I have an aunt who, though I love her, I won’t spend time with anymore because she’s overbearing and well… racist. I once forgave my ex-husband for an affair (but couldn’t forgive the subsequent ones). My best friend in high school is still one of my dearest friends today, despite several months not speaking to each other in high school for reasons neither of us can remember today.
Why do I share those tidbits? Because they’re a few of my stories of relationships that have seen their share of turmoil. And like me, you probably have your own stories of tumultuous relationships. We all do.
It’s normal to go through tough times. When we are in relationships with others, we are bound to have some hiccups along the way. You can survive the tough times if you practice three simple aspects of relationships: forgiveness, admitting mistakes, & finding common ground. Choosing these relationship-building activities will make it possible to withstand disagreements, fights, and other threats to your relationships.
Let’s take a look at what this means.
Forgiveness is perhaps the biggest component of making any relationship work. Without forgiveness, every relationship in your life is doomed to failure and ending when either you or the other person makes a mistake. And that’s a pretty depressing thought, because it’s unavoidable that either you or the other person will make a mistake at some point.
Be willing to forgive and ask for forgiveness when appropriate. Forgiveness isn’t accepting what happened without consequence. Forgiveness is saying, “What you did is not okay, but I understand you’re only human and I’m willing to let it go and let us heal from this.” It is allowing the human nature in yourself or someone else to exist without being fatal.
The key to forgiveness in relationships is making sure the offense doesn’t repeat itself.
Sometimes forgiveness is going to require some amends — either for you or from you. If you need to give or receive amends, make them clear, natural, and logical for the situation. Be fair and forthright when making up for a mistake.
Mistakes are inevitable. Every human being makes at least one mistake in their life — and most make many more than that. The good thing about mistakes is that most of them are correctable and we can learn from them. As long as we’re willing to admit to them, that is.
Being able to admit when we are wrong is an act of humility and greatness. Being able to express our missteps in a way that shows we are aware of our impact goes a long way towards surviving tough times. When others see that we’re willing to own up to our mistakes, it makes forgiveness that much easier.
When admitting mistakes, it’s best to be specific and detailed about how and why we acted out of turn. Being sincere and honest with remorse is important.
Finding common ground
No matter the issue or the rift, there is always common ground. Going back to the things that are shared experiences or values will help close the gap that developed during the conflict. Finding ways to relive shared memories together, or to make plans to do something we have in common together, or doing a shared interest together are all ways we can reconnect with our loved one after conflict.
When things are at their worst, we can stop and think about what we have in common and choose to see the bigger picture and avoid being negative. Being willing to compromise or derail bitterness and anger for the greater good is always a better choice. Letting go of frustration or negativity in favor of keeping a relationship that has otherwise enriched our lives greatly will make us much happier in the long run.
Disagreeing with someone we are in relationship with isn’t something to be feared. Being at odds with someone doesn’t always mean we shouldn’t be in relationship with them. It means we are all different and sometimes we just need to agree to disagree. Instead of getting into a huff and possibly fracturing the relationship, use these techniques to survive the tough times and strengthen your relationship. Be willing to go the extra mile and forgive, admit mistakes, and find common ground.
Wendy Miller is a meditation teacher, single mom coach & writer. She helps moms use mindfulness, meditation & self-care to create a calm & happy life. She lives in Florida with her two sons and enough pets for a zoo.
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