Forgiving Your Ex-Spouse: A Path to Healing and Moving On

Forgiving your ex spouse

Forgiving your ex-spouse, particularly when you’ve been hurt, is a daunting task. As a divorce coach, I often encounter the theme of forgiveness and letting go. Those who feel betrayed or who’ve suffered from broken promises and more, yearn for an apology. Many believe that a sense of justice served will alleviate their emotional pain. The harsh reality, however, is that an apology or restitution rarely comes. Even when it does, the offended parties frequently view it as less sincere or complete than they expected.

I often hear sentiments like:

“He had an affair; he was wrong. I want him to sincerely beg for forgiveness.”

“He promised we’d spend the rest of our lives together, and now he’s leaving? I despise him; he deserves nothing!”

And the extreme, “I will inflict the same pain on him, he doesn’t deserve forgiveness, only to experience all the pain just like Lorena Bobbitt did to her husband.”

Is it okay to forgive your ex?

Forgiveness is one of the most misunderstood concepts in our society. It’s not about condoning bad behaviour or forgetting what happened. Instead, forgiveness involves letting go of the past and moving forward. It’s about seeking life-serving ways to deal with hurt feelings and recycled anger.

When you forgive your ex, you’re not doing it for their benefit. You’re doing it for your good. It’s about becoming more empowered, free from endless resentment and negative thoughts. It’s about creating a new life and story for yourself, where you’re not a victim but a survivor.

How do you forgive your ex for hurting you?

Forgiving a person who has caused you unforgivable hurt may seem impossible. But it’s a worthy goal and one of the most beneficial tools for finding peace. The first step is to acknowledge the truth of what happened. Be sure to hold the person responsible for their actions.

Next, gain awareness of your feelings. Understand that it’s okay to feel hurt. It’s okay to grieve. But it’s not okay to let these feelings control your life.

Then, stop playing the same grievance story repeatedly in your mind. Instead, focus on the positive goal of moving forward. As forgiveness, expert Dr. Fred Luskin explains in his landmark book, “Forgive for Good,” forgiveness is about making an authentic choice to seek peace and understanding over resentment and hurt.

The healing process

Award-winning writer/producer Arlene Sarner, a talented and engaging author, shares her journey of achieving healthy relationships, personal transformation, and the healing process with Deborah Moskovitch on The Smart Divorce. Sarner shares her powerful story of transitioning from years of bitterness and resentment towards her ex-spouse to a peaceful and civil relationship. She encourages listeners not to lose hope – even the most rancorous relationships can eventually find a middle ground.

The podcast discusses:

  • The pivotal lunch with the ex that changed everything
  • The power of genuine forgiveness and letting go
  • How resolving past hurt and moving past anger transformed a family.

Listen to this inspiring story here.

The journey to forgiveness – how to make it happen

Our guest, Mark Rye, is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Skidmore College. His research in the field of positive psychology focuses on the impact of forgiveness on post-divorce adjustment. He has designed interventions to help individuals heal from past hurt and forgive their ex-spouses, a critical aspect of divorce recovery.

In this thought-provoking interview, we delve into the concept of forgiveness, and how it transforms thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, ultimately leading individuals to overcome their past pain and move on. This is a profound and healing program.

More resources may also be found at the Fetzer Institute.

The podcast discusses:

  • Strategies for letting go of recycled anger
  • The true nature of forgiveness
  • Understanding the journey to achieving forgiveness
  • The link between forgiving an ex-spouse and post-divorce adjustment
  • Forgiveness interventions
  • The unique challenges divorced individuals face with forgiveness.

To listen in to this informative podcast, click here.

Forgiving your ex-spouse could be beneficial to your health

Could you believe that forgiving your ex could be good for your health? Have you been deeply wounded by your ex-spouse’s actions during or prior to the divorce? Do they continue to engage in hurtful actions, stirring unresolved anger, even though you no longer share the same roof? If you’re finding it difficult to move beyond feelings of anger and sadness, know that you are not alone. Many people struggle to forget the pain inflicted by their ex-spouses.

