Oh, is it easy to hold a grudge! We have all experienced hurt and pain at the end of our relationships, and some are more painful than others and cite more intense emotion. Sometimes the experience is so painful, it feels like it takes forever to heal, especially when our kids have been hurt in the process, too.
However ... no matter how recent your split, holding a grudge hurts you and your kids. It's time to let your anger and frustration go, and begin to see the gift in your situation. Here are your action steps:
1. Acknowledge the problem.
Why are you continuing to hold a grudge? Old wounds or current, continuous behavior? Allow yourself to see the real issue, see it as it is. Then you can then make a choice to move forward from there.
2. Share your feelings.
A grudge can form when an issue isn't fully confronted, and stand in the way of any forward progress. Without being judgmental about yourself or another, clarify your feelings on the situation. Decide if this is something you will work on yourself, with a therapist, and/or by having a conversation with your ex. Whether you work it out on your own or involve your ex, you will feel better by working through it, because processing a situation releases the tension that's built up.
3. Take your ex's perspective.
Put yourself in their shoes. Is it possible you may have done or said something, on purpose or even unknowingly, to hurt their feelings or make them angry or upset? (Of course you have.) Taking their perspective can give you a better understanding of their point of view and behavior. Maybe they are also in pain or frustrated with the situation. Different people handle situations differently. Now, this doesn't justify any bad behavior or negativity, but it can help you understand it. The more you understand the other person and their behavior, the easier it is not to let go of a grudge. A natural response may be to try to get revenge, but the person who holds the grudge always suffers more ... and so do their kids!
4. Accept what is.
"It is what it is." My girlfriend Kristi used to say that all the time. You can choose to create your own healing, with or without any acknowledgement or apology. Don't wait for your ex to come to their senses and apologize -- you may wait for years! They may not know you're upset, or care, or they may have moved past it and not even be thinking about you at all. Alternatively, they may be very sorry, but unable to communicate that with you. Seriously, how easy is it for you to "eat crow"? That's what I thought. And you want your ex to do it?
5. Don't dwell on it.
Once you have decided to move on, keep on moving. Don't put too much thought into the situation or continuously discuss it. It will only make things worse and harder to get over. If ever the issue is brought up in conversation, change the subject or just look at it as the past and leave it there.
6. Own the situation.
You chose the person you married. They may be the biggest jerk in the world (or at least a contender) but you know what? You fell in love with them. You engaged in a relationship with them. You had a kid(s) with them. If you take the position that it's all on you, then you own 100% of the responsibility, and the person that does that is not a victim. That would make you a victor.
7. Let it go.
You're going to feel so great when you stop feeling bad about the situation. You'll be lighter, and you won't have as much energy on the situation. Imagine your ex's surprise when they realize you're not mad, you just don't care! Love and hate are twin sisters. The opposite of hate is apathy. Work on letting it go so you don't have any negative energy on the situation at all, and that's when it starts to get good.
Forgiveness is an inner act that benefits the forgive-r. The forgive-ee doesn't even have to know about it. Of course forgiving doesn't mean you will forget what's happened. It just means you've let it go, and you open up the space for forgiveness to come back your way, too. Forgiving isn't the easiest to do especially when you've endured a lot of hurt and pain, but it's the only way to truly let go and have peace.
9. Get positive and be grateful.
There are positive aspects even in the most negative of situations. When you make your split a learning experience, you will benefit from knowing more about yourself and your ex -- for the benefit of all of you.
Finally, make a list about all of the things you're grateful for about your ex. Every single day if you have to, and right at the top of your list put the names of your kids. Without your ex, no kids. Period. Then, move on to everything you've learned ... yes, even if it's "now I know what I don't want in a relationship." There are things to be grateful about and for, especially when you look for them.
You can feel grateful for your ex, even if it takes a while. I promise!
Honorée Corder is the author of The Successful Single Mom book series, and the upcoming If Divorce is a Game, These are the Rules.