompatible with unhappiness. In other words it's almost impossible to be in a state of gratitude and unhappiness at the same time. So for the next 21 days, get into a gratitude routine. At least ten times today, ask yourself: What can I be grateful for about my partner and about my relationship? Make sure you are not rephrasing the question to something like Why can't I just be grateful for what I have? Remember, your mind is sneaky, and will try to answer any question that you ask it — so with the latter question, it will find many reasons why you can’t be grateful. Asking better questions will give you better answers.

    Before going to sleep at night, it may be tempting to review all that went wrong throughout the day, but resist the urge. Instead, think about what you are grateful for, and take the time to write down what’s working well in your life. Remember, it is your choice whether you focus on the positive or the negative and that choice will significantly impact how you feel.

     

    Finally, I'd like to remind you that if you truly want to be happy, you’ll need to work at it. I learned this the hard way – I always wanted to take shortcuts, but they always led me back to square one. Eventually I had to come clean with myself about my own self-destructive mental, emotional and behavioural habits, and gain the courage to make significant changes in my life. Now, I am reaping the benefits and you can too (and so will your partner!).

     

    If you want a healthy, loving relationship that can go the distance, purchase Fill-Me-Up Cards for Couples and invigorate your love live. Fill-Me-Up Cards for Couples is a 21-day plan full of creative ideas to help you reconnect with your partner on all levels. Purchase at:

    http://fillmeupcards.com/products/fill-me-up-card-deck

     

    About the Author

    Lise Leblanc is an expert in the field of personal and professional development. She is a Registered Psychotherapist and for the past eighteen years, she has worked in therapeutic, educational, leadership, and coaching roles. Lise has been part of many personal transformations and has helped many get their lives, and their relationships back on track.

     

     

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