My marriage ended for the right reasons. I knew it had to happen, and yet I still went through a raft of unbearably intense emotions -- from anger, disgust and rage to shame, guilt and sadness. These feelings not only emerged in response to the isolated incidents of my husband's adultery, but also from the years of pain I endured being with a narcissist.
Even though I knew the decision to end the marriage was a wise one, I had trouble feeling at peace with what had happened. My heart felt shut down; I was paralyzed by pain, and keeping myself safe with many, hardened layers of self-protection. So for many months after we split, I found it very difficult to get to a place of heartfelt understanding.
It took me quite some time of inward inspection to feel differently. After many months following the divorce, I suddenly came to the realization that finding a way to show compassion for my ex was actually important for my own health and well-being. In harboring such acute feelings of anger and revulsion for so long, I was self-attacking, doing myself and everyone around me a disservice. Allowing myself to stew in anger then brought on feelings of self-judgment. It was a vicious cycle of tethering myself to negativity and I knew I needed to experience a catharsis of some kind.
So I learned to replace anger with compassion. Through this process of opening my heart and expanding my perspective, I have been able to experience deep, unbridled and passionate love again in my life. Most importantly, loosening the grip on the negativity has given me the freedom to be a more authentic and loving version of myself in all facets of my life.
Here are three simple ways that you, too, can show compassion for your ex, regardless of circumstances, and find at least some sense of peace in your situation:
1. Look their pain in the eye, no matter how unappealing that sounds.
My ex hurt me, and made me suffer. But that means that he must've also been suffering. Regardless of my particular situation, it's important to recognize that we all undergo the experience of hurting others, whether unintentionally or intentionally, and often out of our own suffering. And if we aren't aware of our own deeper issues, then we are also dealing with the pain of ignorance.
Part of this step is about recognizing our own pain, and understanding it in dialogue with our ex's pain. Every relationship has two sides and is contingent on some kind of dynamic. If you are feeling pain, so is your ex. Take a moment to breathe into their pain, to look at it "in the eye" and try to cultivate empathy.
2. Replace old habits with new ones.
People behave in a myriad of ways, some of which we cannot comprehend. There is nothing that you can do to change someone else's actions, nor can you change your actions in the past.
But you can change your actions for the future, and your thoughts in the present moment. So each time you feel that you want to behave harshly towards your ex, or even think toxic thoughts about them or your experiences together, pause. From that place of stillness, take a deep breath before you react, or before you allow your mind to run wild.
Although you can't change his/her behavior, you can change the cycle of your reactions, and how they influence your mood and future actions and thoughts. You don't have to freak out, overreact, or behave in a way that is now inauthentic to who you are. As you realize that you are fully in control, you can start to create new habits around your actions and reactions towards him or her.
3. Get creative: find ways to rewrite the story.
There have been many times when I have mentally torn my ex down because of what I perceive to be his inadequacies. I have had to train myself to switch the thought from a nasty or negative one to one filled with compassion and love. Although he may not be aware of my thoughts, doing this shifts the energy inside me, and allows more love and positivity to flow outward. We can all stop the harsh, cruel talk we say under our breaths, or even out loud to others about our exes. Try to see the good in him or her, and send them support, love and kindness.
As I have done these three things, I have started to see a shift in myself, and how I respond to the world. These things don't have to be done so that your ex is aware of any or all of them, but they must be done with authenticity and love. Everyone in this world deserves to be the recipient of kindness and compassion – even those who you deem may have hurt you. Taking these small steps raises your energetic vibration, puts you into a space of being more loving and positively affects those around you.