Announcer: [0:02] You’re listening to the overdivorce.com podcast with hosts Tom and Adrian, two guys swapping stories about getting over divorce.
[0:10] If you’re going through a painful divorce and are struggling with anger and anxiety, then you’ve found the right podcast. Hang with us for the next 30 minutes or so.
[0:18] We promise you’ll gain useful insight and effective tips and techniques for getting over your divorce and rebuilding a better life.
Tom: [0:25] Welcome to the Over Divorce Podcast. I’m Tom.
Adrian: [0:28] I’m Adrian.
Tom: [0:29] What’s on the agenda for today, Adrian? What do we got?
Adrian: [0:31] Today we’re going to be talking about forgiveness, that beastly seven-letter word or however many letters it is.
Tom: [0:39] Ain’t nobody got time for all that.
Adrian: [0:43] Kind of the crux I think of healing and getting better or some shit like that. That’s a tough one, forgiveness, right?
Tom: [0:53] It’s tough for me, man.
Adrian: [0:54] Kind of the backbone of moving forward, and moving on, and really getting healthy, and getting your head straight.
Tom: [1:03] Yeah.
Adrian: [1:05] It’s about uncarting, unloading all that baggage, right? We were talking about this a little bit in getting ready for the Podcast today. I feel like I was born with a grudge gene. It’s tough for me to really get over stuff sometimes and forgive people. I think part of me feels like it means you got to forget.
Tom: [1:28] Yeah. Thanks, dad, for the hairline and the grudge gene.
Adrian: [1:35] Come on.
Tom: [1:36] Carries through. I think there is a distinction between forgiveness and forgetting. I don’t know if you necessarily have to forget or excuse if somebody does harm to you, but I think if you want to move forward you definitely have to forgive.
[1:56] I know that forgiveness was a difficult one for me. I don’t know if there was as much forgiveness as just trying to…knowing that I had to go through that process of whatever forgiveness means as a way of getting rid of pain, as a way of trying to get healthy and trying to get my act together.
[2:16] I’d heard a lot about forgiveness. My dad has a pretty religious viewpoint, and he espouses that belief. I wanted to just feel better. I knew that I had to tick forgiveness off of my list of things to do.
[2:34] I struggled with that quite a bit with just like, “OK, what is it? How do I do it? What’s the sevenfold path to forgiveness? Help me get better.”
Adrian: [2:46] Were you able to find that? Unless somebody asks to be forgiven, articulates the harm and expresses an understanding of the impact of what they’ve done and then genuinely seeks for you to forgive them, I’m not sure how that exchange happens.
[3:07] I don’t think my ex has any interest in seeking my forgiveness for leaving and not working on it. I feel like I’m owed that to some extent, but I also know that’s not going to happen.
[3:21] I’ve got to figure out a way…and I don’t know that I have quite honestly…figure out a way to sort of move through it and kind of go, “I forgive you,” get on and put it behind me and know that it’s behind me.
[3:39] You mentioned moving on without prejudice. I really think that that’s the essence of it. Can you move on in your life and in your dealings with the person that you’re forgiving who hasn’t sought it and interact with them without prejudice?
Tom: [4:00] I think it’s a mistake to need to have somebody express the want for you to forgive them. I don’t think forgiveness would ever happen if that was part of the formula.
[4:12] I think maybe at its highest level you don’t need to have anybody acknowledge that they’ve done any wrong to you. You can forgive them without that.
[4:22] That’s also pretty empowering too. You don’t need somebody’s external validation of…not necessarily validation but external acknowledgement that they’ve done something wrong to you.
[4:34] I think that limits you anyway. I don’t think you want to give them that kind of control over your ability to forgive or to move forward or whatever you want to call it.
[4:45] From that perspective, I don’t think that’s part of the equation. I don’t think that they should acknowledge. It might help, but I don’t think that in order to kind of get the benefits from forgiving somebody they have to acknowledge anything.
[4:59] Kind of to your point earlier, I think a lot of people aren’t out to necessarily hurt their partners or their spouses. They’re just doing something that feels right to them and makes sense to them.
