So, what makes forgiving, forgetting and moving on difficult sometimes?

Sharing priya’s comment to this email by Troubled, “I find it very hard to forgive my husband for all that happened at the time of my delivery.”

Dear Troubled,

Why do you think you feel resentful? I know that when people don’t fully validate what I felt, when they don’t acknowledge my pain, and they put too much emphasis on ‘moving on’, then I continue to feel resentful.
When someone’s ‘sorry’ is more to get away from their negative feelings (guilt) rather than a true sorry (I wish I hadn’t done that – I see now how what I did hurt your feelings), I feel resentful.
I need closure before I can move on. I need that someone who hurt me to acknowledge what I felt in that moment.

Whole hearted validation is the most powerful tool in healing hurt feelings. Perhaps the discussion you and your husband had dwelt too much on ‘looking ahead’ and ‘problem solving’ as opposed to simply acknowledging. Your husband sounds like a good person. But we all find it hard to deal with someone’s pain – we all say things like “It’s okay” (it’s NOT okay!). “Don’t cry.” (Why not?!). “Let’s make things better.” (That’s not the point!)” Instead we should be saying, “Let it all out. I’ll be here for you. I promise.”

Tell your husband how you feel. Tell him what you went through before and how it hurt. Don’t blame him (avoid ‘because you did this’). Use a lot of I-statements. (I felt isolated. I felt undermined in my mothering capabilities. I felt stressed trying to settle disputes between our parents. I felt cheated out of my happy time with my baby.) Notice how none of them point the finger at him, and bring the focus back to you. So rather than being defensive, he will truly understand what it was like for you. So that when he does say sorry, he will really mean ‘I wish that didn’t happen – I’m sorry you had to go through that.’.

If you have a genuine talk and he truly understands and validates how you feel, you feel a weight lifting from your chest. Both you and your husband will be free of the past and this experience will make you closer.



35 thoughts on “So, what makes forgiving, forgetting and moving on difficult sometimes?

  1. I think it is the sense of ‘betrayal’- you weren’t there for me when I needed you the most.
    Betrayal is often construed as the revealing of underlying selfishness & hostility of the ‘betrayer’ to the ‘victim’.
    That can be true.
    On the other hand the ‘betrayer’ might just be completely clueless in the situation with no nefarious intent at all, just simply ‘going with the flow’ or trying to placate all sides (often unsuccessfully).


  2. I agree with Beatrix, in that a perceived betrayal (whether such perception be justified or not) is often extremely hard to forgive. This is true for practically any human relationship, not just romantic ones.

    I also agree with Priya in that we are sometimes far too focused on ‘solving’ the problem, to the point of not even acknowledging the other’s pain completely. I confess I have been guilty of this in the past (although not in a marital context), and now that I review my response in the last post, I see that I have been guilty of the same sort of thinking again, because I presumed (perhaps incorrectly) that an acknowledgment of the hurt had already been made to her satisfaction, but that it did not help as much as it should have.

    Having said that, I think responses vary with the extent of the hurt caused. Sometimes, people may want you to show them that you understand some of their anguish. At other times,when the hurt is much deeper, they might feel that you cannot possibly understand, that any attempt is mere eyewash, and that you should therefore just strive to not do it again.

    Of course, forgiveness is all but impossible in the latter situation, and the relationship is irretrievably damaged, but in order to salvage what is left, simply ‘moving ahead’ may well be the best, or even the only viable response.


    • Praveen, I think what happened here is not small enough to be trivialized nor is it big enough to never be forgotten. It’s somewhere in between. However what is ‘big’ and ‘small’ is entirely individual perception. When my son (now 14) was a toddler, when he scraped his knee, he would say, “Look, ma. Hurt.” I’d say things like, “Oh, let’s go wash it first. Then we’ll put some medicine on it. And then your favorite bandaid, okay? How’s that? You can pick the bandaid. You want the T-Rex one?” He would continue crying. It was such a small nick and I would think, why is he being so fussy? I wish he would not make such a big deal, Oh God, here we go again. At some point I figured out – so once when he came to me with a finger cut, I simply sat next to him and said, “Owww. That must hurt.” Within a few minutes, he was back to playing. It was an eye opener. Even little babies and toddlers instinctively respond to validation. It is such an intrinsic human need that we continue to thrive on it even as adults. It also makes us feel closer, doesn’t it, when you know someone cares, someone can listen without judging.


      • Agree with you Priya that validation that the person was hurt is important. But I would think that for me to completely forgive a person, along with the validation, the person should also accept his role (in this case the husband) in causing that hurt. I would want that the husband says something like ‘I now realise I acted in a selfish manner and I was one of the reasons of causing that hurt to you’. This would make me think that he realises he was at fault too and would try and not make the same mistake again. This would make me help forgive that person. Validation, along with accountability when truly meant will make it easier for the hurt to be forgiven.


