How do I let go of all the hurt my ex brought to my life?

I was with this man for 8 yrs and he cheated on me multiple times then had another kid in between our kids… I still love him but I know the mess isn’t going to stop so I have to move on and still be co parents. I just want to stop being so angry
Asked by Tricia

Hello Tricia,

Thank you for submitting your concerns. This is a good question. Dealing with multiple feelings at once can be complicated. The brain often shuts down when it feels overwhelmed. It's hard to think clearly and make decisions when you are overpowered by emotions. 

Anger is a secondary emotion meaning it usually comes after something else. When sadness or hurt feelings are not fully processed or dealt with, they get stored deep inside you. These feelings build up over time. Think of a Coke bottle full of fizz. When it is shaken up, the pressure builds until it comes out of the top. This is how anger works. All of the other feelings accumulate until they eventually have to have an outlet. Anger is the result. People act out in anger because it's a release. It can even be a physical release, such as yelling, snapping at someone, throwing something, punching a pillow, etc. No one likes to feel out of control with their emotions. The anger gives a sense of power or control. It's a way to release the hurt and gain back control. The only problem is it can be destructive. 

A good way to deal with anger is not let other feelings build up. Manage each feeling separately and work on letting each one go. This way there is no accumulation of mixed feelings to trigger the anger. Here is a simple acronym that may help you remember this method: RAIN. 

R - Recognize the emotion

A - Accept the emotion

I - Investigate the feeling

N - Nurture yourself 

  • Step 1 - (Recognize) What emotion are you feeling? Be specific as the brain does not do well with vagueness. Try to use descriptive feelings words. Some examples could be: discouraged, lonely, heartbroken, rejective, furious, defeated, depressed, insecure, etc.
  • Step 2 - (Accept) Make a statement of acceptance. There are no right or wrong to feelings. All feelings are ok. Accept that you are having a feeling and allow yourself to process it without judgement. Be kind and patient with yourself. You have a right to your feelings. An example of acceptance is, "It's ok for me to feel disappointed about my ex cheating on me." 
  • Step 3 - (Investigate) Why do you feel this way? Get to the root of the emotion and what triggered it. Understanding your specific triggers can help you be proactive in the future. What led up to the feeling? Has it happened before? Are there certain things that your ex is doing that might be contributing to your anger? 
  • Step 4 - (Nurture) How can you cope? What are tangible things you can do to feel better? What are some appropriate outlets? Here are some examples: writing your feelings, talking to someone, taking a break, getting some fresh air, spending time with a pet or loved one, taking deep breaths, counting to 10, or listening to music. 

When you think about co-parenting, think of your goal to raise your children to the best of your ability. Think of their needs. Think about how much you love and adore them. They are worth it. When you manage each of your emotions it will be easier to face your former partner. You may have to work on accepting what has happened and the pain that he has caused you. Acceptance means you have acknowledged what happened, but are choosing to move forward. You must make a conscious decision to put the hurt down and leave it where it lays. You get to decide how you move forward. This decision will give you the power to move away from the hurt and into your future. Anytime your brain dwells on the past, correct it, and move your thoughts to something else. There is a reason car windshields are so large. The front windshield is much bigger than the rearview mirror because it's much more important to see what is ahead of you versus what is behind you. 

You want to practice establishing boundaries with your former partner. Limit contact and communication to only include what is necessary for the children. I recommend these five healthy co-parenting boundaries you should maintain for a successful co-parenting relationship and happy kids:

Having a plan for managing the interactions with your ex, may help you turn your anger in to a healthy working relationship. Be sure to lean on your support system when you do have feelings that pop up. Spending time with friends and loved ones will help you feel encouraged and supported. Include self-care in your daily routine to increase your self-worth and value. Love yourself enough to be kind and patient with yourself. Staying healthy emotionally and physically will help you recover from your loss. Do at least one nice thing for yourself every day. 

(M.Ed, L.P.C.)