Divorce healing and moving on is a challenge that often hinders individuals from establishing healthy relationships post-divorce. Holding onto negative emotions and anger prevents you from focusing on a more positive approach to the future, which can also lead to chronic health problems.

One approach that can aid your healing journey is forgiveness.

To gain a more realistic view of forgiveness, I spoke with Dr. Mark S. Rye, a forgiveness expert and Associate Professor of Psychology at Skidmore College. He has been studying and writing about forgiveness since 1996.

Dr. Rye advises, “While forgiveness may benefit others, it first and foremost helps you. When deciding whether or not you wish to forgive, consider the growing body of scientific literature showing how hostility and forgiveness relate to your physical health, mental health, parenting style, and children’s adjustment to divorce.”

Here are some points to consider:

  • Your Health: Hostility is linked to chronic health issues such as coronary heart disease and high blood pressure, while forgiveness reduces physiological distress.
  • Your Happiness: Hostility is tied to increased depression, but forgiveness lessens depression.
  • Your Adjustment to Divorce: Hostility contributes to poor coping strategies, while forgiving an ex-spouse fosters better post-divorce adjustment.

Parenting and Your Children’s Adjustment: High-conflict co-parenting resulting from hostility often leaves children feeling stuck in the middle. Moreover, they might mimic any observed expressions of hostility in their own relationships. On the other hand, forgiveness leads to improved co-parenting and less parental conflict. Demonstrating forgiveness to your children may help them consider this as a strategy when they experience interpersonal conflict in the future.

Journaling a path toward forgiveness

One strategy that can assist you along the path toward emotional healing and forgiveness is journaling.

Research indicates that journaling can have benefits such as lowering depressive symptoms following traumatic life events. Dr. Rye and a team of researchers at Skidmore College are recruiting participants for an exciting new study on how journaling relates to adjustment after divorce.

You can participate if you are divorced or going through a divorce and can think of at least one hurtful or upsetting action taken by your ex. The study involves two online surveys and a brief journaling assignment, twice a week for three weeks. The first 100 participants to respond will receive up to $25 in gift certificates. All responses are confidential.

Gaining awareness of the challenges towards forgiveness, healing, and moving on can help you to overcome them when they arise. Personally, I think it’s a fantastic idea, and have been recommending journaling to my divorce coaching clients for years. Even writing unsent letters or emails to your ex can be cathartic. By participating in the research, you’re helping to pave the way for your fellow divorcees to heal and move forward with focus, hope, and confidence.

Is it worth apologizing to an ex?

Apologizing to an ex, even years later, is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of maturity and understanding. It shows that you can acknowledge others’ mistakes and your own. It shows that you can assign blame where it’s due but not let that blame control your life.

An apology can be a decisive step toward forgiveness. It can help both you and your ex find peace and closure. But remember, an apology is not about getting something in return. It’s about expressing a positive intention and taking responsibility for your actions.

Is it wrong to apologize to an ex years later?

There’s no timeline for apologies. It’s never too late to say sorry. Apologizing years later can show that you’ve grown as a person. It shows that you’ve taken the time to reflect on your past relationship and understand the impact of your actions.

However, ensuring that your apology is not a means of rekindling an old flame or seeking validation is vital. It should come from genuine remorse and the desire to make amends. Remember, forgiveness is not about forgetting; it’s about healing.

Final Thoughts

Forgiveness is one of the most misunderstood concepts in our lives, especially when it involves interpersonal injury from a past relationship. It’s not about condoning bad behavior or forgetting the hurt inflicted. It’s about acknowledging the truth of what happened, letting go of the resentment, and moving forward for your own good.

The journey to forgiveness is not a straight path. It’s filled with recycled anger, hurt feelings, and unrealistic expectations. But as you traverse this path, you’ll find that forgiveness is one of the most beneficial tools for healing. It’s not a cheap forgiveness that assigns blame or keeps the same story of the victim alive. It’s an authentic choice to stop playing the same grievance story in your head.

