Long-Term Relationships = Lots of Forgiving?

Inspired by, oh, just the latestnear trainwreck on relationships, I was wondering:

Have those of you in long-term relationships (married or otherwise) stayed in them because there haven’t been any “deal breakers”, or despite them?
Chez fessie: We’ve survived several deal breakers, some just barely. And I’m optimistic about our future.

We’ve survived LOTS of deal-breakers, the biggest of them being my mother. That would be a deal-breaker for almost everyone.

We also survived politics - for a long time he was pro- the war in Iraq, while I was firmly against. We pretty much avoided the topic of politics for a long while. Eventually, as the war dragged on and on, he began to dislike it as well.

I would say yes, a long term relationship necesarily entails lots of forgiving.

In my own marriage, there’s been no big flashing light deal breakers, no big political differences. In fact, strangely enough, as we’ve aged and changed opinions about many things our opinions have always changed together, even about pretty big things, like, “hey, even though we’ve been living a totally a-religious life together for the past 7 yrs, why don’t we convert to being Catholics?”

We’ve survived the death of our first child and a near year of unemployment, among other challenges, and I’m sure it’s because we constantly forgive each other for big and little things.

I forgive him for buying a ticket to go see Star Wars Episode III A)w/o considering whether I would like to go too and B)w/o realizing that the time all the guys from work are going in the middle of the day is the exact time of our son’s kindergarten graduation ceremony (a dumb tradition, but still…)
He’s forgiven me for thoroughly embarrassing him on many occasions, not the least of which was the time I became completely unhinged in our daughter’s hospital room and starting flinging stuff at the walls.

I forgive him for being messy about the things I notice (socks, hair in the drain) He forgives me for being messy about the things he notices (cabinet doors, motor oil)

I forgive him for not liking P.G. Wodehouse. He forgives me for not liking anime.

Two people living together have countless opportunities to irritate the hell out of each other everyday. If you don’t learn to let all but the very most important slide, you simply won’t be able to tolerate each other.

My wife and I have been married seven years. We’ve never had an argument. Neither of us needs the other’s permission or approval to be who we are or do what we do. Neither of us does anything that requires us to be forgiven. We’re two very compatible people who want to be with each other. Otherwise, what’s it all for?

Then you two are not human. I’m half-joking, true, but half not. Humans need & want to argue.

No, some humans want and/or need to argue. We are determined to have a marriage as different from those of our parents as is humanly possible. It’s based on mutal respect and trust. If we have to talk about anything, we do. There has never been a shouting match, no slammed doors, no tears. It’s not impossible, we’re here to prove it.

Well, my long term relationship = lots of appologizing by me and not much forgiving by her.

I was trying to make peace even when I knew I was fully in the right. She just had a desparate need to be right all the time and was constitutionally incapable of appologizing. Got to the point where I started to feel like I was crazy. Fortunately it ended before I really became crazy. Came close though.

I second fishbicycle’s experience. We’ve been married for 18+ years, and we went together off and on for 5 years before that.

We’ve NEVER had an argument. We’ve NEVER raised our voices. We have zero resentment about anything. She’s my best friend.

We’re different in many ways. We often joke that we always arrive at the same place via totally different routes. As an example, I’m a committed and thorough atheist; she’s an ordained minister for a mainstream church. We’re both deeply ethical, but for very different reasons.

There is zero need to have contention in your life. But there are a lot of people who have a lot of want for contention in their life.

I’m very glad I avoided picking any of those people. Then again, that was a matter of a lot of effort, not just pure luck.
p.s. Anyone can reduce the causes of contention a lot by keeping their life simple; don’t overcommit your time or your money. Think for yourself and really think, don’t just react. Folks can still fight over nothing, but if you can avoid the ususal big triggers you’ll solve the lion’s share of your problems.

We’ve survived one major deal breaker, that I can think of. Although despite that, we have never had an argument. He apologises, even when it’s my fault. That makes it quite hard to argue.

I think lots of forgivness is one way, but ideally (IMHO) you should know that the other person in such a relationship would never do anything intentionally to hurt you and you would also accept that they are human and doesn’t have perfect knowleage, so actions they do could hurt you though it was never their intention.

