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Consider Some Forgiveness With Your New Year Cleanse

Many people I’m acquainted with were doing a fabulous job cleaning up and putting their house in order in anticipation of the New Year. In the homes I visited, both literally and through tales that were told, grand-scale transformation was commencing. Gifts were put away, luggage was unpacked, trees and menorahs were taken down, and diets and juice cleanses were underway. But that’s not the clean up I’m speaking of. What I observed was people mindfully reflecting on their relationships with their exes and considering how to improve them in 2012.

Over the holidays I witnessed couples who were previously acrimonious (some for numerous years) starting to converse and interact in a friendlier manner. I attended a holiday dinner where my host introduced me to her brother, Jonathan, and then, without batting an eye, to both of his wives — the current, and the ex (who was there along with her new husband). Jonathan and his first wife were very pleasant toward each other. Evidently they were overjoyed to be spending Christmas together along with their two daughters and young grandchildren. I was told that it hadn’t always been this way.

Several days later across town at a New Year’s gathering, I was surprised to see my friend Allie’s ex husband arrive at her home for a glass of champagne. She explained to me that she felt it would be gracious to invite him to stop by for a toast, and apparently he felt comfortable enough to drop in. I couldn’t help but notice how happy her kids were to see mom and dad together, smiling and being civil toward each other.

A time zone away, my client David telephoned his ex wife and suggested they meet as a family for lunch to celebrate their son’s admittance to college. He commented to me, “This is such a happy occasion, plus it’s the New Year. Why shouldn’t we be able to put our differences behind us and occasionally break bread together?” She agreed, and for the first time in years, they sat at the same table and celebrated their son.

I was pleased to hear these stories and others that were similar in nature. Tales of people who had deliberately decided to let go of the past, forgive their exes, and work toward a respectful coexistence. Several I spoke with on this topic explained to me that the choice to forgive was not only beneficial to their children; it was valuable to them as well. One woman without children remarked, “The day I let go of my rancor and considered the concept of forgiveness was the day I really started to heal and experience peace in my life.” Another moving comment I heard was from a man who was currently en route to forgiving himself, which can be as important as forgiving another. He said, “I’m just coming to grips with the pain I caused my ex and others I care about during my divorce. Maybe if I can forgive myself I can work toward making amends.”

Believe me, I understand how difficult it is to let go of complex feelings to forgive an ex. There is a good possibility that no matter how your relationship ended, you endured plenty of distress in the process. Most divorces are messy affairs that cause significant pain and suffering along the way. And I fully recognize that forgiveness may be extremely difficult to consider if your marriage ended with deception or with any degree of mental or physical cruelty.

In my opinion, forgiveness is a conscience decision to let go of unpleasant or disturbing feelings about your ex. It’s about releasing the fury and the resentment. It’s about reaching deep into your soul and discovering some degree of empathy, or even better, understanding for the person who caused you pain. This doesn’t mean you have to exonerate what he or she did to you — but it’s about being able to look past those transgressions and say, “Yes I can forgive this person for being imperfect.” Believe me, uttering these words can release you and help you get on with your life in a more positive way.

So please consider reflecting on the topic of forgiveness while writing your 2012 resolutions. There is an excellent chance that by doing so you’ll be able to enjoy a healthier state of mind in the New Year.

*Please note that all names in this post have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.





  • eatthestrawberries

    Fabulous, well-timed post. Totally agree with all of it, and especially love your examples - because I've found forgivenes­s really starts to take shape when we put action behind it. It's one thing to choose it internally­, and another to really walk it out; that's how I've seen it really cement in my own life. And one of the best things I bring into my future is a more healed, free self, which in my own saga of betrayal and divorce, has most often come through letting go and forgivenes­s.

    I posted about grace at the beginning of the year as well, because I think it's such an important way to begin all the NEW of a new year! Thanks for this!!!

  • iamhappy

    Over three years from the date I filed for divorce and approachin­g two years since the divorce was official, forgivenes­s continues to be a serious, deliberate work in progress. At the very least, I make appearance­s at civility and casual friendship all in the interest of our three teenage sons. I have invited ex to gatherings at my house if the event revolves around any of our sons, I have initiated family meals out especially to celebrate any of our sons' rites of passages e.g. graduation­, going away to college, some birthdays, etc. I will be lying if I say that I sincerely enjoy those gatherings­. Yes, at most times, I find them excruciati­ngly painful. I can only hope that even if our sons are not totally convinced by the genuinenes­s of the amity, they will give me credit for trying, probably more so as they get older and comprehend the intricacie­s of human relationsh­ips better. I hope to someday truly and genuinely enjoy these get-togeth­ers. Divorce cuts so very deep into one's soul and very being. Forgivenes­s will continue to be a work in progress.

  • Tina

    I want (so badly) to practice this. I struggle with it everyday. Not because I am a bitter, angry person (quite the opposite) but because there are constant issues. Basically, there is no "past" to forgive-- it's my current reality and has been for almost three years. I am struggling to let go of anger when there are weekly occurrence­s.

  • latrlatr

    Regardless of the angle(s), I find these articles helpful. Stories of families that are making the best of what I call "the death of the dream." The dream that you marry, build a life, have a family, grow old together.

    As a man who was left, suddenly and with prejudice, it's hard for me not to agree with Zalkreb on many points. I have never heard any type of apology or remorse from my ex, even though our children have struggled mightily with her transition to a wife for a new man, new family, at the expense of them.

    However, as much as I have forgiven, and continue to forgive, I have no room in my life for someone who betrayed me, her children, our friends, and our family in the cowardly way she did. She had choices - no matter what she was going through. I do forgive her, wish her well, and am extremely cordial to her and her paramour/h­usband at family events. But to sit and dine, talk of old times, be friends? No. I have too much self esteem and pride for that. I simply see no reason. Spouse or not, sometimes lines are crossed that will forever prevent that type of toxicity from re-enterin­g a life.

  • G Esposito

    I give so much credit to those who are able to forgive. After a 25 year friendship and a 15 year marriage, my former wife asked for a divorce. Within two months of filing, she hooked herself up with another guy, my son's coach. I like to think that nothing was going on while we were married, but most tell me to stop being so stupid. Since then, I can't express the pain, suffering and humiliatio­n I have felt from her absolute betrayal. She has been so cavalier and cold-heart­ed about the whole thing, selfish, callous, mean-spiri­ted and completely indifferen­t as to how her choices and behavior have affected me and our two chldren, ages 11 and 8. I want to forgive her, for my own benefit, but I just can't get there. I can't bring myself to forgive her for all that she has destroyed. I've read so much about forgivenes­s, but can't see how it will ever be possible. I can barely look at her, I cringe when she comes near, how is it possible to forgive. I empathize with Zalkreb below - I understand and feel your pain, I live it too. Add to that seeing one's former wife and best friend shacking up with another guy in one's former home, the home they built together, the home he put his life, heart and soul into ... which has now been invaded and violated. Forgivenes­s is such a long way off.

  • Rachel Sussman

    Sorry folks a glitch w the web site and all names came in as the first post. Working on fixing it!! Thanks for the comments. Rachel Sussman

  • Pete

    Excellent post. I read it on Huffington. This is a good topic to consider, but not all can forgive. Adultry, lying - that's a tall order. I'm working on forgiving myself.