How to forgive your ex

How to forgive your ex, so you can move on


The sad but realistic truth is that breaking up from your partner isn’t necessarily enough to cut any mental cords you may still have to them. Within a relationship, difficult experiences or emotional wounds can have a long-lasting reach. Sometimes they need to be actively acknowledged and healed before you can be free of them.

If you think about it, it’s the same in most areas of life, whether it’s moving home, ending a friendship or changing jobs. In all these different scenarios there are going to be memories or baggage you carry away with you, both consciously and unconsciously. So, when it comes to exes, the aim should always be to understand and resolve any negative residue, if you wish for it to stop impacting your future relationships. Let’s see how to forgive your ex.

Look at their flaws, honestly

As unhelpful or frustrating a task it may seem to you, looking at the flaws your ex had is a good exercise in your own self awareness and objectivity. Take a long, deep breath and think about how many of the things you grew to dislike, not appreciate, or find fault with, were actually on full display from the beginning, if not very early in your relationship.

When we first meet people, a lot of time can be spent deleting and distorting the reality of a situation because we want it to be a certain way. We believe that by focusing only on what we want to see, the rest isn’t so bad and can be compromised for the greater good. The only issue is, when the other parts which we love begin to crack or relax a little, those gaps become filled with everything we once tried to block out.

As much as it’s a fallacy to bet on being able to change a person during the course of a relationship, so too is it unrealistic to believe that a person won’t naturally evolve into someone different whom you’re no longer compatible with, or vice versa. Taking stock in this way of what you perceive as your ex’s flaws may enable you to view them more as a fallible human being. It may allow you to have a measured, more accountable memory of what went on.

Look at your own flaws, honestly

Do you remember what it was your ex found difficult to tolerate or understand about you? What did they have to put up with and for what do you believe they need to forgive you? Was there any truth in even a fraction of how they may have perceived events?

Often, when we’re given certain labels by other people, our first response is to defend ourselves, or give reasons as to why the label is inaccurate. When we do this, however, we’re putting another person’s experience of us through the filter our own intentions and we can forget they have – and are entitled to – a reality of their own.

For example, if an ex labelled you as controlling, you may counter with believing that you had little choice, otherwise nothing would get done. However, could there be any truth in the possibility that things would indeed have been done, just not on your timescale, or in the way you demanded? Where could you have met them half way?

Another example may be that you were labelled as putting zero effort into the relationship and you counter argued with having tried your best. If you attempt to look at the situation objectively, could it be that a part of you had checked-out emotionally long before the end. You may have had valid reasons for doing so, but when forgiving your ex, it’s worth considering that people with a different perspective aren’t always privy to our emotional motives if they aren’t communicated.

What could have happened if you stayed together?

Depending on the reasons for your relationship breakup, sometimes it really is necessary take a step back and look at what would have happened if you had stayed together. Did you catch her cheating, did he suddenly decide he didn’t want children, did she become less exciting than the woman she once was? Remaining in a relationship that one or more parties is no longer honouring, is actually wasting time that could be spent with someone else, or doing something better with your life.

Would you truly still want to be with someone who doesn’t value you enough to remain faithful, or a partner who doesn’t acknowledge your desire for a family? A big part of forgiveness is letting go of the future you had built your dreams on and realising that the reality would not have stacked up. It’s easy to mourn what you believe you have lost when actually, it simply was not going to end up that way.

Forgive yourself, it’s part of your journey

In some cases, especially after you’ve been with someone for a long time, the ending of a relationship can feel like you wasted a lot of time for an unequal reward. People talk about ‘giving the best years of their life’ to someone and they’re filled with regret or shame at having done so. Forgiving yourself can begin with acknowledging the good times that occurred within the relationship, the positive reasons you stayed together for so long and the times that you were indeed happy.

We each have our roles to perform in life and sometimes the people we love have got to leave us or be left, in order to fulfil their own destinies. This means they may repeat the same mistakes that look so obvious to you, or it may mean you simply need to have another relationship with a different set of lessons. Whatever the case, this is the road you’re walking and, you were a necessary part of each other’s life for a time, even if you’re endings are now destined to be different.

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