If you can accept that then there is no need for forgivness.

These replies are so interesting! Your different perspectives make so much sense, but I would never have thought of them.

For my Hubby and I, we’ve both definitely had “chips on our shoulders”, I think we’re contentious people. So it’s fortunate we found each other to work on! He’s just like my Dad, I’m just like his Mom. Or rather we were, we’ve both grown significantly in the 17 yrs we’ve been married (following 1 yr dating, 1 yr cohabiting).

It does surprise me a bit that you and your partners have been able to grow over time w/out stepping on each other’s toes, without one person’s needs infringing on the other person’s expectations. And it really surprises me that people don’t want to fight - ever - . I couldn’t live that way.

I broke up with a relatively serious girlfriend for precisely that reason… she NEEDED to fight. I’d stay calm, try to work though the issue at hand; she’d get even more furious. She couldn’t stand it. And so, naturally, she’d rachet up the hysterics.

No surprise that THAT wasn’t going in a good direction.

Five years of marriage here, and I’ve yelled at my wife exactly once. And apologized for it almost immediately. We’re not contentious people. And we like it that way.

So, here’s a hypothetical relationship: let’s say you have stress on the commute every day. Lots of traffic and stupid drivers. You have stress on the job, deadlines, people wanting stuff done yesterday. You have an idiot boss and idiot coworkers. You have thousands of dollars of debt that isn’t paid off yet. Your kid may have behaved badly at school. You want to come home to a house where the atmosphere is such that you could have a fight at any time. This is living??? To me, that sounds like the kind of stuff that drives people to drink to escape, or want to shoot heroin. Where is your oasis of calm? Where can you go to get away from that stress? That’s the very definition of “life’s a bitch and then you die.”

We decided before we got married that home would be the nicest place we go all day. We’re not contentious people. We’ve witnessed a lot of stupidity in other relationships, and we strive to do the complete opposite. If my wife and I were on each other’s case all the time, what reason could we have for wanting to put up with that? I couldn’t live with a poison atmosphere in my home again. The first fifteen years of my life were too many. It took me 37 years to find my wife. She’s my best friend in the world and I intend for her to stay that way. The best way I know how to do that is to be as nice to her as possible. I want to give her reasons to continue to love me and want to be my wife. If I was hassling her all the time, and/or vice-versa, where would the motivation to continue come from?

I don’t want anyone to misconstrue our attitudes about it as feeling we’re better than other people. We’ve both had more than our share of acrimony in the past, and could not live with it on a daily, weekly or any other basis. I never want to fight with anybody, least of all the person that I want to be my best friend.

Could you maybe explain why you feel you couldn’t live without fighting with your most significant other?

We’ve had our dealbreakers and managed to work through them. We are very different in arguing style, which makes it difficult, but we put that aside and break it down to the essence of the issue and the essence of “us.” It isn’t perfect, but it works. We’re on the same team, which cannot be said for all couples. We’re together 18 years and friends for 30, so although it could stand some work, it is usually good.

Well, there are people who don’t consider a contentious atmosphere ‘poison,’ for one. I’m sure you know people like that. I do. They actually thrive on dissent and disharmony and look for opportunities to create it. It’s like people who love roller coasters - it’s the thrill of the thing. I do believe that there are also people who think that if their partner doesn’t fight with them about stuff, that means the partner doesn’t care enough about them or the relationship to get into it (which is weird, but I had someone tell me that once!). Obviously you are not like that at all, so it’s hard to understand, but believe me, it exists, and yes, I think it would be exhausting too. I avoid people who are like that as much as possible.

On the other hand, avoiding conflict at all costs can be pretty bad as well. Some people hate to fight so much that they’ll let a situation fester or try to make an end run around it and it actually gets worse.

I can give you a personal example of the above - my husband wanted to buy something that for a lot of reasons was a bad idea - we couldn’t afford it, plus the particular thing he wanted to buy has some ethical/moral issues surrounding it that we have different views on. Well, he wanted to buy this thing so bad that he did it on the sly without telling me. What he forgot about is that we have a lot of mutual acquaintances and this purchase was mentioned to me by one of them, because after all, since I’m the wife, I would know about this, right?

