How Forgiving Your Ex Can Help Your Children
Forgiving Your Ex-Partner and Putting an End to Bitterness
If the father or mother of your children has treated you unspeakably, cheated or abused you, left you brokenhearted, humiliated, destitute, homeless or more, forgiveness may be the furthest thing from your mind.
When there is severe, ongoing conflict, some parents understandably assume that by pardoning the partner they are letting their partner off the hook, or condoning what their partner did. They may not realise that pardoning someone does not entail that they allow the other person to continue to mistreat or disrespect them. They may not realise that the act of forgiveness allows a person to take back their power, and gain peace of mind and freedom to move on to a more positive and happy family life.
You Don't Have to Make an Announcement Should You Choose to Forgive
There's no need to announce to all and sundry that you have chosen to pardon your ex. Some will likely call you mad to have done so whereas others may view you as some kind of weird saint! Neither of these descriptions is going to make any great desirable or positive difference in your life. When you let go, you do it for you/your kids and you have the choice to keep this decision a private matter should you deem this makes life less complicated for you going forward.
A Bitter, Revengeful, Spiteful, Hurting or Depressed Parent Is Not Ideal for Any Child
Forgiving someone doesn’t necessarily depend on whether or not the person deserves to be excused for what they have done. Pardoning need not be dependent upon the other person admitting their wrongdoing or actually asking for to be let off the hook so to speak. Indeed they may even gloat about how they have done you wrong but you can and should still consider absolving them. Even if you have been giving one another the silent treatment and you intensely dislike the other person, forgiveness is possible and indeed advisable.
Depending on all the circumstances of the break up you may elect to announce your forgiveness to your ex but don't assume they will be grateful or treat you any differently in the short term, or even the long term. Again, rest assured it’s okay if a parent does not verbalise the forgiveness to their former partner. Neither do you have to tell friends or family, unless you want to for some reason. Sometimes people choose not to inform those closest to them because they know that those who have seen the hurt and emotional pain may not fully understand why you have made the decision to excuse your ex. Well meaning supporters may even put up obstacles or mete out scalding admonishments which can make the pardoning process so much harder.
Pardoning a person who has done wrong doesn’t change the past, but the person doing the forgiving can free them self from being completely eaten up and preoccupied with negativity or vengeance. A parent who has "let go" can start to move on positively from the hurt rather than have the other parent effectively control their emotional state by keeping them angry, needy or resentful.
Be very clear that forgiveness is primarily something you do for yourself, rather than for the other person. A separated or divorced parent who can absolve their ex-partner and get to a place where he or she can more readily co-parent with their ex, and respect their children's need to have a relationship with their ex as necessary, is well placed to raise happier children and to be happier in themselves too.
The Challenge and the Benefits
Forgiving someone is especially hard when you don’t know or don’t understand why the person acted as they did.
In the news occasionally there are reports of parents forgiving evil murderers and rapists who have attacked their defenceless small children. Often it’s difficult to fathom how people go about pardoning someone who has hurt them so deeply and irreversably. I may not personally think these people deserve it, but I do believe the parents of the children when they say that letting go of bitterness helps them (the parents) to help themselves. I do believe them when they say how they feel so much better for it and that the absolution is not necessarily for the benefit of the person who has hurt their child.
Pardoning someone can help release feelings such as rage, anxiety, insecurity, fear, depression, frustration, vengeance and is conducive to accepting and adjusting to changed circumstances and inching forward.
The process of forgiveness is a choice and it can be a huge challenge but if I thought I deserved to have peace of mind I would be wise to try to somehow find a way of truly pardoning - whether the person deserved absolution or not - remembering that my pardoning them does not mean they were justified to do what they had done. Importantly, pardoning the seemingly unpardonable does not mean I would allow myself to be further abused, disrespected or wronged.
The potential benefits for the children and the family as a whole are a great incentive to seriously consider forgiveness.
The Bottom Line Is: Do You and Your Children Deserve to Be Happy?
The more you dislike or hate your ex-partner, then the more benefit you stand to gain from absolving your them. Of course you cannot simply or instantly dismiss your own pain or summarily wipe your memory clean. In fact it's important to acknowledge this pain, as over time this allows for coming to terms with what has gone before and clarity to then work on letting go and forgiving your ex. Again, seriously consider all this because, YES, your children do indeed deserve to have a happier and more contended parent so that they in turn can be happier and contented.
Redirecting Your Efforts and Time
Although it's easier said than done, being the "bigger person" has many benefits. Thoughts of revenge and proving that you were in the right take can steal an awful lot of your thoughts and energy. Turning away from such thoughts means you can instead channel that energy and time into making a better life for yourself and your kids.
Lastly, don’t omit to reflect on your own past behaviour and/or any shortcomings and forgive yourself as well, as necessary. It's also important to absolve yourself for any mistakes you feel may have made along the lines of not terminating the relationship sooner, or not recognising what was happening sooner or plainly behaving badly.
Should you find on reflection that you yourself have acted in a manner which you now regret, you may or may not choose to own this to the other parent. However, do not take offense if your ex chooses not to forgive you, else you could end up back at square one. Chalk it down to experience, learn from it and move forward positively.
In cases of physical, emotional, verbal or sexual abuse, especially if involving a child, professional advice should be taken.
© 2012 Ebonny