Why You Need To Forgive The Ex Who Hurt You, Even When It Feels Impossible

You don't have to like what they did, because you're not doing it for them.

Last updated on Oct 27, 2023

Woman forgiving ex fizkes | Canva

Forgiveness. It’s a powerful word because it evokes a myriad of thoughts and emotions — especially during the painful process of divorce or breakup.

After all, if you could stay together peacefully, you probably would. Something must have been bad in order to sever such an important tie. 

When you're in the throes of that pain, it's impossible to imagine forgiving the person who hurt you, but I want you to keep the possibility in mind for when you're ready. 


Here’s why you need to forgive the person who hurt you in your breakup

1. You don’t deserve misery for the rest of your life

The anger, resentment, and desire for vengeance are making you miserable. Yes, they are because it’s impossible to recognize any other emotion — especially the good ones — when you’re being fueled by anger. These emotions are draining and depressing. Continuing to choose to experience them will only make you wretched and bitter

RELATED: How To Know When To Forgive And When To Forget.


You feel anger about the unfairness of it all. Revenge because they deserve to feel as much pain as you do. Justice because they need to learn they can’t treat people the way they treated you. Fear because you’re unsure of what happens after you forgive them. Bitterness because if you forgive them, they’ll get away with it. Calm because you know forgiveness is the next step for you.

Peace because you’ve forgiven in the past and peace has been the result. Duty because forgiveness is what your religion or spiritual practice teaches. Confusion because you’re not exactly sure what forgiveness means.

Injustice because you don’t feel like you should have to give your ex anything more. Vulnerability because you’re afraid that by forgiving them you’ll give them carte blanche to continue hurting you since you’re not doing anything about it.

2. You deserve freedom from the past

The past doesn’t need to define you, your present, AND your future. By continuing to relive the hurts and broken promises you’re living, but you’re not alive. You’re missing out on what is happening now.


But then, you feel depressed because you believe you must have deserved to be treated badly in the first place and forgiveness would only validate their behavior. Victimhood because forgiveness means you’d admit to being a victim of what they’ve said about and done to you.

Process because for most forgiveness doesn’t happen like turning off or on a light switch. Challenge because every fiber of your being is screaming out for revenge, yet you know forgiveness is the right answer for you.

Exhaustion because you’ve been fighting against the pain and anger for so long that once you finally forgive you finally feel your emotional exhaustion. Frustration because you’ve tried to forgive and not been successful. Weakness because forgiveness feels like you’re not standing up for yourself and God knows you need to be able to (finally) stand up to your ex.

These are just a few of the thoughts and emotions that arise from the word "forgiveness". And for some, these ideas are just the tip of the iceberg of angst that the word brings up. You may even have other ways of describing what forgiveness brings up for you.


RELATED: 11 Struggles Only Newly Divorced Women Understand — That Get Better Over Time

3. You’ll be able to refocus your energy and attention

Being angry takes effort! It takes mental, emotional, and spiritual energy. Just think of what you’d be capable of if instead of sinking all that work into the person you once loved and a dead relationship you put it toward making your life (and your kids’ lives) better!

Because forgiveness is such an emotionally charged concept, we tend to avoid it.

Something is comforting in the discomfort of knowing you’ve been betrayed by your ex as you’re dumped into a new way of living because of divorce. Maybe it’s the thought of vengeance or just hating the unfairness of it all. And maybe it’s just being able to blame them for your current situation.


4. You’ll stop feeling like a victim.

Staying angry gives the person who hurt you continued power over you. You remain a victim of their behavior. But, when you stop feeling like a victim, you start feeling safe.

RELATED: If You're Heartbroken Over Your Divorce, You Need To Hear This Advice

5. You deserve empathy, compassion, and love.

The longer you stay angry at the person who broke up with you the longer you deny yourself what you truly need to move on. Allowing yourself to forgive allows you to care for yourself instead of focusing on revenge or justice. In other words, you’ll stop hurting yourself.

By continuing to hold resentment, you’re avoiding the truth of your new life. You’re 100 percent responsible for how you address the challenges you’re currently facing.


Yeah, I know that’s not a popular notion, but it’s one I had to come to terms with too when I got divorced. The problem is knowing that it doesn’t do a damn thing to change how upset you are because it’s too big and overwhelming.

For most of us, forgiveness isn’t something we find all of a sudden. It takes some work on our part and, at first, that work can seem insurmountable.

But now you’re armed with five powerful reasons why forgiveness is good for YOU. So, putting in the effort to forgive and move past the hurt will be easier because you know the payoff for you is immense!


RELATED: The Pros And Cons Of Staying Angry At Your Ex

Dr. Karen Finn is a divorce and life coach. Her writing on marriage, divorce, and co-parenting has appeared on MSN, Yahoo! & eHarmony among others.