It would have been much better if he’d just told me he was gonna do this anyway and let me be pissed off about it than try to hide it from me, because now he’s added deceit to the list of bad stuff surrounding the issue, plus he embarrassed me by my having to find out through someone else what he’d gone and done. So I’m even more mad than I would have been to start off! This isn’t a good thing to do to a relationship. It will take me a long time, if ever, for me to trust him again, and he knows if he does something like this again, it could very well be a deal breaker.

Yes, it’s nice if you can calmly discuss any differences of opinion you may have about an issue, but that’s not always possible to do for some people. It certainly wasn’t possible for me in the case above.

I agree that discussing differences with one’s partner is a good beginning. I often find that talking about differences, especially in areas of great contention, doesn’t resolve the problem. I talk with my wife about our major differences and yet we have a hell of a time reaching an agreement. Our failure to agree applies mainly to topics we both feel passionate about.

Our current heated debate concerns how we will educate our son. He is old enough to attend kindergarten in the fall. My wife desperately wants to school him at home. I prefer to send him to school with the other kids his age.

My wife and I have talked and fought about this a number of times during the past year. We both know pretty well where each other stands. We both feel so passionately about this that we see little room for compromise. We talk about this for a day or two at a time. Maybe we fight, maybe not. Then we drop the subject for weeks or months until one of us brings it up again. It’s these down times that I let the anger and fear of isolating our son fester within me.

I want to get back to the original topic of forgiveness. Yes, this plays a very big part of my relationship. At times, I feel like forgiveness is no longer possible. This is when I start feeling anger and resentment and at times hatred within my marriage. I sometimes wonder if this is my deal breaker. One thought that keeps me going is that we survived other major differences during our ten years of marriage.

One area that I agree with my wife in regards to schooling our son is neither of us believes we can forgive ourselves if we allow the other partner to have their way.

True; some people actually enjoy fighting to a certain extent, or at least feel that it shows that both partners care about the relationship. I don’t personally understand that mindset, but know enough people who are that way.

And your point about the opposite extreme being bad is a good one, too. I know people who avoid bringing up issues with their spouses because they fear a blow-up and as a result, there’s no communication and resentment builds.

We’re all different, and each couple has to find what works for them. My husband and I aren’t people who like to fight. We’re also very compatible in a way that there’s just not that much to fight about, so it works out well. We really like each other’s company, we get along, and our home is that haven from the world that another poster talked about. When an issue does come up that causes upset, we talk it out–there have been a handful of times that I’ve been upset enough about something that I’ve slept in the guest room, but unlike others in the other thread who said that doing that would cause them to become ever more angry, it gives me some space to calm down and think things through, so I can discuss the matter calmly in the light of day.

Nothing has come up yet that’s even close to a potential deal-breaker, but I’d hope that we’ve got a solid enough foundation that we could work it out one way or another.

I don’t know if I would say lots of forgiving - there definitely is a need for some forgiving, because we’re all human and do stupid things and make mistakes and hurt each other accidentally (and even on purpose, some times). I don’t think you should need too much forgiving, though, because that sounds like there might be a basic incompatibility or one spouse is giving while the other is just taking. Now, compromise, there is one helluva lot of that. Sometimes it seems like no one ever gets exactly what they want when there are two strong personalities involved. (You reading this, TopherX?)

My husband and I are not fighters, either. I grew up listening to my parents yelling at each other downstairs, my husband grew up with a dad with an Irish temper, and neither of us want that volatile environment for ourselves. Neither of us is addicted to being right, either, and that goes a long, long way in keeping the peace.

Oh, I forgot to mention the “deal-breakers”. We haven’t really had any yet, but we might in the future, because I am pretty sure I’m going to want to leave Calgary, and Calgary is my husband’s home. We’ll see how we get through that one, when it comes time for me to leave and my husband doesn’t want to.

DeHusband was out of work for 3 years. Followed by 3 years of fertility treatment hell. Surgeries and hospitilzations galore. His mother hates me; my sister thinks he’s not good enough. And on and on and on. Yet we love each other more, and are more deeply committed to each other, today than the day we married.

I love him even though he doesn’t like Princess Bride. Go figure.