Crime and Punishment

14 Feb

It’s Valentine’s Day! And, what better way to celebrate on The Olive Branch Blog than talking about relationships (and, for those guys who forgot to send flowers) forgiveness!

I recently had a session with a Mom who had moved out with her children due to Domestic Violence, and we started talking about the future–could she ever forgive him? Could she ever move on? If he learns how to manage his anger, and she takes him back, how can they rebuild their family?

The discussion got me thinking about forgiveness, and the obstacles that some spouses face when trying to forgive someone who offended so deeply. One of the biggest pitfalls I see as a therapist is something I like to call chronic punishment. It happens when one spouse forgives the other, but still feels so much anger that he/she subconsciously “punishes” the other every day through dirty looks, snarky remarks, lack of affection–you get the idea. Is this O.K.?

It’s tough to not want to get “revenge” on your spouse for their crimes, but where does that take the relationship? When is enough enough? Are there certain crimes for which one doesn’t deserve forgiveness?

My thinking is this: you may never forget what your spouse did, but, in order to move on and rebuild, total forgiveness may be what’s required. Not an easy order, by any means, but a necessary one. After all, who wants to punish or be punished for life?



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