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Why Forgiveness is a Major Part of Relationship Success

When someone approaches you with those two apologetic words, “I’m sorry,” are you able to respond in kind with those ever important words, “I forgive you?”

In order to have a healthy and positive relationship we must learn to forgive. There are of course many other characteristics of a healthy relationship such as trust and honesty, communication skills and a willingness to compromise – though forgiveness may be one of the most important components of a positive relationship.

When it comes to relationships there will always be disagreements, different opinions, and moments of frustration, and how we deal with this drama is crucial for relationship success.

If we go through life holding onto resentment and cynicism, this negativity will build and build, ultimately leading to a relationship full of animosity.

However, if we can learn to forgive others and let go of bitterness and insult, our relationships can actually improve. In fact, research reveals that forgiveness may be one of the more valuable attributes to maintaining a healthy relationship.

An article in Journal of Family Psychology titled “Forgiveness and relationship satisfaction: Mediating mechanisms,” reveals the positive impact forgiveness can have on a relationship.

There are two main areas where forgiveness has an influence.

Less negative conflict

Think about someone who you may be harboring some angst or frustration toward. How do you interact with this person? Does there tend to be some conflict and negativity?

When we hold a grudge against someone, even the littlest thing can fuel a conflict. We start to notice all the things they are doing wrong and may even take a stance of “getting even.” At this point, negative conflict becomes a common occurrence.

It becomes very difficult to have a productive relationship when we can’t move past the emotional pain someone may have caused us. It’s through forgiveness that we can strive to mend relationships. We can take on a new perspective and have less negative communication and a more empathetic approach.

Increases relationship effort

Making an effort to improve a relationship and doing what it takes to have positive interactions is required for relationship longevity.

Partners in a relationship must also be being willing to regulate their behavior in a way that benefits the long-term goals of the relationship. Focusing on the long-term consequences as opposed to the immediate urges we may want to react to can drastically change the way someone will respond and deal with a situation.

Focusing on long-term goals can prevent further arguments and other offensive behavior that may lead to greater negativity.

When we invest in a relationship, our behavior and interactions will reflect this. Forgiveness allows us to move beyond emotions of the moment and consider how we want the relationship to be in future.

Forgiveness can be so healing in relationships. It allows us to think more clearly and rationally and approach situations with a collective focus. Sometimes we just have to wipe the slate clean and let go.

How has forgiveness played a role in your relationships?

Photo credit: seanmcgrath

Why Forgiveness is a Major Part of Relationship Success

Joe Wilner

Joe Wilner is a life coach, licensed clinical psychotherapist (LCP), and drummer from the band Yes You Are. He is also creator of You Have a Calling, a blog and online community helping people discover and pursue their life’s work and mission. Through deep and personalized coaching, he helps ambitious, creative, and spiritually minded individuals make a greater impact, grow as leaders, and design a soulful life they are inspired by.

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APA Reference
Wilner, J. (2011). Why Forgiveness is a Major Part of Relationship Success. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 15, 2020, from


Last updated: 21 Aug 2011
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