Last week I connected with a friend who has been recovering after divorce for a couple of years. She is a smart, successful and beautiful. She is now a sole parent of their two children. I asked her how she was doing and she blurted out - I am trying to forgive myself for choosing the wrong guy. I feel guilt for marrying a man who is not the best father for my children. Suddenly I felt a hot wave wash over me. I, too, spent many months feeling deep guilt about bringing children into this world with an unfit parent. Someone who one day typed the message “I am done”, shut the door behind him and unsubscribed from being a dad.
I have tried countless ways to reconcile the choice that I made. I mean… I chose the guy and said I do and stayed with him for a decade. Why did I think he was a great choice? There were many books, therapy sessions and bitch fests with the girlfriends. Some of these things helped a little, others helped me make a shift toward letting the guilt go. Outlining thoughts one by one is my favorite way of sharing information. Today I am sharing with you the four perspectives that helped me move away from guilt into a space of healing. But first, why let go of the guilt and heal? Wouldn’t it negate the lesson that I deserve? No, it would not. The lesson is learned the moment we realize it was not the best choice. It is through self-love, support and acceptance that we can move forward effectively. The reason to let go of guilt is so we can be loving and understanding parents. So we can show our children that mom is a human and makes mistakes too. So we can be our best selves and invite healthier relationships into our lives. So we can feel happy and content more often.
WHEN YOU FEEL GUILTY FOR MARRYING THE WRONG PERSON, consider these:
I. Feeling guilt is not therapeutic
Let's look at what the purpose of guilt is. Why do we express it to others? We feel awful about what happened in the after math of the decision. We make ourselves feel bad in hopes of learning the lesson for next time. Growing up most of us had parents that made our mistakes feel very unpleasant. The more guilt we feel now, the better our decisions will be in the future. In retrospect guilt impacts our future decisions and confidence in a negative way. When we are immersed in guilt, we don't make the best decisions for ourselves or the kids. We make decisions based on fear. And if life taught me anything, decisions based on fear rob me of my full potential. They rob me of going all in and dreaming big, because I need to be really careful this time. Feeling guilt is neither therapeutic, nor preventative. All that we need to do is recognize what we no longer want to have in our lives and decide to do differently next time. Guilt has us looking back, which is the opposite direction of hope, happiness and thriving.
II. Having your own back is a must
No matter what happened, one thing we should always give ourselves is having our own back. It requires nothing but supportive thoughts for ourselves (something we do all the time for our dearest friends). Trusting that at all times we do our best. I know you'll disagree and say this wasn't your best. It certainly isn't your best today or you wouldn't be here looking for answers. But trust that you make the best decisions based on what_you_know_today. Your best will always shift and that's the beauty of wisdom.
III. All relationships have expiration point
As much as we refuse this notion, if you we look at our past relationships of any kind, we'll see that all of us have had relationships that faded, finished or completed. While I believe all relationships serve a purpose, not all are meant to last a lifetime. Our relationships with ex- husbands lasted exactly as they should. Nothing have gone wrong there. They run its course and are now complete. Thank you for the beautiful moments.
IV. Feeling compassion for him
When it came to letting go of the anger for having to raise the children by myself, not much helped long term. I didn’t choose this life, I didn’t choose to be a single mother. I wanted to be angry all the time, I wanted revenge even. I imagined that he'd come back and want to see the kids, but as time passed the less likely it seemed. Revenge wasn't an option:) I started learning about forgiveness. At that time I have experienced an amazing uplifting and relief after forgiving a family member from a long term pain. I got a taste for what forgiveness does for me. I decided that I had to move toward forgiveness for my ex husband. I knew he wouldn't feel my forgiveness, but I would. He wouldn't benefit from it, but the kids and I really would thrive if I could forgive. It is to this day one of the hardest things to do for me. I found a form of forgiveness that resonated with me. I chose to cultivate compassion for him. Knowing that living your life far a way from your own children, made me feel compassion for him. Knowing that he is not able to live his best life in exile made me feel more compassion. When I imagine living away from my children for more than a month, I feel tremendous pain and compassion for his state. No one in their right mind would choose this life. I give compassion to him and myself.
When it comes to taming guilt, always remember that the purpose of life is to live a full vibrant life. It is both the dark and bright moments that make it vibrant. We wouldn’t want it any other way.