Problems with Forgiveness – An Attachment Perspective

Forgiveness can be more difficult for individuals who have an insecure style of attachment (see Lawler-Row).

Anxious Individuals

If you have an anxious style of attachment, that is, you worry about not being loved; granting forgiveness can be difficult (see attachment styles).

Because of their fear of being abandoned, people with an anxious style of attachment have a difficult time expressing their feelings. Anxious individuals are often reluctant to express how they truly feel because they fear it will push their partners away.

When anxious individuals do expression their emotions, however, they tend to do so in a less constructive way – they tend to blame their partner for treating them poorly. Both of these behaviors make it more difficult for anxious individuals to have their feeling validated, which is important when trying to work through forgiveness (see power of forgiveness).

Because anxious individuals also experience more intense emotional reactions to betrayal, they have a difficult time seeing the situation from their partner’s point of view. Anxious individuals’ intense feelings often get in the way of reflecting on what happened. They are less able to view the incident in terms of the big picture – as an isolated incident rather than a consistent pattern of behavior (see power of forgiveness).

If you are dealing with an anxious individual, it can be helpful to offer reassurances. Tell them that it is okay to express their emotions. Encourage them to disclose how they are feeling and let them know that you will not love them any less for doing so. It also helps to tell anxious individuals, that expressing emotions constructively makes couples grow closer. Helping an anxious partner share their feelings will make it easier for them to work through their problems (see talk about problems).

Overall, anxious individuals have a more difficult time forgiving partners and experiencing the benefits that forgiveness can provide.

Dismissing Individuals

Dismissing individuals, people who are more uncomfortable with intimacy, downplay their emotional reactions. Dismissing individuals have a tendency to dismiss or deny their true feelings. This is often a protective response. By denying their emotions, dismissing individuals can avoid intimacy and protect themselves from feeling vulnerable.

It can be difficult for dismissing individuals to forgive a partner because they are reluctant to discuss their emotions. It can also be difficult to get dismissing partners to disclose their feelings. Dismissing individuals prefer distance to closeness in their relationships. Resolving problems creates intimacy, which dismissing individuals would rather avoid, so they have little motivation to work problems out.

However, if a dismissing individual does express his or her emotions, it is usually done to push a partner away. Dismissing individuals often display hostility and contempt for their partners after experiencing a relational betrayal. Such emotional expressions are not done in an attempt to work problems out, but to create distance in a relationship.

If you are a dismissing individual, please keep in mind, that learning how to deal with disappointment and anger constructively is important (see forgiveness). Although you may be uncomfortable letting your guard down; intimacy provides real benefits (see healthy relationships). Dismissing individuals receive less social support, experience more health problems, and are generally less satisfied with life.

If you are dating a dismissing individual, it might be best not to push them to disclose their feelings. Trying to get a dismissing individual to talk about their feelings takes away their sense of autonomy. As a result, they are more likely to shut you out and push you further away. When dealing with a dismissing individual, it can be helpful to let them work through their emotions in their own way and at their own pace.

Forgiveness does not come easy for dismissing individuals.

Related Information:

Truth About Deception – back to our home page.