Getting your life back after divorce can be hard.
There are financial issues, co-parenting discussions, and emotional roller-coasters to ride that can leave us feeling exhausted, wondering if we’ll ever move on and feel happy again.
Among these stressors, two of the most challenging obstacles to overcome when recovering from divorce are ones that can grab hold of even the most patient of people:
Resentment and bitterness.
Resentment is nasty. What makes it so ugly is that it has a tendency to turn you—an otherwise kind and reasonable person—into someone who is so angry at their own life situation that it is impossible to recover. Bitterness makes it hard even for the people who love you to be around you.
Both emotions keep us from focusing on all the good stuff in our lives. They keep us from moving on—which is what we want and deserve.
Remaining bitter and resentful means that we are prisoners to our past, when we should be focusing on our future instead.
When bitterness and resentment show up in our lives, it’s because of a combination of anger and disappointment at being treated unfairly. Did you notice that? The verb treated is in the past tense, because the emotions we feel are related to things that happened in the past that we can’t change or control.
The more we continue to look to the past, the harder and harder it becomes to plan for the things we can control, like our future. And our happiness. And the rest of our life, which I’m pretty sure we don’t want to live with the weight of feeling screwed over still resting on our shoulders.
So, our best plan of action is to knock it off. When we feel ourselves becoming resentful about something that happened in our marriage, recognize where these feelings are coming from and then nip them in the bud. Start channeling those feelings and that energy into planning your future and your new life.
Allowing these emotions to control us means that we’re letting our ex continue to hurt us. And we all deserve better than that.
Maybe what happened to us was unfair. Maybe our marriage sucked. Maybe our ex did not treat us with the love and respect he or she should have. But remember, the longer we allow ourselves to feel angry because of what we went through, the easier it is for this person to assert control over you.
Keep in mind that your marriage with this person has ended, and you do not owe them any of your emotional energy.
There is most likely a reason that we are no longer with our exes, and being divorced gives us the chance to start over and do things on our own terms. This is our chance to define who we are, what we want, and where we want to be.
We can let these feelings go. We deserve to let them go.
Exercise: How to let the resentment go.
1. Write down the specific things that are making you bitter.
But it’s best, for a number of reasons, to not spend too much time reflecting on the specifics. One, because the factors leading up to you feeling that way are in the past, which you can’t change. Two, because the only way you can overcome those feeling is to reframe how you think about them and focus on the future instead. Need some examples?
I feel bitter because I got screwed over with money in the settlement.
I feel bitter because I see my ex moved on with their new relationship and I’m still here with nothing.
2. Reframe those thoughts.
The problem with resentment and bitterness is that it forces us to look at something in a negative light, when it can often be a blessing in disguise.
I lost out on money or didn’t get as much as I wanted in the divorce settlement, but at least I was able to make a clean financial break.
My ex has moved on, but at least I don’t have to put up with the craziness that was our relationship. I am better off without them—I am free and my life is now my own. I can finally feel happy and relieved that all the issues we dealt with are no longer in my life, dragging me down.
You do not have to fight the battle alone.
It’s normal to have some residual hard feelings after a split. However, if you find yourself unable to shake them, remember that you have options for reaching out for a little assistance. Depending on your needs, you may find that working with a divorce coach or a therapist can help you pinpoint what is holding you back and can help you move on.
We don’t have to be prisoners to bitterness and resentment, and there is no reason that it needs to control our lives. The amazing future that comes after letting go is waiting for you.