Misconceptions about "forgiveness" in marriage therapy


Yeah, it's not as simple as the picture here. Marriage therapy is hard work! One concept that is always a hot topic is forgiveness. What does that even mean? OK, you cheated on me, blamed me for it, but we're going to pretend like that didn't happen? Yeah, right!

The director of my MFT graduate program, Dr. Donald R. Harvey, has a fresh, real perspective. He has written over 20 books on subjects related to troubled marriages, and he has a useful way to think about forgiveness which blew my mind at the time. Here's the short version:

Forgiveness simply means the willingness to reconcile.

Simply stated, the problems may be ugly, and they may be 100% one partner's fault, but forgiveness means you are willing to give 100% effort on your end toward trying to heal the marriage, hopefully with the help of a competent therapist. Now, full reconciliation may take a good deal of therapy--and maybe a lot of time after therapy--to re-establish trust and intimacy. You're just saying you'll be present and do your part.

My personal reflection: If forgiveness is that raw and honest, there's actually hope that, with hard work, rebuilding love and trust can make for a better marriage than you had before. The actual statistic (again from Don Harvey) is that, of married couples who after infidelity chose to reconcile in therapy, 60% reported greater intimacy in their marriage than they had before the infidelity.

Check out Dr. Harvey's most popular books! (Click here)