[5:14] It’s not your picture of how things were supposed to turn out and it might not be their picture either. But, there’s something driving them forward that’s making them unhappy. You become, I don’t want to say a casualty of that, but you’re the factor in a different path that they want to take. That doesn’t mean that the path they are taking is wrong, it’s just not your path. That’s where you get the anger and the resentment.
[5:40] It’s like wait a second, I thought we were on this path and you’re going down this thing. A lot of that anger and resentment, which ultimately is maybe where you’re trying to resolve with forgiveness. Where that comes from is two different realities. You seeing something one way and they’re seeing something a different way. You’re hearing the world no and you’re not being able to deal with that in an effective way. At least, that was my experience.
Adrian: [6:08] I want to hold your feet to the fire on this idea that one doesn’t need to hear an apology, in order to forgive.
Tom: [6:18] You’re giving too much power. Let’s take the extreme example of like a rape victim or somebody who’s been mugged. In order to move forward, do you have to give an apology to the perpetrator, the person who’s abused you? It’ll be nice if you could, but ultimately that shouldn’t be a factor in there. Because it’s really not about them and it’s not about what they said. It’s really about you and you dealing with your issue.
[6:47] You become much more empowered and it gives you strength. Like OK, if I don’t need them. then it’s up to me. I need to work on this and it’s my responsibility to move forward.
Adrian: [7:00] You talked earlier about struggling with a lack of result, in order to know that you’d forgiven someone. It seems to me like forgiveness is something that’s given. Is your forgiveness just floating out there and not getting taken? Does that cause some dissidence around moving forward? Because hey, I’m offering this forgiveness and you’re not accepting it and meanwhile you never apologized for hurting me.
[7:34] Here I am, trying to move on and offering forgiveness that isn’t being accepted because it was never asked for in the first place. It’s just this hanging or emotional offering that just sits unrequited.
Tom: [7:54] Yeah. Well, I just think that might be a mistake is to have an expectation of somebody else excepting that and everything is going to be OK. I don’t think that, most of the time, people are intentionally trying to hurt you or doing things against you personally. They just don’t see that the situation has changed and they need to do what’s right for them. My earlier point, it might not be the way that you see things.
[8:32] Again, it’s putting too much control and too much power into somebody else over your happiness.
Adrian: [8:40] Then the question is just playing devil’s advocate, I’m not trying to pick on you. Is it something else that you’re needing to do in order to move on? Is forgiveness the right term or am I missing something? You had mentioned this idea about accepting that things aren’t going your way and being OK with that anyway. Accepting that the relationship wasn’t what your partner wanted and it’s time for you both to move on.
[9:12] Is acceptance and forgiveness the same thing? Because I do get that a little bit and I think that’s OK. The idea that I’m accepting the way that things are and I’m accepting your behavior as reality, what’s really going on. I’m ready to push forward. I spent the day moving today and I found myself continually bumping into personal resistance about am I moving this too. This is moving. I’m pulling this out of the closet and looking at that and going.
[9:52] Oh God, I remember that. Oh, ouch. This hurts physically. Continually being reminded that I’m leaving this place that I’ve spent the last 15 years with each thing that goes in the box. I have to say that it was really helpful to have the kind folks that are strong moving, packing things up and helping me, because I’m not sure that I really could’ve pressed forward continually without somebody being completely emotionally disconnected from it.
[10:26] It’s every object seems to have some sort of emotional weight. Every time I’d box something or move something or carry something out who was another reminder of the reality of all of this that I had to accept.
[10:43] I look at that acceptance thing and go, “Is that what we’re talking about, the acceptance of the reality of it, or is it forgiveness? Is it ‘I accept that you’ve done this thing’ or it is not going to prejudice me about you or about other people that this has happened and I’m going to continue to live my life under the pretext that people don’t always do these kinds of things to each other and this isn’t always going to happen unless for some reason I’m causing it to happen, I’m doing it to myself.'”
Tom: [11:20] The difference is when you say you accept that this is happening and you’re ready to let that go and press forward, unless you’re really feeling it and not just intellectually rationalizing it in your head, they really feel it, to know that you’ve forgiven or you’ve moved on or you’ve ultimately accept where you are, because without…You know when you’re on the right track is when you can look at things, like when you’re moving all pictures and memorabilia and you’re OK with it.
