So, I was teaching a class on conflict, and a young lady asked, "How long should you wait to get back into a relationship with someone after you've forgiven them and made up?" So many responses ran through my mind and some in the form of questions as well: who says you should get back into a relationship? Can't you genuinely forgive, but not want to return to the way things were? Just because you've forgiven the person, do you actually trust them? But I decided to give the response that I find myself giving to so many questions no matter how varied the questions may be, and that is: "It depends." All too often, the response to many questions is that the answer depends on the specific circumstances involved with the situation or scenario at hand.
Whenever there has been a breach or failing in a relationship, it's very natural for a separation, of some sort, to occur. If two people are in a relationship--it doesn't matter what kind of relationship it is--and one of them violates the other, it's not unusual if the one who feels violated chooses to back away from their "Violater" and put some space between them. When someone experiences hurt in a relationship, they often see the other person as the source of that hurt, so it's not uncommon to want to get away from what or whom is causing us pain. So, distance is natural. But as natural and as normal as this distance may be, we must compel ourselves to forgive those who offend us, regardless of how natural and how normal not wanting to forgive may be. But once we forgive, then what? Should we jump right back to where we were before the wound occurred? Or should we wait it out to see if the other person is truly sorry for the hurt they may have caused and, if necessary, has really changed, something we may only know in time?
A gentleman--let's just call him "Albert"--once shared with me that he and his brother's relationship was somewhat of a roller-coaster ride. Albert's brother had a long history of borrowing money from him, but as long as was the history of borrowing, the history of not repaying Albert back seemed longer. Finally, Albert became fed up, confronted his brother, told him he would not lend him anymore money, and, as a result, Albert and his brother stopped speaking for a considerable amount of time. Eventually, Albert's brother apologized to Albert, told him that he didn't want Albert to feel as though he was taking him for granted, shared with Albert how much he appreciated him, and told him that he would try to repay, at least, some of the money that he owed. By the time of my conversation with Albert, he explained that his brother had not repaid any of the money, but had, in fact, asked to borrow money once again. Albert shared how torn he was. He had forgiven his brother for his infidelity in not repaying money he had borrowed and was happy that he and his brother had "made a mends." At the same time, however, Albert did not want their relationship to return to where and what it had been before the breakdown occurred. Albert would repeatedly say, "If I've really forgiven him, how can I not help him out? He's my brother." But, then, Albert would also say, "I know I've forgiven him, but I don't want to jump back in with both feet, start lending him money again, and he not pay me back."
So, what are some of our takeaways from what we know about Albert's dilemma? For starters, one is that just because we genuinely forgive someone, we may still not fully trust them, or we may not trust them at all. Yet, many of us question whether we have truly forgiven if we have reservations about re-entering the same space of relationship that we shared with the person who violated us before the violation occurred. What's so important to know is that forgiveness and trust are not equivalent and are, therefore, two different things. So, while forgiveness is a gift that we grant to our offenders, our offenders may have to rebuild and regain trust in our eyes before we're comfortable diving back into where our relationships were beforehand. Under no circumstances does it mean that because we want to take re-entry into a relationship slower rather than faster and not rush back in too soon that we haven't truly forgiven. It's in these times that we must closely listen to and follow our hearts; that's why the answer to so many questions is, "It depends." After a "break-up, make-up" situation, one person in the relationship may want to keep things moving full speed ahead, while the other person may want to move forward but with their foot on the brakes, tapping every so often. No two hearts are the same, and circumstances differ from one situation to the next, so let's not allow guilt to force us into jumping back in feet first when our hearts may be telling us to take it slow and ease back in. So, in terms of the question posed earlier: "How long should you wait to get back into a relationship with someone after you've forgiven them and made up?" My answer then remains my answer now: it depends!
Like you, Katrina loves seeing people in healthy relationships (with themselves and others) that they genuinely enjoy and not just simply tolerate. This blog is dedicated to achieving that vision.