An email I received from a divorced woman seeking divorce advice:
I am struggling with this today. I have apologized and OWNED my part in the destruction of our marriage. But I realized something … I am still waiting for an apology from him for wanting this divorce . It got me thinking how often in my marriage I waited for an apology that didn’t come and here I am divorced after 17 years of marriage and again still waiting for an apology. I am currently doing a divorce recovery course at my Church and feel so off today that I don’t think I want to attend tonight’s session about FORGIVENESS.
It is perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of divorce: When one of the divorced partners is waiting for the other to say he or she is sorry for the things they did during the marriage and/or in the divorce.
The person might expect, hope, or even pray that their ex will “do the right thing” and say, “Listen, I know I contributed to this divorce, and I’m really sorry for blah blah blah…” or “We had our problems and I chose to cheat and that was wrong. For that, I’m sorry…” or “I wasn’t the best husband (or wife) and remember that time I did blah blah blah? Well, I want to apologize…” or “For all the times I made you feel badly about yourself, I just want to say I’m really sorry…” or “You were a really good husband (or wife) and I should have treated you better at times…”
OK, yeah. Dream on. There are a few people who have been lucky enough to hear some of those things, but most divorced men and women I know have never experienced an apology from the ex.
What’s even worse is when one of the people apologizes to their ex and expects the him or her to respond, “Yeah, me too…I’m sorry for…” but they don’t.
Waiting for an apology from an ex is frustrating and it makes a person feel like they are going crazy. It’s infuriating. It’s maddening. It feels hopeless.
So, how do you cope?
1. You ACCEPT. You accept that you are never, ever, ever in a million years going to get an apology. You accept that your ex will never have the self-awareness to come to you and own up to his or her actions or things he or she said. If that person ever does apologize, it will be a nice bonus and will make you feel amazing. But, don’t wait for it. Instead, move on and accept things as they are. It isn’t easy, but find a way, and don’t be upset that the person didn’t apologize. Just accept that he or she doesn’t have the self-awareness and/or courage to own it. You will be so much happier when you accept.
2. If you do decide to apologize to your ex for your part in the demise of your marriage, do it for the right reasons: for you. Don’t do it because you expect him or her to reciprocate. If you do that, you will feel intensely disappointed. You might even regret your apology. Which leads me to point #3.
3. Do not regret apologizing! In fact, be proud of yourself for having the self-awareness to own up to your mistakes and the courage to have the vulnerability to say it to your ex. It’s not easy, but apologizing gives you the ability to be at peace knowing you did something good, something right. Apologizing is also beneficial because it is cleansing in a way. Admitting fault is like confession and allows you to learn from it, not repeat the same mistakes in the future, and move on knowing you have gotten some of your baggage off your plate.
4. Know that you can still forgive without an apology. (This is what they probably talked about at this reader’s church meeting.) Just because your ex chooses not to apologize, (or even if he or she will go to their grave thinking they don’t owe you an apology) that doesn’t mean you can’t forgive. Again, accepting that you are never getting the apology will allow you to open your heart and forgive. What’s in it for you if you forgive? Peace and the ability to let go of bitterness, anger and resentment and embrace your future with an open heart. Does that mean you have to pretend that your ex didn’t cheat or abuse you or hurt you or do horrible things to you? Absolutely not. You don’t have to forget. In fact, not forgetting will allow you to make better choices in partners in the future. But if your attitude is, it doesn’t matter anymore because we are split up and my life is going to be a lot healthier and better now, than you have won. And being angry at the thought of your ex is just bad. It just doesn’t allow for a healthy, hopeful outlook. Forgiving doesn’t happen over night. In fact, it can take years. But forgiveness is a really positive thing for the one who was wronged. It helps in letting go of a past that wasn’t working and attracting a beautiful and bright future.
In closing, if you ever get an apology from your ex, it will make you feel amazingly validated. But, don’t wait for it. The sooner you stop expecting it, hoping for it or caring about it, the sooner you will be a happier, less frustrated person who is more at peace.
Like this blog post? Check out my post, “Confessions: Not Just For God But For Your Marriage Or Even Your Divorce”