Today I am going to be talking about how to forgive and move past an event that hurt you. Maybe you’re having a hard time getting over it, so we’re using my favourite technique. Watch the video below or keep reading to find out!
Identifying Emotionally Traumatic Moments
I think the question is, why are these rocky moments so hard to get over? I hear a lot of women say, “I wish I could just forgive and let go, but I just don’t know how.” It’s not because you’re crazy. It’s not because you’re some malicious person who holds a grudge forever. It’s because those moments in your relationship were emotionally traumatic. I know that sounds a little bit over the top, especially because I’m a coach, and I’m not a therapist. I don’t usually talk in those words, but it’s true.
Something about that event was deeply hurtful. You were probably feeling kind of vulnerable in that moment. A lot of these things happen when you’re going through a transition or when you’re sick. In those times, you’re just more vulnerable than normal, and you feel abandoned by your partner. You reached out for something; some comfort or some love or some acceptance, and you weren’t met with anything, and you just felt completely alone.
These don’t have to be huge events in your life, but for whatever reason, whatever the circumstances surrounding it were, you felt really deeply affected and hurt. So, how do we move on? I first came across this technique in one of my favourite books of all time – Hold Me Tight by Sue Johnson. I was reading this not as a marriage coach, but just as someone who wanted to change her marriage and do some forgiveness, and I was reading the chapter on “Forgiving Injuries”.
You Do Better When You Know Better
In the book, the technique is a little bit more involved and requires a bit more help, but what I really wanted to do was simplify it so you can just do it on your own as I did it on my own in my marriage. The whole idea is that it is possible to actually go back into history and rewrite what happened because the basic premise is that people do better when they know better. In the past, maybe you or your spouse just didn’t know enough. You didn’t have the right education, emotional maturity, or knowledge about what your spouse was going through.
Or you might’ve not been very assertive at expressing your needs (if you need to know more about that, read my last post on how to get over resentment!). You really need to just take a moment right now to forgive yourself for not knowing better, and also forgive your spouse for not knowing better. We’re going to take care of that right now.
The Technique to Rewrite History
You need to through the event and decide what you want to change. Because you’re going to be rewriting history, you need to get a lay of the land; what actually went down, how did it affect you, and what do you wish went differently? If you could imagine anything about that event or that period of time in your marriage changing, what would it be?
What actually went down? I would suggest doing this step alone first, just so you can get your thoughts in order. Maybe do a little journaling, talk to a good friend, talk out loud in the shower (that’s probably one of my favourite things to do), and figure out what is under the hurt. You’re angry, you’re frustrated, but take it down a little notch.
What’s under that?
What felt vulnerable or scary? Did you feel abandoned, unimportant, or like you weren’t a priority? Did you feel like you reached out, and your spouse wasn’t there for you? Figure all that out. Then the second step is, what do you wish had happened? Really go through some details, not just generally, “I wish I felt supported,” but ask yourself, what does that support look like? What would your partner have done and said that would have changed it for you to be able to be supported or feel supported?
If you don’t remember the details, don’t worry. The details aren’t really important, so if you want to, make them up! This is really about getting down to that vulnerable place of hurt. It’s important to tap into that because you’re going to share that with your spouse.
I’m going to give you an example from my own life
That way, you can get some practical examples of how this might happen. Let me set the scene. My daughters are eight and nine right now, so this was back when my nine-year-old – interestingly enough – was nine months old. We had just gone traveling in South Africa for two months with some friends. It was ridiculous that we were doing that because I was also (surprise!) pregnant, and I was sick as a dog – I mean really, really nauseous. I don’t know who thought it was a great idea to go trucking around in South Africa in the heat with a nine-month-old. My milk had dried up, but I didn’t know, so my daughter was cranky and unhappy, and it was miserable.
