Every relationship suffers from moments of disappointment. He brushes you off when you\’re opening your heart to him. She is always late and makes you wait for her. And these are just the small things—not nearly as painful as infidelity, for example. But the small things add up and pretty soon resentment enters into your relationship.

That is when it\’s important to take stock, because resentment is pernicious and can eat away at what was once a beautiful relationship. Without an apology and responding forgiveness, hurts develop and fester. Eventually they create a distance between you and your partner that becomes increasingly difficult to mend. As these hurts accumulate, you feel less and less close to your partner until a break seems inevitable.

But it isn\’t, necessarily. Even happy couples hurt each other. The secret is, they acknowledge the problem and make a genuine apology. This is especially difficult for some men, who feel diminished when they make an apology because they feel they are admitting to wrongdoing. But an apology is especially important to women, who feel it is necessary to repair the relationship.

So successful couples learn how to apologize, forgive and let go of the hurt. Easier said than done. Here are some guidelines to restoring your relationship through forgiveness:

1) Remember you love your partner. You love him or her as a complete person with all the wonderful aspects and foibles. You love another human being, and just like you, that human makes mistakes. But that person also has value, and was once precious to you. Rekindle your original thoughts and try to understand that person and how he or she could behave in a way that hurt you.

2) Accept your partner. In the here and now, without letting the past come between you. Accept that the wrong has been done to you, and it is over now. You are still angry, hurt, upset, but the actual act of hurt is finished. You alone can complete the act by deciding not to let the past dictate your current emotions. You alone can acknowledge that the hurt is done, and cannot be undone. You can choose to release the painful past and accept your partner as he or she is right now.

3) Work through the pain. You and your partner need to understand what happened to cause the rift, and how your partner could have possibly inflicted pain upon you. What were his or her intentions? If your partner\’s apology is genuine, what do you need from him or her to trust again? What do you need to let go of the hurt so you can move forward? This requires serious work together, and may benefit from professional help.

4) Transform pain to promise. To accept an apology, you must be willing to risk again. You must get back to a level of trust, even though it\’s entirely possible your partner may cause you hurt again. But the memory of the wound you have suffered must heal into a greater maturity where the future of your relationship becomes possible to exist again. And if this is not possible, then perhaps your relationship has come to its end. Not every relationship is destined to continue.

5) Repair and reaffirm. If you do continue, you both need to feel your relationship is repaired and restored. You have to experience a mutual recognition that you, as a couple, have reached a new level. This alone can help bond you further and become a foundation for future growth together.

Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional.  If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch.  You can reach her here: https://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact-us.