How to forgive someone even though what they did still hurts?

A trip with my boyfriend we got pretty drunk and my boyfriend told me his ex is soulmate. Previously to the trip he kept bringing up his ex pretty often. I told him it made me uncomfortable but he wouldn’t stop and would ask about my ex. We talked about it a few days after the trip. He had no recollection of him saying his ex is his soulmate and apologized. It was an honest apology. Since then he’s definitely made the effort to make me feel loved.
However, it’s hard to erase the thought of him still thinking about his ex and now he’s just hiding it from me.
They go to the same university art school and his friends have chosen her over him, but still remain distant friends with him. Since then there’s been a couple of bump ins with his ex at social events and she completely ignores me and only talks directly to my boyfriend. I’m sure my boyfriend is oblivious to her nature, but the thought keeps creeping in about their relationship together.
Asked by Lex
Answered
12/05/2021

Hello Lex, 

I am sorry that you are experiencing such hurt. It seems that what your boyfriend said to you when he was drunk really upset you. I realize that what he said to you made you feel insecure and lingers in your mind. What is even more upsetting is that he does not remember however you do. 

Why is it so hard to forgive? Forgiveness is a subtle notion: it is sometimes confused with other notions, but different in their effects. To apologize, pardon, forget or deny that an unfortunate event has happened do not define forgiveness. Each of these steps can prevent forgiveness or lead to mock forgiveness. Forgiveness, in this case, would be the act of overcoming resentment towards your boyfriend, not by denying your right to that resentment, but by striving to view him with kindness, compassion, and even love, knowing that through his attitude, he waived his right to such behavior. There are several important points to forgiveness which defines it. You have been hurt deeply, hence your resentment; you have a moral right to your resentment. When will you forgive? Forgiveness will happen when a sufficient bond of empathy has been restored between him and you. If your boyfriend is able to explain his side, apologize, or simply ask for forgiveness from you, it will restore the balance in your relationship.

 

You did not mention if you are religious. Many people forgive because they were raised to do so in their faith. They think that it is good to forgive, and that is why they forgive.

Some people forgive due to their pragmatism. They forgive in certain cases to appease or fix a troubled intimate relationship, to keep the loved one: in this case, forgiveness is constrained; a variant of this forgiveness is that which one reluctantly grants to someone in order to be able to continue a relationship.

There are times when other people forgive so that they can hold it against the offender. “You have hurt me in the past and I have forgiven you but I expect you to behave this way from now on.” It is a way for the person offended to regain control over the dynamic in the relationship. This type of forgiveness does not really offer either party a way to heal nor does it allow to have closure.

At this point, let’s talk about the benefits of forgiving for you. Will you be able to forgive your boyfriend even though he does not remember what he said while he was under the influence of alcohol? Also, does he even take responsibility over what he said when he doesn’t even remember saying it? Does it make a difference to you that he does not remember what he said or are hurt just the same?
Can you forgive him when he is expressing no remorse or desire to be forgiven? There has been many studies that demonstrate the benefits of forgiving because they allow the person who was offended to put their mind at ease. Another great consequence of forgiving is a noted improvement in physical well-being.

You will probably find it easier to forgive and move past this situation if your boyfriend was to own what he said and present you with an apology. It might be hard for you to accept the apology if you don’t find that he is being sincere. What makes your situation complicated is that he has no recollection of saying that his ex is his soulmate. 

He might be telling you the truth about not remembering saying it. It might have been his subconscious talking and he does not even realize that. The real question is that what he said is fueling your insecurities and making you feel uncertain that he cares about you.

Your other choice is not to forgive which will lead you to feel resentful. It will strain your relationship with your boyfriend and cause you to feel an emotional distance. I am sure that you don’t want that to happen so not forgiving is not a viable option. 

The final option which is one that you probably don’t want either is to break up. It is sometimes easier to walk away than stay in a situation that causes one pain. I tend to think that it is the least therapeutic way of dealing with a situation such as yours because whether you are with him or not, the impact of the situation will still be present. Also, it will delay your ability to process your feelings.

One of the reasons to cut ties with someone is to restore your self-esteem. What your boyfriend said while he was drunk impacted you. You have been spending time going over what he said and trying to fully comprehend it. 

Chances are that your boyfriend was just rambling while in a drunken stupor. People say all kinds of things when they are under the influence and not all of it is true. There is a notion in our society that alcohol is a truth serum but it isn’t. Alcohol is a great inhibitor and a depressant. People often say and do things while under the influence that they would never in a million years do while sober. It does not mean that they are truly being themselves but rather than with the absence of self-control, they act wildly and foolishly.

I truly believe that you ought to forgive your boyfriend because he didn’t know what he was saying. You should be vulnerable with him and tell him how it made you feel. You could ask him to reassure you. I also want to point out that you are his current partner and not his ex. His ex is just that, an ex! Be resentful is only going to harm you, your relationship and your boyfriend. You have more to gain from sincerely forgiving than being upset. It will allow you to take the charge out of this negative experience and empower you to grow closer and stronger in your relationship.