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I'm Angry. How Do I Learn to Forgive?

A woman's fractured relationship with her ex-husband haunts her — and her daughter, too

Dear Wisdom Circle,

My anger toward my ex, Ted*, is sometimes overwhelming. I want to forgive him, and though our divorce 8 years ago was traumatic (he was abusive), I vowed not to tell our kids how I really feel about him. Our daughter, Angela, now in her last year of college, has lived with Ted since the divorce because I was severely depressed and suicidal at one point. Recently Ted told me he would be asking Angela to move out because his girlfriend doesn't want her there. I freaked, and bad-mouthed him when I told Angela. She said Ted doesn't say mean things about me, and now she's angry at me for speaking out. I know forgiveness is the best way to manage my feelings. But how can I do it?

Distressed Divorcée

Illustration of an angry, red-faced woman

When you're angry, finding the strength to forgive can be tough. — Illustration by Chris Gash

The Circle Says

Response #1: Have you tried counseling? Anger often endures after a divorce, especially when children are involved. As for Angela — her father, not you, probably should have told her his plans. If she confronts you again about your outburst, tell her you were concerned for her well-being.

Response #2: You don't need to forgive. You just need to make more controlled choices about how to express your feelings. It's perfectly fine to let yourself be angry with Ted. But when you feel that anger, ask yourself if it's the right time to express it.

Response #3: I divorced my children's father but never told them why. When they were older, they figured it out. Your daughter knew what she was dealing with. She'll get over your telling her and will probably be thankful for your years of restraint on her behalf. Please work on healing yourself; there's nothing to forgive. Now is your time to find closure.

The Resolution

I've been afraid to talk about my problems — I worry they'll take over my life, again — but I'm planning to get professional help as soon as I can afford it. Angela has also forgiven me. She wishes I'd forgive her father but knows I've struggled with emotional instability for a while. (She attributed my outburst to that.) Now, until I get the help I need, I've decided to have as little contact with Ted as possible.

Distressed Divorcée

*Names and identifying details have been changed.

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