Forgiveness involves letting go of the offenses personally and viewing them from an impersonal perspective. We all have the same basic drives and make mistakes. When we realize this, we become a more understanding and forgiving person. We stop hurling judgment and start seeing the positive intention behind others’ mistakes.

Forgiveness is not an easy task, especially when the partner feels betrayed or when the hurt feels unforgivable. But as forgiveness expert Dr. Fred Luskin explains, it’s about developing feelings of empathy for the person who hurt you. It’s about understanding that people operate out of self-interest and that remaining upset only keeps you stuck in a vicious cycle of negative thoughts.

In her landmark book “Daring Greatly,” author Brené Brown writes about the risk of exposing ourselves to pain to achieve a worthy goal. Forgiveness is one such worthy goal. It’s infinitely terrifying but also infinitely rewarding. It’s about gaining awareness of your feelings and choosing a positive goal over a negative one.

As divorce expert Deborah Moskovitch points out, forgiveness is not just about the past but also about the future. It’s about creating a new story, a new life where you are not a victim but an empowered person. It’s about breaking the endless cycle of hurt and finding peace.

In the end, forgiveness is a journey, not a destination. It’s a process that takes time, patience, and a lot of courage. But the rewards are worth it. As Janis Abrahms Spring, author of the groundbreaking book “How Can I Forgive You?” says, “Forgiveness is a life-serving way to heal the hurt and become a more empowered person.”

So, take the first step today. Acknowledge your hurt, let go of your resentment, and choose forgiveness. It’s not just for your former spouse, but for you. Because you deserve peace, happiness, and a life free from the burden of the past.

At the Smart Divorce: Understanding Your Journey and Extending a Helping Hand

Divorce is an emotionally challenging journey that no one should face alone. We recognize the immense courage it takes to arrive at this webpage, seeking guidance and healing amid the turmoil of separation. To the visitor who found their way here, we want you to know that we understand what you are facing, and our hearts go out to you during this difficult time.

Divorce can leave us feeling broken, confused, and overwhelmed. The emotional rollercoaster can be all-consuming, affecting not only your personal life but also your well-being, family, and work. But in the midst of this turmoil, there is hope, and there is help.

At The Smart Divorce, we are not just a team of professionals; we are compassionate souls who have witnessed the transformative power of understanding, support, and forgiveness. Our mission is to stand by your side as you navigate the complexities of divorce and to help you rebuild a brighter future.

The journey to healing and forgiveness begins with understanding yourself and your emotions. It’s essential to acknowledge that what you are experiencing is valid and that it’s okay to feel a wide range of emotions during this process. There is no timeline for healing, and we are here to listen without judgment, providing a safe space for you to express your thoughts and feelings.

Forgiveness can seem like an insurmountable task, especially when the wounds are deep. However, it is not about condoning past actions; it’s about liberating yourself from the emotional burden that comes with holding onto resentment. Our experienced team will guide you through the process of forgiveness, helping you find peace and clarity in the midst of chaos.

Reaching out for support is a sign of strength, not weakness. We encourage you to take that courageous step forward and schedule a “Get Acquainted Call” with us. This initial conversation is an opportunity for us to get to know each other, to understand your unique situation, and to craft a personalized plan tailored to your needs.

Remember that healing is not a solitary journey, and with the right guidance and support, you can emerge from this experience stronger, wiser, and ready to embrace a new chapter in your life. Together, we will navigate the complexities of divorce, and we will help you find the strength to forgive, heal, and rediscover your true self.

To begin your journey towards healing and forgiveness, schedule a “Get Acquainted Call” with us today by clicking on this link: Schedule a Get Acquainted Call. The first step is often the hardest, but we assure you that it will lead to a brighter, more fulfilling future.

You are not alone. We are here for you every step of the way.

With compassion and understanding, The Smart Divorce Team of Professionals

Recent Posts