Adrian: [12:02] You’re not completely debilitated by a nostalgia. I always think it’s interesting when people talk about the word nostalgia and how it’s rude as in pain. Nostalgia has Greek root that has something to do with painful memory.
[12:24] I totally had this experience, the disability that comes from nostalgia just sitting down and looking through pictures and contemplating the emotional part of each object that I was moving.
Tom: [12:40] When you’re not poking eyes out of pictures and shredding them or burning them, you know you’re off to a good start. You’re out of phase one. When the voodoo doll just doesn’t have the appeal anymore…
Adrian: [laughs] [12:55] …and every eye has been rubbed out of every picture.
Tom: [laughs] [12:59] Exactly.
Adrian: [13:01] That’s forgiveness. That’s…
Tom: [13:03] That’s it. That’s what we’re looking for.
Adrian: [13:08] The eyes, it’s all in the eyes. There is this longing for some sort of recognition of grace that comes from forgiveness. There’s some grace that comes out of that that you can recognize and go get some closure.
[13:29] Even if the other person doesn’t ask you for anything or even if you’re not looking for them to accept it, it feels like…From what you said, you want the universe, at least, to accept it and for your mind to gain the benefit of the clarity that comes from forgiveness, because we do feel like forgiveness brings clarity.
Tom: [13:56] Our peace, it’s probably just my own avocation, just being able to…I don’t think that the forgiveness ultimately came from the universe or anywhere else externally. Ultimately, it was my acceptance of the situation that the relationship was over.
[14:16] I wanted some kind of, “I say I forgive them and I’ve said I forgive myself, but I still feel crappy. How come I’m not moving on? I should be able tick this off the box and see some instant results.”
[14:29] It took me a struggle with that. I don’t know if there was just forgiveness or just pain. Hearing about forgiveness from every major religion and philosophy and lot of self help and wellness types of therapies, I was yearning to get arms around it, implement it, and be done with it, and hopefully, feel better.
[14:51] I struggled with trying to define that then trying to come up with three easy steps to forgiveness, implement that, and feel a little bit better for 15 minutes.
Adrian: [15:01] I think that it’s about forgiving ourselves more than it is about forgiving spouse. I’d beat myself up a lot about things that I know that I did wrong. I did formally and with great specificity, apologized to my spouse, not necessarily with the intent of having her come back, which I wanted her to do, but that wasn’t really why I was apologizing.
[15:30] I was apologizing because I wanted to acknowledge that I had made mistakes, then I knew what those mistakes were and that I really was doing it as much for myself as I was doing it to get my spouse back.
[15:49] I really needed to articulate the things that I knew that I had done wrong so that I could forgive myself, so that I could go, “Don’t do this anymore. Don’t disengage.” When you need that engagement, you need to acknowledge that.
[16:07] There are things that I definitely did in the relationship that were more harmful than I ever realized. If I’m ever going to move on and find peace of mind about this, I have to forgive myself and abandon hopes of receiving any reception of my apology, forgiveness for my acts, but really let myself forgive myself and not hold that grudge against myself because…
Tom: [16:42] That’s a good loop.
Tom: [16:43] Honestly, when it’s raining in the morning and you don’t have the tools to fight those things, that is the loop. You’re holding a grudge against yourself and for the mistakes that you’ve made.
[16:58] If you don’t forgive yourself for making those mistakes and do everything you can to try to make things right, they recognize that you’ve…Even if you’ve done all you can and you don’t get result, it goes back to what you were saying about…You still have to be able to go on with your life and at least forgive yourself for the transgression even if you don’t get any kind of useful feedback from the person whom you’ve transgressed against.
