We’ve all had our share of bad exes. The kind you can’t believe you ever dated to begin with or the ones who blindsided you with dumping you over text or finding them in bed with your best friend.
But while it might seem counterintuitive, forgiving your ex is a key part to your own healing. Forgiveness is for you, not the other person.
That quote “resentment is like drinking poison hoping the other person will die” explains it best. NOT forgiving your ex actually keeps you stuck in the past and continues to give them and/or what happened power over you.
By forgiving, you get to give up bitterness and resentment and take your own power back.
Another part of the forgiveness process is that you usually have some part of yourself you need to forgive too.
Maybe you dated them against your better judgment or put up with behavior that violated your boundaries. Maybe you were the one who caused the break-up through your own bad behavior or choices.
Forgiveness is not about condoning bad behavior or forgetting. It simply allows you to be free and move on, better and whole.
Here are some ways you can work on forgiving your ex and moving on:
1. Take responsibility for your part.
If you don’t recognize that you have a part to play in your own break-up, you aren’t going to make different choices in the future.
Your first part in forgiveness should be in recognizing what you did wrong (I know. This sucks.). It could be that you chose to be with someone against the advice of your friends and loved ones. It could be that you couldn’t stop a pattern of lying and deception and your ex finally got fed up.
Taking responsibility for your own part not only allows you to move away from being a victim, but also lets you know exactly what you need to forgive the other person for. You may actually find that they were less at fault than you previously supposed.
2. Practice compassion with yourself.
We all make mistakes. After you’ve owned your part, you can start to look back and see where you could have done better. As you take stock, focus on what the motivations were behind the things you did.
Maybe you started being clingy because you were fearful they’d leave you and your pattern of obsessively texting and calling eventually pushed them away. Maybe you didn’t voice your needs explicitly and then were angry that they weren’t met. Maybe you were jealous of their relationship with their pretty/handsome friend and that spurred you to question their faithfulness and got you trying to crack their e-mail passwords. Whether your concerns ended up being founded or not, what matters is you figure out the WHY of why you did something.
The funny thing about compassion is that when we’re compassionate to ourselves and see ourselves as doing the best we could at the time, we are more likely to see others in the same light and be more compassionate towards them.
3. Work on releasing your hurt feelings.
Below are some ideas. Do whatever you can to try to release them in a positive way.
- Write a breakup letter to your ex about what they did that hurt you and burn it/never send it.
- Attend a kickboxing class and imagining your ex’s face on the heavyweight bag.
- Start an exercise practice.
- Share with a friend.
- Have a good cry.
4. Attempt to be understanding and let go.
Hopefully, by this point, you’ve seen exactly what both your ex and you did to contribute to your break-up. You’ve also practiced some compassion and are feeling a little for your ex as well.
Again, practicing compassion and then forgiveness does not mean that you condone anyone’s hurtful actions. You simply come to a more realistic picture of what happened.
As you take stock, you will realize that all people operate out of the same basic drives, including self-interest, and that, while they could have done better, they were probably doing the best they could have at the time.
After the romanticization of lost love fades, you may also realize that you weren’t that well-suited for each other.
Maybe you had different values, long-term goals, ideas about children, marriage, etc. Maybe you just never seemed to get along all that much. Regardless of the reason, when you realize it just wasn’t meant to be, it’s easier to let go.
5. Forgive (or accept until you can get there).
Some people have hurt us so terribly that just accepting the reality of the situation is all we can hope for. That’s okay. Acceptance can be a worthy goal until you can get to forgiveness.
True forgiveness comes from being able to say when you hear their name brought up, “I hope the best for him/her.”
Forgiveness isn’t a line you cross; it’s a road you take.
These tips for forgiving your ex read easy, but they aren’t. They are a lot of work, but the rewards are breaking the cycle of pain, moving on, and finding a healthier relationship.
If you find that forgiveness feels impossible even with these steps, it may be time to reach out to a close friend o seek the help of a therapist to help facilitate this process.