Divorce often leaves people angry and rightly so. Whether a spouse has an affair, emotionally checks out of the relationship, or simply announces they are no longer in love, the rejection and betrayal go deep. If you have experienced divorce, you likely know these wounds well.
Wounds that can cause long-lasting damage. The hurt festers as you relive conversations–trying to find the words that will make the other person admit and make up for all they did wrong. Or, you may be on the receiving end. Still trying to appease a former spouse–but never quite able to do so. Whether the leaver or the left, people can get stuck in anger.
One gift can make a difference.
A gift for your former spouse–an apology
When anger permeates a relationship, even years down the line, the greatest gift you can give might be an apology.
Many argue, “But, I SAID I was sorry. They’re still angry.”
It’s hard to say “I’m sorry” once. To repeat seems overwhelming. . .and useless. However, the type of apology makes all the difference.
Words such as “I’m sorry you were hurt” or “I wish I could have been what you wanted” come across as token apologies–no matter how sincerely they are offered. Instead of owning the wrong, these shift blame to the wounded person.
An apology combined with an explanation or excuse likewise avoids owning actions in favor of explaining them away. Token apologies only deepen anger.
True apologies bring healing. When a person who feels wronged hears the other admit their role in the hurt, anger melts. And, stuck people are freed. This is especially helpful when former spouses must still co-parent.
A true apology owns behavior, without excuses.
The formula is simple. “I was wrong when I ____________________. I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”
The more specifically the actions are stated, the more effective the apology. “I was wrong when I worked late each night and left you to raise the children.” “I was wrong when I invested more in my friends than in us.” “I was wrong when I sought my own pleasure at your expense.” An honest admission of hurtful behavior and a request for forgiveness open the door to healing in the most broken relationships.
If, even after a heartfelt confession, the other person still seems angry, a follow-up can be, “Am I missing something that I did to hurt you?” Asking the question often leads to discovering and addressing actions that wounded without the offender even realizing the hurt.
If anger still clouds the relationship with your former spouse, this season consider giving an apology. It may be the key for both of you moving from anger to peace.
A gift to yourself–forgiveness
If you find yourself stuck in your own anger, the greatest gift you can give yourself might be forgiving your former spouse, even if he/she never apologizes. When you forgive another person’s wrong, the prime beneficiary is you.
As anger settles deep, bitterness often takes hold. This bitterness colors perspectives, destroys relationships, and chokes joy from life.
Forgiveness cures bitterness.
Forgiveness is the purposeful decision to let the other person off the hook for the wrongs they have done. It doesn’t overlook or minimize the wrongs. Instead, forgiveness looks them full in the face and says, “I will no longer hold onto these. I will stop expecting anything to make up for all I have suffered. Instead, I’m letting this go to make space for something better.”
Forgiving takes some work. Rather than dwelling on past hurt, thoughts must shift to looking forward and moving on. This takes intentionally reprogramming your thought-life.
It’s not easy. But as you look forward and choose to think about the opportunities ahead, you regain the ability to see the good in your life, the good in your other relationships, and even the good in the person who wronged you. Forgiveness does not necessarily lead to trust or relaxed boundaries. It simply releases past hurt in order to move into something better.
This season, give yourself the gift that creates opportunity for a new life, a life open to joy.
If you would like more ideas on building a healthy co-parenting relationship after divorce (or have other questions about divorce), please call 317-344-9740 or email info@TheResolutionCenterIndy.com. We look forward to serving you.