[17:25] It’s funny because there may be a lot of biological causality for religion and that grudge against yourself kind of thing. In many ways, religion serves as a short on that feedback loop. Whether it’s Christianity or Islam or Judaism, all the major religions…God short-circuits that grudge against yourself. You can’t find forgiveness through the deity, regardless of whether it’s through the grace of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, or whether it’s the God of Abraham forgiving you because you work very hard to seek his grace. I think in all those cases, the deity is acting as that short-circuit, and if you are atheistic, you could still look at the boson field that we’re all swimming and floating in as a means to stop that internal logic about “oh, you fucked up, you’re just going to fuck up again, you have no ability to stop fucking up.”
[18:29] You do have the ability, just by acknowledging it, and looking at that behavior, and going I am not going to repeat that behavior. I’m not going to make those same mistakes. I’m going to accept the reality of things and move on.
Adrian: [18:41] The acceptance is one of the core things, and I think you’re right. It does come back to yourself rather than what the other person’s done. Ultimately it’s just about taking responsibility for your own actions, accepting that the way that things are, are. In other words, this reality is reality and it’s not going to change, it’s not going in a different direction, and then facing that, accepting that and being accountable for your part in this reality.
[19:11] I think that’s a good, healthy way to go about, to get better, to get some closure. That’s how I got there, but it wasn’t a straight route. It’s like flying an airplane. You don’t go straight from New York to LA, you zig-zag there. There’s a lot of zig-zagging in order to get closure and to get to a good place. I think if the course is right, ultimately you can get there.
Tom: [19:38] I was thinking while you were talking about…
Adrian: [19:40] I thought you fell asleep.
Tom: [19:41] No, no. [laughs] I was actually ironically thinking about dieting. We’ve got diet stuff on the website, and diet is a really great way to get yourself out of your routine and get yourself more focused on a healthy lifestyle. But I always think about a couple things with diet. That is, a lot of cynical physicians, particularly primary care physicians who see a ton of patients, will look you square in the eye and go “diets don’t work because you gain the weight back.”
[20:18] At the same time, diet gurus are like “yeah, a lot of people slip, but here’s the thing. When you slip, you cannot view that as a catastrophic failure.” You have to go “I ate a cheeseburger. That was wrong, and now I don’t really feel so good, and that’s not so great. I don’t want to feel this way again after eating a cheeseburger. I’m going to get back on the horse and ride, and I’m going to acknowledge that I made this mistake, and I’m going to move forward. I’m not going to let this backsliding destroy my efforts going forward.”
[21:02] I think a lot of times it’s so easy when we’re going through this divorce thing, to get into this backslide brutality, where we’re just falling back. Whether it’s “I got hammered, and I wasn’t going to drink.”
Adrian: [21:21] I slept with your mom…
Tom: [laughs] [21:23] We didn’t really want to do that. Whatever that backsliding is. I think the people who are experts that I’ve read in behavior changing will tell you the key to success is just what you were talking about. You’ve got to land the plane. The plane is going to land and you’re going to have equipment issues and stuff is going to screw up. The whole thing is about how well do you recover, not that you fall.
[21:53] I think that’s really…gets back to that holding a grudge against yourself and forgiving yourself as opposed to obsessing about forgiving the person who’s left, or the other person in the relationship. I think one of the things I took away from Lewis was, we’re just too oriented to looking at the past when we’re going through this. We’re just searching for answers, we’re searching for wrongs, we’re searching for all these things that have happened, and we’re picking through the feces of our history and trying to uncover what it was, or who was wronged, and why and all that stuff, and that’s just not going to get you very far.
[22:37] What gets you is moving forward, and I think that’s why society puts that, judges in that role. It really puts mediators and all those other people in that role. If you’re not going to look for it, they’ll look for it for you. That’s going to be the best thing that as a society we can do for each other, because if we’re all about picking out who did wrong in the past in the context of a divorce, nobody’s going to go anywhere, and we’re just going to fight fight fight fight fight fight fight, can’t move forward. There’s no forgiveness.
Adrian: [23:03] That’s the key, in terms of moving on. What has been your experience in terms of…do you have a greater sense of closure, was there anything you did in particular to help with that forgiveness? How did you attack that?
Tom: [23:19] Very early in the separation, I wrote my ex a very extended apology, and it was really important to me to acknowledge what she had said. It was really important for me to articulate that I knew it was wrong and why, and the harm that it had done, and that I was sincerely interested in fixing it and making it right, and that I was sincerely sorry. I really didn’t get much of a response to that.