I’m sure at this point you can imagine the exhaustion that we were all experiencing. We had a 10-hour flight from Johannesburg to Amsterdam. We got to the airport, and my husband was really excited to go out and see Amsterdam. I think we had like a seven-hour layover. He had been to Amsterdam before when he was single and had no kids, and he had a really great memory of going out in the city and checking out all the sights and rushing here and rushing there. Of course, I, on the other hand, was exhausted, sick, and tired. I was trying to nurse this nine-month-old baby who wasn’t getting enough milk. I hadn’t eaten very well, had low blood sugar, and was probably severely dehydrated.
You get the point.
We finally found this little sleeping nook thing in the airport (thank the Lord that we found something like that), and we hunkered down, but my husband was really grumpy. He wanted to go have this adventure, and I was getting in his way. I just felt so severely abandoned. Man, I can’t even express how it felt to just be alone in that stark room with a crying baby, sick to my stomach, just feeling so sorry for myself.
I don’t even think he ended up going out to Amsterdam and leaving me alone. Instead, I think what he ended up doing was just going to get food and coming back, but I don’t think he spent much time with us. He was really, really upset. It’s hard for me to remember the details because we have actually rewritten this moment in history, and so I had to dig a lot in order to find out what actually happened.
Create a NEW Memory
This kind of experience sits in your stomach like undigested food. You know what I’m talking about. I mean, when we rewrote this history, we went through this technique years after the event. I had been holding on to this for quite some time, just feeling very, very abandoned. We went through it, and I expressed how I felt to my husband. He validated how that must’ve felt for me, and together, we goofily (because that’s how we are) rewrote history. We decided that we came off the airplane together holding hands. I was assertive like I wasn’t in the past, and I said that I needed food and water and rest, and asked if he could just take our daughter.
He, in turn, understood my situation, and said, “Yes, absolutely! That’s what I’ll do,” and we had a connecting time. Even just thinking about it makes my heart warm with love for my husband. Again, we do better when we know better. It’s possible to do better in the past. We don’t have to hang on to that. We can let it go, and we can just create new memories in our minds.
So now, you’ve discovered what the hurt was, you figured out what you wish had happened, and now, it’s time to go ahead and invite your husband in, if he’s willing. Some might not be, but I want you to just give it a try. Don’t read his mind or make things up for him if you haven’t even checked in with him.
Just say to him, “I’ve noticed that I’m holding a lot of resentment around this one situation or event in my life, and I want to let it go. I know that you’re a great husband and you love me and you probably have no idea what was going on for me. Would you be willing to do this little exercise so we can just rewrite history and move on with it once and for all? Of course, I’m happy to do it for you anytime you need that.”
It’s best with your husband – again, focus on solutions, not the problem.
Share the hurt, not the anger. Anger will always be criticism and blaming. Hurt will just be like, “I felt really alone and vulnerable. I know you didn’t mean that, but that’s just how I felt.” You can even coach him and say, “What would be the best thing for me is if you just listened and just repeated back what you heard.” (this is called active listening) “I just want to know that you hear me. I know it wasn’t your intention, so you don’t need to get defensive, but I just really, really need this.”
Then also take responsibility for your part. Maybe say, “I didn’t share what I needed.” Also, “I didn’t know. I couldn’t do better because I didn’t know better.” For example, in my situation, I wasn’t assertive, I didn’t share what I needed, and I wasn’t confident in asking for help, so I took responsibility for that. Then, together, rewrite history, decide what it is you want to happen instead, and every time you think back on that moment in time, I want you to think about the new memory now that you’ve created together- not the hurt.
1. What was the hurt?
2. What do you wish had happened?
3. Rewrite history with your spouse.
4. When thinking back, remember the new memory.
Do this, and it will become very ingrained in your brain. I do not ever think of that Amsterdam experience with the old memory. I just think about the new memory because, in my brain, that’s what actually happened. Now I think back with love and affection, rather than hurt and rejection, and I’ve forgiven and moved on.
I would really be curious to know if this works for you if you try it out! If you do, I would love to hear from you. My email is email@example.com.