Updated: Aug 23, 2019
The divorce is final and you still can’t seem to break away from your ex. We have even heard women say they feel like they are stuck on fly paper. Whether it is financial issues, emotional dependency, co-parenting or the unfortunate experience of post- divorce decree litigation, they wonder when it will end.
Our guest blogger has some great advice for you to emotionally ease your way to freedom.
Wildflower Group is pleased to welcome guest blogger Lisa Foster, founder of Parillume™ , to the site! Lisa has some advice for you to emotionally ease your way to freedom!
Unhooked: Self-Love and the Art of Forgiveness
“Forgiveness is the final form of love.” ~ Reinhold Niebuhr
Forgiveness can also feel like a four-letter word – especially in the context of divorce.
Recently, as I was preparing for a speaking presentation that evening, I received an email from my ex. He has a long history of sending angry missives to me, full of false accusations of Biblical proportions - literally. By quoting scripture, he attempts to remind me of all the ways I’ve sinned and hurt our adult son. After five years of this, I can often just ignore them, but this time, on this particular day with this particular email, I was “hooked.”
My emotions ramped up, and my fight/flight/freeze responses kicked in. I was enraged, scared, sad, distracted. I wanted to email him immediately and tell him my truth about who I believe him to be: a complete and utter narcissist. Then I wanted to cry because I knew I couldn’t do that: He would just find another way to get back at me, to “win.”
This is what it means to get hooked: We’re living our new lives and suddenly there they are, with all the reasons we got divorced in the first place staring us down, attempting to sabotage and intimidate the present by yanking us back into the past.
Ever been there?
The question is how do we get “unhooked”? The best answer I’ve found goes back to that four-letter-feeling word: forgiveness.
Contrary to popular opinion, forgiveness isn’t about the other person. If it’s true that “Bitterness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die,” then consider that “Forgiveness is like drinking cold, clean water and waiting for the other person to be refreshed.” It’s not going to happen. Forgiveness is an inside affair. It sweeps away the cobwebs of the past and clears space for the present.
But the journey to get unhooked – to truly separate from one’s ex – is a challenging one. Even the word “forgive” is loaded: There are many definitions, and most of them don’t reflect the idea of unhooking from our past and loving ourselves. In fact, I have found four powerful myths surround forgiveness:
Myth #1: I have to forgive my ex. Fact: We may not have chosen what happened in our marriage or divorce, but we can choose whether we forgive.
Myth #2: Forgiving is a one-time deal, a destination. Fact: Forgiveness is a messy, ongoing process, especially if our exes continue to give us fresh opportunities to forgive!
Myth #3: To forgive, we must be reconciled – and friends with - with our ex. Fact: Forgiveness doesn’t mean we have to like, or have a relationship with, or trust again, our exes.
Myth #4: Forgiving lets our ex off the hook. Fact: Forgiveness doesn’t free our ex-husbands from accountability. It frees us to hold them accountable – not from a place of vengeance, but from a place of empowered love. We forgive to free ourselves; we hold them accountable so they can free themselves.
Choosing to forgive at the right time can be a powerful act of self-love, freeing us from the hooks of our past. However, if we forgive too early, before acknowledging the damage done and its impact on our life, it can actually be dangerous: It can lead us back into an abusive relationship, or back to using coping mechanisms to avoid feeling and processing the pain, rage and injustice of what has happened to us.
If, however, we are ready to be free of the pain and resentment associated with our ex, we can choose to practice forgiving them – and, yes, I believe this is a “practice” which builds the muscles of self-awareness, choice, acceptance and freedom. Forgiveness brings with it many personal benefits, including: greater happiness, health, better relationships, and a deeper experience of kindness and connection to ourselves – all of which are manifestations of self-love.
When we choose to forgive, we clear the space that our exes took up in our hearts, minds and emotions. We are freed from spending energy thinking about them, and can instead use that excess energy to reclaim who we are and create lives we love! For, as Archbishop Desmund Tutu states, “Without forgiveness there is no future.”
So: How do we forgive? I’ll share a four-step process that I use with clients. This process doesn’t replace grieving or healing; it’s not a weapon or a crutch. It’s a tool to use when you’re ready – or never, if you’re not.
1. “I forgive ____ for ____.”
Here it’s important to be specific: Act as a witness for yourself. We must acknowledge the reality of the past in order to let go of it. In this stage, we can either focus on one single incident – start with the easiest thing to forgive – or we can take a few minutes and list everything we need to forgive our exes for – and maybe even ourselves.
For example: “I forgive myself for staying in an unhealthy relationship for 21 years. I forgive my ex for continually sending me hurtful texts and emails.”
2. “I let go of ____.”
Often, we try to let go of limiting beliefs about men, ourselves, and relationships without getting to the root of why we have them. Once we’ve done step 1, we can actually access the beliefs that were created from the pain of our past relationships and let go of them, setting us up for a present and future we love.
For example: “I let go of giving my power to him, of letting him rob me of my happiness. I let go of my fear of retribution, and of my connection to him.”
3. “I declare over myself ____.”
Now we get to the fun part of forgiveness, where self-love begins to be tangibly and tactically expressed. In this stage, we take a moment to say out loud – to declare, to ourselves, God, the Universe – what we want to create and experience in life.
For example: “I declare over myself and my life that I am free and empowered to experience goodness and love and respect in all of my relationships.”
4. “I bless ____ with ____. I bless myself with ____.”
This last stage is the test of our forgiveness muscle. Did we actually forgive as an empowered choice in stage 1? If so, this is our opportunity to bless our exes and ourselves. This is a test because if we find it hard to bless our ex with anything, we may be trying to forgive too soon: We may not have processed all of our emotions or fully acknowledged yet all that happened. If that’s the case, we can wait or go back to stage 1.
For example: “I bless my ex with peace and the freedom to move on from our relationship. I bless myself with joy and an empowered life and the capacity to go after my dreams in every area.”
It took me years to discover the power of forgiveness in my own life, but once I did and saw its many benefits, forgiveness became a deeply spiritual – and immensely useful – practice that I continue to this day, in all of my relationships, including with my ex-husband.
Forgiveness is an art – and it’s our choice. As Maya Angelou says “It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself – to forgive. Forgive everybody.”
As founder of Parillume™, Lisa Foster provides a lit path, with practical tools and a supportive community, to help clients be their own heroes and shine from their original design, no matter their pasts. She does this through speaking, coaching, online videos and interviews, and a referral network of transformational practitioners. To learn more, see www.parillume.com or contact Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org.