The Grudge Match

In dating, when should you forgive and forget -- and when should you cut and run?

Novelist Laurie Graff believes, in principle, that forgiving someone for a transgression correlates with her investment in the relationship. Then came Mr. X.

He was ending his marriage, says the author of “Looking for Mr. Goodfrog,” a sequel to her first best-selling novel, “You Have to Kiss a Lot of Frogs.” She had dated him a few times before he’d met Wife No. 2, and Graff was beginning to like the idea of becoming the third Mrs. X. (He was a prolific bastard.)

“His pursuit was steadfast and amorous, sending flowers, gifts, romantic dinners and so on,” Graff tells “I kept a distance, as he had a sketchy history, and I felt this was too soon. But I liked the man he presented to me, and he kept on with the presentation. Months passed. I felt we had become good friends and began to trust him. I felt the third time could be the charm. Finally, I decided to ‘go for it.’ We had theater tickets to a Sunday matinee, and I was awaiting Sunday night.”

Three hours before showtime, Graff received two protracted answering-machine messages. X was “unavailable.” And then he said those all-too-familiar words that signal the death knell for any relationship: “It’s me, not you…”

“Well, it wasn’t even him,” she says. “It was her -- another woman.”

The next night, he came over. Graff wanted to see him up-close-and-personal so she could tell him how she felt. Then she threw him out, “and I never saw him again,” she says.

Liars and cheaters and scoundrels, oh my! If you’ve dated, you’ve been there. But did you take him/her back, or did you toss him/her to the curb?

Certain behaviors are truly unforgivable. For Graff, lying tops the list.
“White lies aside, when you discover that a person who may insist he is telling you the truth -- be it about feelings, money or where he was yesterday at 2 o’clock -- and you find out it was a lie, it becomes impossible to trust that person,” she says. “A pathological liar is the worst. You can forgive, but you should also cut loose.”
Dr. Tina B. Tessina, a California psychotherapist and author of “It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction” and “How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free,” can pile more offenses onto the list.
“Physical violence is truly unforgivable,” she tells, “because someone who is that out of control will not be able to change quick enough for you to have a relationship. If he/she wants to change, tell him/her to do it and let you know when they’ve done the work. It will require real work -- and therapy -- to change such out-of-control behavior.”
Looking at a babe or hunk walking down the street? Forgivable, Dr. Tessina says.
Forgetting your birthday? Also forgivable.
Treating you as though you don’t matter? Definitely unforgivable.
The decision to forgive depends on the nature and seriousness of the insult. In cases of abuse, for example, being forgiving (“He didn’t mean to beat me. He was just drunk...”) will lead to a continuous cycle of violence. Who needs that?
“Whether you should forgive any behavior depends on the power of the person who behaved badly to change,” Dr. Tessina concludes. “When you see solid evidence -- and not just begging -- that the person is taking responsibility and doing whatever is necessary to change, then forgiveness is appropriate.”

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