Eight years ago, a friend said to me ‘It was time to forgive yourself and your ex after your divorce.”
I had been divorced for almost 5 years, and I was still so angry at him, and every time I saw him or thought about what had happened, I sank to a dark place.
I wanted so badly to move on, but I didn’t know how.
Forgiveness is always a concept that has been difficult for me to grasp. It’s genetic – my mom could never forgive anyone for anything. I don’t want to be like her but know I need to be.
So I set out to learn more about forgiveness so that I would maybe be able to move on.
I learned that definition of ‘to forgive’ is “stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake.”
I found that very interesting. I had always assumed that to forgive someone was to actually forget the hurts, like they had never happened.
And that, I could not do.
But, it seems that ‘to forgive’ is more about letting go of the harsh feelings. It doesn’t mean forgetting what happened but just letting go of your anger about it.
So, armed with this new knowledge, I set out on the difficult journey towards forgiveness.
Let me share with you 5 ways to forgive yourself, and your ex, after your divorce.
I want to share that journey with you now so that you too can forgive yourself and your ex after your divorce.
# 1 – Take ownership.
One thing that I did for a while after my divorce was play the victim.
My ex-husband had left me for his college girlfriend. I was devastated. I had been blindsided, and I had been replaced.
I fed my anger around my divorce with this narrative for years – that I was the innocent victim and had been abandoned.
A therapist suggested to me that I look past what happened – him walking out on me – and look at what happened before that moment. What had been happening in our marriage leading up to this point? What had made our marriage vulnerable to him leaving?
It wasn’t hard for me to connect with my role in what happened in our marriage. It was buried right below the surface and I hadn’t wanted to face it and had instead focused on what he had done wrong.
But, once I was honest with myself, I recognized that my role in the end of our marriage was not a small one.
I know that I had ignored him for years and often treated him with contempt. That he was fifth in our household, after the kids and the dogs. That I never had sex with him – barely touched him some days that I would choose spending time with my friends over him, every time.
Internalizing these things was not easy – I had been angry at him for so long that I had some walls to break through. But, once I accepted my role in what had happened, I was definitely on the path to forgiving myself and him for our divorce.
So, what part did you play in the end of your marriage? Taking stock of it and internalizing it will put you on the path to forgiving yourself and your ex after your divorce.
#2 – Don’t get mired in regrets.
I am someone who can easily get mired in regrets. To obsess about things that I had done wrong in the past, about the bad choices I had made, about how things should have been.
Those regrets were my constant companion, and they were not healthy.
A very wise man (my fiancée) said, during one of my trips down memory lane, that ‘I was doing the best that I could with the information that I had at the time.’
Those words were life changing.
Sure, it’s easy to remember what had gone wrong in my marriage. To obsess over different choices that I could have made or actions that I could have taken would have led to a different outcome.
Perhaps, I would think, if I had only done things differently, we would still be married, and my kids would have an intact family.
But how I am now isn’t how I was when we were married. I was young, and I was harried and I had no idea to navigate many of the obstacles that were presented on the path to my marriage being a happy one. My husband was the same. We didn’t know what we were doing, more often than not.
Sure, I could get mired in the ‘what could have beens’ but, the reality is, that I can’t change what happened. The past is the past. I also don’t have any idea what the outcome would have been had a made a different choice or done something differently.
Yes, things might have been better but could have also been worse. I don’t know, and spending even a moment regretting what might have been or what might not have been is a waste of good time.
So, if you are focusing on the past more often than not, stop. If you do, you might find that you can forgive yourself, and your ex, after your divorce.
#3 – Recognize that we are all only human
When you got married, did someone give you a manual about how to be married?
Did you return from your honeymoon with a clear path to a happy marriage?
Were people full of consistent advice about how to make a marriage work?
I am guessing not.
So, as you moved forward in your marriage, you had no idea what you were doing.
You were being human and you were making mistakes.
Sure, in the movies and on TV, we see perfect marriages, where people always seem to know what to do or say and where issues get resolved in 30-90 minutes. But that isn’t how real life, and real marriage, is.
Real marriage is messy. It involves arguments and financial woes and kid issues and extended family stress and all of the other stuff that makes up life.
It’s insane to think that two people could navigate these things without a struggle.
I am guessing that there are very few people who, when they get married, set out to intentionally sabotage their marriages. What happens, instead, is that imperfect people try to work together to get through things that happen, good and bad, and, sometimes, they just don’t succeed.
Once I was able to accept this fact – that my ex-husband and I were only two human beings, doing the best that we could in the world – was I able to move towards the forgiveness, for me and for him, that I so desired.
#4 – Take stock of all that is good now.
So, be honest with yourself. Are things pretty good right now? If not right now, do you have some hope for the future?
I have a client who was in a very abusive relationship. She tried for years to get out and, about a year ago, she managed to finally do so.
Since then, her life has not been perfect. Her son won’t talk to her because of the divorce. Her ex-husband continues to be a dick. She can’t find a job in her chosen profession. The future might be bright but it’s pretty murky right now.
Last week, when she was feeling really down, I reminded her of what it was like when she was married. Yes, now was rough but was it better than being married?
Her answer? YES!
From where I sit, someone who was resoundingly dumped by the father of my children 12 years ago, life is pretty damn good.
Since the divorce, I moved to NYC and started a new business. I have travelled to places that I always longed to see. I have made lots of new friends and I have met the love of my life. We will be married in the spring.
If I hadn’t gotten divorced, none of those things would have happened and who knows where I would be today.
How does your life look right now? Is there hope for your future? Is your life just a little bit better now that that toxic marriage is over?
Consider this and it might just help you forgive yourself, and your ex, after your divorce.
#5 – Resolve to do things differently.
This one is key.
The resolution to not repeat the mistakes that you made in your marriage the first time around.
In my next marriage, I know that I will do my best to pay attention to my husband, even when I have something going on. I will not pout or sulk when I don’t get my way. I won’t walk away during an argument and I will try to make him my priority.
I don’t want this marriage to end the way my first one did.
Can you imagine how hard it would be to forgive yourself and your ex, after your divorce if you made the same mistakes over again?
How badly you would feel about yourself if you did the very things that broke your first marriage apart?
How would you ever forgive yourself if you had to put yourself through another horrible divorce?
So, make sure that you take stock of your role in the demise of your marriage so that you don’t repeat the same mistakes.
So there you go, 5 ways to forgive yourself after a divorce.
Remember – forgiving is not forgetting. Forgiving is about letting go of the anger and hurt around what happened.
And you don’t want to forget. You want to let go of the pain but it’s important to remember what happened in the past so that you don’t make the same mistakes again, so that you can have the life, and the love, that you want this time around.
I know that you can do this – to forgive yourself and your ex after your divorce.
I did it and you can too!