It’s nearing four years after my divorce.
I’d like to think that I’ve forgotten about my ex-wife and moved on.
I think I’m almost there, and for sure I’m in a much better place than I was during the first three years.
The first few years after your divorce can be brutally painful.
You might fall into one of two camps – the nostalgic and sentimental or the bitter and angry.
Both are bad places to be.
I started in the “angry and bitter” camp and crawled my way into the tent of nostalgia and sentimentalism.
During the divorce, anger consumed me – anger for dreams gone wrong, anger for failure and disappointment, anger for her breaking my trust, anger for the rejection, anger for everything that happened in the marriage.
I was convinced that it was all her fault and that I was the innocent bystander. I felt like I was the victim in a car wreck and that the perpetrator was simply driving by without a word – she didn’t stop to view the wreckage, exchange insurance information or bid me farewell.
Over the months, I thought about all her faults and her failures during the marriage. I felt bitter for making such a bad decision in my life and for letting myself and everyone I knew down. And, of course, I blamed this all on one person – her.
Fast forward to a year or so later when I had finally let go of the bitterness and anger (more on this later).
Then I started getting super sentimental and remembering all the sweet and happy times from our marriage – our initial emails, the love letters, how we met, our trip up the California coastline, her surprise birthday party in Las Vegas, our first trip to Disneyland…and on and on.
I remembered all her good qualities, the positive influence in my life, her caring nature, her humor, her beauty, her charm, her passion for life, her hopeful nature, her simplicity, her elegance…you get the idea.
I allowed myself to cry about her for hours on end. I remembered the good times and mourned the relationship over and over.
What was I doing during this time?
Oh, you know – just living in a place of resistance and denial.
Why live for today when you can think about the good times of the past or the dashed hopes of the future?
Living for today is painful when you’re getting a divorce. If you escape to a different time in your life, the situation becomes so much more bearable.
That’s exactly what I did – going between the past and the future, between anger and affection, trying my best to avoid the pain of today.
Eventually, things got better.
A childhood friend introduced me to The Power of Now, which was a game changer. Eckhart Tolle came into my life at the right time and woke me up. He told me to stop suffering by resisting my past and future. He reminded me that there was only one moment that life promised – the one in front of me.
When I reflected on this journey back from divorce, I found that I did the following things to move on from my ex.
I hope you’ll find these tips useful; that they’ll help you let go of your marriage, your ex, and your past so that you can move forward with the next chapter of your life.
Here are 5 choices that are in your power, to help you let go of your past relationship and move on from divorce.
1. Choose forgiveness over bitterness.
The very first and most important step toward healing is forgiveness.No matter how badly your ex has hurt you or scarred you or robbed you (emotionally and mentally), you’ve got to forgive.
You can’t move on unless you forgive.Otherwise, you’ll carry around a heavy load of resentment and anger.Use every spiritual and motivational tool you can to get to the point of forgiveness.
Find every reason to forgive.
The cliché you hear about forgiveness is true – you’re forgiving for yourself more than you are for your ex.
Also, realize that forgiveness is something you have to take action on first – you can’t wait until you “feel like” forgiving your ex.
Forgive first because it could take months or years before you feel like forgiving.In addition to forgiving your ex, it also helps to ask your ex for forgiveness.
Say “sorry” in a letter or in your journal for all the ways you’ve screwed up. You don’t have to send your ex this letter, but the act of writing down and asking for forgiveness will help you release the guilt and regrets in your life.
Finally, forgive yourself. No matter how badly you screwed up in the relationship or how terrible of a person you felt like you were in your relationship, you’re only human.
You did the best you could.
You showed up the way you knew how.
Was it right? Maybe not.
Was it fair? Maybe not.
Were you trying to hurt anyone intentionally? No.
Are you going to learn from this and never repeat these mistakes again? Likely!
