Where did it start to go wrong? What role did I play? What could I have done differently? Reflecting on a situation gone wrong is good. You learn and grow from understanding past mistakes. It can help you avoid them in the future.
There is a difference between self-reflection and self-condemnation. The latter can have an extremely detrimental effect on your life. Unfortunately, it is a common feeling for some spouses after the breakdown of a marriage. So how do you get yourself out of the slump and focused on your future?
Forgiveness is not something reserved only for others
Everett L. Worthington Jr., Ph.D., author and professor of psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University, tackled the issue of self-condemnation in his book, Moving Forward: Six Steps to Forgiving Yourself and Breaking Free from the Past.
- Step 1: Forgive yourself for your mistakes. We all do things we regret, but we all deserve forgiveness. You may have said hurtful things, took your frustration out on the other, started fights, damaged something they loved or cheated on them (emotionally or physically). You don’t need the other’s forgiveness, you can forgive yourself.
- Step 2: Repair damage where you can. Family and friends, especially children, could be the recipients of unintended consequences from our actions. Take time to reach out to them or make it up to them in different ways. If your ex-spouse will remain in your life as a co-parent, consider owning up to your role in the breakdown – when you feel the time is right.
- Step 3: Stop revisiting the mistakes. Don’t dwell on your past. Take time to think about the mistakes and what you may do different. Then file that memory away.
- Step 4: Don’t just think about it. Give yourself tangible closure on the issue. Do something physical. Designate time, like taking a walk, to think about the past with the understanding that you are closing the door after. Send yourself an email and then file it away. Throw away something that reminds you of the past relationship, or donate it, if has more than sentimental value.
- Step 5: Separate who you are from what you did. You may have done something you regret, but actions are different than character. Know that good people make mistakes, but they do not define who you are.
- Step 6: Make changes in your life. Learn from your experience and change the way you act or react in the future.
Now is the time to lean on your closest friends and family members for support as you move past the divorce. You can also look for support groups in your area. Speaking with individuals in shared experiences is very cathartic. Do your research, and look for ones led by a marriage or family therapist.