THE BLOG

Why You Need to Forgive Your Ex

12/17/2013 10:28 am ET | Updated Jul 22, 2014

Have you been deeply wounded by your ex-spouse during or before divorce? Does s/he continue to engage in hurtful behavior even though you are no longer living under the same roof? Are you finding it difficult to move beyond feelings of anger, bitterness, and sadness? If so, you are not alone. Many individuals who have been wronged by their ex-spouse find it difficult to get beyond their painful experiences.

Divorce healing and moving on is a difficult combination that for many is a challenge, and often prevents them from moving onto a healthy relationship post divorce. Holding on to negative thoughts and anger will not only prevent you from moving forward positively, but also may cause you chronic health problems. There are ways you can find peace to move on to more positive outcomes for a happier, healthier future. One approach that can help you along the path toward emotional healing is forgiveness.

In an effort to better understand the how's and why's of forgiveness, I spoke with Dr. Mark S. Rye a clinical psychologist and Associate Professor of Psychology at Skidmore College. He has been researching and writing about forgiveness since 1996.

Dr. Rye advises that "while forgiveness may have benefits for others, it first and foremost can help you. When deciding whether or not you wish to forgive, it is worth considering the growing body of scientific literature showing how hostility and forgiveness relate to your physical health, mental health, parenting style, and children's adjustment to divorce"

Here are some considerations:

Your Health
Hostility relates to chronic health problems such as coronary hear disease and high blood pressure.
Forgiveness is associated with decreased physiological distress.

Your Happiness
Hostility is related to increased depression.
Forgiveness is associated with decreased depression.

Your Adjustment to Divorce
Hostility has been liked to poor coping strategies.
Forgiveness of an ex-spouse relates to better post-divorce adjustment..

Parenting and Your Children's Adjustment
Hostility can result in high conflict coparenting. Children often feel like they are stuck in the middle when they parents argue. Moreover, they might mimic any observed expressions of hostility in their own relationships.
Forgiveness relates to improved coparenting and less parental conflict. Modeling forgives for your children may help them consider this as a strategy when they experience interpersonal conflict in the future.

One approach that can help you along the path toward emotional healing and forgiveness is journaling.

Research has found that journaling can have benefits such as lowering depressive symptoms following traumatic life events. Dr. Rye along with a group of researchers at Skidmore College are recruiting participants for an exciting new study on how journaling relates to adjustment after divorce. If you are divorced or going through a divorce, and can think of at least one action taken by your ex that was hurtful or upsetting in some way, you are eligible to participate.

The study involves completing two online surveys and a brief journaling assignment, twice a week for three weeks. The first 100 participants to respond will receive up to $25 in gift certificates to Amazon.com. All responses are confidential.

Having awareness of the many challenges towards forgiveness, healing and moving on can help you to overcome them when they arise. Personally, I think it's a great idea, and have been recommending journaling to my divorce-coaching client's for years. Even writing letters or emails and not sending them to your ex can be helpful and cathartic. But now, you can journal, find support and benefit in many ways. By participating in the research you're helping to pave the way for your fellow divorcees to heal and deal, while moving forward with focus, hope and confidence.

You can get involved by emailing Karen Rothman or Dr. Mark Rye at divorce@skidmore.edu. Simply indicate in your email that you are willing to help out.

More detailed strategies on Forgiveness and Letting Go is available in The Smart Divorce Smart Guides.

Deborah Moskovitch is a Divorce Coach and founder of The Smart Divorce -- offering divorce coaching services, educational tools and informative resources around separation and all stages of a divorce such as divorce and money, divorce fees, divorce emotions, and everything in between, to help you make smarter choices for a happier, healthier future.

To learn more, visit Deborah on the web at:
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