Say You’re Sorry and Mean It

—excerpt from The Remarriage Manual, Sounds True, 2020

The Remarriage Manual

“It took me awhile to get over my resentment when Tom lied to me about giving his daughter a credit card to use. Even though he didn’t mean to hurt me, I felt betrayed that they had conversations about our money and left me out.” – Danielle, age 48

The capacity to seek and grant forgiveness is one of the most significant factors contributing to marital satisfaction and a lifetime of love. However, many people take offenses too personally when their partner rejects or insults them, or says or does something hurtful. They focus too much on their pain and can sometimes get trapped in it for years. 

Forgiving someone is a way of letting go of old baggage so that you can heal and move forward with your life. It benefits both the person who forgives and the offender because it can allow both people to let go of past resentments. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean you are letting someone walk all over you or that you’re excusing or minimizing what happened. Rather, it will give you the strength to stand up for yourself and what you want. It means that you agree to give up the struggle and are ready to move forward with goodwill.

Forgiveness can be especially important in remarriages, with their increased relational complexity. Remarried couples who apologize to each other when appropriate and grant forgiveness can rid themselves of the toxic hurt and shame that prevents them from being emotionally connected and intimate. For instance, Danielle and Tom, who you met previously, have been stressed with issues with Tom’s daughter Carrie, 23, throughout their nine-year remarriage. Carrie has never accepted Danielle into her heart, and she can be rude and disrespectful to her, even in front of family members. In fact, Carrie often went months without visiting Tom and Danielle and then would show up unannounced and ask for money or a favor. While Carrie’s insolent behavior has often tested Danielle’s patience, she’s working on acceptance and trying to forgive Tom for being permissive while raising her as a single parent for many years.

Danielle put it like this: “For a long time, I felt resentful because Tom had trouble standing up to his grown daughter who insulted me and was horrendous. He also gave her a credit card to use with his name and social security number on the account without telling me. Then one day, Tom gave me a sincere apology. He said he was sorry for not setting limits when Carrie said mean things to me. He feels awful that she charged over $5,000 on the credit card. After I read our credit report and discovered it, Tom apologized. He didn’t make excuses, and he seemed to understand my pain. Of course, I forgave him – he’s the love of my life and we all make mistakes, and I’ve made my share of them.”

Many remarried couples stubbornly hold onto the belief that they have nothing to apologize for, especially if their hurtful behavior or words were not intentional. Some people believe that forgiveness requires that they forget about a transgression or that they must accept, condone, or excuse an offense in order to forgive. Other people believe that forgiving someone is a sign of weakness, and they might fear that forgiving the offender could give the offender permission to hurt them again. Given these negative beliefs, it’s no wonder that some couples are reluctant to work toward forgiveness.

Unfortunately, many remarried couples have the same arguments over and over again because pride prevents them from owning their mistakes or they don’t know how to communicate in a way that promotes forgiveness. However, if they learn how to apologize and grant forgiveness the right way, they’ll be able to let go of big and small transgressions and move on from negative emotional events. For instance, when Danielle discovered Tom’s financial infidelity, she felt intensely mistrustful and betrayed, and this caused her to go into a tailspin. For a few years, she took his offenses personally and believed that he didn’t respect her intelligence and didn’t see her as an equal in their marriage.

Through attending counseling sessions, Tom got in touch with the reasons why financial infidelity can destroy a marriage and understood the seriousness of his actions. As a result, he apologized and promised to practice full disclosure of finances with Danielle. Tom’s willingness to make amends and apologize allowed Danielle to forgive him and rebuild trust in him over time. He was specific about what he had done that was hurtful to Danielle and talked about how he would make amends. Without Tom taking responsibility for his actions, this couple told me that they would have certainly split up years ago. While Danielle occasionally feels mistrustful of Tom’s behavior around Carrie, she’s working on trying not to overreact and to adopt a forgiving mindset.

About the Author

Terry Gaspard

Terry Gaspard MSW, LICSW is a licensed therapist, author, and college instructor who specializes in counseling children, adults, couples, and families. Terry is the owner of and is a regular contributor to,, The Gottman Institute Relationship Blog,, and Terry’s award-winning book, Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship, was published in 2016 by Sourcebooks. Her book, The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around, was published by Sounds True in in 2020 and was the winner of American Book Fest’s 2020 Best Book Award in the category Self-Help: Relationships.

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