        • Yes, I agree. We shouldn’t rush to the accountability stage, that just makes people defensive, but accountability is definitely needed at the next stage.


      • Beautifully put Priya. Most times, we are on the defensive or are being judgemental that we can’t empathise with somebody’s pain or hurt. Most people are just looking for understanding and a “I hear you and understand you” can be very calming and healing.


  3. I think it’s this feeling that- I did this for you, but you are not doing anything for me – that makes us resentful. When we start compromising, we start expecting certain behavior from our spouse. While women feel it is a big deal to adjust(and it is a big deal indeed), men hardly spend their time of the day thinking about it. Men who care for their wives, care by their own nature and not because their wives changed their mindset.

    So the answer is not changing your husband (or making him understand), but to stop compromising. When you face any problem from your in-laws, let the husband know, but deal with it the way you want to deal with it.


  4. She is the one who feels betrayed and resentful. Whether she should forgive, forget and move on…the call should be her’s. It is always convenient for the other party to want to move on and not acknowledge their role in the cruelty. If the husband was sensitive, he would reflect on his own lapse, acknowledged it and try to make amends. After all should he not try to prevent chaos during his wife’s pregnancy and since the in laws are his people, try and reason out with them?


  5. Thanks for making a post of this wonderful comment,because if it just sat in the comments section,it may have been missed out by some..
    And thankyou, because I learnt something new.Which is not an unusual occurence while reading your posts and comments on them.
    Here is what went on in my head when i read the post – ‘oh….is it….really.?…..that figures….no wonder…..hmmm wish i had known this earlier….why aren’t these things TAUGHT….like in home,..or even school?..because if some of my near and dear ones knew this,may be life would have been better…so much better…’.
    So once again, for the commenter and IHM, thank you so much.


  6. I love this comment. It makes so much sense than the “to err is human and forgive is divine” and “forgive and move on” and other such comments with which I don’t agree at all. But I can say one thing: even the using of ‘I statements’ fails at times. It all depends on how mature the other person is. Immature people (they may otherwise be good) take exception to even ‘I statements’ as ‘pointing fingers’ and the one who needs closure ends up not getting it. A sad truth of life.

    //”Wholehearted validation is the most powerful tool in healing hurt feelings.”//

    //”we all say things like “It’s okay” (it’s NOT okay!). “Don’t cry.” (Why not?!). “Let’s make things better.” (That’s not the point!)” Instead we should be saying, “Let it all out. I’ll be here for you. I promise.”//
    This has to be in text books as compulsory lesson for ALL. I once told my family that if ever I were to lose someone dear and people came to me saying such nonsense as, “don’t cry” “one has to move on” yada yada yada, I was surely going to scratch their eyes out, they had to be prepared. It makes me THAT angry. Being there for someone, listening to what they have to say, letting them go through their emotions is way more important and helpful than the ‘its okays’ and ‘don’t crys’.


    • if ever I were to lose someone dear and people came to me saying such nonsense as, “don’t cry” “one has to move on” yada yada yada, I was surely going to scratch their eyes out, they had to be prepared

      Yes, I can sympathize with that sentiment.

      Losing a dear one is perhaps one of the most extreme forms of grief that a human being can ever go through. Telling someone who is experiencing such grief to ‘move on’ is insensitive at best and downright criminal at worst. One does not ‘move on’ from that kind of loss. One never accepts it. The most that usually happens is a kind of tired resignation to the fact.

      Still, it is extremely hard to know what to say to a person who is in that much emotional anguish. I was personally put in that situation when my nephew died in a car crash, My SIL, particularly, was a real mess, because she (irrationally) blamed herself for the whole thing. The most I could muster back then was a sustained hug, because I really didn’t have anything to say that wouldn’t sound either empty or idiotic.

      Perhaps the best thing in such a scenario is to just shut up and be as supportive as you possibly can.


    • I agree Shail. Sometimes you can give an I-statement and the other person can still interpret that as blame. That usually happens when there’s a long history of blaming in the relationship and both parties are already suspicious. Or it happens with people who are incapable of simply listening without judging. You may say something like, “I hate my job!” to your friend. You are not even blaming your friend. If he/she responds with, “Your job is not that bad. You should meet my boss. He’s the boss from hell. Anyway the economy is so bad. You should be thankful you have a job.” Such a person is incapable of listening without judging. Such a erson cannot simply respond with, “Tell me what’s going on.” Such a person, when involved in a conflict, will not respond positively to I-statements.

