Two important points to make at the top of the post:
- Forgiveness is like decluttering for your soul.
- This is my last post centered around my divorce/marriage, I promise.
I have been talking about my divorce a lot lately, and I’m sorry for being a broken record. This is the last one with a divorce theme though, because I have recently observed the one year anniversary of the day my dissolution was final. I have been very reflective lately and thought that the blog would be a good outlet for the lessons I learned from letting go of the emotional clutter. Let’s dig in!
Throughout the past year, I have been angry, I have been sad, I have been lonely, and I have been happy. It was really hard to let go of my marriage in the beginning, but once I understood that it was what I needed, that I had the power to make my life what I finally realized I deserved… that was a tipping point, and I moved quickly to get where I needed to be.
I will be completely honest and say that I have missed some aspects of my marriage – like goodnight kisses, knowing someone was going to be there, and the warmth of sleeping next to another person and not just my cat. But I have learned that it is far better to be alone than to be with the wrong person, and for that I am thankful that I was able to leave.
If I really think about it, I can pinpoint at least five moments where I wish I would have left on the spot and been done forever, but I kept coming back. I think I was punishing myself, to be honest. Leftover self-esteem issues, which had truly been underlying our relationship since its beginning, were causing me to routinely believe that I would never do better and didn’t deserve any better than the life I had chosen for myself at the age of 20 when I agreed to marry him. (Note: If you are 20 and reading this, seriously take your time when making major life decisions. You might change.)
I know that he mistreated me, and for all the things he did (and didn’t do) I have been angry, sad, and disappointed for years. In my last year of reflection, however, I’ve come to fully understand and appreciate that I am not without blame or responsibility. I mistreated him too. I also mistreated myself by staying in a life that was making me miserable. I owed it to both of us to leave when I did, and I truly hope he is happy. It’s hard for me to accurately gauge my own happiness at the moment, dealing with other current personal issues, but I know that overall, my life is better because I got divorced.
I think that the two hardest things to do after a breakup (or any trauma, really) are to forgive yourself for the mistakes you made and to accept an apology you’ll never receive. I will probably never talk to my ex-husband again, so I will never know if he learned anything from our marriage and subsequent dissolution and I will never hear him apologize for hurting me.
I have let that go.
I could stay mad about it, or I could choose not to stay mad about it. I choose to let it go, because I would be mad forever and I don’t have time for that. I have my own life and I can’t spend any more of it worrying about apologies I never got and grievances I never aired.
Forgiveness benefits both the forgiving and the forgiven parties. In the case of forgiveness when you’re never going to see the person again, it’s mostly for you though. I forgive him because not forgiving him would take up too much of my time, my happiness, and my freedom. It took me years to leave a relationship that was making me miserable, how can I possibly continue to let that relationship make me miserable? It’s over and in the past now, and I feel so free being able to say that.
As far as forgiving myself goes, I just have to remember that people make mistakes, and it’s okay. The important thing is that I did what I needed to do. If I could tell past-Caitlin anything, I would tell her that I forgive her for spending so long “trying to make it work” and that I’m proud of her for leaving when she finally understood it never would.
21 thoughts on “Forgiving myself and moving on”
I believe that when we enter a marriage at a young age and it falls apart we hold on to guilt that we didn’t make it work. I think, at least for me, it was the expectation of always doing my best and not giving up that was instilled in me. It took me many years to realize that when it involves two people needing to work together we shouldn’t hold ourselves up to a standard that can’t be met. I’m sorry for what you had to go through, but happy to see you are finding it in yourself to forgive and move on. I hope the personal issues you are dealing with now are resolved soon so you can continue to move forward.
A lot of not leaving sooner was the crippling guilt and feeling foolish for not listening to my mom, who warned me it wasn’t going to work out. Live and learn, though! Thanks for reading and leaving a comment 🙂
Don’t you just hate looking back and realizing someone else saw things more clearly. In those situations I tend to get my back up and do the complete opposite of what I am warned about, of course I am learning to listen more and react less.
That’s precisely why my mom didn’t push it. She did try to warn me off but I just wouldn’t listen. I’m also learning to listen more with an open mind. I have a bit of an ego problem sometimes!
No, not you 🙂 I think we are all guilty of that now and then.
Thanks for such a beautiful, heartfelt piece of writing. Congrats on letting it go.
