Angry at Your Ex

A young person wrote to us recently with the following question: “I found out certain things that my former partner did behind my back while we were still together. These things have hurt me very much and I feel filled with anger and hatred toward this person. I have tried counseling, talking with friends, trying to forget about it, going on special trips, doing things I love to do and still this hatred remains in my heart. I am hurting so much and don’t know what to do. Please help me.”

In the thirty years that Barry and I have been counseling people in relationships, we have heard many similar stories to this one. We have concluded over the years, that the way out of hating and hurting is to make the journey back into the heart. Fifteen years ago we had a very profound experience while leading a workshop in a small city in England. A man told about his difficulties with his former wife and mother of his three children, “She does things that hurt me deeply. It feels as if she is stabbing a knife into my heart.” We put our hands on his heart area and asked him to feel something positive or loving about his ex-wife. He sat a long time, obviously struggling to come up with something, so blocked was he by his negative feelings. While we very gently talked with him about the healing power of love, he suddenly burst out laughing, a delightful long and full laugh. With tears of laughter pouring from his eyes he said, “When I open my heart and feel love for her, the knife has no place to stab. It’s only when my heart is closed that the knife can hurt me.” We have been in contact with this man over the years and the healing that he experienced that day has remained and allowed him to meet and marry a woman with whom he still has a healthy relationship.

How do you make that journey from anger and hatred to the heart? First of all, it is healthy to feel and know our anger. It is just as important to not wallow in it. A huge step of the journey to the heart is taking responsibility for the mistakes that you made that contributed to the end of the relationship. It’s easy to see your partner’s mistakes, or how they hurt you, but can you admit the ways you hurt your partner. Perhaps you were not present enough, or considerate enough, or honest enough, or even loving enough. By taking responsibility and realizing that difficulty in a relationship is never one-sided, you take an important step toward healing and growth.

The next step is to learn from the relationship. Each relationship is a gift and was given for learning and growth. Even the very worst relationships still have a gift to offer. Once you understand the gift you can be grateful for the learning and growth. With gratitude comes real healing and completion.

The final step is to feel your love for this person. This can be very hard we know, but in doing this comes the healing and ability to move on in our lives. Some people don’t want to feel love for their former partner because that might mean that they should be with this person again. You feel love for this person as part of your own healing. Some people find peace in communicating this love with the former partner, some people do not feel safe in doing this. In either case the important thing is to open our hearts. With an open heart, with gratitude for the gifts received, and with complete taking responsibility for your part of the dysfunction, the pain, hurt, betrayal, disappointment and rejection can finally heal and you both can be free.

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