      Based on the email writer’s husband’s actions after their talk, he sounds like a decent guy, capable of processing these things, so I have a feeling they can work things out if they communicate better.


  7. Once we know the intent behind the act and know that the other person acknowledges it and feels sorry, forgiving is easy. Forgetting is also easy when we are engrossed in every day activities. Two people that truly love each other do forgive and forget. However, when there is even a slight possibility of the event repeating – similar situation, surrounding or people that remotely resemble the previous incident, the person that got hurt feels vulnerable again. He or she has to communicate about not wanting to be hurt again and the other person has to be extremely reassuring. Once or twice this happens, your brain no longer gets reminded of the hurt because it has formed new memories. Whether you are the one that got hurt or hurt someone, communication is key. Being nice helps too.


  8. This was a really good comment. From the OP’s email, I got the impression that she lost quite a bit of trust in the relationship and her husband. Like he did something she would never have expected of him.


  9. Yes, that. Bravo, Priya.

    It is something I have learned the value of very late in life. I knew I wanted that but the knowing remained a theory because my ex wasn’t and still isn’t capable of doing anything that even approaches that level of desire to make amends.

    It was a dear friend who made me learn that my earlier instincts were on the mark. Once, a couple of years ago, he said something that really really hurt me. I was still carrying the scars of a broken marriage, it was hard to even tell him that he hurt me and all I could manage was a communique to the effect that I found his statements disrespectful and would like an explanation for his basic assumptions [outlined as points a, b, c] if he ever wished to provide me with it.

    He didn’t. He never said sorry either. But for the next 6 months, he made 12 trips to Delhi to let me yell at him [and he had to prod me into the yelling – back then, I didn’t trust *anyone* to care enough about my feelings to share the full extent of them. Looking back, I was a bit like a whipped dog]. He wouldn’t listen when I said we should let it be and move on. Just kept on poking till I’d explode in anger. And he’d sit and listen till I’d wind down. I had no anger left after 2 months but the fact that he still tried to ease my way into expressing it for 4 more months meant that we built a rock-solid foundation of mutual trust.

    On a more personal level, and more importantly, it made me re-learn that not everyone betrays trust by hitting at the vulnerable points once you bare your vulnerabilities. And that is both a lovely thing to re-learn and an essential step in healing.


    • Ritu, it is hard for many of us to handle another’s pain. That is because we are uncomfortable with our own pain. We often disguise it under anger or dismiss it as trivial. I think when we can accept our own pain as something normal and natural, it becomes easier to accept it in one’s friend, spouse, or child.
      I’m glad you have a good friend! That makes all the difference in the world, doesn’t it.


      • I still find it hard to acknowledge my own pain, even to myself. But I am getting better. Or so I fondly believe. 🙂 And yes, a good friend does make all the difference. If I ever get around to participating in a wooing again, it will be all his fault. 😉


  10. Sensible adults are not expected to behave childishly complaining of being emotionally hurt. If someone is not happy in a relationship, he/she has a choice to move out of it. It isn’t very sensible to keep holding to the emotional hurt, expecting the other person to acknowledge/apologize and stressing out the mind just because there were emotionally inconvenient times in the past. If it is so difficult to move on, then just move out.


  11. I guess a related issue here is the over-exaggerated expectations we have from our spouses and unfortunately a lot of it inspired from popular media stereotypes of the husband’s being god-like,silent communication happening between ideal couples and the all-sacrificing bahu and many more…
    all of us need to see ourselves,our parents,parents-in law and spouses as humans with their flaws and then make an opinion about any issue.


  12. I missed the original post but I can totally understand what Troubled must be going through. I’m going to make one of my sweeping generalizations here… so many Indian men are blinded by their love for mama that they never realize how much mom is hurting their wife. they’re so woefully uneducated that they don’t realize how exhausting and draining child birth is. think about it. if you have surgery that leaves a 10cm incision on your abdomen, you’re asked to rest, relax, and recuperate. if you have a c-section, not only are you now responsible for someone tiny and more helpless than you, you’re also subjected to endless bossing. this on top of massive hormonal changes. how many men are educated about this? the general attitude is , “all women go through it” and worse, “it’s a woman’s job and men don’t belong here”. men are as conditioned to not be involved as women are to not ask for help.

    call me old fashioned (western standards) or modern (Indian standards) but i expect my husband to take care of me – physically, mentally, emotionally. this sometimes needs to happen irrespective of the risk of being labelled a bad guy or henpecked husband.

    if a man can’t stick by his wife during one of the most vulnerable times in her life, the marriage will surely be shaken. the thing is, I feel most men would do what it takes if they only knew what it was they need to be doing. more couples should attend birth and breastfeeding preparation classeds. I now wish I/we had.


