Jane Cooper and Maria Gilbert
In this chapter we look at forgiveness in the context of couples work, and suggest a model that can be used both to work from and monitor progress. Forgiveness in couples work is somewhat different to working with a single client. The perpetrator of a perceived injustice is present in the room together with the victim, and emotions run high. It is important to remember that it is a client's right to choose whether or not to forgive and that the person must not be under duress to do so. The therapist needs to hold a metaperspective on the relationship for both parties, while recognising deeply felt emotions on both sides. There is a difference between forgiveness and reconciliation in the sense of agreeing to stay together and progress the relationship. A couple may choose to reconcile but not forgive, or the act of forgiveness may only happen after a considerable length of time, maybe after due reparation has been made. True forgiveness is an active process, and can only happen when the depth of hurt or injustice and life changing aspects have been fully experienced by both partners in the relationship. This process of forgiveness involves the whole person, and in transactional analysis terms needs to involve all three ego states: parent, adult and child.
The question of forgiveness is an important feature of couples work, especially where partners have developed deep-seated resentments about the behaviour of the other, often stretching over many years of the relationship. We see forgiveness as a two-way process