The time to forgive is now. Pull out a piece of paper or open a Word document that you’re going to type up and then delete or toss (you’re not going to give this to your ex!!). Write down…1) I am sorry for… 2) I forgive you for… and 3) I forgive myself for…
Spend the next half hour completing this writing exercise, then read your answers to yourself. Next, delete or toss away this exercise.
Notice how much more peaceful and lighter you feel.
2. Choose gratitude over resentment.
You can leave with anger, resentment and bitterness after your divorce. You can cry over spilt wine. You can hold onto grudges and bitterness. You can feel guilt and self-pity for wasted time and the pain you’ve suffered.
Or you can choose to see your divorce through a prism of love and gratitude.
You can’t get there overnight, but small acts of gratitude toward your ex will help you move on quicker.
Why are you thankful? What did you appreciate about the relationship? What were some of the good things about your ex?Try the impossible and write down everything you’re grateful for.
Write down everything you learned from your ex. How are you better off having had him in your life? What did he teach you about yourself?
It may be hard to see, but your ex is responsible for the many lessons learned and insights you’ve gained about yourself.The more you’re able to see your ex in the light of gratitude, the quicker you’ll be able to move on with your life.
3. Write (and tell) a new story about your previous marriage or relationship.
Much of your experience with your marriage is a story you’ve told yourself. You’ve strung together your experiences to form a certain perspective that may or may not be true.
If you’ve written a story of victimhood, shame and big mistakes, you’ll feel bad about yourself and your future.You’ll feel disempowered and like a failure.
The simple goal is to reframe your marriage and see it in a new light.Instead of looking at it as your life’s greatest disaster, why not look at it as a lesson that enabled you to grow and learn more about yourself?
Tell yourself a positive story about your relationship and your marriage. Rewrite the story you have in your mind.
Use the same facts and information, but conclude the story with a happy ending.
And retell the story so that this isn’t even the ending – this is a transition and a new beginning.
You are the author of your life story and you have permission to rewrite it. Turn your dreadful novel about loss and heartbreak into a story about hope and redemption.
Don’t conclude the story; start on part 2 – or part 3 or part 4.
4. Choose to say what was left unsaid.
One of the best ways to overcome grief – according to John W. James and Russell Friedman, who discuss this in their book on grief recovery – is to talk about those things and say those things, ideally to another person, that you haven’t been able to say.(You can learn more about James and Friedman’s work and pick up their book, Moving On, here.)
One of the reasons you’re stuck and can’t move on is that you’re still holding onto a lot of unsaid sentiments and feelings about your ex-spouse.
Regardless of whether there were challenges or successes in your marriage, you didn’t get to tell your ex-spouse how you felt about those events.
You’ll feel better after you write down your feelings or speak them aloud to your ex.Let your ex know about the highs and lows, the positives and negatives. Thank your ex for what he did and forgive him for what he failed to do.
Again, this is a journaling exercise you’re doing with a trusted friend – not your ex.
Once you say out loud whatever it is you want to say to your ex, even if it’s to another person, the cloud of gloom and sadness begins to lift. You’ll breathe lighter and start feeling more hopeful.
5. Choose today over yesterday.
After the release and healing, you choose how you’re going to live.Once you’ve come to terms with the past and chosen to make peace with it, you can embrace the present moment.You can choose to live in the here and now.
Instead of living in a place that no longer exists (the past) and reminiscing or mourning, come to a place that does exist – today.
Today, you can start over.
Today, you can do what you enjoy and start pursuing your passions.
Today, you can reconnect with your friends and start meeting new people.
Today, you can quit your job and start upon a new career path.
Once you free yourself from the shackles of the past, you have the gift of your life again.
You’re no longer a helpless victim of life’s circumstances.
You’re not holed up in a prison in Guantanamo where guards ration your food and water.
You’re not tied up on a pirate boat that’s floating down the river.
You’re powerful – and your power lies in your ability to make choices.
You have the power of choosing.
Choose to let go.
Choose to heal.
Choose to start over.
Choose a new life.
To pick up my book, 10 Sacred Laws of Healing a Broken Heart, click here.