Too many people pack up a case of bad marriage memories and bring them everywhere they go. No matter how long its been since your worst moments in life, take these tips into consideration and enjoy a deeper sense of freedom and warm appreciation from the good moments of your past.
Good memories happened. To pretend they didn’t is bad for your mental health. Check out this article on the correlation between re-visiting bad memories and depression. You wouldn’t have married someone you didn’t love. Maybe you were blind to way too much, but for your part, you loved. You gave your hand and your future to someone that brought happiness and goodness that you had hoped to build upon. As children we are encouraged, by loving people in our lives, to “just forget the bad days” and “move on with the future like it never happened”. During or after divorce we can’t wait to forget the hurt that smashed the future we had hoped for. I hope that we can explore- for just a moment- the benefits that can come from taking the opposite of that advice.
Write down a list of the bad memories. Read it out loud, tear it up and flush it. You will hate and love this exercise. Writing down all the bad memories may sound like it would take hours- weeks even. Be general. Be specific where you need to. You might have a close friend you can read them to, you might just want to say it out-loud to yourself. You may find healing in reading this list in a prayer. God’s a great listener. Let your emotions roll where they need to. If you’re worried about this taking all day, make a numbered list from one to ten and limit yourself to a brief reflection. If you were shocked at the way things ended, and have no regrets- save the end in divorce- then write about those bad moments. How you found out, what you couldn’t change, how he looked at you after it was over. Tear the list to pieces and flush it down the toilet. Burn it. Whatever you do, don’t keep it. Don’t mail it. Why? He or she didn’t care about you or themselves enough to change the patterns of hurt- to think they need and education from you is your pride on crack. Let go of thinking you can change someone. Let go of thinking you can change what happened or who they became. Let the bad memories burn then disappear quickly. Rinse and repeat when necessary.
Write down a list of the good memories. When I was first single I had put our entire relationship in the hate category. This fought against my happy disposition and I was often a mess of a dark storm. When you’re not used to being a hater, the anger shocks and torments inner peace. Though I felt happy and free from the burden of the relationship, my good memories were lost at the bottom of the deep hate tar pit and I missed them. One night I lay in bed trying to force out the thoughts of him and the crap he threw in the fan–and something different happened. I had my 3 year old empty journal on my lap again. This time I began to write and began to cry. I laid back on my pillow. The good memories began to surface and wash over me like a warm wind storm. I couldn’t resist, my arms seemed to open wide. All the love that existed once blew open in this torrent of love and poured over me. The thoughts were so welcome. A happy reunion with my smiles of the past. I realized that the good existed. It was okay to remember the good. The good memories had shaped me far more than the bad had. I thought of the moments where I laughed, smiled, loved and forgave. These were my good memories and I would never try to push them away again. They belonged in the past, but took their once empty place and filled in their rightful places- within the void that had been labeled as the worst years of my life. I didn’t need to burn those years, just find a way to forget and forgive the bad that took place within them. I could now access them without reaching through the depths of sadness.
Give the gift of good conversation. Do you feel like you can’t introduce yourself without talking about how your ex ruined your life? Realize that you are breeding hatred that should have been overcome long ago. Though you will always have people in your life that enjoy a good ‘hate for your ex’ session, you aren’t building benefit from talking about the hate over and over and over again. Talk instead of what you learned, stupid mistakes you made, and what you hope for in a future relationship. Practice introducing yourself without mentioning divorce. If it’s pertinent, then use phrases like, “after a life transition I became a single parent” or “after some unavoidable circumstances, I was single and happy again”. People you meet will appreciate your willingness to save them from regretting asking more about you. No one wants to start a conversation that leaves you feeling hated or depreciated. Hiding your marital status from others puts up a dishonest facade. If you prefer to hide behind that, find a way to make a little progress towards being okay with who you honestly are and sharing that with others as you get to know them better.
Let the good memories have a safe place. What about the photographs? My wedding day was beautiful. I felt beautiful.
I had made a big step and a big commitment that I was faithful to. If I forget about the entire marriage, the fantastic moments and memories of interactions with friends and loved ones go where? Can we ever get them back? I have a photo of my grandparents at a table at the wedding luncheon. They are all smiling at me- though my Papa and Grandad now watch over me from above, this photo is on my wall. I can’t forget my dad the MC who put on sunglasses and did a mc hammer impersonation- and gave me away with such trust. I laughed in a special way that day- because I love him so much- this memory I treasure and smile upon. A photo of my friends who thought I was crazy- but still celebrated my happiness. Pictures of us with the kids. Pictures of happy moments that became few and far between but still happened. These pictures are in a closed box. I could live without them, but why would I? Keep a healthy dose of your photographs from happy days within reach but don’t frame your wedding-day smiles on the wall to haunt you. We are trying to be normal and healthy minded- not crazy.
Talk about the good moments when necessary. I’m not suggesting we all turn into “I loved my bad marriage” advocates. I’m not one myself. However, when someone asks about a really good day I’ve had? I’m able to go there and enjoy sharing the happy moment even if the means to it no longer exists. We can and should be able to address the past as an effective teacher of who and what we’ve become today. We are survivors of all the days we’ve endured. Good and bad! Share a good moment from the past with one of the good listeners in your life. These are your souvenirs from the greatest souvenir shop available- our memories.
Remember, There’s not always a happy ending, but happy moments are always within reach! –Leah
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