The price of a healthy romantic relationship is a high level of vulnerability.

When a person is hurt by a romantic partner, she might begin putting up walls of resentment, bitterness or distrust.

These walls, if not taken down, can obscure the love between partners. Effective forgiveness is a principle and process by which these protective walls fall down.

Forgiveness doesn't simply happen by dropping the issue, declaring that someone is forgiven or trying to forget about the pain. Forgiveness is a principle - a rule that must continuously guide the behavior of each partner. Here are the three steps of this guiding principle:

1. Address the pain

Pain from romantic relationships can build up like a volcano and erupt as a powerful overreaction when triggered.

There are many ways to express pain, but all of them involve directing awareness inward and paying attention to the pain. Some common methods are prayer, meditation or writing down what the pain feels like. Another way you can address the issue is a counseling session with professional or a trusted friend.

Upon facing the pain, what caused the pain may become more clear and you may even decide what you need to do about it. But the thoughts that arise are not what heals the pain. The only way to heal pain is to fully perceive the pain, and to let the volcano erupt in a safe and controlled environment.

2. Reconnect

The best way to begin reconnecting to a romantic partner is to communicate. The injured partner should wait to talk about it until the other can give his full attention to the conversation. She should explain what happened and how she felt as a result.

She should also listen to her partner's thoughts since his intentions can sometimes be misunderstood.

3. Respond justly

Partners who truly love each other will take action to prevent hurtful behavior in the relationship. Once a person has learned the details surrounding her pain, she will have a better idea on how to best respond.

If a partner repeatedly refuses to take responsibility for his hurtful behavior or if his behavior is abusive, then the injured partner might respond by leaving the premises, taking some time apart or separating entirely.

Partners don't need to psychoanalyze or try to control one another to limit hurtful behavior in the relationship. Instead, they need to forgive and respond with justice.

No relationship can survive without the principle of forgiveness. A person lives this principle by facing relationship pain, continually reconnecting with her partner and responding justly to any mistreatment.

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