Is it even possible for single parents? And more importantly: What is the cost to you if you can’t forgive?
Sometimes as a single mum it is hard to forgive an ex-partner. One of the most common things I hear from the women I first start working with is: I will never ever forgive him for what he has done to our family!
The problem with this mindset is that if we don’t take responsibility for our own reactions, then we are enforcing the victim mentality and not taking control of our own lives. We are allowing ourselves to be impacted by whatever horrible situation has happened, and we are not taking positive steps to take charge of our own life.
It’s very sad because what we are basically saying when we say that is: because of someone else’s actions, we will always feel angry, not recover properly and never live a really happy life. We are CHOOSING to be a victim. Not only are we allowing it to affect our mental health, but our physical health and quality of our future relationships can also suffer.
Forgiveness does not mean you are condoning their actions.
Somewhere along the line, the term forgiveness has been confused. Forgiveness is not condoning a wrong action, as a lot of people are ingrained to believe. The definition of forgiveness is to stop feeling angry or resentful towards someone (an offender). The definition of condoning is to treat as if trivial, harmless or of no importance. If we don’t understand the difference, it can be impossible to forgive.
Forgiving someone is not saying What you did was OK by me. What you are really saying is what you did was wrong and hurt me a lot, but I’m not going to let it impact on my life anymore. I’m going to let it go. I’m going to focus on the future, and how I respond to this situation, and what I’m going to do moving forward. I’m going to move on.
And isn’t that what we all want?
Forgiveness is simply letting go, and releasing ourselves, from the anger and resentment. It gives us peace and serenity. It frees us.
Easier said than done, I know. Forgiveness won’t happen overnight. It’s part of the relationship grieving process. But this is something that can happen naturally if we allow ourselves to grieve and heal.
If we don’t allow ourselves to grieve and heal properly, the risk is that we carry past issues into our future. We can hold ourselves back from forming new relationships. And if we do enter a new relationship, it can impact on the new relationship in a really negative way. For example, it can make us fearful and ready to expect the worst. It can make us hyper-vigilant in our self-protection. And it can also prevent us from being open, trusting and loving.
What is the cost if we don’t forgive?
I see the evidence regularly in my ex-partner. And I’m not sure I am fully responsible for all of the blame. The relationship ended because we mutually decided it wasn’t working. Yes, I was the one who brought up the fact that we should end it. But we both agreed. We also agreed on our co-parenting logistics after that. The thing is, I didn’t decide it wasn’t working for no reason. And if the relationship had been good (not even perfect, just healthy) I would have stayed in it.
I have done a lot of thinking over the last five years about why my ex is so angry and why he lashes out at me so often. And, I’m speculating here, the only thing I can come up with is that he is angry at himself. He is angry that he agreed to our daughter and I moving interstate, and he is angry about his part in why the relationship ended. He is also grieving that this has had an impact on his relationship with his daughter.
Perhaps he can’t even see it that way. And perhaps I am wrong. But what I do believe is that he is unable to forgive himself. Which is just as important as forgiving someone else.
I can only assume that my ex’s hateful and mean behavior towards me, and the anger and resentment that he takes out on me is intended to hurt me and bring me down. And sometimes it still does. Though mostly these days I don’t let it affect me. I actually have my ex to thank for my incredibly thick skin now. If it wasn’t for him, I think I’d still be the incredibly sensitive soul I once was. Yet another reason to be grateful to him for!
I see the pain that it causes my ex. The anger and resentment festers out of him. I see it has aged him, and I see it has stressed him. It actually makes me concerned for his health. Three or four years ago, I did not think it was possible for my ex to maintain such a high level of anger and resentment towards me. In fact, my therapist at the time told me it was very unlikely it would stay that way. But I am shocked and equally disturbed and impressed that he has managed to stand firm with his feelings and behavior for so long. But it does sadden me a lot.
I have moved on and it doesn’t hurt me anymore. He is only hurting himself, and our daughter.
What’s worse is the effect that his inability to forgive has on our daughter. kids are not stupid. They feed off our energy and vibe. My daughter knows that my ex hates me. You really don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure that one out. But what is sad is that, I believe, it’s very stressful on her. She doesn’t understand it, and she often gets very protective of me. She is hurt by it, and she is confused by it.
And this, my friend, is why forgiveness is crucial. At the end of the day, if we are unable to forgive, the only person we are hurting is ourselves. And potentially our children. And while forgiveness can’t be forced, eventually being able to forgive is something to work towards. For you, and your children.