This month would have marked my 35th wedding anniversary to my children’s father. On a hot July afternoon, I dressed in lace, ruffles, and pearl buttons to say “I do” in his grandma’s back yard. We committed until death. We lasted a little more than a decade.
In the years since our divorce, I’ve felt a silent pride at my efforts to forgive my former spouse for his wrongdoings. Some real and heart-rending. Others perceived and petty. What I realize today is that there was a long list to forgive myself for, too.
For accepting a marriage proposal from a man I’d only known a few months, ignoring the red flags that waved brightly during our courtship.
For not picking a partner with whom I could create a forever family for my children.
For allowing my children’s tiny ears to hear the angry arguments that they still recall decades later.
For being a reluctant forgiver and retelling tales about our marriage that didn’t serve a single soul.
For years of blaming him instead of taking responsibility for my own happiness.
For keeping my sadness a secret from those who would have generously loved me through my sorrow had I had the courage to let them in.
For not knowing better and for not being better when I did.
My personal philosophy of forgiveness is not that it is some transformational experience that comes from a moment of enlightenment. Rather, it is a choice made over and over again to stop repeating the stories of how we were wronged or how we wronged another.
Forgiveness frees our hearts. It lifts the weight we have been carrying. It helps us to shift our focus from our past and what was, to our future and what might be.
When I am tempted to revisit those old familiar places of blame or regret, I can remind myself, “Oh yes. I forgot. I have already decided to forgive.” I can choose to rewrite the narrative— not to deny the past, but to focus only on what contributes to others or to me now.
Forgiveness is a continual choice. Its power is undeniable. Forgiveness after divorce demands both that compassion for our own imperfection in the relationship as well as for one’s former spouse.
35 years later, I make this choice again. For his sake, and for mine.