While an earnest apology takes a minute or two to make, accepting an apology can take a day, a week, a month – or two. Or longer. It will differ, as with all things human, from one person to another and from one situation to another. Many articles point out that forgiving does not mean forgetting; in a similar light accepting an apology does not equate to everything being forgiven which would suit our sometimes linear thought patterns.
As an apology is an acknowledgement of wrong-doing, accepting the apology is an acknowledgement that the wrong-doer feels remorse. Phrased this way, it is all about the wrong doer; the wronged has not yet begun the journey toward mending the relationship which the wrong doer is already two steps into. It is this feeling of being behind in the process that is most difficult to manage.
“I know person is sorry, why can’t I get over it?”
Because there are many emotions to deal with: betrayal, anger that the incident happened in the first place, fear that it will happen again, and even a sense of loss. We cannot deal with these emotions all at once, and passing one does not mean it will not circle around again at some stage in the process. Communication, perhaps ironically, is vital, not necessarily about what was done as this often leads to blame, but about what is needed.
This communication is essential if the parties have different methods of dealing with conflict. Some personalities require introspection, while others need an immediate conversation. Pushing one’s own need onto the other will be counterproductive. If a contemplative, cooling off period is needed, regular phonecalls or texts may draw the process out; if increased trips to the gym are needed, suggesting a lunch date may be viewed as interfering instead of sweet.
Once all the above emotions have been worked through, the decision to forgive or not can be made. As stated many times over the years by numerous articles, forgiveness is not synonymous with condoning or forgetting. Forgiving means wanting to remain in the relationship, albeit with potentially different boundaries.