Sounds to me like you’re truly going forward in your life and it’s good to forgive yourself and others in order to really move on. I learned some years ago that forgiveness sets you free (and the ones you forgive, as well) in a way that holding onto a grudge or hatred never does. The hardest part for me is to forgive myself, but I’ve had to do that just recently in a big way..I have rather huge commitment issues and fear about being abandoned, so I usually do the abandoning myself. These past few months – leaving a marriage and then getting back together with my husband – have taught me so much about myself that I never really wanted to know all of it 😦 But I need to, in order to grow (up). However, I am truly blessed in having a husband who simply loves me the way I am, and with whom I love to be, things that I hadn’t really grasped before I rather blindly let him go. We’ve been through a lot because of all this, but it feels good to be together in the now.
I hope your current personal issues sort themselves out soon! I’ll turn 40 in the fall and I’m beginning to grasp that things have a way of working out the way they’re supposed to if we have the guts and stamina to weather the bad times. Life seemed a lot more gloomy, to me, when I was 20 or 30, but now I feel more hopeful than I have in years. I don’t feel that the younger you are, the better life is (or has to be). I only started to really work on my personal issues when I turned thirty..
I’m glad you are finding your happiness 🙂 thank you for your comment. I’ll get through the personal stuff eventually, it’s just bad timing with the divorce-iversary and everything. 🙂 all’s well!
Wow, seems like we had similar experiences. Forgiving ourselves is so hard! Happy anniversary in your new life, thanks for sharing
Thank you! 🙂 I hope you are doing well also!
I married young as well and we were together two years before I woke up one morning and realized something wasn’t right. I didn’t leave right away, although I wish I had, but I left not too long afterwards. It takes time to cope with the change, but as you mentioned – it’s all about being with the right person. No matter how much you want to make it work, if its with the wrong person it never will work out right. It’s good to move on, wait, and search for the right person. You will know when you find that right person and there will be no doubt. That will make it all worth it.
It seems this is a common theme with a lot of marriages, which is unfortunate, but I’m very glad that we all seem to be learning as we go. Good luck 🙂 and thank you again!
I am 62 years old and have been married for 32 years, 31 years have been misreable married to a man who didn’t love me. I wish I would have had the courage to do what you did. You keep trying and hoping it will get better, it doesn’t. I wish you the very best – don’t look back.
I’m so sorry to hear that 😦 I hope you can find happiness. I like to believe that it’s never too late to go after the life you want to have. You deserve to be happy.
Beautiful post Caitlin! Just spent awhile going through your posts, you seem to truly be getting into such an amazing place, your writing has really grown and you as a person seem to be growing exponentially. Forgiving yourself is so huge. I’ve been reading Eckhart Tolle (The Power of Now) lately, found it VERY lifechanging, it has really helped me to forgive myself and my past through realizing that your past does not define you as a person, and that by living in the present moment instead of always looking backwards through time and forwards, you can be truly happy and appreciative of life. I realize I haven’t been around in forever…. I am cooking something new up, I will definitely let you know when it’s all out there in the open!
Hey hey! Good to see a familiar name 🙂 I have missed your updates.
Caitlin, go easy on yourself. Garbage from the past has a way of coming back from time to time. We’ve all got something, and we do need to seek support when those strong emotions come back. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve made, with your marriage and divorce, by all means. But also forgive yourself for needing some time to heal from it.
Thanks Bethany 🙂
I found your post by mistake, but decided to read through. I related and enjoyed the above post. I was married for 10 horrendous years, when I asked him to leave he was very surprised, bc we had three young children and I swore everyday that no matter what he said or did I was committed to keeping our marriage together. One day I woke up and asked myself, “Why?” The answer I came up with was not a healthy reason to maintain our ship wreck of a life so, like you, I ended my marriage. He remained hurtful and abusive through the years after our divorce by many ways and means that I allowed because I too had self esteem issues. 20 years after our divorce, by chance (?) we ran smack into one another along a small strip mall, there was no dodging one another. I walked right up to him and humbly asked him, “Would you to forgive me for everything I’ve done in the past to hurt you. Would you be willing to forgive me?” He smiled real big and said, “Yes. I can forgive you for everything you’ve ever done to me.” We hugged and then I began sobbing. I mean wailing type sobbing, he pulled away from me for a second and asked, “Are you ok?” I said, “Yes, I’ve been hoping for this moment for years!” He pulled me back into his embrace and then said, “I hope you will forgive me too.” I said, “Yes, I forgive you.” From that point on we have remained “friendly”, but not friends. He comes to visit one of our children that I live near in another state every so often and we all get together for a dinner. We are polite and enjoy one another’s company for a few hours and then never communicate outside of that. When we ran into one another at that strip mall years ago I was visiting from outside the area, the chances of us running into one another were rare to slim. I can only guess it was God working in my life, nothing short of a miracle that day. No guts, No glory, Free, Free, free at last!
What a wonderful story, thank you for sharing! I am glad you were able to give and get the forgiveness to set you free.