AARP’s online community is a kind of wisdom circle
that draws on the shared experiences of AARP members.
This column is adapted from an online discussion.
OF YOUR LIFE
A woman’s fractured relationship
with her ex-husband haunts her—
and her daughter, too
How Do I Learn
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 BY CHRIS GASH
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.
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.
Adapted by Karen Westerberg Reyes
*Names and identifying details have been changed.
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