You feel hurt, angry and confused. You want an amicable divorce or separation, but you don’t feel you know your ex anymore. What will they do next? Trust is a distant memory or has been seriously eroded. You struggle to communicate at all. How on earth can you resolve child arrangements, housing needs, maintenance and pensions? It all feels insurmountable.
Issuing court proceedings for finances or child arrangements is likely to throw petrol on to the fire. Sometimes it’s the only option – but those situations are rare. Giving evidence against each other and cross examination creates a war you have to win. Yet the reality is that there are seldom any winners. A judge must find fairness – fairness doesn’t manifest itself in the form of a huge victory for one against the other. How can it, when the Judge needs to consider meeting both your needs and the needs of the children? Don’t take my word for it, look at the evidence. 84 family courts have closed or are closing at a rate of knots and legal aid is almost non-existent. The Ministry of Justice doesn’t want you there – they know it’s not the place for families. The MoJ and the judges know family mediated agreements have longevity and are more likely to be complied with. People are far more likely to stick to agreements they have made.
Many couples mediate – but why don’t more? Some fear their settlement will be less advantageous than a court imposed decision. That’s wrong – and even if you were to get a court decision slightly weighted in your favour, what about the legal fees? They are likely to be many thousands of pounds, which makes a big hole in any advantage. Some couples struggle to pick up the phone and arrange mediation, as they are too hurt and angry. They just can’t forgive and need to feel vindicated by the court. When an affair is involved or you just haven’t been treated well, this is often the driving force behind litigation. You can and should have legal advice throughout the mediation process – and your lawyer will tell you that it is well settled that behaving badly is not relevant to the division of finances or the children at court. So other than being able to avoid a painful, protracted and expensive court case, why else should you forgive your ex?
Your reward for forgiveness
- Forgiving your ex benefits you
Forgiveness is the key to moving forward – without it you will remain stuck. Forgiveness isn’t a selfless act – letting go of negative thoughts will allow you to feel more positive about your future.
- Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, condoning or tolerating bad behaviour
Letting go of resentment will make you feel more at peace and can help to stop you feeling your ex has any control over you. You can’t change how they behave but you can change how you respond to them and how you let it impact you.
- Stop waiting for an apology
Clients often tell me that they just need an apology or at least an acknowledgement that they have been wronged. As a mediator I have had the privilege of facilitating some genuine and well received apologies, not something that happens any other way. Acknowledgment of feelings and hurt is a frequent component of mediation, which builds real understanding between separating couples. Interestingly, they seem to occur when the recipient and I least expect them! However, to heal you need to accept that you may never receive an apology and even If you do – you may find that it doesn’t feel as complete or sincere as you had hoped.
- Children suffer immeasurably from parental conflict
Children who experience prolonged parental conflict are less likely to meet educational and developmental milestones. They are also less likely as an adult to maintain a long term relationship with a spouse. Children blame themselves and can suffer from low self-esteem, which can adversely affect many aspects of their lives. Ask yourself – what do your children mostly see you both argue about? Is the answer ‘them’? If so to the children it’s simple – they are to blame! Forgive your ex so you can move forward and let your children flourish.
- Negative feelings can damage your physical health as well as your mental wellbeing
Negative emotions and reliving hurtful experiences can cause symptoms from headaches, fatigue and high blood pressure to back and neck problems and reduced immunity. Holding on to negative feelings hurts you more than your ex.
- Forgive or risk anger turning into bitterness
If you don’t release the negative emotions, they can turn to bitterness and this can feel toxic to those around you. You become unable to enjoy the things that used to make you happy – you see life through a bitter lens.
So how do you forgive an ex?
- It’s ok to admit that your ex really hurt you
Acknowledging the hurt that was inflicted upon you is not a sign of weakness. Consider keeping a diary or writing letters to yourself and explore your feelings, hopes and wishes. The process can be cathartic. Committing the feelings to paper can be the first step to leaving them in your past. Set yourself some small goals; perhaps you will promise to walk the dog every day and get some fresh air and exercise.
- Decide not to live your life as a victim of your separation
Consider what the painful process has taught you. Are there any positives? In the early days they can be hard to find – but new beginnings are often disguised in painful endings. Jo Woods, often referred to as long suffering former wife of ‘Rolling Stone’ Ronnie Woods, recently spoke about her devastation when Ronnie had an affair and left her after 23 years of marriage. She said she eventually realised it was for the best. One day she had an epiphany whilst struggling to reach the summit of a mountain. At the peak she decided to forgive Ronnie as she realised that to do so would set her free. She is quoted as saying, “Ronnie, I forgive you. I’m not willing to spend the rest of my life feeling sorry for myself. I’m going to be strong and I’m going to make the most of the rest of my days.’
Quote by Jo Woods from the Daily Mail