[23:45] What it did do, was, and really working hard on that, it brought to light the things that I need to work on. The self-grudge thing did start. Look at you, you do these things, you drive people away, you’re not paying attention. Your depression has caused you to be self-absorbed and then that loops starts again. All these little loops that go off in my head about this stuff. Talking with people about it, has allowed me to figure out a way to modify my behavior, so that at least to some extent, I can get an opportunity to move forward.
[24:21] I am still haunted by these things, I see how they’re rooted in my childhood. I see how they’re rooted in my genetics. I see how they’re rooted in my environment, and a lot of that stuff I can’t do anything about. That’s what I mean about it being kind of shit-picking. There’s not a lot of benefit there. What I realized is, I’ve done these things, they’re wrong, I’ve got to forgive myself for them, and I’ve got to try to pay attention to be conscious of them.
[24:45] It really does get back to some of the earlier podcasts about being present and being aware, and thinking. I still have social issues and behavioral issues that I have to overcome, and sometimes I start thinking about it too much, and it becomes a problem because I really may be overcompensating to some extent. Even that sort of goes to that issue of forgiveness and taking that prejudice away, and not being so in my own head and getting out of my head and being present. Again, that sort of Zen sensibility where it’s like you got to get out of your head and move forward and get in control of the mind.
[25:27] That locks into a lot of the themes that we’ve been talking about. I haven’t figured it out, I’m still working on it. It is very Zen in the sense that I don’t think you ever do get it figured out. All you do is work on your disciplines, and getting out of your head and thinking about what you’re doing and moving forward and trying to catch yourself when you start any of those behaviors that you know aren’t healthy for you, whether it’s what you’re eating, how you’re taking care of your body, or how you’re treating other people.
[26:01] They’re all related and we’ve got to continue to strive to be better, that’s the wisdom that comes with aging and that’s when you’ve got to embrace, as you move out of this old you and into the new you. Right?
Adrian: [26:15] I think you hit on another good point, is that the acceptance not only is for the situation, but also accepting your current emotional state and having awareness there, so the whole idea about being present is you can…I have a much better gauge on my emotional state, so I know now I have a better gauge of when I’m getting pissed off at somebody or when I’m happy or I’m in a good place, because I’m a little bit more aware of my own emotional well-being.
[26:46] I think that keys into the acceptance. If I’m finding myself getting pissed off because of something, I can be a little bit more active and try to get to that. I don’t really call it forgiveness in my head, but that’s…the net result is I’m feeling more at peace, and I’m not sharpening up the knives ready to go to war, I’m letting it go. Ultimately that’s allowed me to have a little bit more peace. For the most part.
Tom: [27:11] You told me when we were talking on the phone before we got all this stuff started, one of the things that was so profound for me, was this idea that “be aware of your emotional state, and recognize that it’s transitory, it’s impermanent, it’s not going to be this way forever.” That’s the thing that I think is just hugely enlightening, and if you can just recognize, “I’m angry. I’m not going to be this angry, when I’m angry I tend to do stupid things like plot revenge, or lash out, or drive too fast,” or whatever it is.
[27:48] It’s like…I’m angry, I could be engaging in this risky behavior. I could be doing these things that aren’t helping me. What can I do instead? How can I replace this? What behaviors can I replace the old behaviors for in this emotional state. Also, trying to figure out how long it’s going to last. One of the things that I remember doing when my daughter is little, she was at that age of separation anxiety, and she found out her mother was leaving, and she hadn’t seen her all day, and she was super-upset.
[28:21] I knew that she was super-upset, and we did everything we could do to avoid her finding this out, because she was just at that age. I remember her starting to cry and thinking to myself, this is going to be one of the worst meltdowns she ever has, and I can remember thinking I’m going to watch the clock and see how long this lasts, because I will know in the future how long a meltdown is going to last. I can think to myself, well, we’ve got another X…
Adrian: [28:50] Six more hours, or whatever.
