Clinical sexologist and relationship therapist Leandie Buys writes for The Herald on how to find love through forgiveness
FORGIVING or being forgiven can be one of the hardest things to do, and for some it can take a lifetime.
In my practice, I often find that people have been so hurt by someone in their past that they are unable to move forward in their own lives.
The past hurt prevents them from building meaningful, loving relationships because they are too afraid to become vulnerable again. The resentment and the anger that they hold onto begins to poison their emotions.
They are often very bitter, negative people who blame others for everything that goes wrong in their lives.
Do you love yourself? I believe that it is only when we can learn to love ourselves and accept ourselves, that we can be in a healthy, long-term relationship with someone else.
The first step in learning to love yourself is to forgive others for what they have done to you.
The words that they said, the things that they may have done, have all affected the way you see yourself. Whether you acknowledge it or not, their negativity will continue to affect you until you learn to forgive them.
The longer you hold on to anger, hurt and betrayal, the longer it will affect you emotionally, spiritually and physically.
Forgiveness is not a feeling, or something that you wait around for, hoping that it will happen naturally – forgiveness is a decision.
Often, it is not a decision that we make immediately. It takes time to work through the feelings of sadness, anger, betrayal and disappointment. It could take an hour, a week, a year, or a decade.
I always tell my patients forgiving someone who has hurt us doesn’t mean we have to carry on a relationship with them. Forgiveness allows us to let go of that relationship so we can restore what was broken and move on.
Someone may have hurt you in the past, but you may have carried that hurt with you into future relationships. Instead of being vulnerable, you may have built emotional walls that ended up hurting those around you.
When it comes to forgiveness, we often need to start with ourselves first. We need to forgive ourselves for things we have done in the past, or that hurt that we have caused to our loved ones. If you are brave enough, you can then ask for forgiveness from those that you have hurt. I often counsel people who blame themselves for the terrible things that have happened to them in the past. This self-blame can eat away at your self-confidence, and can cause so much anxiety. Sometimes it is necessary to release yourself from the blame. Give yourself a break. Understand it was not your fault.
Often, we want those who hurt us to acknowledge the pain that they caused. We think that their apology will make us feel better.
But I know from experience that forgiving someone for what they’ve done, whether they acknowledge it or not, can be one of the most healing experiences of all. Start with forgiveness, and learn to love yourself first. You are amazing.