As is so often the case, we helping professionals teach the things we most need to learn. Perhaps you have had that experience. Forgiveness is my lesson of the moment. A year ago I experienced another betrayal by my former spouse, and I’m still mentally grappling with it. In some way, I am creating my own suffering by continuing to think about it. I’m sure he isn’t thinking about it. Betrayals are like that. I am committed to figuring this one out. I want to be done with the suffering. I think there is a lesson in here that is far bigger than just my insane situation. I have a strong sense that the key to happiness, and perhaps life itself, is tucked away in this.
A year ago, my former spouse was to make a lump sum payment to finally close things out between us by buying me out of our marital assets. When the time came he told me it wasn’t going to happen. I think those were his exact words. It hit me financially of course, but it also hit me emotionally. It went to the heart of my self-worth. What am I, dirt? It devastated the dreams I had for myself. It greatly impacted our family, making it oh-so-much harder to be feel open with him in the presence of our children and grandchildren. After he told me, I went home and threw some rocks around – I was glad I was in the middle of laying a stone patio! After a time, I arrived at: He promised. The judge ordered it. The court stamped it. And it wasn’t going to happen. So now what?
The Grief Stages
I went through all the grief stages. Shock—really? Are you freaking kidding me? Then I was outraged—How dare you! You got your portion of our assets and now you get mine, too? Then utter sadness. Did I mention that there was nothing I could do about it? I’m still waiting for the acceptance stage. I am hoping that will come as I figure out this forgiveness part.
Most of the time I stay busy. I focus on taking charge of what I can. I guess you could say I avoid thinking about it. I am still aware that there is an undercurrent of angst, self-righteousness, and anger, that I can’t seem to shake. Some days it’s louder than others. Today it’s noisy, making me even more determined to be done with it. I’m exploring why it’s so hard to let it go.
I have a right to my feelings
One reason I haven’t gotten relief is that I’ve never fully let myself have my feelings of anger, betrayal, grief, disgust and all the rest. Instead, I’ve taken a two-pronged approach that has skirted the whole thing.
1. I’ve been so caught up in the injustice of it, and my anger around it, and my fears because of it, that I haven’t really explored the deeper hit to my heart. This betrayal went deep, hurting something core in me, but since I couldn’t do anything about it, I just ignored it. No sense crying over spilt milk, right?
2. I’ve tried to see his side, to own my part, to stay away from the blame/victim game, to take the higher road.
Neither of those approaches has delivered the resolve I seek. So today, I’m letting myself have my feelings. Better late than never, right? And you know what? It hurts like hell. There are a lot of feelings! I feel the pain of being devalued. (At least now I realize what hurts the most.) I feel silly crying over something that happened so long ago. I am ashamed and angry with myself that I didn’t better stand up for myself way back when. I’m irritated with myself that I can’t just “get over it.” But you know, I’m also accepting that I am a human having a difficult human experience. It’s ok to hurt.
I am in the editing process in my new Beyond Divorce book. Interestingly enough, I happened to be working on the Forgiveness chapter this morning. Hmmmm. In rewriting the forgiveness exercises I ran across one that got to the root of the matter for me. It’s a fill-in-the-blank. I will provide it here in case you have a difficult situation you’d like to tease apart. It helped me get to what was bothering me most. If you uncover something illuminating for yourself, I’d love to hear it. It was a profound exercise for me.
Complete each sentence with the first thing that comes to mind.
If I forgive (name), then____________.
I don’t want (name) to think_________.
I don’t want to forgive, because I don’t want to let go of _______.
If I forgive, I might feel _____________.
Not forgiving allows me to___________.
I’ve learned more about forgiveness since I first wrote this, that I also want to share with you but this is getting too long so I’m breaking it into two articles. Part II—”Betrayal—The Bigger Picture” will be coming soon.