Psychology Self-Care Self-Help

Steps To Forgive Your Ex-Spouse After A Divorce

Many believe forgiveness equals exoneration from wrong-doing. That's not the case. When you forgive someone like your ex-spouse, you can begin healing.

A divorce involves a plethora of emotions, almost all negative. It is virtually impossible to go through a divorce without experiencing anger and bitterness toward your ex-spouse. You see yourself as the wronged party and cling to feelings of resentment. Most divorcees hold on to those emotions for dear life. Giving them up would seem as if all that suffering had been for nothing.

Why Forgiveness?

Many people are surprised to learn that the act of forgiveness is a primary factor in ridding oneself of all that negativity. First, they are not prepared to forgive – they have been wronged! They want justice! Second, people assume forgiveness means acceptance of wrongdoing.

Nothing could be further from the truth. We practice forgiveness for ourselves, not for the sake of the other person. Forgiveness is not the same as saying the other party was right. Forgiveness has far less to do with the other person than it has to do with you. When you forgive, you slowly but surely loosen the bond that keeps you tied to someone else. Forgiveness provides you with the freedom you hoped the divorce would bring you.

Bitterness keeps you tied to the person who has wronged you. It prevents you from moving forward. Practicing forgiveness is something you do solely for yourself.

What Is Forgiveness?

When you forgive your ex-spouse, you free those negative emotions and allow yourself to live more positively. You can see a future instead of ruminating about the past. Forgiveness lets you shift from being a victim to a person with power.

Resentment and anger are heavy baggage to carry around. It will keep you, and undoubtedly your children, from moving toward a better future with great possibilities. If divorce were a game, forgiveness would be a “get out of jail free” card. And yes, anger and bitterness are self-imposed prisons.

Practice Acceptance If You Are Not Ready To Forgive

While forgiveness is powerful and important, it certainly is not easy. For some, it is actually easier to wallow in self-pity for a while. And that is okay, too. Many counselors believe that a period of acceptance that proceeds forgiveness can be beneficial. If your ex-spouse shows no regrets for the emotional (and perhaps, physical) injuries caused during the marriage, you can shift away from anger through simple acceptance. It happened. Now, it is up to you (and only you) to move forward and heal.

Acceptance includes self-care and actively bringing positive things into your life.

Why Forgiveness Can Be Difficult

There a several reasons forgiveness is always beneficial but rarely easy.

First, when we hold on to righteous anger, we have valuable ammunition to play the victim. We can continuously regale our friends and family with examples of how horrid he or she was. If your ex won’t admit guilt, your friends and family will happily pronounce that verdict. That is almost guaranteed to make you feel better – but only temporarily, until you sink further into the abyss of negativity.

This type of self-created victimhood keeps you living in the past and doesn’t allow you to move toward anything better. That is why forgiveness is so important. It opens the door to a better future.

How To Take Steps Toward Forgiveness

The act of forgiveness is a part of your post-divorce healing process. Here are some steps that will help:

  1. Write a letter to your ex outlining your feelings. Get everything down on paper (or computer). Then, tear it up or delete it. This is an exercise in releasing negativity.  
  2. Take control of your thoughts and emotions. Decide that you can wallow with a pint of ice cream for one night a week. Accept the negativity. That leaves six other days to work on healing. Healing happens quicker when you take control.
  3. Focus on the future. With your mind virtually being held captive in the past, you aren’t giving your future the attention it deserves. Consciously take the time to map out a better future for yourself. Perhaps you can volunteer or take classes. Consider opening your own business or moving up from your current job. The more you focus on the road ahead, the quicker the past will fade into blessed obscurity.
  4. Accept that your ex probably did the best he or she could at the time. This may allow you to view him or her more realistically. He or she is bound by limitations. Understanding can help with forgiveness.
  5. Recreate the story of your marriage. For example, instead of steaming, “That so and so never once remembered our anniversary …” edit the story to, “How sad that he or she never really experienced true happiness.” It’s called rewriting the past, and it can be very powerful.
  6. Express your hurt feeling honestly to your ex, if possible. No accusations or judgments. Just an honest expression of your emotions. If your ex doesn’t accept or understand, so be it. This is for you, and it will help you open the door to forgiveness.

Conclusion

There is strength in forgiveness. It helps expedite your own healing and actually has very little to do with your ex-spouse. It’s all about you. Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. It won’t happen overnight and can take some work, but the effort will be worth it. Actively forgiving is actively working on your own happiness. During the journey, you can enjoy the positivity that comes with forgiveness. Help yourself feel better be taking an active part in your own healing. Practice meditation or yoga. Begin a daily journal. Take sole responsibility for your own life. Have a future that is worth living.

The legal process can get difficult, which is why we always recommend that you seek the assistance of counsel; or at least have a consultation. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today to review the issues of your case, the legal options you may have, and certain rights that pertain to your unique situation.

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