Many people I'm acquainted with were doing a fabulous job cleaning up and putting their house in order in anticipation of the New Year. In the homes I visited, both literally and through tales that were told, grand-scale transformation was commencing. Gifts were put away, luggage was unpacked, trees and menorahs were taken down, and diets and juice cleanses were underway. But that's not the clean up I'm speaking of. What I observed was people mindfully reflecting on their relationships with their exes and considering how to improve them in 2012.
Over the holidays I witnessed couples who were previously acrimonious (some for numerous years) starting to converse and interact in a friendlier manner. I attended a holiday dinner where my host introduced me to her brother, Jonathan, and then, without batting an eye, to both of his wives -- the current, and the ex (who was there along with her new husband). Jonathan and his first wife were very pleasant toward each other. Evidently they were overjoyed to be spending Christmas together along with their two daughters and young grandchildren. I was told that it hadn't always been this way.
Several days later across town at a New Year's gathering, I was surprised to see my friend Allie's ex husband arrive at her home for a glass of champagne. She explained to me that she felt it would be gracious to invite him to stop by for a toast, and apparently he felt comfortable enough to drop in. I couldn't help but notice how happy her kids were to see mom and dad together, smiling and being civil toward each other.
A time zone away, my client David telephoned his ex wife and suggested they meet as a family for lunch to celebrate their son's admittance to college. He commented to me, "This is such a happy occasion, plus it's the New Year. Why shouldn't we be able to put our differences behind us and occasionally break bread together?" She agreed, and for the first time in years, they sat at the same table and celebrated their son.
I was pleased to hear these stories and others that were similar in nature. Tales of people who had deliberately decided to let go of the past, forgive their exes, and work toward a respectful coexistence. Several I spoke with on this topic explained to me that the choice to forgive was not only beneficial to their children; it was valuable to them as well. One woman without children remarked, "The day I let go of my rancor and considered the concept of forgiveness was the day I really started to heal and experience peace in my life." Another moving comment I heard was from a man who was currently en route to forgiving himself, which can be as important as forgiving another. He said, "I'm just coming to grips with the pain I caused my ex and others I care about during my divorce. Maybe if I can forgive myself I can work toward making amends."
Believe me, I understand how difficult it is to let go of complex feelings to forgive an ex. There is a good possibility that no matter how your relationship ended, you endured plenty of distress in the process. Most divorces are messy affairs that cause significant pain and suffering along the way. And I fully recognize that forgiveness may be extremely difficult to consider if your marriage ended with deception or with any degree of mental or physical cruelty.
In my opinion, forgiveness is a conscience decision to let go of unpleasant or disturbing feelings about your ex. It's about releasing the fury and the resentment. It's about reaching deep into your soul and discovering some degree of empathy, or even better, understanding for the person who caused you pain. This doesn't mean you have to exonerate what he or she did to you -- but it's about being able to look past those transgressions and say, "Yes I can forgive this person for being imperfect." Believe me, uttering these words can release you and help you get on with your life in a more positive way.
So please consider reflecting on the topic of forgiveness while writing your 2012 resolutions. There is an excellent chance that by doing so you'll be able to enjoy a healthier state of mind in the New Year.
*Please note that all names in this post have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.