Tom: [laughs] [28:51] Or whatever it’s going to be, that’s…
Adrian: [laughs] [28:53] Then I’m getting the Dramamine.
Tom: [28:55] Right. It wound up being remarkably short as I watched the clock, and you’d think that watching the clock would make it last longer. I guess to some extent it did, but knowing on the back side of it that I’d have that number…
Adrian: [29:09] Right, that there’s a finite amount of time.
Tom: [29:11] That’s exactly right. Turning that now on myself, with respect to…when I’m really down. How long is this going to last? What I’ve learned is that typically, when I’m really down, most of the time it only lasts about a day and a half. I know it’s going to last about 18 hours now, or if I’m really happy or if I’m in this emotional state, I know that it’s going to last for a specific amount of time. It’s not like I’m swinging these bipolar things, but if you know that that’s happening, and you know that it’s transitory, you can get through it, and it is temporary.
[29:47] I think that’s the thing that’s so easy to forget, and that’s where that forgiveness becomes so important. That’s the tool, that’s the rope you grab onto. Forgiving yourself to get you out of that negative emotional state. I made this mistake, I’m going to get through it. I’m down but I’m not out, but this is what life is, and this is why we’re here and this is our purpose to work through this stuff and become better for it and hopefully share from it.
[30:19] That has been enough to get me through a lot of situations. That, and a lot of very, very powerful medication. [laughs]
Adrian: [30:27] Powerful narcotics.
Adrian: [30:31] Better living through chemistry.
Tom: [30:32] All kidding aside, the knowledge that these emotional states are temporary is really helpful.
Adrian: [30:38] Absolutely, it’s a temporary thing, and I like the idea of having that linking a time frame and measuring that and taking a little bit more objective view of your situation. You can say, “I’m just going to run a little experiment on myself and checking on an hourly or every couple of hours on how I’m feeling and watching that change over time can be helpful, then you can gauge where you are a day or two or three or one, two, or three hours.”
Tom: [31:08] It’s like, “What are the keys that you’re coming out of it?” We talked offline about building that list of things that make you feel empowered and working on that list of things that make you feel empowered and achieving two of those things, because you’ve got to keep that inertia going. You’ve got to have something on the schedule. Something new has got to be happening tomorrow or the next day and putting that on the calendar.
[31:34] There’s actually a study that I was reading about. In the Atlantic, they mentioned a happiness study. One of the things that they said, which was very interesting to me, “If you schedule travel, that will make you profoundly happy even if you don’t actually take the trip.” Just the planning and the putting the vacation or the trip on your calendar is going to change your state of mind.
[31:58] Just like, they said, smiling, forcing yourself to smile, as absurd as that is, that’s going to make you happier. The finger remember, if you’re in this self-grudge loop that you identify and you want to break that and if religion is not doing it and you’re struggling for a way to get out of that, schedule something, break it, break it with an activity, break it with another person, break it with a social interaction, break it with some sort of activity. It doesn’t matter what it is.
[32:31] We’ve got something online and it’s got a number of really good ideas that takes 60 seconds to break that pattern.
Adrian: [32:38] We’re out of time now, but next week, we’ll be chatting about confidence and implementing some of those things to help build confidence and help you keep moving forward, and orchestrating some things in your life that you can actively do to build confidence and to keep you moving forward.
Tom: [32:57] If it’s a struggle to engage and forgiveness with your ex, forgive yourself and accept that forgiveness, and move forward. Stop looking back, if you can or as little as possible, and find new behaviors to break yourself out of those patterns that you find yourself stuck in.
[33:19] Looking forward to that next podcast. Until we talk again, I’m Tom.
Adrian: [33:23] I’m Adrian.
Tom: [33:24] Thanks for joining us.
Adrian: [33:25] Thank you.
Announcer: [33:26] Thanks for listening to the OverDivorce.com podcast with Adrian and Tom. The opinions expressed are theirs alone, they’re not professionals. Join us next time anyway. It will be good for you.
[33:36] Visit OverDivorce.com to get your free Divorce Recovery Guide, and get some fantastic resources on making a better life. Contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter and Like us on our Facebook page. We want to help you if we can.