    • “if a man can’t stick by his wife during one of the most vulnerable times in her life, the marriage will surely be shaken. ”

      I totally agree with this part–regardless of whether he’s an otherwise nice guy, he really, really screwed up here. It’s going to be a tough journey gaining back the trust/respect that was lost.


    • //” I feel most men would do what it takes if they only knew what it was they need to be doing.”//

      You are so right. But our society is geared to totally exclude them and never teach the men anything. So most are totally ignorant about what happens in pregnancy or are ignorant about the hormonal changes and resultant mood swings. They are clueless about giving support to the wife when she needs it the most. Even those who try to are kept away by the women of the household (esp his own mother). I remember how my husband was wiling to help out with the newborn first child but was kept away most times. For the next child, I refused to move out of my own house. The husband and I managed to take care of the second born on our own without any interference.


      • yep! I now wish I had known better and stayed put. everyone is trying to help. yes. everyone wants what’s best for the baby. blah blah blah. but I is telling you mizz that ain’t the help I needs…


      • I agree with this 100% shail. I had my twins inmy place, since i had no in-laws nad was not on speaking terms with my parents , and we managed great. no interference, no unwanted advise, we read, prepared, talked to doctors and had a fantastic helpers, out cook mami and even our driver were so nice. I ate normally and did what we thought was right for the babies with doctors advise, my husband was besides me the whole time and was a hands on dad . it helps so much to share this stuff, especially since it’s so emotional and private and hormones galloping away. i thnk it brings a couple closer to deal with pregnany nd babies together . you can share the space with moms and MILs provided they keep their opinions ot themselves.
        My youngest brother recently had a baby – late in life but much welcome and since she has no parents she is at my parents place, and is so frustrated at my mom telling her what to do and how to take care of the baby – my mom who didnt do a thing to us 🙂 we were raised by my grandmom actually bot of us were left at my grandmoms place when we were 3 months old and joined my mom only when we went to school , i wonder how my mom got experienc ein child rearing ??? oh well thats their problemto deal with not mine. sometimes i think my parents cutting all ties with me was the best thing that happened in my married life 🙂 and now they want back in, i cant let them. such is life.


    • Thank you for this comment. You’ve articulated what I feel as well- there are some especially hard times in life- which are painful/unpleasant by themselves, and if your partner doesn’t step up the support at those crucial times, it makes you turn and question the point of the relationship because you feel so hurt.
      The problem is I think the husband is still unaware that the OP is feeling hurt- she should tell him. I do have some sympathy for him because he never had (and still doesn’t have) the full picture. Perhaps he would have acted in the way the OP wanted him to , and perhaps he still will, once she speaks to him.


      • thanks! and yes, I agree with you. but see, there’s so much conditioning holding everyone back! a woman should not speak ill about her mil; a woman’s mother should accept abuse from daughter’s in laws as a reality of life; a woman complaining about mil is said to be driving a wedge in the hallowed mother-son relationship; a man supporting his wife is ungrateful and henpecked; a mil not asserting dominance is weak…

        and hierarchies! husband > wife; husband’s mother > wife’s mother; husband > wife’s mother; husband’s mother > husband; older people > younger people except wife’s parents < everyone including newborn… position of baby? depends on gender. 😛

        how much conditioning? how much to fight? how do you fight it hours after childbirth? how horrible does a woman feel doing anything she doesn't agree with just to keep the peace when her baby is involved? we're still so many generations away from any of this ending…

        sorry for the super emotional outburst :-\


        • SB, agree with your comment! Pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum – the whole 1.5 to 2 years it takes is an emotionally charged period. Dickens’ words aptly describe this period, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness ….”

          Raging hormones, the excitement of a new life, fear of the unknown, the sheer weight of your body, the aches and pains, the fun of shopping and planning, the craziness of scheduling appointments, the sheer amount of material you want to read up on, the fear of losing your freedom, the joy of motherhood, the sheer exhaustion of sleepless nights and round the clock feedings, the added financial aspects, your changing body, your changing identity – can all add up to quite a ride.

          I agree with the others’ comments in that the best place to be during this tumultuous period is in the comfort of your own home. You wouldn’t want guests during this time, would you? Then why invite in-laws? In our culture, in-laws are like guests, we are pleasant with them at the best of times.

          Invite your own mother to help out BUT ONLY IF she is mature, supportive, and helpful. Not all mothers are. There are some great books you can read if you’re a nervous first-timer. “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” is the one I read. And having your husband by your side and be an integral part of the process really makes you closer. In fact, his role during this period lays the foundation for his future role as a parent. Fathers who are actively involved in this stage, continue to have an intimate relationship with their children throughout their growing years.


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