But is it worth the cost?
You have just gone through the biggest crisis of your life, your divorce. It was costly, scary and miserable, and you thought it would never end. In fact, maybe it still isn’t finished. There are so many reasons why you could hate your ex forever. Here are a few of the most popular:
- Your ex betrayed you. Maybe it was an affair, or maybe it was the decision to leave you. Maybe your ex let you down in another way. In any case, you are feeling abandoned, possibly replaced, and it is probably unforgivable. In fact, you’d like your ex to suffer as much (or more) than you are.
- You are emotionally unhinged (and it is your ex’s fault). You are easily triggered to righteous anger, and even though you know it would be better for the kids if you could set your feelings aside, you just can’t seem to control those emotions. After all, righteous anger feels better than depression. You cannot stop yourself from telling almost everyone you meet how your ex has screwed up your life and the kids. You think they ought to know all about it.
- You believe that divorce is morally bad, bad for your kids, and just plain wrong. You made those wedding vows and now you wonder if they meant anything at all.
- You cannot believe you have to add “divorced” to your resume. You are embarrassed, ashamed, and feel like a failure. You feel unlovable and unworthy of love. You hate asking for help or support so you suffer alone or vent your grievance story repeatedly to your family and friends.
- Your ex has moved on already, but you are stuck. You think you may never move on. You can’t stop thinking about the divorce. It’s become an obsession that you can’t let go. It is interfering with your work, you can’t sleep, and you’re watching a lot of TV while you eat junk food. All you think about is negative, you can hardly remember anything good about your ex anymore.
- You feel all the losses are irreparable. You have lost the person you once loved and who was supposed to love you forever. You have also lost money, property and time with your children. You can’t imagine that you’ll ever get over these losses.
- You still love your ex or believe that you were meant to be together. You still think your ex will come to her or his senses and come back to you, but after all this, you’ll never want your ex back again. In fact, you wish you never had to see your ex again, but unfortunately, with the kids, you do have to see him or her, but you do your best to minimize contact. You try to avoid saying hello when you run into each other and sit as far away as possible at your kids’ soccer games.
- It is too bad, but the kids should know what’s what. They should align with you and know that your ex is to blame for breaking up the family. Of course, you know the experts say your kids “should” love both parents, but you also think they should know the “truth” about what really happened. Besides, you believe it is wrong to lie or keep “secrets” from your kids.
- You cannot imagine that you can have a better future, and you want all your friends and family to know how badly you have been wronged. You can’t let go of feeling like the victim, because that anger makes you feel like you’ve retained some sense of power. It feels good to stay angry. Besides, if you did let go of it, you would have to look at yourself and your own role in the breakup.
- Finally, your ex still treats you badly. Your ex is critical of your parenting, judgmental and self-righteous. Your ex makes demands on you, emails you constantly and expects an immediate response, never shows up on time, interferes with your plans and constantly wants to make changes to your schedule. Your ex is rude on the phone and when you have to exchange the kids. You cannot just sit there and take it.
If any of these reasons sound familiar to you, you now know why it is so hard to get along with your ex. However, there is a significant cost to staying mad and continuing to hate your ex forever. Is it worth the cost? The decision is in your hands.
- Your mental health will suffer. You are set up for depression and anxiety, and over time these problems can become chronic. You need to develop skills to forgive and let go of your anger. You probably should look at your role in the marriage and the breakup so that you can learn from your own mistakes and not repeat them. Your next relationship will be better if you do this.
- Your physical health will suffer. If you neglect your self-care and stay angry, you can develop all kinds of stress-related health conditions. Instead of focusing on your ex, focus on good eating habits, exercise, sleep, and cultivating new pleasurable activities.
- Your relationships with others, including your kids, will suffer. Your friends and family may tire of the stories and wonder when you will “get over it.” More important, your children need you to be relaxed and calm when they talk about their other parent. If you try to win them to your side, you risk damaging your long-term relationship with them. It is not healthy for kids to be put in the middle of your adult conflict. If you turn to one of your kids as a confidante, it puts a burden on them that they were never meant to carry. Seek out adult relationships for support and consider working with a therapist to help you recover.
- It will be tough to move on and create a new, healthy and happy relationship. No one wants to be in a relationship with someone who can’t stop thinking or talking about an ex or who hates his or her ex. They will get tired of hearing about how you were wronged. It is possible to let go of the resentment and anger (and other emotions) so that you can build a better life for yourself.
- If you do not let go, you will not be able to co-parent very well. No matter what you think of your ex, you love your children and want to be a good parent. In a divorce, your kids need you and your ex to co-parent them as well as possible. Even if you think all your feelings, beliefs, and thoughts about your ex are justified, you can be a better co-parent if you can find a way to work with your ex in an amicable way.
Even if your ex continues to hate you forever, you will feel better emotionally and physically if you can let it go. Your kids will adjust to the divorce with less harm. You will create a new life for yourself.
Remember the old 1960’s anti-war bumper sticker, “What if they threw a war and nobody came?” It truly is a choice to stay angry. Sure, you believe you have a lot of reasons to hate your ex forever, but is it really worth the cost?
© Ann Buscho, Ph.D. 2019