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Moving On After Divorce: Blame vs. Forgiveness

A couple moving on after a divorce walking their dog in a field and laughing.

We only need to look at the fall television line-up to see that American culture is obsessed with villains and heroes. While characters that represent either good or evil make a compelling, watchable action story, such broad categorizing of human behavior isn’t healthy when you’re working on moving on after divorce. For many it’s easier to believe that a villain, either inside or outside of the marriage, is to blame for a divorce.

Dating back to Adam and Eve, humans have found it necessary to make someone responsible when something goes wrong. Adam blamed Eve; Eve blamed the snake. The problem with blame is that it offers no sustainable emotional relief. Blame is a toxic substance that eats up the carrier. To recover and flourish after divorce, the blame game must be exchanged for forgiveness.

Here are some ways to forgive and move on after divorce:

Understand the difference between forgiving and condoning.
Too often people feel that if they forgive someone for their hurtful behaviour, they are condoning what occurred. Condoning means accepting or overlooking while forgiving is an action that means you stop feeling anger or resentment. For example, it’s perfectly acceptable that you never condone your spouse for betraying your marriage; however, the act of forgiveness releases you from carrying the weight of that betrayal.

Accept that forgiveness creates internal harmony.
When people get caught up in the idea that forgiveness means letting someone who harmed them off the hook for damaging behaviour, turn the attention inward. Forgiveness is about making an active decision to let go of resentment because it harms you.

Forgiving doesn’t mean that you stop feeling hurt.
Forgiving is an action that is part of the healing process. It does not mean that you stop feeling sad, crying, or grieving. There is no expectation that you need to minimize your feelings.

Forgiveness does not equal trust.
Appreciate that while you may actively forgive your former spouse for past behaviors, the relationship trust has been broken. To forgive does not mean that you must believe what your former spouse says, it just means that you are not going to carry resentment within you.

Maybe they truly don’t know better.
To err is human. To repeatedly show bad judgement and hurt others is indicative of a bigger problem. If your former spouse consistently shows self-absorbed, disrespectful, even lying behaviours, consider that they may lack the ability to do better. Even if they meet all the characteristics of a true villain, let go of blame by feeling thankful that you no longer will intimately invest in a situation that will not change. If they do not have the capacity to change, forgive them for not having a moral compass or conscience to guide them.

If you want to move on after divorce and find happiness within yourself and a new relationship, start with forgiveness. It’s the greatest gift you can give yourself.

Dr. Julie Gowthorpe, R.S.W. is an internationally acclaimed emotional health and relationship expert. She offers strategic approaches to help people find ways to verbally express, profoundly heal and to finally go the distance required for optimal living. As an author, speaker and expert radio personality, Dr. Gowthorpe provides engaging, practical advice and speaks about topics involving positive parenting, healthy relationships and mental well-being.

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