Forgiving someone does NOT mean you let yourself continue getting hurt.
There is nothing that irks me more than the whole “forgive and forget” gig. Does forgiveness mean you had a lobotomy? We can forgive and still be smart. No matter what, safety is number one, and if you don’t feel safe with someone, forgive them, let it go so it doesn’t eat you up alive, but be smart and stay away.
Sure, it’s hard not to trust someone you once loved. I remember going through my divorce, knowing my ex-husband cheated. Even with knowing this, I tried three times to make it work. I wanted to trust, I wanted what I thought I had. I wanted my family to be whole, not “broken.”
My greatest mistake during separation was looking to my ex to help me through the healing process.
Here are four foolproof ways to make certain that you're learning from past relationships and not repeating them:
1. Have better judgment and boundaries about who is and isn't trustworthy.
The person that hurt me was not trustworthy.
If you are a person who wants to trust, you might also a person who wants to let go and not hold onto a grudge. We’ve all seen people who years after a divorce are still angry, bitter, spewing blaming words. It hurts our heart and our soul to be filled with such venom. Being cheated on, used, or having your trust abused in anyway is a force to be reckoned with. It has NOTHING to do with the person who hurt you; it has everything to do with YOU. Forgiveness certainly brings about peace and resolution.
People who are chronic long-term victims don’t take personal responsibility for how they feel. They live in a magical world where if you are angry long enough, blame someone long enough, you’ll feel better. Some believe that if they cannot forget what happened, they can’t forgive. Not so.
2. Understand that trust and forgiveness do NOT go hand in hand.
So, what is the biggest pitfall of forgiveness without trust? It’s holding onto the belief that if one person hurt you, others will.
Be smart. Be Safe. Don’t get yourself in a messy situation thinking that forgiveness means you have to trust. It does not. Find people worthy of your trust.
3. Don't build a wall around you to protect yourself from getting hurt.
We all have our triggers. When I went through my divorce, it brought me right back to an old teenage belief: “all men cheat.” My facts to back this up were that both my mother’s husbands cheated. Twenty years later, as an attorney, my black and white thinking was triggered. Like all men, he cheated, so I thought I should withhold forgiveness and punish him.
Then I put up walls to protect myself from other hurts. It made me inaccessible to the one thing I wanted most, to be loved. Building walls around you might keep you safe from being hurt, but it also prevents you from loving again.
4. Know that vulnerability comes from strength and courage.
The person hurt most by the "walls" will be you.
In order to keep yourself from being cut off, you have to be the person who knows you can be hurt and survive, while still understanding that with vulnerability comes strength and courage. Know you can be hurt and bounce back, but learn to notice red flags and wisely stay away. In other words, build boundaries that respect your privacy and keep you safe while still letting those you deem trustworthy into your inner circle. Do your best to not blame all men or women for what your ex did to you. One person's behavior is not indicative of the entire gender.
When you are ready to forgive, you will know. Forgive your ex. Find peace. Stay safe. And remember that it’s OK to deny trust to someone who is not worthy of it.
Lori S. Rubenstein, JD, PCC, is a divorce mediator, coach and author who helps clients with relationship, divorce and forgiveness challenges. If your relationship is in need of help, you can contact Lori at her website to set up a free 15-minute consultation to learn how she can help you recover from your relationship stress today.
This article was originally published at LoriRubenstein.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.