Guest post by Ellen Hartson
Letting go of anything in our lives can be difficult and painful, especially when it involves relationships. Most of us have had to make some tough choices involving relationships, or at least experience the effects of others making these choices for us. Even though I was the one choosing to leave my marriage of twelve years, it was still extremely painful to go through the process of letting go.
My choice to leave came when I realized I had to accept my husband for who he was and stop trying to get him to change. I had been so angry for so long about all of the ways he did not meet my needs and all of the ways I believed he was WRONG. Once I accepted that he couldn’t be who I wanted him to be, I stopped being angry all the time. Of course, this is when the grieving began. But my purpose here is share how I used my anger and resentment to take me to love.
Reading Debbie Ford’s book The Spiritual Divorce right after my marriage ended was the first step that helped me look at how much I still blamed him for not making me feel loved. I began to realize that I had an inside job to do. When I got really specific about what I felt I had needed from my husband and what he wasn’t giving me, I realized I wanted him to “make me feel heard.” And yes, I now understand that no other person could make me feel anything. But I didn’t know that then. I really and truly believed it was his job. And the more I got upset about not feeling heard, the less he wanted to listen to me (imagine that)!
The following steps helped me to see the truth.
My first step was to spell out exactly what my resentment was. If you are doing this for yourself, write out what the other person “should have done differently.”
He should have listened better to how I was feeling about our problems. He should have validated my feelings and paid attention to me when I spoke to him.
Then I identified who I was being in the relationship. I listed every way I could think of where I was being demanding, needy, not listening to him, and acting out. Ouch! I forced myself to go back and remember times that I wasn’t listening to him. It was really painful to remember occasions where I yelled and screamed or acted really immature. I remember one time I yelled at him for using paper towels instead of the cloth dish towel!
Next, I took a look at how I co-created my resentment. How had I participated and contributed to “not being heard”?
This is where I had to look at the ways I didn’t listen to myself, to that inner voice, the voice that said I should not marry someone who….. I knew before we were married that I didn’t feel heard during some critical experiences, which I chose to ignore back then. I had to take responsibility for not valuing my own needs enough. I was in my thirties when I met my husband and believed I had to get married before it was “too late!” So now I had to go back and own that I was acting from a place of fear and lack, afraid no one else would want me. I had tuned out that important piece of my soul that longed to be with a partner who had different qualities or traits than he did. I was able to see where I gave away my power and settled due to my own insecurities.
The next step in transforming my resentment was to find forgiveness for myself. While it is widely believed that forgiving another person is what helps us let go of resentment, I found it to be even more important to forgive myself. I chose to embrace all the parts of myself that I had pushed away and rejected years ago. Instead of being ashamed of my perceived weaknesses, I learned to love myself more so that I could heal those places. I felt tremendous compassion for my insecurities. … and then I made an important commitment to myself: I would never again love anyone more than I love myself.
That commitment, and listening to my inner voice always, is a work in progress and I’m still learning.
The final step in my process of transforming resentment was to identify what I was still holding on to that needed letting go so I could be free to give and receive love from a cleaner place. This took some time, but I found that I had to let go of believing that it was ever anyone else’s job to make me feel loved or heard.
It was my job.
I also had to let go of any desire for my ex to “get it” or see where he was wrong, or even see my perspective. And since we are still raising our son together, this comes in handy now. I’ve learned to keep the focus on my business. And listening to and loving me.
Which is how letting go of resentment helped me find love. First, and most significantly, I have learned to love and embrace more places inside of myself. It feels much better to take responsibility for myself and how I show up in my relationships and make choices from that place. I don’t have to be a victim and hold on to pain or bitterness. And that has also helped me find love with a new partner. I’ve had quite a few opportunities to use this process with him when I’ve gotten upset or resentful. It always comes back to me. And that frees him to love me instead of being responsible for my happiness.
Ellen Hartson, (www.ellenhartson.com) combines twenty years of experience as a coach and therapist with her intuition and passion for connecting with her clients. Ellen teaches women how to overcome their internal barriers to love so they can have amazing relationships, starting with themselves first! She teaches them how to rewrite their “Love Story” using her powerful four-step process. You can download The Six Steps to Letting Go of Resentment here. You can listen to Ellen’s mini-class and get her worksheet here.