Forgiveness can be a slippery slope, especially when you’ve been hurt as deeply as I have. I knew I had to forgive the guy who wronged me if I ever wanted to move on and find peace, but that didn’t make doing so any easier. Here’s how I finally closed the book on my negative feelings for him once and for all — maybe it’ll help you do the same.
- I accepted his actions even if I didn’t agree with them. We’ve all been there: your partner does something that crosses the line and you can’t come back from it. Accepting what’s been done is the first step to forgiveness. There are a lot of sidewalk prophets out there who will say otherwise — that forgiveness needs to come first — but I’m telling you from my own personal experience: you need to come to grips with what happened before you can make peace with it.
- I took a (few hundred) deep breaths and calmed TF down. Acceptance is first, and the cooling-off period is second. Forgiveness is always the key, but you need to work my way up to it. After I’d accepted what he’d done to me — in this case, cheated — I needed time alone to cool off completely because naturally, I was pretty heated. Taking this time proved instrumental.
- I gave myself the time and space I needed to feel how I wanted to feel. It’s hard to forgive someone for something of that magnitude when you’re so damn angry. The cooling-off portion of forgiveness is essential for self-healing and don’t ever let anybody tell you otherwise. It could take days, months, weeks or even years, but it’s an integral part of getting through a trauma big enough to sever ties with a person who’s become so engrained in your life.
- I stopped giving a crap. Don’t get me wrong; I was absolutely still hurting over what he’d done, even though I’d accepted it and given myself ample time to cool off. However, after the cooling off came apathy — and when you’ve been hurt something fierce, apathy isn’t exactly where you want to be. Going through the hurt on such a fundamental level isn’t so dissimilar to the stages of grief, but for me, they were all out of order.
- I paid attention to the stages of grief. The first stage of dealing with grief is isolation and denial. I didn’t want to get stuck at that stage, so I immediately moved on to acceptance which, as psychologists say, is a later part of the process. The second stage is anger — and yes, I felt a lot of that during my “cooling off” period. There was no bargaining; there was a complete and utter lack of feeling for better or worse. I just wanted to get to the acceptance stage, but it was a long way off.
- After apathy set in, a deep depression set in with it. It wasn’t as if I didn’t know what had happened to me or thought that my depression was anything more than situational rather than clinical. Still, depression was there, my nighttime compadre; the only one there for me in my time of mourning. I had to mourn, as much as I hated it.
- I went to therapy. My therapist worked hard with me to reinforce positive behaviors when it came to self-care because by the time depression set in, I was feeling pretty worthless and tainted. Who could ever love such a broken woman? How could such a broken woman ever love? But good, sound advice from a therapist sincerely helped me work through the emotions of his indiscretion and taught me that my self-worth should never be rooted in someone else’s perception of me. Yes, I brought that baggage to the relationship initially, but his actions weren’t based on my flailing self-confidence.
- Forgiveness eventually came. He was my ex by then, and we hadn’t been on good terms since I’d accepted the reality of his actions. I’d immediately split with him and severed all ties in order to work on myself and my healing. I healed for the most part, but I knew that the very last step of enduring my ordeal was to forgive him — not for him or to release him of any burden, but for me. Forgiving him was the final “goodbye” in our relationship, and after six months of emotional turmoil and therapeutic sessions later, I was able to write him a letter forgiving him and acknowledging the hurt and heartbreak that he put me through.
- It took more time than I thought but I got there in the end. I gave myself the time and space to really analyze what had been done to me — and whatever role I might have played in it — and the time gave me a perspective I wouldn’t have otherwise gotten if I’d rushed through the process and tried to put it behind me as soon as possible. There’s healing out there — it just needs time to breathe.